Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Following in the Footsteps of Nick Fotiu - Old Man Learns Hockey - Game #13

I hit the clinic Sunday morning - the HOCKEY clinic - and spent every chance I could either playing defense or honing my backward skating skills. The drills we did lent to that, and even before our game I had extra ice time to practice my forward to back spin, clearing the puck, and all sorts of important defenseman things.

Then I was told I was playing forward.

Which was fine, really. I don't care where I play and as we had a short bench - seven forwards, four defensemen - there was still plenty of ice time. We were playing a not-great team, carried by two excellent skaters and a couple of decent ones. I stepped on the ice for the first time just as they converted a two-on-one for a goal. Wonderful. Later in the period their big gun sped in and scored on a breakway, but that was it. In the second we had a few defensive breakdowns, and their 3rd and 4th goals came off rebound scrambles in front of our net. It felt weird to be sticking up by the blue line instead of shoving people away, but the defenseman was the aforementioned big gun and I wasn't leaving him alone. They punched another one in before the horn, but there was a lot more give and take - we were getting some chances and offensive pressure. In the third period, for whatever reason, we started to have more success. I was out there for a minute-long shift that was entirely in their zone - we stopped clearing attempts a few times, which was a nice reversal. I had not one but two shots on goal - a one-timer that he stonedwalled me on, and then the rebound that I lifted with a backhand hit the bottom of his glove, the top of his pad . . . and fell out. Rats.

I also tore the feet out from under someone and had the good graces not to even try to protest when the ref blew the play dead and sent me off. My first trip to the sin bin! Well, first to a hockey sin bin. I'm acquainted with the rugby version as well. Anyway, I now have an official stat.We killed off the penalty and a few minutes later, after more pressure, punched in a goal. Of course that annoyed the other team so their superstar skated through everyone and, although Charlie stopped the first shot, one of his teammates put back the rebound. 6-1 final. Not too bad.

As for me, I was my usual menagerie of hustle, mistakes, and so on. I wiped out and took out the net, I dug the puck off the boards and made a perfect, perfect cross-ice pass that should have been a one-timer but was muffed, and I yelled at one of my teammates for lining up for a faceoff after taking a two minute shift. Don't tell me you're 'okay.' The pros only take 45 second shifts, plus you're being a selfish tool to your teammates. If I have to be That Guy, I'll be That Guy.  Otherwise, playing forward is fun and even if I was making a goal-causing mistake, it's not as obvious as when I bone it as a defenseman. The season is winding down - only four games left, unless we win our first playoff game. Stranger things could happen.

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