Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Nobody Saw That, Right? Old Man Learns Hockey - Game #12

For the first 30 seconds, it was amazing. It was Lake Placid 1980 all over again. We took the opening faceoff, drove down the ice, and forced their goalie to make a good save before smothering the puck. Offensive pressure! Putting another team back on their heels! Old Time Hockey! Eddie Shore!

30 seconds later we were down 1-0.

Before I get into the details of our latest outing I should report that this game featured the stupidest play of my short hockey career. Not the most comically hysterical to watch, nor the most embarrassed by the skill of another player - those are separate categories. This was just pure boneheadedness. Playing right D, I outowrked one of their guys for a puck along the board near the circle in our zone. He was still between me and the blue line, so instead of doing almost anything else that would have been better, including curling into a ball on the ice and hugging the puck until it hatched into a bunch of little baby pucks, I did the dumbest - I made a blind backhand pass to the center of our zone, trusting that my defensive partner was there.

He was not. A guy from the other team was, though, and he blew a slapshot through poor Charlie from about 20 feet away. Ugh.

The final was 9-0, but I find it difficult to hang too much of this on us. The Titans are in 2nd place but to me seemed better than the team we played last week and thus vastly superior than us. They had several guys who were superlative skaters and would weave their way through our zone while we closed ranks and did what we could. I'm not happy with my outing at D, but then again I faced more 2 on 1 and 3 on 1 breaks than I can remember against guys who were literally skating circles around me. It helped that Goalie Alex (who will be just Alex today as Winger Alex was a no show. Jeff was out as well, exhausted from being in California to be presented with an award stating he's the best salesman since Ron Popeil. Trevor was out too, and we missed his steady presence as well) insisted we get a goalie to split games with and was there for advice the latter 20 minutes or so. It's good to know whether or not I did the right thing, regardless of the outcome. To wit:
- racing back on a 2 on zero break, I cut off the pass instead of making a late dive that might or might not have gotten me there in time. Ruling - RIGHT THING even though the guy roofed the puck for a goal
- going for the big rebound on another 2 on 1 after denying the pass - RIGHT THING but be a better player because I just missed it and the guy fromt he other team rammed it home (it was a BIG rebound)
- make a blind pass behind your back in your own zone WRONG THING STUPID
- try to lift one of their sticks and accidentally bury mine in the guy's groin, sending him to the ice in a heap RULES WRONG, BUT KINDA OKAY BECAUSE FUCK YOU FOR BEING IN THIS DIVISION, GUYS

And so it went. They were way too good to be in this division. We'd catch them deep and be on a 2 or 3 on 1 and by the time we got to their blue line they had 2 or 3 guys back, usually all over the puckcarrier.  Our goalies (we brought back Charlie) did a fantastic job, and I don't think we took much of a step back, if any. As we had only 4 defense I played about half the game, and combined with a  morning clinic I expected to be much more worn than I was. Whether it was a comment on my play or not one of the guys shifted to D for the last 5 minutes and I took a shift at left wing, which was fun and found me in the curious position of having dug the puck out of the corner in the offensive zone and . . . having everyone just kind of look at me. I think I checked for options for a good 5 seconds before trying to hit a cutting Tom (one of their D just deflected the pass) and maybe I should have tried to skate out and shoot, of toss it back to the point - it's kind of lost in the fog of memory. My teammates are amazingly patient with me as a defenseman, because it's got to be frustrating to see me make so many mistakes.

When the game was over a few of their guys were skating by and one of them said, 'Those guys never gave up, man. They kept going to the end.'

Fucking right we did, chief.

Final note: It might be nothing. It may have been a fluke.  But, armed with confidence from a  backwards crossover step last week and a fancy new edge on my blades, I hit the circle after the morning clinic but before the ice was flooded with 5 year olds who all skate better than me and dammit, I did a front crossover step. More than once. they weren't pretty but they were there. Before the other teams hit the ice for the game after us I did it again. Baby steps. Baby crossover steps, anyway.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Kit Go Boom - Old Man learns Hockey - Game #11

It was one of those moments that serves as a pivotal point in a rookie's career, one he'll remember forever. About 2/3s of the way through the first period against the #1 team in the league, we found ourselves locked at 0-0 and actually doing more than just playing prevent defense. I'd managed to grab some extra ice time before the game and worked almost exclusively on my backwards skating. To the amazement of both myself and Jeff, who was in the area, I managed to pull off a backwards crossover step without wiping out, and I felt good about the way things were going. It's sad, then, that I somehow lose that confidence once the game plays and freak out when the puckcarrier comes at me with speed. I'll get there, but damn it's frustrating right now.

Anyway, we were pressuring (!) and my defensive partner got caught in a pinch. Their defenseman made a nice cross ice pass to spring one of their wingers. I saw it starting to break and tore out of the zone in my lotta-motion-little-speed style and managed to get back just ahead of the puckcarrier. He'd been joined by a teammate to make it a clear 2 on 1. As I skated back and hit the blue line I started turning from front to back, a couple of strides ahead of the puckhandler. He was on my right side and between me and the boards, and as I spun I noted he was a lefty. That meant he was basically in shooting position and that i had to try to keep him wide. My main job was to cut off the passing lane and force him into shooting from as bad an angle as possible - the rest was up to Alex. I knew what I had to do and I was in good position to actually pull it off.

Unfortunately, I fell on my ass right after I finished turning around.

I could be a douche and say it was because my blades needed sharpening or some other excuse, but I have no idea why I fell. Did I catch an edge? Lean too far back? Hit a furrow? Who knows? Who cares? All that matters is that I went down in a heap and the guy scored. 1-0, them. My fault. I wanted to dig a hole in the ice and crawl in, but since that wasn't possible I just figured I'd get a chance to make good later. That would happen, right?

Well . . .

In the second a shot from near the point deflected off my skate, off another skate, and binged in off the post. I probably shouldn't blame myself for that but I was between the goalie and the shooter and if I'm going to be screening Alex I damn well better block the puck. The last goal I was on ice for - all three scored by the same guy, by the way - was shorthanded as he absolutely blew by me along the boards before scoring off a scramble a little while later(Bart the clinic coach was there and said I never had a chance, and neither would most people in that situation, but I'm assuming he was just being nice). It's so frustrating to not be able to do what would have stopped him cold and slam him into the boards with a hip check, but at this level speed kills. The final was 6-1 but we played these guys tough before they chipped in two late goals. Aside from the three mistakes I listed, the rest of my game was meh as well. I wasn't particularly physical, I made some good passes but also failed to clear more than once, and I just felt a stride off the entire game. As a team, though, we were vastly improved. The other team mentioned that their best player wasn't there (the guy with 13 goals and 15 points isn't the best player?) but in any case they knew we were out there. It wasn't an evenly matched war but we had numerous scoring attempts and looked more like a team as opposed to a bunch of puppies who wandered out on the ice. Jeff flat-out saved a goal when he lifted the stick of a guy who was going to have a gimmie goal off a gorgeous pass. Alex was pretty much incredible - after one save the ref hummed the theme from 'Sportscenter.' We started winning a few faceoffs as well - not the majority, but it's a start. Shifts were kept shorter for the most part (it's always a little tougher in the second period, when it's a longer distance to the bench for a change from the defensive zone), although one too-long time resulted in a goal against. We need to score more goals, but that will come with playing time. If we had played against a lower echelon team it might have had a very different outcome.

Assuming I could keep from falling on my ass again, of course. I do not salute the patience of my teammates enough. This week we have another top 2 team to contend with and it'll be interesting to see how things shake out. I'll have a new set of edges on my crappy skates and a morning clinic session under my belt. Hope either one helps.

Also, no word from Goalie Bob. That's an odd way to go out.

Writing: Nope. Editing mode all week on someone else's book. thinking about starting my edit next week, perhaps.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

It Might Have Been Something I Said

So I was digging through my hockey team's Teamsnap site yesterday when I realized someone had chosen a passive-aggressive way to quit. In the section for availability he'd changed his name to 'BYE" and red-exed the rest of the. It took a minute of eliminating names to realize it was Bob, the older goalie. When I mentioned it to Sheq his response was, "Did he read your blog?"

That seems unlikely, although it is possible. Was a harsh? A little, but I was harsher on myself later on in the same post as well. He'd mentioned quitting before - after the first few games he was lamenting his performance and asked me if he thought the others would accept him as a coach instead (I said yes) - but once Alex got hurt he had no choice. If it was because of my post I sorry that it made him choose that path, but I'm not going to kill myself over a little bit of criticism, especially when I didn't spare myself. He freaked a few people out when we played his old team by wishing ovarian cancer on one woman and yelling at me and the other defensemen to try to hurt their best player. To be fair, the latter had no right to be in a developmental league, but I don't want to injure anyone, especially not a kid who was about 5'5" and 1 hundred and nothing pounds.

 I don't know Bob's reasons for leaving, but he's an adult and it was his choice. I only wish he'd let us know why.

Writing: none. Been all editing, all the time. Not my stuff. A few more chapters of the book I;m editing for others came free, and I'm elbow deep. LITERARY CARNAGE!!!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Burn, Baby, Burn - Old Man Learns Hockey - Game 10

"Man's got to know his limitations." - 'Dirty' Harry Callahan

I have a weird relationship with competition. When I do things against other people I'm always trying to win, but I rarely get upset with the process if I lose. No matter what, it's only a game. However, if I lose because of a failing of my own I tend to get annoyed and irked with myself, which starts the self-flagellation and blows to my self-esteem. I am indeed my own worst critic and I'm damn hard on myself, even when I shouldn't be. Take hockey as an example. I've been playing for around 4 months. In that time I've attended 7 1 hour clinic classes, had one half-assed practice, and played in 10 games. That's a total of 17 hours of ice time. Yet I'm furious with myself for my play in the third period of our game last night, even though most of my failings came at the hands (or skates) of people who have been playing for years - no, decades - at a game in which the only way to get better is to play. And yet, here I am. forgetting the good things and focusing on the negative ones. It's an illness, I tell ya.

The day started with the perhaps foolhardy decision to attend a clinic Sunday morning at 8am. I wouldn't go so far as to call it grueling, but it was a good workout and focused on the things I need to become a better player - I was going to list a few things here but shit, I need to get better at everything. By the time 7pm rolled around I still felt okay and was anxious to play. The team we were playing was the Mutiny, the one I was supposed to sign on with when my friend Dave clued me in to the whole hockey thing. I'd passed because they couldn't absorb Sheq and Jeff as well, but I was (and am) appreciative to Dave for getting me involved. I was looking forward to playing him (and his teammate Berk, who I played rugby with for years. Small world and all that shit) but not in a 'gotta beat him' sense. It just sounded like fun to go against an opponent who wasn't faceless. And as a team, we seemed psyched after a three week layoff. Good Goalie Alex (just Alex from now on) was back with a serviceable knee, and we charged into the game with the energy of a team hungry for a win.

2:40 in, we were down 3-0.

Okay, it's not cool to point fingers at anyone but Old Goalie Bob (henceforth known as OGB) took about 3 shots before the game and declared his warm-ups complete. When play started the first shot he let in was questionable; the second was alarming; and the third, which I was out there for, was the softest of the b unch. A unscreened, floating  wrister from the top of the circles. That's gotta be stopped. A three-zip hole was not the way we needed to start. And to our credit, we buckled down. OGB didn't give up anything else for the rest of the period and we started to shake off the rust. In the second period we gave up only one goal (an absolutely beautiful 2 on 1 that Alex didn't have a chance on) and played better, although we were aided by at least two that they rang off the posts. My game was up and down. The Mutiny like to flood the crease, so I was kept busy pushing people back out whenever I could. That led to an unfortunate bit with poor Dave - he had backed into the crease and so I headed over to push him away, but at the wrong time I stumbled as he moved back a little more, so instead of a push I ended up sending him sprawling with a healthy shove. I play physically with an edge but I'm not trying to be dirty, so I felt bad about it. Of course he got revenge when he potted a nice pass in the third for his first goal, but I'm getting ahead of myself. I continued to have my usual problems getting the puck out of the defensive zone - it always seemed like I'd get control and be looking at a wall of gray sweaters. I've been reading up on our clearing problems and learned that we should have the wingers breaking out as soon as we gain control, which would make the defensemen for the other team have to go with them and thus not be there to block clearing attempts up the boards. Not ALL of my clearing attempts got picked off - some were okay, and once I even skated up before passing and hit one of our wingers at the opposite blue line - but enough so that I was annoyed. I keep forgetting to elevate the puck. Frustrating.

The horror show started in the third. I had a inkling of what might be in store when #19 (I think) undressed me with a move in the 2nd period but Alex stopped him. In the 3rd he got the puck with a full head of steam at the red line. I was just inside my own blue line and I knew, without a doubt, that I was dead.  Forwards or backwards, I wasn't going to be able to keep up with him, and the only option I had of checking him into the boards would have gotten me a penalty. Not that that would have stopped me, but he was by me too quickly for me to even try. That was after I failed to clear a puck and they knocked it around for a while before scoring, so that was a lovely -2 on that shift for me. Awesome. Also something let go in the back of my leg - not completely, but enough of a hello to make me nervous. That had nothing to do with me getting torched. That was just not being good enough.

After the game Alex and I were the only two left in the locker room and I was trying to draw out his thoughts on what he'd seen. The dude played Division 1 in college and he sees a lot, but he's reluctant to speak out for fear of ruffling feathers. He confirmed what I had been thinking about the forwards, saying I had no passing lanes the way things were. We also agreed that for some strange reason, our defensive partners don't pass cross ice to one another enough, Or at all, really.  Shifts are still too long, of course, although the forwards seemed a little better. Defense have been pretty good about getting off when we should, although one guy lingers. I want to say he's getting better about it. perhaps he is.

I understand that I'm learning a difficult position by fire and should not beat myself up quite so much, but it's more of the same - I know where to be but can't get it done. Jeff echoed the same sentiment but that doesn't make it any less like talking the gorgeous blond into coming home with you and then having a personal power failure. Meanwhile I try to keep things in perspective. My mind may be grumbling, but my body, after a double session of hockey, is, uhm, well, that's grumbling as well. Still a little tug on the bottom of the back of my right quad. I'm sure I'll be better by next week and the next opportunity to not suck. Or so I hope.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

That Was Probably the Easy Part

44 chapters, 171152 words. First draft of Dancing With the Boneyard Gods is done. Well, version 1.5, to be honest, as I wrote a much different and much more bloated version (229K!) about 15 years ago. I'm interested to see how much I carve away during the first edit, as I seem to be a fixer more than a remover in those matters, but 171k is a tough sell for a first book. I'm going to spend tomorrow and Saturday working on short stories during my 5am writing time (or maybe just screwing off and playing games, who knows) and dive into the first edit on Monday. It's been so long since I've seen those early chapters that I don't feel much of a break is needed. Then it's off to the suckers who volunteer to read, those poor damned souls. Step up to that line at your own risk.

Writing: 17 words. Those were all I needed, today.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Two lines. Two.

I am two lines away from finishing the damn draft. I ran out of time this morning and didn't want to rush the ending, so tomorrow should be it and give me enough time to total up the bloated word count as well. Then maybe I'll see if i can toss the whole thing into Scrivner, and then learn how to use Scrivner. I am a disaster.

Writing: 45 minutes worth of scribbling away. It's touching stuff. It'll punch you in the feelz. Or maybe the jink. Or maybe both at once.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Her Name is Not GLADoS - Yet

I did not finish the draft this morning. I might have, if the Gorram Cat hadn't been feeling particularly puckish and refrained from knocking my Portal gun turret off the top shelf of my desk over and over and over. Effing cat. Plus she peed on the clean laundry in the basket. If cat tasted good, buddy, your fuzzy butt would be a porkchop.

So tomorrow, maybe. I'm trying to get the ending just right. Then comes the editing, where WORDS DIE.

writing: 719 words.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

So Little to Do, So Much Time - Strike That, Reverse It

Lots to talk about - 2 hockey clinics and the very real chance I'll finish the first draft of my book (okay, draft 1.5) either tomorrow or Tuesday morning -= but for now a quick note about another publication, this one as a judge's perk in On The Premise's mini contest #23. For the second time in a row the three stories I selected were all in the top three, which means I guess I know something good when I see it. The one I liked the best came in 3rd, but to be it's still the cleverest of the bunch. And why again aren't you entering OTP contests? I'll be judging the next one as well and you should, dammit, you should.

Here's the link to the contest you so desperately want to click on . .