One cold, winter afternoon, Princess Celestia was sitting on her royal throne bored with no royal duties left to be performed for the rest of the day. Seeing the glistening, white snow gently falling outside, she devised a plan to create some outdoor winter fun for her subjects in Canterlot. As Princess Celestia looked out upon the palace, she noticed she had a prime piece of property to use for this plan. The royal pond was currently barren and closed off for the winter. Using her magic, Princess Celestia refilled the pond with water and then froze it, leaving a sparkling sheet of ice. Soon after, the Canterlot ponies began to visit the palace to skate on the royal pond.
One day in the heart of the winter season, a visiting pony from a land far away brought some curious equipment with him to the royal pond. He brought a bundle of large wooden sticks, two netting apparatus, and a single black rounded stone. The visitor then explained to the Canterlot civilians that a game can be played with the things he brought. He called the game "hockey", and began demonstrating how to play. It did not take long for the ponies to pick up on the visitor's game and soon all of Canterlot would come to the royal pond to play in and watch hockey games, including Princess Celestia herself.
As the years went on, more improvements to the game were had, including the emergence of talented ponies that practiced and studied the game most of their lives. Also, some ponies created safety padding and equipment to protect the players from harm. Princess Celestia enjoyed watching the evolution of this physical, yet elegant sport and wanted to share this honorable game with all of Equestria. She requested that an organized league be formed so that hockey can be played and enjoyed by all ponies far and wide. The league was named the Equestria Hockey League, or EHL, for short. Originally, five teams from five cities participated in the league: the Canterlot Equestrians, the Cloudsdale Red Wings, the Appleloosa Black Apples, the Manehattan Rangers, and the Fillydelphia Flyers. The champion of this league would win the coveted Celestia Cup and each pony would have their names engraved on the large, silver trophy for years to come.
"And thus the Equestria Hockey League was born," said Twilight Sparkle as she closed her book The Origins of the EHL. Twilight used her magic to levitate the book back in its place on the dusty bookshelf. She then looked out the window and saw a sparkling, white winter landscape blanketing Ponyville. While she preferred to stay indoors, she saw many ponies laughing and having fun playing in the snow. There were raucous snowball fights, ponies building towering snowhorses, and elegant ice skating. Twilight sighed and searched for another book when Spike rushed into the main room.
"Hey Twilight, wanna go play outside?"
"No thanks, Spike. I want to read some more. There's a few books here I haven't been able to get to yet."
"But it'll be fun! We could throw snowballs at each other and go skiing!"
"I told you I have too many books to read still," as Twilight magically lifted different books off the shelf and bringing them closer to see what they contained.
"Aww, alright," Spike said dejectedly. "I'll go see if any of the others want to play."
Spike put on his puffy winter gear and left the treehouse. Twilight found a new book to read and immediately began studying it. Outside, Spike went around town to recruit his friends to play with him. Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, Applejack, and Fluttershy followed Spike back to the treehouse and they all began having fun in the snow as Twilight kept to her book. As she went to turn to a new chapter, Twilight heard a knock at the door. She went to the door and opened it to find no one there. Suddenly, a big, wet snowball hit her in the face. Spike and Rainbow Dash began laughing uncontrollably as Twilight frustratingly brushed the snow off her now dampened face.
"Nice throw, Spike! That was awesome!" exclaimed Rainbow as she gave Spike a hoof bump.
"Haha, gotcha, Twilight!" Spike laughed.
Pinkie Pie bounced up and down in excitement. "Come join us, Twilight! We're having oodles of fun!"
"I say it is very delightful out here in the snow, darling. You can wear those trendy new boots I made you!" said Rarity, fluttering her eyes and whipping her scarf around her neck.
"Sorry, girls, but I have too much reading to do right now," Twilight said. A book quickly flew over to cover Twilight's face from her friends. She furiously began flipping pages to pretend she was very busy.
Applejack took a determined step closer towards Twilight's doorway and pushed the book down out of Twilight's face. "Twilight Sparkle, you've been sittin' in your house readin' all day. It's good ta' get some fresh air and work out yer muscles! Come out and join us."
"Pinkie Pie is going to teach us how to ice skate better. It would be fun if you come and skate with us if that's okay with you," Fluttershy said softly, looking down at her hooves and giving the snow a tiny kick.
Twilight saw that her friends all had a hopeful look on their face that she would join them. She quickly tried coming up with another excuse, "But you saw me last year during the Winter Wrap Up. I did horribly at skating. See?" Twilight galloped to her room to retrieve her skates. The other ponies peered into the house with confusion. Twilight returned to her doorway with skates on. She purposely wobbled her legs and fell over flat in an exaggerated thud. "Hehehe, I told you. I'm not good. Now see ya!" Twilight slammed the door but Pinkie Pie popped in to block it.
"That's okay, Twilight! We all had to learn sometime. Now that we don't have the Winter Wrap Up to worry about right now, I can teach you better!" said Pinkie.
"I'm sorry, girls. Maybe some other day," Twilight said while guilt started to weigh heavy inside her mind.
Defeated in their attempt to coax Twilight out to play, everyone sadly turned away to resume their winter activities. Suddenly, Spike felt a rumble in his stomach. He let out a loud, fiery burp which meant a scroll had arrived from Princess Celestia. Twilight stepped out from her home as the ponies turned their attention toward Spike. Spike unfurled the scroll and began to read it aloud:
"Ahem. To My Most Faithful Student Twilight Sparkle,
Although you have been very dedicated and thorough with your studies thus far, I am afraid you will spend too much time studying and not be able to enjoy the winter season while it is still here. I have not told you this, but my favorite winter activity is to watch the ponies play hockey. I have requested that the Equestria Hockey League grant Ponyville an expansion team. Your assignment is to gather up a team of ponies to play for the Ponyville Golden Leafs. I shall be expecting a report at the end of the season. Although the weather in the winter is not as fair as other seasons, it shall be enjoyed just the same. Enjoy the winter and have fun with your friends. I look forward to seeing you play against the Canterlot Equestrians soon. Good luck to your team.
Your Royal Princess,
Twilight looked up to the sky in despair. "Hockey?!? I can't play hockey, let alone skate! Ugh!"
"All the more reason for you to join us! Don't worry, Twilight. We're gonna make you the meanest, leanest, ice skating, hockey playing pony around!" Pinkie said confidently as she put her front leg around Twilight.
Twilight's face turned from despair to apprehension. "You...you really think so?"
"Darn tootin', sugarcube," Applejack said with a warm smile.
"Ugh, fine. Let's go, girls."
Twilight's friends let out a "yay!" as Twilight finally agreed to join them for some fun and skating. "But before we go, let me go grab my books about skating and the EHL."
Before Twilight could turn around to grab her books, everyone yelled out "TWILIGHT!" which promptly stopped her in her tracks.
Twilight turned around with a slight grin, "Okay, okay. We'll go now."
They all arrived at the frozen Ponyville Pond with their skates. Pinkie Pie started skating immediately. Rainbow Dash was next to join her on the ice. She zoomed past Pinkie and started showing off her speed, carving up the solid ice like a knife. Applejack and Spike joined in on the skating action next. Applejack had some trouble at first with her legs shaking but eventually she found her balance and was striding strong. Spike was having fun switching between his skates and his tail to skate, posing each time to hopefully catch Rarity's eye. Rarity off on the bank finally gathered up the courage to put on a pair of old, worn out skates. She delicately tip-hoofed onto the ice as if she was avoiding tiny piles of dirt. Pinkie skated over to help Rarity out and soon Rarity was skating along with everyone. Fluttershy was greatly enjoying herself on the ice. With a couple of her bird friends flying close by, she was gliding with the breeze, eyes closed and in tune with the nature around her. Twilight looked upon her friends and nervously approached the ice. She was taking deep breaths and talking to herself trying to build up courage.
"Your turn, Twilight! We're ready to help you out!" Pinkie yelled from the center of the rink, noticing Twilight's hesitation.
"Oh, alright. Here it goes," sighed Twilight.
Twilight gingerly stepped out onto the ice. Her legs wobbled and shook as she tried her hardest to keep her balance. Twilight was slowly dispelling her fear until she hit a jagged scratch in the ice and began to fall. She closed her eyes and braced for impact but she didn't feel anything at all. Twilight opened her eyes in shock to find herself gliding around the ice, the wind blowing through her mane. She began to cheer for herself until she looked back to see it was Pinkie pushing her along.
"Ready to go by yourself?" Pinkie asked.
Twilight instantly began to panic "Oh no no no no no "
Pinkie thrusted Twilight towards the center of the ice. Twilight frantically moved her legs to keep balance, hoping any combination of movement would keep her upright. In her moment of panic, Twilight forgot that she could use her magic to help guide her. She quickly channeled her focus to her horn. It began to glow a brilliant shade of purple and soon she was skating as gracefully as any pony has ever seen. Twilight giggled with confidence as she was finally skating without fear. The next test would be to skate without any magical help, but there would be time for that over the next few days. For now, Twilight felt like she was conquering the ice and was perfectly content for the day.
As for the others, they were skating around and chasing one another, laughing and having a good time. Pinkie Pie was the best skater, followed closely by Rainbow Dash. Applejack was doing a great job at maintaining her balance and skating faster. Fluttershy had no issues at all for she was very light and delicate, like a figure skater. Rarity had insecurities at first but as the day went on, she gained confidence and was skating up to par with the others.
After an hour of more skating fun, Twilight and friends went back to the treehouse to rest. Sitting and laying around exhausted and sore from all the skating they did, it was a good time to start discussing how to go about forming the team. Twilight gathered her friends in front of the fireplace and ignited it, allowing warm comfort to fall upon them.
"So, girls. Anyone know anything about hockey? I read a little about it today, but has anypony actually played it?"
Applejack chimed in eagerly. "Well, I haven't played, but I reckon Big Macintosh has. I think I remember goin' to a couple of his games back in the day."
Twilight's anticipation from hearing Applejack's answer deflated into disappointment. She picked her smile back up and asked again. "Anypony else?"
"Um I have," said Fluttershy, looking away from her friends, almost as if she were ashamed.
Everyone turned toward her in surprise. Rainbow Dash bursted out laughing and landed on her back, "You played hockey, Fluttershy? That's a good one!"
Fluttershy picked up her head to face her friends. "It's true. When I was young, my parents tried putting in me all sorts of different sports so I could meet new ponies and be less shy. I only played for a few days. I didn't do too well because I was afraid of getting hit with the puck."
"That explains why you were skatin' so well today. I didn't know you could move on the ice like that," said Applejack as she gave Fluttershy a nod.
Fluttershy's mouth formed a tiny smile. "Oh yes. I love skating. I like twirling with the birds and gliding with the bunnies."
Impatiently, Twilight spoke back up. "Getting back to hockey, it appears we don't have too much experience collectively. I'll study more about it tonight and tomorrow we can try to figure out more stuff."
Rainbow jumped out of her resting position. "Well, we can come up with other things right now, like our numbers. I want to be number 20!"
The other ponies paused for a moment to think which number they would want. Pinkie was the first to hop up.
"Ooh, ooh, I want to be number 33! It's fun to say! Thirty-three! Thirty-three!" said Pinkie, jumping around the room and nearly knocking over everything in sight.
Applejack stood up. "I think I wanna be number 88. It just sounds like a strong number y'know?"
"I want to be number 9 because it's so elegant. I can then be 'dressed to the nines' as they say!" Rarity said with a laugh as she stood up regally.
Fluttershy extended her wings and floated up. "I'd like to be number zero please. Zero is a nice and quiet number."
"I guess I'll be number 42 then. For some reason I just enjoy that number," Twilight proclaimed. "Now that we have our numbers, we can have our uniforms made. Rarity, could you make us some jerseys? We're the Ponyville Golden Leafs. I trust you can make us something great."
Rarity nodded her head. "I'll get right on it!"
Twilight magically floated her hockey books to her friends. "As for everypony else, let's try to learn all we can about hockey and the EHL. I'll do some studying tonight on my own so I can start assembling the team. Let's meet again tomorrow for some more skating practice. Sound good?" asked Twilight.
Each pony nodded, accepting their homework assignment for the evening by taking one of Twilight's books. The group broke off for home and Twilight spent the rest of her night learning about hockey and the many intricacies involved. She fell asleep, face down in her hockey book, and began to dream about playing alongside her friends and winning the Celestia Cup.
She could see it all now. The final horn echoing throughout the corners of the arena. The downpour of gold and blue confetti and streamers raining from the rafters. The immense cheering from the Ponyville Golden Leafs' faithful. Twilight saw herself celebrating and hugging all her teammates as the presentation stage was being assembled on the ice. Princess Celestia looked down upon the celebration from her royal suite, beaming with delight that her student had won hockey's greatest prize. More cheering would erupt from the crowd when two colts wearing unblemished, white saddles carried the Celestia Cup onto the stage. Not too far behind the Cup would be Gary Bettpony, the EHL Commissioner, in a snazzy business suit looking as cheerful as ever. Twilight saw all her friends motioning to her to go onto the stage to retrieve the Cup for them. Gary Bettpony would begin his speech, but would be drowned out from all the yells and cheers coming from the crowd. He then presented the Celestia Cup to Twilight, in all of its towering, shining silver glory. The last image Twilight would see in her dream would be her holding the Celestia Cup high above her head as her friends gathered around her in victorious bliss.
When the morning arrived, Twilight immediately bounced out of bed and went back to her book to study, feeling inspired by her dream. After a few hours of intense reading, she set up a chalkboard to begin assigning positions to her friends. Spike diligently watched Twilight try to piece together a suitable lineup that played to each of her friends' strengths. Twilight levitated the chalk and began to write on the rough, green board.
"Now, Spike. The center position is for the pony who has skill and speed. The center pushes the puck up the ice and tries to make the best play. I think Rainbow Dash would be the best for center, don't you agree?"
"Yeah, sure!" he said with much interest while sitting upon a stack of books.
"Both the left wing and the right wing are primarily for shooting. They also have to race after the puck once it goes into the offensive zone and try to get it and keep it away from the other team. Rarity would make for a good shooter because she is so precise and has great attention to detail. I bet her accuracy is fantastic. Applejack could be on the other wing because she's strong enough to take the puck away from anypony who tries."
Spike scratched his head in confusion and interrupted Twilight. "So you're putting an earth pony and a unicorn pony on positions that need wings?"
"Haha, no, that's not how it works. That's just a name. The sides of the hockey rink are called the wings. Now for defense, it looks like it will be Fluttershy and I. Defense takes great patience and knowledge, to know when to anticipate the opponent's moves and when to attack. I know we'll be weak at first but maybe our offense will be good enough to where we can screw up a little bit and still win. And finally, that leaves Pinkie Pie to be goalie. She's got some uncanny flexibility and agility. Plus she's pretty soft so the puck won't hurt her too badly."
Twilight put the chalk down and Spike sprung up from his seat. "Sounds great! So where am I playing?"
Twilight looked around her muddled, messy chalkboard quickly. When she realized that there were no more positions open for Spike, she quickly tried thinking of a new role for him to have. "You can be our equipment manager! Yeah, we'll need someone who is super organized and able to fix things. It's a very important job. Hehe." Twilight nervously let out a laugh, hoping Spike wouldn't be discouraged by not playing.
"All right! You can count on me, Twilight!" Spike gave Twilight a small salute and then ran off to start finding hockey gear.
Twilight wiped a cold sweat from her forehead. "Whew, that was close. I thought for sure he would be upset he wasn't on the team."
As agreed upon last night, Twilight and Spike left to meet their friends at the pond again for more skating practice. Today, Twilight set a goal for herself to skate on her own without any help from magic. Spike stumbled behind, trying to carry an overstuffed bag full of the hockey equipment he found. When they arrived at Ponyville Pond, everypony was already there and skating on the fresh, glistening sheet of ice. Twilight greeted them and Spike handed out the gear so that they could start playing while Twilight practiced her skating. Before practicing, Twilight briefly explained each position and their responsibilities. No pony quite understood what she meant right away, showing that they blew off the studying assignment Twilight had given them the night before. Undeterred, Twilight had them start playing anyways.
Immediately, Rainbow Dash was excelling at the sport. She was (figuratively) flying on the ice, scooping the puck up from whoever had it and taking it quickly to the net. Even though Rainbow was playing skillfully, she did not care to pass much. Applejack began to show off her muscle as she was able to take the puck away from Rainbow whenever she was able to get close enough. That was not often, though, as Applejack was too slow on skates to chase anyone. Rarity didn't go after the puck, but she was skating better. When Rarity got the puck to shoot, she slapped the puck on net. Rarity's shot weakly flew through the air, but she was able to pinpoint perfectly where she wanted it to go. Fluttershy, as expected, was too afraid to go after the puck. She was, however, able to anticipate when the puck was coming at her, to which she promptly moved out of the way for fear of getting hurt. Pinkie Pie was doing a decent job being goalie. She glided across the net quickly and made some incredible moves to keep the puck out of the net but sometimes she was caught out of position and was a little overexcited getting in on the play.
Twilight caught glimpses of her friends playing while she was off on her own skating. She saw that each one of them had the raw ability within them to be great, but they need time and more practice before they can begin competing. As for reaching her goal, Twilight was skating without any magic. She wasn't fast, but she was happy to be stable and not falling much.
Twilight felt she had skated enough on her own without magic so she decided to join in on the game her friends had already started. Despite her early apprehension, Twilight was beginning to enjoy being out in the winter cold. She enjoyed the wind caressing her coat as she glided on the ice. She enjoyed watching plumes of cold fog billow out from her nostrils. She enjoyed hearing the scrape of the skate blades upon the icy pond. She was feeling more comfortable being outside as the seconds turned into minutes and the minutes turned into hours. Normally Twilight would miss reading her books next to the warming glow of the fire, but seeing her friends having fun in the winter tundra encouraged her even more to develop her hockey team.
The rest of the ponies were having fun practicing hockey. Their hard work was displayed in the sweat that rolled down their manes and faces. Happiness and fun was evidenced in the many giggles and laughs that rang out into the brisk, winter air throughout the day. Twilight and friends were in the right frame of mind for a successful hockey team, but now they had to add talent and skill into the mix. Twilight was about to introduce some new knowledge about the sport to her friends when she noticed the sky was quickly turning into dusk. The grey clouds made way for night sky and it was time to leave the pond.
After another day at the rink, Twilight and friends were tired and found themselves back at the treehouse to talk about their team. Once again, the ponies sat around the fireplace, warming up from the long day outside. A haunting aroma of hot chocolate filled the air of the treehouse as the night's discussion began.
Twilight looked up from her mug. "How did everyone do?"
"It was so much fun! I was like this, and this, and this!" as Pinkie demonstrated every slick save she made, inciting a shrill laugh from her friends.
Rainbow sat up to boast. "It was awesome. I was so fast and no one could stop me!"
"Well that's good to hear,' Twilight responded while taking a sip of her hot chocolate.
"How was your skating practice, Twilight?" Rarity asked.
"It went pretty well. I didn't have to use magic! But I haven't gained any speed yet."
Applejack gave Twilight an encouraging look. "Don't worry 'bout that, Twi. You'll get faster in time."
"Yeah! You've only skated for two days. You were doing much better than I did my second day of skating!" Pinkie said while clapping her hooves.
Twilight smiled. "Thanks, girls. Hey Rarity, how's the work coming on our jerseys?"
"I stayed up all night putting the finishing touches on them. I think they're quite darling!"
Rarity levitated a cardboard box over to her. She opened the box and lifted up a jersey. The jersey was made from clean wool and had a distinct royal blue color. Emblazoned on the front was a leaf made out of bright, golden thread. In bold blue letters on the leaf, "Ponyville Golden Leafs" shimmered in the light. Rarity turned the jersey around to show the ornate stitching of the name and number on the back. The jersey read "RARITY 9" in more golden thread. Everyone looked at the jersey in awe and cheered Rarity for her work.
"That looks amazing, Rarity!" Twilight said with a big smile and her eyes enlarged in wonder.
Rarity put on a smug face. "Thank you, thank you. These were so fun to make. I think I might make more of these to sell at the boutique! You know, once we start playing and we gain adoring fans!"
Rarity proceeded to gave each pony their jersey. Instantly, they all admired their jersey, feeling its plush softness against their cheeks. Before long, each pony had their sweater on and were playing around. Hearing the commotion, Spike ran into the room.
"Hey guys, what's going on?"
"Oh, hi Spike. Rarity just gave everyone their jersey!" as Twilight puffed out her body to show off her jersey.
"Neat! Where's mine?" Spike asked as he dove into the box to find one for himself.
Twilight walked over to Rarity and whispered in her ear.
"Ah, I do believe I have something in there for you, Spike," said Rarity.
While Spike was inside the box, Rarity used her magic to quickly put together a shirt that said "Equipment Manager" in sparkling yellow gems on the front. When Spike got out of the box empty handed, Rarity presented him the shirt. Spike fell in love with it and put it on.
For the rest of the evening, Twilight explained more in-depth what each pony's position and responsibility was, now that they had played a little bit during the day. Twilight looked to Rainbow Dash as she explained the center position and the need for quickness and adept puck handling. Rainbow looked back with a determined smirk and gave a slight, confident nod each time Twilight listed another quality of a good center. Twilight went on to explain the left and right wing positions, stating that they are the shooters and retrievers of the puck. Rarity's ears perked up when Twilight explained how shooting requires precision and finesse. Applejack gave an excited snort when Twilight emphasized the strength and toughness needed to retrieve the puck. Twilight moved onto the defense, to which she explained the need for anticipation, patience, and knowledge. Since those qualities were softer and less physically imposing than the others, Fluttershy was appearing more calm about being a defender. Finally, Twilight explained how being a goalie requires agility, flexibility, and focus. Pinkie Pie was too busy making bubbles in her hot chocolate to listen to Twilight until Rainbow Dash nudged her in the side. Pinkie then shot up at full attention and hung onto Twilight's every word.
"And that's a summary on each position. Any questions?" asked Twilight.
"Nope. It's all good. I can't wait to get back on the ice and amaze you all with my blazing speed! I'm going to be best center ever!" Rainbow said with great confidence, her wings flapping wildly.
"We'll see 'bout that, Dashie. We're gonna need to practice a lot more if we wanna be ready for the season," Applejack responded as she flashed Rainbow a serious look.
Twilight nodded toward Applejack and spoke up. "Well, according to the book I've been reading, before the season begins, each team hosts training camp. During training camp, everyone practices really hard and they begin to learn certain plays and strategies."
"Oh, camping? I just detest camping. Being out in the wilderness makes you all dirty and icky," cried Rarity as she stuck her tongue out in disgust.
Pinkie Pie hopped about like crazy. "Oh boy! Camping will be fun! I'll bring my camp party supplies! There'll be ghost stories and s'mores and a scavenger hunt!"
"And tons of cute little creatures to play with!" happily squeaked Fluttershy.
Twilight raised her voice "Girls! It's not that kind of camp. We won't be going anywhere. We're just dedicating our whole days to practicing and getting better as a team."
"Oh, I suppose that will be nice too," said Fluttershy in a deflated tone.
Applejack sprung up to her hooves. "Well I cain't wait! I'm ready to put in some hard work, learnin' some plays and tricks n' all."
"Let's do this!" yelled Rainbow Dash, pumping her front hooves in the air.
Twilight then put her hoof in the middle of her friends. "Then it's settled. Next week, it'll be the Ponyville Golden Leafs' first training camp!"
Every pony followed suit and put their hoof in. On three, they all yelled "GO TEAM!"
To Be Continued