Tuesday, September 24, 2013

'So, Which One are You?' - Hockey Clinic Night #3

For those who know who the guys in the picture above are, no explanation necessary. For those who don't and aren't easily offended - or even moderately offended - go watch the movie Slapshot, which is deliriously raunchy and hysterical, in that order. Anyway, night #3 found us missing Sheq again. Missing a bunch of people, actually, as we went from the 30 skaters of last session to about 18 of us.  Jeff proved he has a heart of gold by giving me a thing that sticks to the inside of your helmet and keeps the sweat from running into your eyes. I almost kissed him. I had no issues there and the sweat was content to emerge from every other pore on my body in great quantity.

I had taken the family skating Sunday but that didn't work out so well. The place was packed, so much so that my kids weren't interested in trying to wobble around on skates that needs sharpening for too long. That gave me some time to practice, and I spent a good 20 minutes skating the center ice circle trying to get a crossover down. There was a lot of falling. There were two sorta-crossovers but really, not so much. That skill remained elusive.

That, along with the other boatload of things I'm terrible at, had be a little nervous before the session. But tonight proved to be full of Drills That Kit Didn't Totally Suck at For Some Reason, probably because they were a little weird. For instance, we had to skate to the red line as fast as we could and then drop into a squat and see if we could glide to the end boards. People fell all over the place or ran out of speed. For some reason this was really easy for me, and the first person who says it's because of a large butt gets a hockey glove in the face. Another one was skating, then dropping to your knees and hopping back up as you slid. Not only did I do okay at this, but it was fun. Give me more freaky drills to be moderately non-sucky at!

We broke into two squads, with some people reluctant to admit they'd been down with the remedial skaters like me last week. Dudes, own it. It's a clinic. It's all about getting better, not having everyone think you're a better skater than they are. The coach set up a death wiggle of cones and then told us we were going to make turns through the tight confines. While skating. MADNESS! I envisioned myself scattering cones to the winds as my inability to commit to inside edges doomed me.

Then the coach said something that may have changed my erstwhile career as a beer league hockey player and upgraded me from hopeless to terrible: when you start your turn, bring the stick around ahead of you in the direction your turning and turn your head to look at where you're going.

That's it. It sounded too simple and I prepared to sprawl mid-turn, but instead I moved the stick around the cone and looked to the next one and cut a pretty damn tight corner. It happened the next time too, and after that, and after that . . . so simple, but so effective. We did it several times and my confidence continued to grow. I could do this! 45 isn't too old to play for the Rangers!

Then he gave me a puck, and hilarity ensued. Suffice to say I was a little less polished. Plus we also had to shoot at a tipped over net at the end of the course, and I was fine as long as I kept it simple and didn't do anything but shove the puck at the damn thing. As soon as I applied any wrist action it went wherever it wanted. It would appear I have not yet acquired a goal-scoring touch.

Splitting into teams of 9, we started scrimmaging. Our first shift ran about 2 minutes. To give you an idea of what it's supposed to be like, the average NHL shift is about 30-45 seconds. It didn't matter. I would have stayed out there for twenty minutes straight if I could have. Too much fun, despite being fairly incompetent in a most frustrating way. Here's the killer: I've been watching hockey for almost 40 years now, and despite not playing until recently I have a pretty good handle on the game. When Wayne Gretzky, one of the greatest players of all time and certainly the best I've ever seen, was a kid, he used to watch games with a cardboard cutout of a hockey rink in his lap. He'd use a marker to follow the puck and at the end of the game he'd notice where the heaviest amount of ink was. In games, he'd go to those places because that's where the puck seemed to end up. I'm not on that level, but I can see plays developing and know exactly where I need to be to either jump in on offense or break something up on defense - but I lack the actual skill to accomplish it. SO FRUSTRATING. For instance last light I was on left wing and the puck was at the right sideboards. A player on the other team got the puck and I knew she was going to shoot the puck around the boards to my side to clear the zone, and I headed for the boards as she did just that. But when I got there the blade my stick hit the boards, bounced off for the second that the puck shot by, and then when my reflexive act was to poke at the board against it unbalanced me and I fell on my butt. SUPERSTAR!

The best skater on the ice is a woman who looks like at the end of the night she's going to trade in her stick for a spear as she heads off to gather fallen warriors to take to Valhalla. Of course she was opposite the line I played on and covering her was like trying to cover smoke. At one point there was a loose puck that i actually swept away from her and started to head up ice. I heard her curse behind me and the chop of her skates and everything I'd learned over the past three weeks vanished in a rush of panic as I tried to RUN UP THE ICE to stay ahead of her. I managed to pass it away just before she stickchecked me and I fell to the ice laughing so hard I couldn't breathe.

As for the picture above, as I remember it there was a loose puck and one of the guys chased after it with his head down, and well, Jeff checked his ass into next week. I was close enough that I couldn't stop and sort of fell on his as well, which caused one of the other players to laugh and say, "Hell, you guys are the Hanson Brothers. So which one are you?"

I'm figuring Jeff should be Jeff, as long as I don't get any of that stinking root beer.

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