January 22, 2018

Falling Down a Mountain

Listen up beer league players. I'm going to lay down some wisdom you are going to want to hear.

Warm-ups are under way and you are either sniping your own goalie when he isn't looking or blasting slappers off the side boards. Do yourself a favor. Take 10 seconds and watch the opposing goaltender while he warms up.

Is he:
A. Drunk
B. Fat
C. Old

Pick any two and and it he fits, then I am going to give you the Recipe for a Win and maybe a goal or two off your own blade.

Playing goalie is exhausting. On a typical night, beer league goalies can see anywhere from 25 (low) to 60 (high) shots in a game. But watch your own goalie not the puck while you sit resting between shifts. For every shot that gets blocked or misses the net, at least half of the time he has to play it like its on net. Watch as he drops down to the ice as the puck goes down low and now he has to push from post to post as the puck cycles. Notice when it pops back to point, he's getting back onto his skates to square up for another possible shot. See how he has to shuffle across tracking the puck as it moves across the blue line? All of this takes a lot of energy.

Now imagine doing that for 30-60 seconds while your team fights for possession only to turn it over at your own blue line and the whole sequence starts again. Can't imagine it? Then strap on some goalie gear and go to a drop in.

To be certain there are young, fit beer league goalies who can play three back-to-back games and barely work up a sweat, I am not one of them and if you see someone like me instead of them in the warm up then here are your keys to victory:

  • Shoot early and often– who cares if its 4 feet wide? The goalie will play it and it results in an up/down for him.
  • Cycle the puck down low– Once he's down make him go side to side as much as possible.
  • Back to the point– Now that he's down on the ice, get it back to the point and make him pop back up.
  • Draw a penalty and repeat items above– its super effective when you are a man up.
  • Retain possession in the offense zone for as long as possible to maximize the effect.
If the opposing goalie is like me, then after a period or two of this he will not only be pretty tired but he will begin questioning the choices that put him into net.

If you follow the Ancient Netminder's Recipe for Success, then by the start of the 3rd period, he's been tracking 40+ shots and gone down to the ice and back up roughly 65 times in 30 pounds of gear and starts making hard choices about just how dangerous your weak wrister from the dots looks to him. That's your time to shine! Your backdoor snow-shoveling shots will never have a greater chance of becoming game-winning goals. Your back-hander that wouldn't hurt a fly will become the hatty you've always chased. Your along-the-ice-because-you-never-learned-to-lift-a-slapper will become a dangerous and possibly unstoppable shot.

Just make sure the goalie is drunk, fat or old– I know every night I'm at least two of them.

December 19, 2017

Grateful for it All

Another calender year has come to a close and I am grateful for hockey.

In a few weeks, I will have been back playing for four years and hockey has changed so many things about my life. Sure it's still just a diversion from the everyday struggles of work and family but the influence is long-reaching and has been nothing but positive – if you don't count the injuries, aches and pains. It's a good trade-off.

Puck Hawgs Fall '17 Champs
In my travels through the local hockey community I've met so many good people. The good outweigh the bad by a huge margin and so many of them I get to see week after week at the rink and some have become "outside hockey" friends too. Never before have I had the support and friendship of so many.

Puck Hawgs Too Game Award
The year has resulted in a few league championships, some personal achievements and some setbacks but most of those are just like fireworks in the sky. The constant through the year is the joy and satisfaction of spending time with terrific friends and teammates.

The year concluded with another championship win for the first team I started. This was our 4th in 7 seasons and our second since moving to the Upper 'B' division. It also marks the end of our time with several players. Life still happens. Life takes people to different places and it always hurts a little when someone you spend time with each week won't be there next season.

This year was the first for another Puck Hawgs team that I started to bring back many of the players we started with three years ago. We managed our first league championship but more importantly, it was the chance to reconnect with just a few more of the friends made in my hockey journey.

Amy's Hat Trick with the Nordiques
There was the second annual Al Star Game- a birthday celebration which is just one more excuse to gather together some of the great people we know and love. Any excuse to share time is a good one.

Even more importantly, I continue to share my journey with family. I play alongside my beautiful wife twice a week and my cheerleading daughters come to cold rinks- often late at night to see their old dad play.

I could fill this blog with the details of gear I buy, aching losses and occasional highlights from an old goalie but this entry is a reminder to myself about just what hockey has brought me and it's a lot more than wins and losses. It's also a message to all those people who I get to share it with.

Thank you for hockey.