Monthly Archives: February 2012

Practice Interruptus

The weather dude predicted that a big storm was coming in yesterday, lots of wind with rain starting around 9 pm. Figured that the wind would cancel stick time at Iceland, but got an email from Joe around 3:30 saying it was on. Three of the guys from Blue Thunder were planning to be there.

When we arrived they were still pulling back the tarps that protect the ice during the day. As we were getting geared up, two of the BT guys showed up. One of them made a point of greeting Keith, completely ignoring me. Yeah, okay, I was only there for half the class, you don’t really know me, but a “hello” might have been nice. There were also two guys from the current class and a kid. The third BT member, Wes, arrived as we were getting finished up. He did say hello to me, which I expected as we had been “introduced” when he high sticked me once in a class scrimmage. 😉

I moved rinkside and stretched while the Zamboni worked. By the time it was done, everyone except Wes was ready to go. As soon as the snow was shoveled they were out on the ice. Personally I thought it was still a bit wet, but whatever.

I didn’t sleep all that well the night before, so I was a bit tired as I hit the ice. Worse yet, my bitch switch gets quite a bit more sensitive when I’m tired. Which I’m going to blame for what happened next.

The others were busy shoveling pucks at the net as Keith and I worked up and down the boards passing to each other, one skating forward and the other skating backward.

We then set up at the opposite end of the ice from the goal and practiced passing from board to board. And that’s when I started to get irritated. I understand that during a game I’m going to have to be able to pass tape to tape even with other players in the way, but at a stick time I’d consider myself to be incredibly rude if I skated right between two people who are obviously working on passing to each other – even more so if they are set up at the extreme end of the rink, away from where everyone else is.

After that, we joined the masses for some passing/shooting runs at the goal, and my irritation level continued to rise. If I’m skating away from the goal after a run at it, I do it along the boards so that I’m not skating through the next person or pair’s path as they make a run. Apparently not everybody thinks this is a good idea, as several of them skated right between us – both away from and toward the goal – as we were making our run.

Stopped to clear the pucks out of the goal several times. It was interesting to see that the kid, while being sure to pick up and shoot any puck he came across, didn’t once make an effort to retrieve any of the pucks he shot.

The rest of them decided to work on one timers. They took all but two pucks and completely took over the majority of the ice. Neither of us are ready for one timers, so we grabbed a couple of cones, set them up at the extreme other end of the ice and decided to practice tight turns around them.

There were only 8 of us on the ice. While the rink is smaller than regulation size, there should have been plenty of room for all of us to work on whatever we wanted without feeling like we were in the way (or getting taken out by someone). There was no reason for any of them to need to skate between the cones, and yet I repeatedly had to slow down to avoid a collision.  I guess I kind of expected it from the kid – consideration for others generally isn’t high on the list of things young boys are thinking about.  But the adults…

My irritation level was getting very, very close to activating the bitch switch. I got a wild hair and decided to make a run at the goal, right through their drill. Missed my shot, skated off to the board and was waiting for them to make their next pass before I skated back to the other end. As I was standing there patiently waiting, the next guy fired the puck right toward me. Not at my stick, not at my skates, no, he elevated it so it wizzed past me, a few inches away, at about waist level.

Bitch switch activated. Lucky for them, I don’t usually explode when it turns on. Instead, I retreat and let it out by making snarky remarks under my breath. I skated over to Keith and let him know that I was done and why, then went to the benches at the extreme end of the rink and sat down. Drank some water in the hopes that my irritation level would drop – both skydiving and backpacking have taught me that when I get bitchy, it can mean that I’m getting dehydrated. It may have been working, as I was thinking about getting back out there and doing some stationary puck handling practice.

That thought went right out the window when one of the other guys skated over and TOOK THE LAST REMAINING PUCK with him back down to their group. Oh yeah. Now I’m REALLY fucking done! Iceland provides pucks for stick time; did we not pay the same amount as they did for the privilege of using them?

Sat there and stewed while Keith finished wearing himself out around the cones. After five or so minutes, he was done too. We gathered our stuff and headed for the gate, politely timing it so that we wouldn’t interrupt their drill. Not that they noticed or appreciated it.

We were only a few miles from the rink when it started to rain.   I know it was wrong of me to be glad they weren’t going to get the full two hours in.  But I was.

It’s now the next morning and, as you can probably tell, I’m still a bit miffed. I’m not going to let it sour me on playing hockey, but for the moment it has soured me a bit on some hockey players. I did learn a valuable lesson – the risk of injury is not the only reason to not skate when you are tired.

On a happier note, this morning I found a website with a bunch of articles by a female hockey player/coach – Lots of great stuff there on conditioning and strength training for women.


Chicks with Sticks

Hit the Thursday morning stick time at Roseville this week.  A good skate; made it the whole hour and upped the activity level a bit.  Spent most of the time skating with a puck on my stick, including six or eight runs from end to end, finishing with a shot at the net.  One of the shots even went IN the net.  And the crowd goes wild…

Ray (goalie for Blue Thunder) was in the net taking shots again, which freed up the entire other half of the ice for us and one or two other guys.  Wish I’d had the camera as he laid himself out 1940’s pinup style in front of the net – all I could think was “hockey porn!”

Woke up Friday morning to angry back muscles.   It’s been awhile since they’ve made their presence known with such authority.   We were supposed to head out for some family time, but by afternoon I knew I wasn’t up to two hours in the car.  So he took the automatic transmission and headed south and I curled up on the couch with some Aleve.

While laying around encased in plaster a few months back, I found an all woman team in the Sacramento area, Pandora.  They are trying to increase the number of women and girls who play hockey in the area.  They are hosting open practices for women players about once a month.  Each time I saw a practice scheduled, I got a little more depressed that I couldn’t go.  Yet.

But knowing there is an all female team out there gave me something to shoot for (other than the net).  Skydiving with other women was always more fun than jumping with men; the week of the women’s world record I was on holds some of my best skydiving memories and is where I made some lifelong friends.  Through the green eyed monster that was pissed off that I couldn’t skate and they can, I developed a second goal for my hockey career.  Goal one is, of course, to at least look like I have some control on skates and some ability to handle a puck.  Goal number two – play on an all female team.  Someday.

I knew they had a practice scheduled for last night, but I’d expected to be miles away.  Besides, I was pretty sure my lack of stamina and skills would keep me from joining them, just so I wouldn’t be in the way of anybody who actually knows what they are doing out there.

When I woke up Saturday morning and the back muscles were only whimpering instead of screaming…  you know what I was thinking about.  The question ran through my head all day long – should I stay or should I go?  Sent Keith a text and told him to tell me not to go.  He thought I should.   Asked the question of my facebook peanut gallery and they thought I should go too.   Oh heck.

My big issues with this idea –  first off, I suck at playing hockey.  Thoroughly and completely.  The last thing I want to do is to be the slowpoke, feeling like I’m holding back someone who is better than me.  Second, I don’t know any of these women – their ages, skill levels, etc.   And third, while those who know me may not think this is true, I’m actually kinda shy when it comes to meeting new people.  Add in the fact that these women are actually good at hockey and I’m more than a bit intimidated.

Swallowed all that.  Put the gear in the truck and made the drive.  Worst case, I figured I could meet some people and watch the practice; I can learn about hockey even if I’m not on the ice, right?  My worries went away when the girls at the desk said that the Pandora women are awesome people who wouldn’t care that I suck so bad.

They were right.  Met Jillian in the locker room; she’s the leader of the group.  She understood my issues with stamina and lack of skills and was happy to have me join them.  I felt a lot better as more women showed up; they weren’t all in their early 20’s with perfect athletic bodies like I’d feared.  There were even two women from the class we were in – Michelle and Chelsea, a mother-daughter team.

The practice was mostly skills that are above my ability level, but I tried almost everything.  Started with long strides end to end, a little faster each run.  Yes, I was last, every time.  Was reminded with a little body on ice time that while I can transition from front to back, I’m not quite able to do so with any kind of speed.

One drill we are definitely adding to our stick times – skating end to end, one backwards, the other forward, passing a puck between us.  I didn’t do too bad on that, but I was only skating forward.  Big thanks to the girl who skated with me on that one; I know she had to hold back and compensate for my inability – she made me look like I almost knew what I was doing.

I stood in the corner and watched while they did a drill that involved almost stopping then transitioning to backward crossovers and then forward and then again… Holy crap.  It was during this drill that I noticed how good Michelle and Chelsea have gotten while I was recovering.  They were about the same skill level as I was when I broke; after taking the class a second time they now look like hockey players out there.  Gives me hope for my future!

My favorite drill of the night was the star drill.  Started with five people on the ice; two at the blue line, two down low in the corners and one in the high slot (the area just in front of the net).  Starting at one corner, you pass the puck to the blue line and follow it.  From the blue line you receive a pass from the corner, pass it to the other side and follow it.  From there, receive a pass from the other side, pass it to the corner and follow it.  From the corner, receive a pass from the blue line, pass it to the high slot and follow it.  And to finish it off, receive a pass from the corner and shoot it.   Reminded me of dancing spider skydives – constantly moving and thinking and doing (and grinning!).

I was pushing the edges of my stamina limits so I sat out the last drill of the evening; cycling with a partner, using drop passes and ending with a shot at the net.  Good thing I rested a bit, because after that drill we got to do some scrimmaging.

More proof of my suckage, but the grin on my face showed how much I didn’t care that I suck.  It’s so much fun to get to play at hockey, and it was even more fun to go up against skaters that are so much better than I am.  Played D and although I know I blew it on multiple occasions, I was thinking about positioning while I was out there and even made one halfway decent defensive play.

Pandora is putting together two teams for a tournament in San Jose in April – an intermediate and a novice team.  Wishing I had the skills to play, but they go every year so I now have a goal to work toward – be good enough to join them for that tournament next year.

I have a feeling you’ll be reading more about Pandora here in the future.

Take That, Butterflies!

We don’t “do” Valentine’s Day.  So it made sense to hit a stick time at Iceland on the evening of the 14th – what better way to say I love you than beating on each other with sticks in public?

There were 3 other skaters already on the ice when we arrived.  Joe was busy as we arrived and were getting dressed; we ended up paying him after we got off the ice.

Still not wanting to push it too hard, we did some work on basic skating and then made a few passing runs to the goal.  We were both happy with our passing and receiving – read ” way fewer complete misses”.  We both suck at shooting.

One of the other skaters sat and chatted a bit while I was resting.  They are all a part of the current adult class at Skatetown, and they are all pretty dang good.  He invited us to do some drills with them, which we had to decline as neither of us yet trust that we won’t get caught up in the moment and go at it really hard when we are supposed to be slowly building back up to that.

Managed about 40 minutes before I knew it was time to stop.  At this point it’s not the body dictating my time limit, it’s the mind.  When I begin to realize that I can’t think and skate at the same time, I know it’s time to get off the ice even if I’m not as physically tired as I’d like to be.

Decided to hit the 6:15 am stick time at Skatetown on Thursday morning.  Ray, the goalie for Blue Thunder and a member of “our” class, was the only person we knew.  Congratulated him on his play against the Suicide Kings (he stopped over 30 shots).

The ice is nice at that hour.  There were only about 10 of us on the rink, and for awhile most everyone was at one end shooting pucks at Ray.  We worked on more basic skating and more passing runs from the neutral zone to the net at the other end, making a point to think about being offside at the blue line.  The passing and receiving are coming along nicely, even if we are still skating pretty slow while we are doing it.  We are starting to get a sense of where the other person is going to be as we make the pass, which is reducing the number of times one of us completely misses.

I made a point of throwing myself down on the ice, Superman style, several times at the end of the session.  Didn’t try to get back up with momentum – I just needed to beat down that pesky fear of falling that I somehow developed since May.  As we left the ice after a full hour of skating, my muscles weren’t real happy, but the obsessive mind had begun to let go of it’s focus on the potential for pain that exists when one’s body impacts the ice.

The only downside to an early morning skate at Skatetown is the drive home.  7:30 am, with the morning commute traffic…  Luckily it’s only with the commute for half the drive,  I don’t have to drive and we can use the car pool lane.

Saturday and Sunday were spent on hockey as well.  Not playing at it.  Butt parked firmly on couch watching people who know what they are doing playing it.  It was Hockey Weekend in America.  Watched “my” chosen Eastern Conference team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, get schooled by Vancouver on Saturday, but it was Sunday’s nationally televised game between the Sharks and the RedWings that was the highlight of the weekend for me.

O. M. G.  Watching two extremely talented puck possession teams go at it was almost as much fun as trying to possess a puck myself.  I don’t have enough fingers to count the number of times during the game that any one player was allowed to have the puck for more than two seconds.  It’s mine!  No, it’s mine!  Hah, I lifted your stick and now it’s mine!  Yeah but I just intercepted your awesome pass! All in the space of a second.

A flukey goal for the Sharks, an great fight won by Clowe, a goal for Detroit that Nemo should have had, injuries to two of my favorite Sharks – Vlasic got nailed by a puck in the face and Pavelski took one to the side of his helmet (both are okay).  So much drama and emotion in the space of a few hours!  I really wanted San Jose to be the team to take out Detroit’s record home winning streak (that was 23 games!), but it wasn’t to be.

Monday was a paid holiday for Keith.  Wanted to hit Iceland in the evening but the regular Monday evening stick time was preempted by an all day public skate.  The rink at Vacaville had a stick time at 11:30 am though.

The rink at Vacaville is where we both broke.  Neither of us had been there since he was loaded into the ambulance at the front entrance.  Not a word was said about that as we decided to go.

There’s an old saying in skydiving – it’s okay to have butterflies, the trick is to make them fly in formation.  They began to get unruly as we pulled into the parking lot.  I distinctly recall a few butterfly midair collisions as we walked in the front door.   I know at least two butterflies went in when we were told the stick time was on “the” rink.  Yes, that one.  The one that broke us.

Again, not a word about any of this passed between us, even though it was running through both of our heads.  Got geared up and went out to wait for the ice to be ours.

It was a really good skate.   Got a bit crowded toward the end (it’s kind of sad that I now think that more than 10 people is a crowd), but we got to work on everything that we wanted to work on.  We made it almost a full hour, but we were happy with that as we upped the overall activity level of the session – less gliding, more skating.  I spent some time skating around with the puck, moving it from side to front, turning with it and trying not to lose it.

There were two little kids on the ice, one working with his dad and another with a coach.  The one working with the coach is going to be an amazing hockey player if he stays at it.  Couldn’t have been more than 9 or 10 and he could skate like a pro.  I spent a few minutes sitting on the bench just watching him skate and puck handle.

At one point about 40 minutes in, we were both by the door and Keith asked if I’d gone and spit on the spot where I broke.  I put on my tough and said “No, I hadn’t even thought about it.  Is this the same rink?”  He laughed and pointed out the spot he’d landed on.  Asked if he’d spit on it.  He said no but he did beat it with his stick.

Of course I had to immediately skate to MY spot and beat it down.  And it felt GOOD.

Take that, butterflies!

Sunday Morning Stick Time

We were both up and moving before 6 am this morning.  Curious about stick times, I checked out the Skatetown calendar and found that they had one at 7:30 am.  Mentioned it to Keith, expecting him to say no since he has plans to skydive today.  He thought it was a great idea.

Planned to do 20-30 minutes on the ice, working on some passing while moving and defending against an attacker.  My biggest concern is that I don’t try anything real aggressive yet – no hockey stops, no physical contact – but still get in a good workout and practice doing something with a puck.

It’s interesting being at the rink when it first opens in the morning.  We were the 6th or 7th car in the parking lot when we arrived at 7.  Signed in and paid the money in the pro shop, where the only employee on duty was.  Walked into a dark rink – just enough light to see our way to the locker room.

I didn’t mention in my last post that Wednesday was also my first skate on the new skates I got in December.  So used to the old, too big pair that I overtightened the laces first time out.  Today I didn’t even break out the tightening tool and they were just fine.

By the time we were dressed, the lights were on and the fast dressers were already on the ice.  We got out there and warmed up slow, then went through  a few passing/shooting runs before we started to feel like we were in the way of the other (way better than we are) people on the ice.  Spent most of the rest of our time in between the blue lines, trying not to be targets. And there weren’t that many people on the ice – only about 13 of us.

Tried crossovers and was pleased to discover than I can still crossover right foot over left (left turn).  Left foot over right (right turn) is weak; it wasn’t all that good before so I’m not too upset about that.

After about 20 minutes and two or three runs attempting to defend against Keith attacking, I realized that I was no longer capable of both thinking and skating.  So we abandoned the idea of doing anything difficult and just skated around for a few more minutes.

A total of about 30 minutes skating, which is right where I wanted it to be.  I was tired, muscles were a bit sore, but I wasn’t exhausted (or even all that sweaty).  And I was once again reminded that I am way better at hockey in my mind than I am on the ice!

I really like my new skates.  Even without baking, they are more comfortable than my old ones.  The boot is stiffer and provides much better puck protection.  And they skate really nice; I feel more “connected” to the ice (if that makes any sense at all).

Headed back to the rink this evening to have them baked and watch Blue Thunder attempt to not get shut out by the Suicide Kings (SK are the best team in the Bronze league).

Shhh… Don’t tell anyone

My last post was optimistic about what the ortho would have to say.  After looking at the xrays, he asked if I was back to “normal activities.”  I said, no – I’m a skydiver and I’m learning to play hockey and I can’t jump or skate.  He skipped right over the skydiving part –  don’t think he realized that I’m not talking about strapping myself to the front of some guy for a bucket list experience when I say “skydiving.”

He jumped on the skating stuff.  Didn’t think it’d be a good idea, bone isn’t healed yet, blah blah blah.  Three months at least, probably more like 5, he said.  Five months would be a year from the injury, I said.  Yes, he said, sometimes it takes that long.  So the doc that told me 10 weeks in a cast, 2 weeks in a boot and I’d be back to real life was full of shit? I said.  Pretty much, he replied.

My frowning muscles have gotten quite a workout in the past month or so.  Especially when the s/o got to get back on the ice two days after I was told I couldn’t.  FML!

Yesterday he mentioned that some of the Blue Thunder team have been hitting stick times at Iceland in Sacramento.  Iceland is a Sacramento landmark; built in the 30s or 40s and one of very few rinks still in operation after so many years.  What is most amazing about this place is that it almost burned to the ground in an arson fire a couple of years ago.  The family that owns it can’t afford to do all the repairs needed (the building that remains is basically four walls and the front facade – no roof), but they have managed to reopen the ice during the winter as they work to get financing/grants/donations/whatever they can to pay for rebuilding.

I’d heard that Iceland was open for public skating – cheap too; $5 for all day.  But I hadn’t heard that they were offering any kind of hockey time.  Keith said he was thinking about going to the stick time last night.  I thought it’d be fun to go along and take pictures.  When he somehow turned into the devil on my shoulder and suggested that I go ahead and get on the ice too, the angel on the other shoulder knew better than to open her goody two shoes mouth.

Excited?  Only all day long.  A bit nervous too.  Somehow managed to get the things on the to do list done and not spend too much time staring at the hockey gear.  A quick light dinner when Keith got home and it was finally time!

Iceland is located in an older part of Sac, on the edge of an area that isn’t considered to be all that “good.”   The facilities are understandably sparse – a dirt parking lot, temporary chainlink fencing between parking and rink, no locker rooms (but a large area is available for dressing), portapotties for bathrooms and a portable building for office, skates and storage.  The rink, being as old as it is, is far from NHL regulation size, and the ice, being exposed to California weather, isn’t nearly as nice as the ice at other rinks with roofs.

We claimed a picnic bench and started to get our gear on, trusting that someone would appear wanting money before we got on the ice.  After eight and a half months, I’d forgotten how to get dressed – pants first?  Knee pads first? Argh!  It all came back, but it did take me 5 minutes longer to get dressed than it did Keith.

Don't tell anyone!!!

Someone did arrive to take our money.  Joe is an employee of the rink and is trying to get some hockey going on there.  He was super nice and helpful and had all kinds of information about the progress they are making on the rebuilding.

Once we were waivered, paid and dressed, the ice was ready.  And so was I…

It was soooo good.  I suck soooo bad.  Hockey stops?  Hah!  I don’t think so.  Crossovers?  LMAO!  Not even close.  But I can still do forward to back and backward to forward transitions.  And that cool move I figured out right before I broke myself?  Still got it.  And I still can’t fire off a decent wrist shot to save my life.

I managed about 20 minutes of skating and decided it would be good to stop before I got really tired.  The muscles were tingling, the gear was sweaty and I felt fantastic.  Keith stayed out for another 10 minutes or so and he was done too.

Pushing a puck around at Iceland right now is probably as close as I’ll ever get to playing hockey on a frozen pond.  There is definitely something special about skating under the stars and bashing pucks around without any glass or netting surrounding the rink.  We’ll be back before they have to close for the summer, there’s a real good vibe around the place.

We plan to hit at least one stick time a week from now on and slowly get back to where we were.  I won’t be playing on a team anytime soon; haven’t decided if I’m going to take the class starting in March or not.  I’m just happy to be back on the ice.  Keith may go ahead and play with Blue Thunder in their second season which starts in April.

Yay!  Hockey!!