Sunday, November 10, 2013

Twitch Twitch - The Old Man Plays Hockey: Practice

So there probably a term for the moment when you're lying on the ice, having just smashed head-first into the boards, and deciding if it's time to try to see if you can move. I don't know it, but I'm sure it's out there. In any case, I'm a little ahead of myself here.

Through methods I won't mention here we managed to secure ice time for our first team practice, which comes after four games and may not have been the best way to do things. My awesome plan to get my family's skates sharpened turned out to be not awesome at all as Saturday night appears to be date night for blades and the sharpener. Even more alarming was watching a bunch of kids skate around like an offshoot of the NHL. Turns out they were Tier 1 16 year olds and were elite, which made me feel a little better.

There was no heat in our locker room, which made changing fun. We managed to scrounge up 11 skaters and 1 goalie, which isn't too bad, and we started off like a actual practice by SKATING THE CIRCLES, which is my bane drill. To make it even more difficult we did so while stickhandling, and more than once I had to divert from my non-crossover stepping to chase my wayward puck.

Then we just scrimmaged. Maybe the wiser thing would have been to set up passing drills, or practice 3 on 2s, or plot out a power play, but I think we just all wanted to skate and play hockey. The first fifteen minutes were rough for me, as it seems to take me a while to get back into the rhythm of what passes for my skating. I missed passes, flubbed shot, fell down a lot. I tried to keep in mind that I'd probably been on skates ten times in my life as opposed to the zillions of times the others had, but it gets frustrating. Still, I pressed on, and things got better. I started to get to some of those loose pucks, started making passes go in the general direction of where I wanted them to. And even better, I had an epiphany.

It happened while scrambling after a loose puck in my zone. Normally I'd just poke at it ineffectually with my stick, but instead I swung my hips around and knocked the other guy away. Indeed, I got physical.

(no, not that kind of physical)

Was it checking? Meh. I seemed okay, and suddenly I had control. The more I did that, the better the results. Not out and out checking, not smashing a guy into the boards, but just using my body as a mobile barrier. My pedigree would kind of indicate that thuggery would be my skill set - years and years of martial arts, football, rugby. When I set up in front of the net and a defenseman tried to move me I shoved back.  I actually managed a couple of shots on goal - actual ones the goalie had to save. DO NOT DENY MY PRESENCE ON THE ICE.

As I become more comfortable with this the rest of my game improved as well (understand when I say 'improved' that has to be taken in the context of the absolute lack of talent I possess. Moving from 'absolute detriment on the ice' to 'moderate detriment on the ice' is improvement, dammit). I made some passes, was more confident with the puck, and actually heard my center yell at me that someone was on my back and I needed to move the puck. One of the better skaters on the team asked me if I'd been practicing. That could have been him noting my improvement or perhaps a not that I should do more of it. I'm going to go with that former. It also possible my game seemed to improve as my teammates got more tired - an hour of skating can do that to you. I know my strength - little talent, big heart, and a motor that won't stop.  Right up until they flashed the lights to tell us to get the hell out I was still racing as quickly as my inefficient skating style would allow.

Our goal for the practice was to work on getting the damn thing out of zone, the bane of our performances so far. I think we did a pretty good job of that. Our goalie, who appears to be either my age or older, more or less coached us. Afterwards he mentioned to me he was considering hanging up the skates and taking a position behind our bench, if he thought we'd listen. If he could get the the one guy to get off the ice when he's supposed to, I'd make him GM too.

So, right. The head injury. I was chasing a puck in the corner when I bumped hips with a guy on the 'other' team and found myself horizontal and airborne - and then having an upfront meeting with the boards. I saw stars and don't really remember hitting the ice before having the moment I mention way back at the beginning of this thing.  I scrambled to my feet - or blades, whatever and almost fell again. Really, that could have nothing to do with the crash. I tried not to worry about it as I headed home to a completely empty house for the night. To give you an idea of how hard a hit it was, here is what's on my forehead as of a few minutes ago:
Had to see now, but it should bruise up nicely. My neck's a little stiff but otherwise I seem fine. Well, except that I'm playing hockey at age 45. Whatever. Also, the Greengrass boys missed practice because they're in CLUB MED. Just wait until it's contract time, fellas.

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