It’s been a long time since I’ve been this excited about going to do something that I completely suck at. Somehow the hours passed despite the efforts of the little men in the clock to hold that hour hand back and it was finally time to go.
As usual, we were earlier than we needed to be, but at least we weren’t the first ones there this week. Got geared up and found some space on the bench while the zamboni finished up.
There was a goalie sitting at the end of the bench with his gear spread on the area behind him – exactly where people needed to walk to get to the other end of the bench. As I carefully made my way around it, he was watching me with an irritated look on his face. Y’know, I can understand wanting to keep an eye on gear that’s worth $1000+, but putting that gear in a walkway and expecting people to not walk by it seems a bit silly. If you want your gear to be safe from dumbasses like me, wouldn’t it make sense to put it someplace where dumbasses like me aren’t likely to walk?
Anyway, we got on the ice a few minutes after 7 and got warmed up. I did better about not going big right off the bench; started with a slow lap or two and only touched a puck once before the class started. Also did a better job of hydration; I drank both before and after the warm up time. We picked up a couple of water bottles with straws (like football players use) this week. The straw makes drinking possible without taking the cage off; for me it’s like the difference between hiking with a Nalgene bottle and with a Camelbak – I drink more if it’s easy to get to.
Class time was structured like last week. We started with skating drills. Push and glide, push and glide one foot only, swizzles with both feet, swizzles with one foot (which I COMPLETELY suck at), “scooters” – one foot on ice, other pushing to the back, falling to our knees and getting back up, and one that I’ve been waiting for since reading Nicko’s blog – the Superman.
They didn’t call it the Superman, but that’s what it is. Skate forward and fall down on your face with your arms in front of you, then get up. The goal is to be getting up with some of the momentum you took down to the ice. Yeah. Right. 😉
These are going to be fun to practice. It feels wrong to fall down. I know the gear will keep me from lots of pain, but it still feels wrong to purposely throw myself on the ice. I know this is a vital skill to being even halfway decent at hockey, but it still feels wrong. Maybe it’s because I’m not 10 anymore (much as I hate to admit that), maybe it’s because my other falling knowledge comes from jumping, where the goal in landing is not to fall down and when you do, the PLF (parachute landing fall) is designed to dissipate momentum, not preserve it.
We had four instructors on ice with us – Jeff (the main guy), Spencer, Brian and Eric. Jeff is probably in his early thirties; has been playing hockey pretty much forever. Spencer is young – early twenties I’d guess. Brian reminds me of a high school sports coach; he’s about my age. Eric is Brian’s son; late teens or early twenties would be my guess. All of them are awesome skaters. Jeff and Brian obviously have a lot of experience teaching hockey. We think this is Spencer’s first time teaching; he gave better instruction this week than he did last week and I expect his teaching skills will improve as the class goes on. I didn’t hear Eric say a word but did see him working with individuals.
After skating we broke up into three groups. We started with passing with Brian. Glad we’ve put some time into that at stick times but it’s obvious much more practice is needed. Brian had us work on backhand passes as well. I found that receiving passes backhand is harder than passing backhand.
Next we did some puck handling with Spencer. He added a few tips on dribbling (cupping the puck with the blade to protect it from defenders) and had us skate around a bit with the pucks. We then learned how to “shovel” – holding the stick with one hand and pushing the puck in front of you. This is used on breakaways when there is nobody around to steal the puck from you. He also had us practice kicking the puck to our stick. I can see how that’s going to come in handy, and I really need to work on kicking with my right foot.
Our last station was skating with Jeff. More of the carving turns and a stopping drill. That was fun. Jeff isn’t letting us get away with much; he’s started to push us to go faster and stay lower and he’s calling us on it when we aren’t.
Once again there wasn’t time left for scrimmage, but that’s okay. By this point both Keith and I were exhausted.
On the drive home we decided we need to add some structure to our stick times if we want to improve faster. We’re going to make a list of things we need to practice and figure out a rough schedule for our ice time. The plan for the next few weeks is Wednesday afternoon stick times at Vacaville; that will likely change to Tuesdays when our weekly Dungeons and Dragons group comes off vacation hold next month (the DM is in the Galapagos Islands at the moment).
On a gear note, I retaped the blade of my stick before class yesterday. I’d put four skates on the previous tape job – one class and three stick times – and it was time; the tape was almost gone in several spots along the bottom of the blade. Keith’s wasn’t quite as bad so he put one more skate on his tape job; by the end of the class last night he was completely through the tape in two spots on his. So now we know – we can get 4 to 5 skates out of a blade tape job. Not bad; I was expecting one or two!