Monthly Archives: March 2011

Superman!

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!

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Bonus Time

We found ourselves with a free afternoon and evening together yesterday.   No stick times at Vacaville on the weekends, but Skatetown had a whole bunch of them scheduled.  We decided to go for the 7:15 pm one hour session.

Arrived an hour early and were the first two on the list.  The place was empty.  There was broom ball going on the rink we’d be using and a pick up game on the other rink.  We sat by the big screen in hopes of getting the channel changed from basketball to the Sharks game.

Got to watch most of the first period, not including either goal, then it was time to start getting ready.   Gearing up is going faster each time I do it.  Two things remain a bit difficult – getting the jersey over the pads and tightening the skates while wearing the shin guards.  I did a much better job of both last night than I have previously.   It’s the little things…  Also, I’ve added a bandana to my hockey gear.   Wearing it as a do-rag makes my helmet fit much better and it acts as a sweat absorber.

Speaking of sweat… yeah.  Hockey is a good workout, and the smell of some people’s gear shows it; when you can smell the stink from six feet away on the ice it might be time to think about airing your gear out, eh?  I’m trying hard to keep our gear from ever getting that way.  We pull it out of the bag and lay it out to air under a fan over night after every use, and I’ve started spraying each piece with Febreze as well.   It only goes back in the bag when it’s completely dry.

We shared the ice with a guy that we recognized as being from our class,  four pre-teens that are way too good and six or seven adults (also way better than we are).  Stick times are unstructured and a bit chaotic, especially for noobs like us.  I almost got taken out a couple times while puck handling across the neutral zone – luckily I was also working on a basic rule of hockey at the time, keeping my head up!

Started the skate with some slow cruising around the rink, a little forward, a little backwards.  Worked some more on the carving turns – coming along nicely to the right, not as good to the left.   Also worked on stopping with the right foot leading.

Then we picked up a puck and starting doing some passing while skating.   Spent the majority of the next forty minutes working together on passing, with a bit of puck handling and stopping thrown in.  The last ten minutes of the hour we focused on skating, mainly carving around a point and stopping.   We’re both doing well with the turns to our “stick side” – right for me, left for him.  That’s the side I can have both hands on the stick and really use it to pivot with; to the other side I can only use the left hand on the stick, can’t get as tight a turn out of it.

Stopping with the right foot leading is getting easier, so I tried leading with the left foot a bit.  Not quite as easy and I didn’t try it with any kind of speed.  It’ll come.

The only thing I wanted to try that I didn’t was crossovers.  Hopefully those are on the list for tonight’s class.

Which, of course, I’m sitting here counting the hours until we can leave for…

Empty Ice

Well, almost empty anyway.

Yesterday afternoon, he left work early and I drove from the house so we could meet up at the Vacaville rink for their 4:45 stick time.   We keep going back to Vacaville despite their lack of customer service because it’s the closest rink to the house.  Even though it’s close, after arriving too late for a stick time in Roseville we wanted to talk to someone before making the drive. It took five phone calls between 11 am and 4 pm on Tuesday to finally get someone to answer the phone.

She was really nice once she could finally talk.  Was surprised to learn that they have no limit to the number of people in their stick times because they’ve never had enough people to fill the rink.  It is $5 more than Roseville – $15 for an hour as opposed to $10 – which we justified by figuring in the gallon of gas we’ll save when we leave from the house.

A slight miscommunication  found me sitting in the parking lot at the ice rink at the same time that he was waiting for me to pick him up at work.  Oops!  Good thing we’d planned to meet early; he had arrived and we were in the door waiting to pay by 4:15.

And we were the third and fourth people for the session.   Whoa, we said to each other.  We can’t be that lucky.

Vacaville’s locker rooms aren’t anywhere near as nice as Roseville’s, but they’ll do.  We got geared up with a guy and his son (numbers one and two on the list);  gee, I wish I had someone to put my gear on for me, it’d go so much faster!  Took our pucks and water bottle out to the door and waited for the zamboni driver to get done and wave us on.

It was the two of us and the kid (his dad was still putting his gear on).  On a fullsize rink.  Pinch me!   We were joined by three other adults and two kids as the hour went on.  Nine skaters on the rink for stick time.  I think we’ve found our choice for midweek practice time.

We started with some slow and easy skating to warm up.  What joy to be able to skate wherever we wanted, in whatever direction we wanted, without worry about running into anybody else.  Didn’t spend quite long enough just skating before tossing the pucks out; was warmed up but I need to spend time working on the non-sexy stuff too, not just puck handling and passing.

We did quite a few runs back and forth practicing passing to each other and spent some time working on skating and puck handling at the same time (not as easy as it sounds, especially since you’re not supposed to be looking at the puck while you puck handle).   I didn’t see a huge amount of progress in any of my “skills”, but I didn’t expect to yet; after two hours of stick time and one lesson I’m still getting used to skating while wearing all this stuff.

We put the pucks away for the last ten minutes and focused on skating.  Chased each other around, working on the carving turns and just enjoying all the space on the ice.

Easily the funnest skate session yet.  I wish we could do it more than once a week!

A Weekend of Pre-Seconds

In the skydiving community, when you do something for the first time you are expected to bring a case of beer to the dropzone for everyone to share.  Most skydivers learn early to never say the word “first” when talking about their jumps – or at least to only say it when they can afford to buy beer.   So just to be clear, it wasn’t our first time doing certain things this weekend.  It was our pre-second time.

Saturday was rainy, windy and cold.   Roseville had a few stick times scheduled, one in the afternoon.  Since we’d arrived too late the last time we tried to make a stick time, we decided to call ahead.  That was easy, and we now know we don’t have to show up and sit around just to be sure of getting ice time.

Since we don’t really know how long it takes to gear up, we started getting ready about 45 minutes early.  Skatetown has nice locker rooms; a bit warmer than the rink but not so warm that you’re sweating in your gear, enough room for 10 or 12 people (probably more but comfortable with 10 or so).  They open two for use during stick time.  We were the first ones in.

It didn’t take nearly as long as we expected to get geared up.  We were out of the locker room 30 minutes before the start of stick time.  Wandered to the benches and watched the figure skaters finish up, then watched the zamboni get the ice ready.  We were joined by 10 or so other skaters before the zamboni was done.

Stick time can be a bit intimidating for the novice.  There were some really good players out there.  We tried to stay out of other people’s way as much as possible, finding our own space to work on passing and puck handling.  Center ice (the neutral zone) worked pretty good for passing practice.  There were lots of guys practicing shooting at both ends during most of the session.

It was still way better than weaving through packed ice during public skates.  I think it’s more fun to skate with a stick than without now, and chasing pucks around is fun too, even though I really suck at puck handling and passing.

Skating around chasing a puck is also a great workout.  We were more tired after an hour of stick time than we were after our first hour of public session skating back in December.

Sunday’s weather was even worse than Saturday.  We were supposed to attend a memorial party for a skydiver driver I knew “back in the day”, but driving 1 1/2 hours one way in the storms to spend 2 hours standing in the cold and rain was overruled in favor of playing Wii in a warm house.

A fun day to be sure, but we were like a couple of kids on Christmas Eve.  Is it time yet?  How much longer?  What time can we leave and not get there ridiculously early?  Is there anything we can do there if we do go ridiculously early?

It was finally close enough to time to go that we could leave without feeling silly.  We arrived an hour prior to the starting time, which worked out well; we were the first to show up but others rapidly followed.  Picked up the practice jersey that was included in the course fee (mine is teal with the Skatetown logo on the front) and headed to the locker room to get dressed.

I can already tell that the locker room is where we’ll be getting to know our classmates (and in some cases, future teammates).  What else is there to do while putting on and taking off gear besides talk?

We were early again.   There was still a high school game going on the rink we’d be using.  We watched the last five minutes of their game from the boards and made our way to the benches when they were done.   Jeff, our main instructor, came by as the zamboni was working to let us know that we’d be starting class at 7:30 – that gave us 15 minutes to play before we got started.

I need to remember to start with slow, mellow skating around the rink to warm up.  There’s plenty of time to play with pucks; no need to wear myself out early.

The class was much like the freebie we attended a few weeks ago.  Some basic skating across the short side of the rink – push and glide, swizzles, two footed and one footed glides, slowing and stopping using the V (snowplow), a little bit of backwards.  Then we broke up into two groups, one doing puck handling and passing and the other working on skating.

We skated with Jeff first.  My favorite drill so far – turns around cones, carving with one foot in front of the other.   Amazing how much I can lean now that I’m not scared of getting hurt when I fall.   Looking forward to adding crossovers to that one in the next few weeks; I know I’m going to fall when learning them but they are the next step in my skating.

Spent the last part of the class working on puck handling and passing with Spencer; again much of it a repeat of what we’d done in the free clinic.  My passing is coming along nicely; I’m remembering to look at the target and not at the puck on my stick before I pass it.

We ran out of time so we didn’t get to have scrimmage time, but a few minutes of that is planned for the end of every class, with more time devoted to scrimmages as the weeks go on.

I didn’t realize that anybody had noticed, but while we were getting changed one of our classmates commented on how Keith and I had been hitting each other with our sticks throughout the class.  <snicker>  Hey, we gotta learn to trust the gear somehow, right?  Besides, where else can we beat on each other in public and get away with it? 😉

Old habits die hard.  After we’d gotten changed, we headed to the snack bar and bought a pitcher of beer.  Unfortunately, most of the class had already left by then, but we did get a few minutes of Q&A time with Jeff in exchange for some liquid refreshment.

Today we’re hitting a stick time at the Vacaville rink.   It’s a bit more expensive, but closer to home and from what the lady on the phone said, not very crowded on Wednesday afternoons.

Hockey = fun.  Yay!

Putting It All Together

My apologies for the theft and thanks to my fellow noob hockey player Nicko for the idea…

How do you get from a pile of stuff to looking like you’re a hockey player?  There is an order to how you put on all that gear.  It goes s9mething like this…

First, the base layer.  In my case, an REI lightweight longsleeve base layer shirt and a pair of hockey specific “Jill” shorts.

Next we put on the knee/shin guards.

Next come the hockey socks.  The shorts have hook velcro patches on each leg, front and back. to hold the socks up.

Now the pants.  These things ride as high as your great grandfather’s pants did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If I were getting dressed at the rink, I’d put the skates on at this point.  Didn’t bother for the pictures.

Once the bottom half of the body is covered, next comes the shoulder pads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elbow pads complete the upper body armoring process.

 

 

 

 

 

Robo-Woman!

A jersey covers the pads on top.  It’s quite fun trying to put the jersey on over the pads without help.  There is a method that works well, without twisting around or immobilizing an arm.  I haven’t learned that method yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helmet and cage go on next.

Gloves complete the body armoring process.

And it’s finally time to pick up the stick and pose for my rookie card picture.

Mmmmm….. sexy!!!!!

That’s it.  From a pile of gear sitting next to a mild mannered middle aged hausfrau to an ice warrior ready to bash some pucks and shins with a big stick.

This post marks the end, for the moment, of sharing lots of intimate details about my gear obsession with you.  I’m sure I’ll buy something at some point and have to enthuse about it for a hundred words or so, but in the near future anyway, my posts will focus more on actually playing hockey!

Which we get to start doing on Sunday evening.  Five more sleeps!

A Bag Full of Toys

We finished off our gear shopping yesterday.

Started out early for Hockey Xsport in Oakland, a 90 minute drive from home.   I anticipated leaving the store and coming home with everything I needed to finish filling my bag of gear – a pair of ice pants, a set of shoulder pads and a pair of hockey socks.  The s/o needed a stick, a pair of gloves, a pair of hockey socks and a jock.

When we arrived he went to look at sticks and I headed for the pants and shoulder pads. The women’s Bauer Vapor 30’s that I’d tried on before were hanging there.  Tried them on again to be sure of sizing, and compared them to the One35’s they also had.   Couldn’t see a huge difference between the two, at least not enough of a difference to justify spending an extra $30 on One35’s.   The Vapor 30’s it was.

Last time I was there they had one or two sets of female specific Bauer shoulder pads hanging in the back corner.  This time… they were gone!  I asked at the counter and was told that they have none in stock and didn’t know when they’d be getting more.  I could special order, but they didn’t know when they’d arrive.   I really need them in hand for our first class next Sunday.  Decided to check at the proshop at Roseville before trying the internet for those.

Grabbed a pair of solid black CCM socks.  Thought about getting something colored, but until I’m on a team and have to have a particular color, I’m not going to wear the colors of a team other than the Sharks.   But I’m not going to wear the Sharks colors until/unless I get to the point where I actually look like I know what I’m doing on the ice.  Not dissing anybody who wears their favorite team/players colors and/or numbers on the ice, this is just the way I’m approaching it.

Ended up grabbing a pair of Bauer mesh Jill shorts (with pelvic protector) as well. I like the fit and feel of the looser shorts as opposed to the tight, compression style.

The s/o picked out a basic wooden stick (LH Easton Synergy with a Zetterberg curve on the blade),  a pair of Bauer Vapor 20 gloves, solid white hockey socks and a pair of Bauer mesh Jock shorts with cup.

We’d thought about hitting a public skate at Vacaville on the way home, but decided it would be more fun to try to hit the stick time at Roseville later in the afternoon.  Once we got home, we spent some time drooling over our gear, trying things on and modeling for each other.  Then we packed it all up and headed for Roseville.  The stick time was at 3 pm.  We arrived a few minutes before 3.  We were too late, the session was already full.

But the trip wasn’t a total waste – we learned that we need to arrive much earlier for stick times!  And there just happened to be a set of Bauer One35 womens shoulder pads hanging in the pro shop.  One set, size large.  They normally don’t stock the female specific stuff.  Tried them on and they fit (I’m at the small side of the large but they were comfy and looked right).  $55 plus tax.  A bit more than I wanted to spend, but they were there, they fit and they just may have been the only ones in stock anywhere in the Sacramento and Bay areas.  They’re mine now.   And we got to support the local shop with a purchase larger than $20; that makes me feel good.

Once we were back home, I spent some time really checking out our new stuff.  I’m very impressed with the quality, workmanship and obvious R&D that went into the pants and pads.  My experience working with skydiving equipment has given me an appreciation for quality construction and fabric choices.  Skydiving gear is significantly more expensive than hockey gear; a good example of economy of scale, since hockey probably has millions of players while skydiving has less than 100,000 active jumpers on the US.

I guess I have to admit that I also spent some time wearing my gear around the house last night.  I just may do the same today.  But I have a good excuse!  I need to find out how long it’s going to take to gear up so we know how early we need to show up for the class on Sunday.  Yeah. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Okay, here are the pics that I know you’ve been waiting for.  I promise a future pictorial showing how all the pieces go on and fit together.

Shoulder pads, back view

Shoulder pads, front view

Pants, back view

Pants, front view.

It’s all new to me

Scored a really great deal on that hockey equipment I mentioned yesterday.  It’s all a few years old (ie not current models) but it’s in really good condition; the helmet looks like it was never used.  Over $300 worth of gear for $100.

I know you want to see pictures.  Here ya go.

The gloves are Nike Bauer Vapor X.  Helmet is Nike Bauer NBH 3500.  Shin guards are Nike Bauer Supreme 30, elbow pads are the same.  Two sticks, both are two piece Bauer DET1000’s; one is a senior with a Bauer blade, the other is a junior with an Easton blade, both right hand.  The junior stick will be useful for off ice stick handling practice.  And the practice jersey was made by Easton.

This weekend we’re headed back to Oakland to finish our gear shopping.  Expect more pictures on Sunday 😉