Monthly Archives: April 2011

Progress and a New Toy

We hit the Wednesday stick time in Vacaville again.  Good skate, even though more than 1/3 of the ice was taken over by a junior team and the two coaches working with a couple of little guys were using the center 1/3 with us, so there wasn’t as much room as we’d like.

Spent some time working on the wrist shot, even though my stick is too stiff to flex.  Starting to feel the wrist flick, but the weight shift still puts me on my ass.  Small steps.   Crossovers are coming along.  I fell regularly but managed to pull off a few smooth ones without looking at my feet.  I’m still pretty exhausted at the end of an hour of stick time, but not nearly as tired as I was the first few we did.

Progress!

Since Sunday was Easter, class was moved to Saturday morning.  8:30 am.  Quite a few  people didn’t make it, which made for a bit more personal coaching time.  A lot less skating and a lot more time with pucks this week. After a few skating runs, we broke into groups for drills.

We started with Spencer and wrist shots.  Hearing and seeing it all again from someone different was great; I picked up a couple things that I didn’t get when Jeff explained it last week.  While we were working individually, Spencer again explained the weight shift to me, it made sense and my wrist shot improved.  Marginal improvement, but I’ll take it!

Next we did passing with Brian, both stationary and skating while passing through cones.  We’re all getting a little better at it.

Our last station was shooting with Jeff – slap shot this week.   My inability to flex my stick is limiting my shooting, but the basic mechanics made sense especially after doing the wrist shot again.  Progress!

The last fifteen minutes were the best part of the morning.  Scrimmage time.  Here’s how it goes – I skate, I see the puck, I fall down, I get up, I skate, I almost touch the puck, I run into someone, I fall down, I get up, I skate toward the goal, someone runs into me, I fall down, I get up, I skate to the bench, I guzzle water.  Repeat.  Too much fun!

Stopped by the pro shop after class to look at sticks.  While playing with them, I figured out that an intermediate stick will work for me.  They are longer than junior sticks but not as stiff as senior sticks.  Was all ready to buy from them but the only intermediate stick they had in my price range was a lefty.

While taking the gear out of the bag to air once we got home, I discovered two split seams in my pants.  They are only six weeks old and I haven’t been THAT hard on them! Although Keith is talented with a sewing machine, I didn’t like the idea of having patches on my nearly new pants, especially when it was a workmanship issue.

We’d already discussed making a drive to Oakland to look at sticks.  The pants issue made that decision.  Tuesday evening we headed off to Hockey Xsport .  They were great about the pants exchange; covered under warranty and they had the same pants in stock.  They didn’t have the same size, but that worked out fine after I tried on a smaller pair and liked the fit far better.

There sure are a lot of stick choices out there… and most of them are kind of expensive.  Finally found the intermediate Bauer sticks and settled on a one piece composite One 20 (67 flex, PM9 pattern, 5 lie).  $50.  And that’s a bottom of the line composite stick.

We also picked up a street hockey ball so we can practice passing at home.

Finished the trip with a visit to a friend to pick up tickets for the first game of Round 2 of the playoffs, which start tomorrow night.  Sharks vs Detroit.  I’d be way more excited about the game if I got to go, but I know better than to expect to go to playoff games.  I may hit the Thursday stick time without him though; paybacks and all that. 😉

Taking the new toy out on the ice this afternoon for stick time.   It’s all taped up and ready to go.   Gosh I love hockey.

Shooting and a Scrimmage!

Catching up after two weeks of being a bad blogger….

We awoke two Sunday mornings ago to the blare of an alarm clock.  At 5:00 am.  In southern California.  Eight and a half hours later, we were unloading the car and preparing for a nap at home.  And that was with good traffic luck – it’s not so bad driving through the LA basin at 6 am on a Sunday morning and we were early enough to avoid the returning from Tahoe Sunday afternoon rush through and west of Sacramento.

It had already been a long and tiring weekend before we got back in the car to drive to the rink for class.   We knew we’d be even more tired on Monday, but hockey class is worth it.   The tiredness showed in my performance on the ice; in other words, I pretty much sucked.

Warmed up with some slow laps around the rink and some stretching.  I pulled my left hip flexor the week before, so I tried to be sure to stretch it this time.  Not sure if it worked or not, as it was getting sore halfway through class.

We learned the basics of the wrist shot, and I learned that my stick is way too stiff.  I can’t flex it at all, and flex is important for getting some oomph on the puck.  There’s a lot to think about when making a wrist shot.  Get low, flex the stick, weight on back leg, shift weight to front as you make the shot, twist wrist while keeping it close to the body, point stick where you want puck to go…  This is obviously one of those do it 10000 times and you just might start to be adequate at it kind of things.

More crossover practice and some transitions.  Glad I’m already confident in the transitions; completely sucking at everything isn’t much fun.

What is fun, even while completely sucking, is scrimmaging.  We finally got a few minutes of scrimmage time in and it was a blast!  We pretty much all sucked – lots of “bunchy ball” and not much positioning, lots of fanning on the puck, lots of “incidental contact”.  And lots and lots of laughter!

After class we hung out for a beer and met some of our classmates.  Alexis lives in the same town as we do; she’s in her early twenties and is gonna be a rock star at this.  Eric is closer to our age (I think he’s older than we are), learned to skate as a kid but never learned to play hockey.

The Pain…

I may be 45 years old now, but most of the time I try to ignore that fact.   I’ve made avoiding having to growing up my life’s work.   Hockey seems to have a way of reminding us of our physical age, though.

Our now regular Wednesday afternoon stick time date was in jeopardy this week due to our trip to SoCal this weekend.   We couldn’t go a whole week without practicing, so we hit an evening stick time in Roseville last night.  Not too crowded this time; there were 16 of us total.  Six or so of them were teenagers that obviously play together; they took over one end of the ice.  There were two other “pairs” and a handful of people working by themselves.

We concentrated on skating practice in the middle of the rink for the majority of the hour –  crossovers, stopping, transitions and backwards.   Some progress on crossovers; turning left felt like I was actually doing it, turning right I was feeling the edge and almost able to get the left foot crossing over (an improvement over Sunday night).  I’m gaining confidence in my stops; was able to stop a few times without gliding to lose speed first.

To break up the skating practice, we did a few minutes of puckhandling and passing after 10-15 minutes of skating.   I did a couple board to board runs with more speed than I’ve tried before and was pretty happy with my performance.   We also tried a few passing runs to the goal, which is a lot of fun even if we do completely suck at it.

About 45 minutes in, we were working crossovers in the center circle when I caught an edge and went down.  Ow.  Pain in the groin… I didn’t even know I had a muscle there and now it wasn’t happy with me at all.  Got up and skated to the bench to take a break.  It only hurt when I tried to lift my leg, and I didn’t want to waste the remainder of our stick time sitting on the bench, so we went back out.  I just didn’t skate as hard.

Ended the session by trying to take the puck away from each other.  Fun!

We’ve decided to do stick times only in Vacaville in the future.  It’s not the cost, it’s not the longer drive, it’s the people on the ice with us.  It was very frustrating last night trying to work on skating drills in the center while 7 other people insisted on weaving right through us.   We both got the impression that several of them felt that we were in their way (not the other way around).   We’ve never felt that way in Vacaville.

Aleve is my best friend today.  Whatever muscle I pulled is very unhappy with me and I have to go run errands.   Yet another day when I’m glad the car has an automatic transmission; it’d be kind of hard to operate a clutch by lifting my left leg with my hand like I have to do while sitting on the couch. 😉

The pain… it sucks.  But the fun I’m having learning to be a hockey player is worth it!

The Stanley Cup Playoffs  begin tonight!!!

Body, Meet Ice. W/Pictures!

It was a busy weekend around here.  We went to the Sharks game Saturday night, after working at the dropzone during the day.  By the time class rolled around Sunday evening, he’d done 8 skydives and was physically and mentally exhausted.  I wasn’t quite as tired, but my neck has been bugging me lately so I was pretty sore in the shoulders.  Didn’t stop us from going to class though.  A friend stopped by to watch and join us for a beer at the end of class; he’s responsible for the pictures. 😀  Thanks Phil!

We spent most of the class working on skating.  Remember that duck walk thing I mentioned that we learned at stick time?  That was introduced in class, along with transitions from forward to backward (we haven’t been doing them wrong!  Yay!).

When we broke up into groups, we did more skating with Brian.  Crossovers… For a few seconds there, turning left, staying low, I was really feeling it!  Right turns, on the other hand…

Next we worked on stickhandling with Jeff.  A few passes and shots on the net.  I’ll get it someday.

Last station for the evening was more skating with Spencer.  He set us up a brutal drill.  Hop over a board place on the ice, skate to the cones, superman, get up, skate to and around another cone then sprint back to the start.  And repeat.  Over and over and over and over…  It was exhausting, but it was also quite fun!

That’s the s/o on the ice.  That’s me skating away with a big grin.  If I hadn’t told you about the drill, I bet you would have thought I’d just checked him huh?

Another good class session, even if we were tired when it started.  This week is also going to be busy, as we leave Thursday evening for a friend’s memorial service in southern California and won’t be returning until Sunday – which will mean hockey class after an 8 hour drive.

One more pic, just because.

Sharks vs Coyotes 4/9/11

We got to go to the last regular season Sharks game last night.  The last home game of the season is Fan Appreciation night.  They gave away the jersey off every player’s back,  PS3’s, PSP’s, laptops, hard drives, gift cards, playoff tickets… We didn’t win any of it, but the car flags we got at the door are cool.  Not that we’ll put them on the cars…

Met up with a friend who lives 30 or so miles away for drinks before the game.  Although we live that close to each other, we really only see her in Montana on our annual vacation.   Downtown San Jose has a variety of restaurants and bars within easy walking distance of the Tank.  The one we used to visit was a victim of the economy a couple of years ago.  We found a really cool hole in the wall gay bar last year (they were straight friendly, we weren’t uncomfortable at all), but the people our friend was with didn’t think that was a good idea.  So we ended up at a fairly pricey brewery/restaurant.  Good beer though.

They didn’t care so much about the preskate, so we finished our beers and headed over to the Tank.  Normally we like to be there prior to the guys coming out, but we were a bit late.  Still got to see the majority of it though, and managed to get a few decent pics with the point and shoot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First period wasn’t the Sharks best moments, but they came back and won it 3-1, clinching 2nd in the Western Conference.

There was some excellent people watching from our seats.  A good looking, well put together, somewhat drunk solo blonde  woman was bouncing from empty seat to empty seat in the section next to us (our seats are 5 rows from the glass).  As the actual seat holders showed up she’d move.  First she was in the 5th row, then the 1st row, then the 3rd row.  Finally three guys came down from their box to claim the seats she was in.   She looked so lost when she had to get up and there were no more empty seats down there for her to borrow!

Some pics from the game –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We usually bail out shortly after the end of the game, as we have a minimum 90 minute drive home to get to.  Last night we decided to hang out to watch the post game festivities (and maybe catch a tshirt or other swag).   They took all the winners of jersey’s out onto the ice, then the players skated out, took the jerseys off and handed them to the winners.  Wow.  That had to be an amazing experience.  At one end of the line was a little grey haired lady who had won Douglas Murray’s jersey.  Murray is a big guy – he looked like a giant next to her!

A few more hours until we get to go beat on the ice with sticks too…

Hero Worship

Normally I wouldn’t write two posts in one day, but today my favorite Shark ever, heck my favorite NHL player ever, Jeremy Roenick, replied to me on twitter.  I seriously feel like I’m 11 years old again and some teenage heartthrob just sent me a form letter reply to a fan letter.

I didn’t know who JR was when he signed with the Sharks a few years ago.  I’ve only been following the Sharks since 2005 and hadn’t bothered learning about any other players until the past year or so.  My s/o told me back then that JR had no filter.  I liked him right away.  I liked him even more knowing he was 40 years old and still playing hockey like he was 20.

From a fan’s point of view, JR brought a lot to the Sharks.  Always working hard, always taking one for the team, always positive, always giving back to the community.  You know his body had to be killing him after some of those games – 40 year old bodies don’t heal as fast as 20 year old bodies do – and yet he was back on the ice, working just as hard, playing just as tough, despite the fact that he must have been hurting most of the time!

Although I understood why, I was really bummed when he announced his retirement.  If I wanted him to get that Stanley Cup before he retired, I can only imagine how badly he wanted it.  His retirement was a sad day for the Sharks and a sad day for hockey.

So anyway, to have my favorite player ever speak directly to me, even if it’s “only” on twitter,  completely made my day.

I’ve found twitter to be handy for picking up NHL gossip and for learning more about the game.  I follow a few players, including JR (@Jeremy_Roenick), my current favorite Shark, Devin Setoguchi (@seto1661) and the Sharks amazing rookie center Logan Couture (@logancouture).  If you’re on there, please follow me (@hockeyover40) and I’ll happily follow you back.

Crossovers. I Will Own You.

We hit the 4:45 stick time at Vacaville yesterday.   The plan was to focus on skating; fifteen minutes of the hour were allotted for playing with pucks.  We figure that it’s best to spend most of our time working on skating right now – the better we can skate, the less we have to think about our skating, the better hockey players we will be.

The ice was downright crowded compared to last week – fifteen including us.  We were happily surprised to find that the price had dropped – it’s now $12 for the hour instead of $15.  This makes stick time at Vacaville cheaper than Roseville when you figure in the gas.

The same guys that were there last week were also there this week.  A little more conversation in the locker room and we learned that two of them are airmen at the local Air Force base.  As it turns out, they work on the KC10 refueling aircraft that a skydiving friend of ours operates the boom on.  Small world.

I knew going into the session that I’d be falling down, because the skill for the day was forward crossovers.  I will own crossovers.  Just not yet.  After warming up, we did what I’m going to call “stepping” to practice foot placement.   Then we tried it skating.

Turning to the left, the right foot crosses over the left foot, with both feet working the inside edge.  Momentum, commitment, stay low… trip over own feet, fall down, slide across the ice.  Again.  Momentum, commitment, stay low… lose the edge, fall down, slide across the ice.  Okay, let’s try the other direction.  Turning to the right, the left foot crosses over the right foot, with both feet working the inside edge.  Momentum, commitment, stay low…. trip over own feet, fall down, slide across the ice.  Again.  Momentum, commitment, stay low… trip over own feet, fall down, slide across the ice.  Wow, I thought there was more padding in the hips of hockey pants.

That was fun.  Onward to other skating drills, with emphasis on stopping at the end of each one.  Worked on swizzles (C cut), scooters, one foot glides, knee slides and supermans.  The effort we’re putting into skating practice is already paying off; swizzles with the left foot only are working and I got back up from a knee slide with momentum a few times.

After a water break, we tossed out pucks and spent ten minutes working on puckhandling.  I suck at puckhandling.  I can move the puck around the ice, but I haven’t yet figured out how to cup it while doing so.  Kicking to the stick with the left foot is coming along; I need to work on the right foot.

More skating practice.  More crossovers.  More body on ice time.  Turning to the left is feeling better; made it twice around the circle without falling down and it felt like I was crossing over almost the whole time.  Turning to the right… I really thought there was more hip padding in those pants.  In either direction, I’m starting to feel the edges; I’m wobbly while on one foot, but I can feel it.  Eventually I’ll learn to trust them.

Next session I’m going to put more time into one foot glides; I think that will pay off both for crossovers and for knee slides.  I’m also considering putting the skates on at home and working on “stepping” on the carpet.  Left foot over right is a toughie.  I’m going to own it.

Did a bit of backwards skating, trying to figure out slowing and stopping without turning around.   Found a kind of reverse snowplow that seemed to work, but I’m sure there’s a way to hockey stop in reverse just like forward.

Because all practice sessions should include some of the sexy stuff, we spent five minutes passing the puck to each other.   Not bad.  We aren’t doing it with a whole lot of speed, but we’re being fairly accurate with our passes while skating.  I think we’re probably about where they expect us to be at this point.

The last ten minutes we focused on skating again.  More crossovers around the center circle, then tight turns around the faceoff dots, then some work on transitions in both directions.  Overall, a good skate!

We’ve now hit stick times twice at Roseville and three times at Vacaville.  As much as we don’t like the customer service at Vacaville, it seems like the people we were skating with during stick times are nicer there.  Nobody other than rink employees really spoke to us during stick times at Roseville, and occasionally we were made to feel like we were in other people’s way.  At Vacaville, there is conversation in the locker room, the guys are courteous and understanding of our lack of experience/skill on the ice, and we even had a guy offering us some skating tips – tips that worked!   He taught us “duck stepping” – feet out like a duck, walk across the ice; it’s a great way to get going quickly as you can get a grip on the ice with the edges of both skates and gain speed really fast.

Can’t wait for Sunday.  Jeff said we get to try backward crossovers.  Oh joy!!!