Last night found me back at the Icehouse ready to learn again (incidentally, they claim that this is the largest 'beer' league in the country. Really? I gues NJ is becoming a hockey hotbed. Too bad it's going to get fouled by my ice capades). This time my friend Sheq made it in his gear acquired via Ebay, which included a jersey with a number. I did not have such boldness (although I thought about my vintage Mark Pavelich jersey for a long time) and stuck with my grey CCM jersey that I and about five other people picked up for 10 bucks. We were an anonymous legion!
I felt good during warm-ups. First I worked on the proper style to build better skating, and then even worked on backwards a bit. We started with the push-leg skating drill from last time and I still felt good. From there we went to the stopping on the lines thing and yeah, I wiped out spectacularly a few times but I was making actual stops (when I didn't wipe out) instead of snowplowing. Improvement! Ice ice baby!
Then we started skating backwards.
All of the limited success I had before went out the window. I was awkward, unbalanced, and sloooooooow. After a bit the coach pulled me, Sheq, and one kid who made us look like Apolo Ohno off tot he side to work on that for a while. Did I get better? Maybe. The problem with skating backwards is that everyone else skates so much faster forwards that I'm reluctant to use it. It will come with time. I was a little down on myself this morning because it was a rough night - more coming on that - and then I remembered that THIS WAS BASICALLY MY 4TH TIME ON SKATES and I should maybe relax a little with the self-hatin'.
Time for a new feature: Things I didn't know about playing hockey!
1. Sweat pours in your face constantly and since you have a cage on it's a pain in the ass to get rid off. The fingers of your gloves will NOT fit through the holes.
2. If you step on the puck while skating there will be comical results.
3. Stopping is a good thing to know how to do.
4. Any idiot who still thinks women can't compete with men in sports should come watch the two we had out there. The blond was possibly the best player on the ice.
5. That weird smell? It's you.
6. Getting over the boards from the bench to the ice is like a mini-game. I feel ridiculously proud for having not wiped out yet. Yet.
7. Jeff is getting his legs and game sense back and will soon be far, far better than me. If he isn't already.
We moved to the crossover step again. I still couldn't do it, but I at least failed while trying instead of just skating in a circle like last time. Of course this screwed up everyone behind me but they all seemed to treat it as an accepted thing.
From there were moved to passing, and evidently I am capable of standing sideways and pushing a puck to a stationary teammate approximately ten feet away. I do feel a sense of accomplishment about this. Don't judge. It was a rough night. Meanwhile the good skaters - and there were a slew of them - were whizzing around through cones and aiming for top corner with wrist shots. I had to once again note that while this was a clinic designated for beginners, at least half the people here were far beyond that labeling.
This became even more apparent when we shifted to a game. I was on a line with one of the superstars, so to speak, and he determined it was his job to skate around with the puck and not pass to anyone. At one point he was steaming down the right side with three guys covering him, and I drifted into the slot all alone and started banging my stick on the ice. Actually, two other guys from my team had found spots as well and we were all banging our sticks on the ice, calling for a pass. He ignored us and tried to swoop around himself, losing the puck. Jerkweed.
In the defensive zone I got schooled a couple of times by guys blowing right past my attempts to skate backwards and cover them. Sure, I cleared a few pucks, but for the most part I looked like what i was - an old guy trying to learn how to play hockey against vastly superior players.
Know what? That's okay. I'll get there. See you next week.
Writing: Yes, I got up at 5 and wrote, although believe me my body wanted to go back to sleep. I'm surprisingly un-achey today. 620 words. I started to slow down to muse over ideas and then remembered this is the 'vomit words on the page and clean them up later' phase.