Monthly Archives: March 2012

All Hockey, All Weekend Long

Life got in the way and we didn’t get on the ice at all last week. I kinda felt bad when I asked him if I could go to the Pandora practice Saturday evening while he was stuck working at the dropzone – but not bad enough to stay home when he encouraged me to go.

Once again I managed to string together several seconds of competency here and there amidst minutes of suckage. Pushed it a bit harder and really felt the edges on the first drill, which was almost a C cut on one foot, alternating. Builds a lot of speed – and looks really cool – if done correctly. Fell down doing a transition; managed to avoid hitting my head and got up laughing at myself. I used to be able to do those just fine!

I did a lot of laughing at myself. At one point, Randy noticed and commented “at least you’re still having fun!” To which I agreed heartily. I’m having so much fun sucking at this; every time I’m on the ice I learn something, get a good workout and laugh a lot.

We broke up into two groups again; there were five of us working with Randy. He asked what we wanted to work on and the consensus seemed to be crossovers. Front and back. I passed on the back crossovers again, choosing to work on speed going backwards. I started to feel left foot over right (right turn) front crossovers though, and right over left was a bit smoother than last week. Small improvements, but improvements none the less.

After some skating, he had us stand around a faceoff circle and do one touch passes to each other. That was fun – and challenging! We did really good… until he added in the skating around the circle and passing to each other part. We weren’t quite as capable at that!

We also worked on shooting, with an emphasis on trying to elevate the puck. I didn’t get it to elevate, but I did hit the spot I wanted to hit a few times. Sure wish we had a place at home to practice shooting.

Pandora is hosting a cross ice 3 on 3 tournament on April 1st and a 6 week cross ice 3 on 3 league starting the week after. Since most of the women there plan to take part, we did a few minutes of 3 on 3 scrimmage at the end of practice.

SO much fun! With 1/3 of the ice space, the pace is fast and furious. I made a few nice defensive plays (used my body to angle a forward away from the net, lifted a stick and got the puck out of our zone with a tape to tape pass) and a couple not so good ones (don’t go off the ice when the other team is heading toward your goal, dumbass).

Keith was heading home from the dropzone when I texted him from the locker room. He suggested that I stay for a beer and I’m glad I did. The conversations covered a variety of topics, but what stuck in my mind were the comments that the experienced women were making about playing with guys. One woman has had multiple concussions due to the actions of overzealous male players. The original Pandora team had issues with male teams getting physical with them (especially after Pandora had beaten them in a previous game).

Hockey is an aggressive and dangerous sport, but I was hoping to play without another major injury. In my Pollyanna world, everybody wants to play without anybody getting injured. But apparently not everybody cares if others get injured. I’ve already become a bit leery of playing with guys after seeing some of the bronze league games. Hearing from women who are good at this say that they don’t like playing with guys has me thinking hard about wanting to play in the co-ed league.

Jillian said that there are almost enough interested women to put together a four team, 5 on 5 full ice “league of our own” though. The teams would be a mix of experience levels (no “ringer” teams) and the focus would be on competing, yes, but also on fun and learning and getting out there playing hockey. I’m stoked on this idea, and I hope that it can happen soon! I’ll be getting the word out to all the women in the class for sure.

While I was a bit tired Sunday morning the muscles weren’t sore. Surprising considering how hard I worked them Saturday night. I was wondering how the body was going to handle skating two nights in a row so Sunday was spent storing up energy (IOW, watching hockey in our pj’s).

Arrived early enough to be one of the first in the locker room and subsequently one of the first on the bench waiting for the Zamboni to finish up. Got some stretching in and spent the last minute or so sitting on the boards. No, I didn’t hop off when it was time; I gingerly set my skates on the ice like I was anticipating a fall.

I didn’t fall then, but I did later. Started with more skating drills – scooters, one foot glides, swizzles, stopping, even an attempt at touching one knee to the ice and getting back up. And then we were all lined up against the boards and Jeff told us to race around the outside of the rink.

Chaos. Bodies colliding into bodies, falling down and sliding across the ice into other skaters feet… I stayed to the inside and avoided contact, all the while marveling at how aggressive nearly everyone was being.

Broke up into groups and we started with Brian again. This week he had us learning front crossovers. Started with turning to the left; nearly everyone – even the very much beginners – managed at least one step and everyone remembered to keep their knees bent. I managed to get all the way around the faceoff circle without a stutter step.

Then we tried the other direction. And I didn’t do bad – yes, I was stutter stepping a bit and yes I did fall down once but I also felt what it’s supposed to feel like (for a second anyway). With a bit more time spent on one foot riding the edges since I first tried this, I’m beginning to think that I really will OWN crossovers one day.

Eric had us do more swizzles, one foot turns and stopping. A good leg workout. Just wish he would provide a bit of coaching along with setting up the drills.

Jeff introduced puck handling with some stationary dribbling and a few runs around a cone and at the goal. I thought I was doing better at skating a puck toward the net than what I did there. I’m going to blame the fact that it was the end of the session and I was tired. Yeah. That’s it.

There were no league games (new season starts next weekend) so the snack bar was closed, which interfered with our plan to have a beer and meet some more people. Instead we loaded the gear up and headed home.

While facebooking, I got a message from Jillian asking if I was in for the 3 on 3 league. Told her I wasn’t but possibly could be if they needed a body and didn’t care about my noviceness. How big was my smile this morning when I opened facebook to find a message from her asking me to play part of the games on her team!

I’m so excited. I get to play hockey with people who are better than me. I’m going to learn so much!

The body handled two nights of skating better than I expected.  I feel about like I did after the first classes last year; sore muscles but nothing unbearable.  Glad I’m not skating today, though.


Just Like Starting Over

Sunday was a long day. An impromptu trip to the Central Valley for the weekend found us arriving home around noon. He then went to the dropzone to video a tandem while I tried to get at least something done around the house. A short nap and a light dinner later, it was almost time to go.

Close enough. Arrived at the rink at 6:30. Picked up our skates at the pro shop, then picked up our free practice jersey (part of the class). We were hoping to catch part of the Bronze league champioship game, but it started at 6:45 and we decided to go get ready in case we could get on the ice early.

Good idea that was, and one that will be repeated. There are two dressing rooms available for the class to use, and as we later found out there are over 30 people in the class. The one we chose wasn’t crowded at this point, but it was beginning to be when we were walking out. A very different story at the end of the class though.

Did a few stretches, then we went over to sit on the bench and watch the Zamboni go by. Over the next 15 minutes we were joined by a good number of people. Finally it was time; Jeff threw a bagful of pucks on the ice and off we went.

They let us skate around with pucks for around ten minutes. It was pretty obvious to me that they were assessing our skating skills. I was pleased to see that we aren’t the worst skaters on the ice, and that there seem to be very few absolute beginners (ie where we were last year). We aren’t the only ones repeating; there are at least a couple people from the last class doing it again. And I counted at least 5 women out there.

The instructors are the same as last time; Jeff and Brian, with Brian’s son Eric helping out. It was nice to be recognized as Jeff called roll. After my name, he said “she can tell you all about injuries” 😉 Brian gave Keith a “welcome back” when his name was called.

Started with the whole class doing skating drills board to board. Back to the basics – push and glide, snowplow stops, scooters, swizzles, knee slides, supermans. Happy with my performance on everything except one foot swizzles and gliding on my left foot. Managed to get back up with momentum from the knee slide. Not much momentum, but more than I had left when I got up from the superman.

I was snow plowing to stop for the first drills, but by the end of the class I was starting to do hockey stops leading with my left foot. Which is strange for two reasons. One, the left is the broken one; I should be aftraid to use it like that, but it feels right. Two – before I broke, my right foot stops were way better than my left, and now I’m nervous as can be about them. Wierd how fear works sometimes.

We broke up into three groups to work different stations. We started with Brian, who had us doing glide turns around cones. Edge work, yay! I was really happy with my first run, not so much with my second or third.

Next was more work on scooters and swizzles with Eric. He set us up a good drill – scooter to the cone, turn, swizzle to another cone, turn, swizzle to another cone, turn, scooter back to the boards. Put some extra effort into doing scooters gliding on the left foot.

Last station was more stopping with Jeff. He’s already starting us on the beginnings of the hockey stop, which he didn’t do until the 2nd or 3rd week last time. Hoping that measn this class is a bit more advanced than we were so we can be doing more advanced stuff by September.

Put a lot of focus on staying low in a proper hockey position as I was doing the drills. I could tell this by the joy exuding from my quads and the fact that my lower back didn’t hurt at the end of the class.

Made the mistake of not being the first ones off the ice, and paid for that when we got to the locker room and couldn’t even get to our gear bags. I got a bit pushy and kinda forced my way into the corner around a teenager (not sure what they were doing in the room assigned to an adult class, but anyway). Peeled my gear off and stuffed it in the bag as quick as I could, then got out of there so Keith could have some room to do the same. From now one it’s either be first off the ice, or hang out for 10 minutes chatting before taking our gear off.

Spent a good hour hanging out after class, chatting with Jeff and meeting a few people from the class. One of the women, Bitsy, seems really awesome. She’s a marathon runner with three little kids. Her 6 year old is playing hockey and he told her that she should too, so she is.

On a gear note, I really noticed the sharpened blades. The edges seemed much crisper and easier to ride. I’m also loving the fit of my skates. They get a bit more comfortable every time I use them

On The Edges

The angry nerve in my neck took a few days, but it had mostly gotten over it by Wednesday morning.  Perfect timing, as we planned to make the early stick time at Skatetown this morning.

If only the 6:15 am stick time didn’t come with a 4:30 am wakeup. Oh sure, I could roll out of bed at 5:15, load the gear and go but I much prefer having 45 minutes or so to wake up before leaving the house. I beat the alarm this morning and had time to enjoy a bowl of oatmeal with my coffee and facebook before getting dressed and loading the car.

I’ve mentioned this before – the ice is really nice at that hour. Dry and fast and cold. We shared it with 10 or so other people, including a goalie. As usual, most of them were way better than we are.

My focus for the morning was edges, with a secondary emphasis on staying low. Spent a bit of time doing crossovers around a circle, focusing on staying low and really riding the edge of one skate before putting the other one down. Very happy with my progress to the left (right foot over left crossover). The steps were much smoother than they were on Saturday. I can spend more time on the right foot (inside edge) than the left (outside edge), but it’s coming along.  Crossovers in the other direction… well, it’s good that we’re starting with basic skills again on Sunday.

Also spent time gliding on one foot, shifting my weight so I was going from edge to edge or riding (mostly the inside) edge, turning. Again, the right foot is much stronger than the left, which surprises me not. and reminds me that I need to spend more time working on left leg only balance exercises.

Did a lot more backwards skating than I have since getting back on the ice. Got some speed going around a circle and going down the boards; love the feeling of going fast backwards! The breeze up the pants is a nice bonus.

Of course we had to do some sexy stuff. Spent about half of our time skating with pucks, passing (skating front/back and cross ice while skating) and making runs at the goal. One of the guys on the ice told me that I’m holding my stick too close (elbows in too tight) – I hadn’t even noticed it, and made a point to keep it out further for the rest of the hour. Which helped my puck handling and passing. It’s random tips like this that make being on the ice with people who know what they are doing so valuable to me at this point.

The emphasis on staying low, the additional time spent going backwards and the amount of time spent skating as opposed to gliding combined to leave me with sore quads at the end of the hour. It’s two hours later as I type this and they are still letting me know how much fun they had.

Dropped our skates off to be sharpened as we left the rink. We have about 10 skates on them; no clue if they really need to be sharpened but it doesn’t cost much. We’ll pick them up when we get to the rink for the first class on Sunday.

Oh, and my Sharks are sucking.  Worried that they won’t make the playoffs… that hasn’t happened since I started watching hockey.  I don’t think I want to know what it’s like either.  😦


Quidditch and Face Planting

Keith came with me to the Pandora practice Saturday evening. We showed up early enough to get registered for the learn to play class that starts next Sunday. We were numbers 21 and 22 and they hadn’t even done the free intro class yet; looks like it will be another full class. Very excited about starting at the beginning again. Time spent now working on basic skating will pay off in the future… and judging by my skating on Saturday night, that time will be well spent.

Got dressed and went rinkside to get some stretching in. There was a high school age guys game scheduled right after our practice; the local traveling team, the Capitol Thunder, against a traveling team from Oakland. Most of the local team was milling about outside the locker rooms. Very impressed with the appearance of all of these young men; they were clean cut and dressed in matching warmups – with collared shirts and ties even. And they didn’t point and laugh when they saw me flailing on the ice a few minutes later.

Me flailing on the ice

Me flailing on the ice

Our coach for the evening, Randy, whistled us together after a few minutes warm up. I’d already noticed him on the ice, not only because he’s a guy but because he is one of the most fluid and natural skaters I’ve seen. It’s like walking or maybe even breathing to him. I soon found that his coaching skills are fantastic too.

The theme for the night would be edgy. We spent a lot of time on our edges, right from the very first drill. Flashes of adequacy surrounded by some good effort and a lot of laughing at myself… I’ll get there.

I was feeling pretty good when we started doing transitions. I even went at it with speed, front to back… and then I face planted. Cage hit ice and I felt tingly all the way to my fingertips. Oh joy. Took a deep breath, got up and skated slowly back to the line. After a few minutes, the only lingering effects seemed to be some random wierd pain in my hands. No blood, nothing broken, no need to leave the ice. If you’re gonna be tough, you better be stupid!

Knee slides were one of my favorite things to do in the class. Randy took ’em one step further and had us go to one knee, then back up, then down on the other knee. Which would be one hell of a quad workout if I could only keep the skate on the ice straight so I don’t end up falling over. I almost managed it once, after Randy skated over to give me some tips. Giggling the whole way. (me, not him. If he was, he hides it well ;-)).

He then had us do what I’m going to call the Quidditch drill (apologies to non-Harry Potter fans). We skated halfway down the ice then put our sticks between our legs, sat down and tried to ride our sticks as far as we could. O. M. G. We were all laughing. Some even made it almost all the way top the end, but most of us ended up on our butts.

Water break.

 After doing a few more skating drills as a group, we then broke up into two groups – the good players went to one end to do more advanced drills while the five or six of us that are less skilled worked on more skating and a bit of passing with Randy.

Randy working with one of the other women

He had us doing front crossovers around the circle, but he emphasized spending time on each foot before putting the other one down. That and staying low. And for a bit there I was really feeling it. Yeah, there were still plenty of stutter steps, but fewer than in the past.

Then we went at it backwards. He said that once we picked up speed we should try the back crossover. I got plenty of speed – so much fun to zip around the circle backwards! – but didn’t find the courage to try the crossover. Yet. I’ll get there. For I will own crossovers, front and back. Soon.

We did some stationary passing practice, forehand and backhand. Very happy with my forehand passing and receiving, and the backhand is coming along as well. The time we spent playing with the junior sticks and the Green Biscuit when we couldn’t skate paid off, and shows me that we should be doing more of it.

Lined up for passing drill

Had just enough time to run a passing drill before the scrimmage time. This one was a pair, passing between them, turning at the blue line and doing a one on one back to the goal. The girl I paired up with was good; we made good passes and then I managed to poke it away from her once on the way back.

And then we scrimmaged. Too much fun. I played two shifts, all defense, and focused on positioning in the defense zone. Bashed the puck away a couple times, had some “incidental contact” and managed to plan ahead and be in the right place to take away the wrap around when she came around behind the net. Drills are fun and practicing is good, but there really isn’t anything quite like playing the game – and I have still yet to play an actual game!

My hands were getting pretty sore by the end of the hour. Got undressed and met up with Keith, expecting to stop by the pro shop to leave the skates to be sharpened. But the pro shop was already closed. I told him about the head butt I gave to the ice and how it was getting somewhat uncomfortable. But when he suggested Five Guys burgers and fries for dinner, well, it wasn’t hurting that bad…

By 7:30 pm, I was not a happy camper. Managed to get good sleep though, and Sunday was a bit better. This morning I’m typing without too much discomfort, which is better than yesterday. I think I angered a nerve in my neck when I face planted. Much ice, ibuprofen and rest and I’ll be back to my regular programming in a few days. Lesson learned? Don’t faceplant!!


You Can Play

A long and busy weekend. Didn’t make it to the rink on Saturday; Blue Thunder’s game was at 10 pm, not 10 am. Good thing we noticed before we drove out there. Sunday was spent at the dropzone teaching a basic canopy skills course, which involves quite a bit of walking and multiple trips up and down stairs. We thought about making the Monday evening stick time at Iceland, but both of us were still a bit too tired when he got home from work. Setting the alarm tonight so we can make a 6:15 am skate at Skatetown tomorrow, then I’m off to the Sierra foothills for a few days of enjoying the views and the company on a friend’s amazing property.

Today I found yet another reason that I love the sport of hockey – the You Can Play Project. Go check out the video on their home page. It’s okay, I’ll wait here for you.

Pretty cool, isn’t it? I’m straight and always have been, but as a tomboy who preferred jeans and Tonkas over dresses and dolls and then worked in male-dominated industries, there have always been people who assume I am a lesbian (or “at least bisexual”). I have a bit of an idea as to what my gay, lesbian and bi friends have to deal with in their daily lives, but I can’t imagine what it is like having to keep it a secret that you are in love with someone. Seeing professional hockey players stand up and say they don’t care about sexual orientation when it comes to their teammates is awesome.

And this project isn’t just about professional hockey, or even just professional sports. It’s about every locker room, every dugout, every bench, every field, regardless of the age or overall skill of the players.  I posted a link on my facebook page and was really happy when Jillian, the “leader” of Pandora, posted that she took the Captain’s Challenge. Makes me even more stoked to be a part of Pandora.

Speaking of which, another Pandora practice is coming up on Saturday evening. Keith may even come to watch (take pictures?) and get us registered for the learn to play class.

Have I mentioned lately how happy I am to be back on skates? 😀

Random Thoughts

Ah… the joys of being a middle aged female. I sometimes think it was better for everyone for me to have PMS for a few days a month, because when the internal thermostat goes haywire and the insomnia kicks in, it’s like PMS on steriods. Got no sleep on Tuesday night and very little on Wednesday night; after Tuesday’s bitch attack at stick time, there was no way I was going to get on the ice with anybody – it just wouldn’t be fair to them. He was still a bit physically sore from Tuesday so we decided to blow off the Thursday morning stick time that we’d been planning to hit.

The decision has been made – both of us will be taking the learn to play class that starts this month. Looking forward to it, partly for the reinforcement of the basic skating skills I learned last year, partly for the new stuff I still have to learn and partly for the weekly workout. I always left the ice sweaty and worn out after class; they work us much harder than we work ourselves at stick times.

In doing some reading on conditioning and strength building for hockey, I found an exercise that will help build quads and improve one foot balance. It’s fairly simple – stand on one foot, bent knee, hips back, chest up; when the knee of the other leg touches the calf of the leg you are standing on, you’re there. Then have a friend poke you – not hard, not trying to push you over, just enough to make you have to work to maintain your balance. The coach that suggested this said to start with 10 seconds on each leg and work up from there to 30 seconds on each leg.

This one is tough! I can do just about 10 seconds on each leg right now, without anyone poking at me. I’ve added it (sans poking) to the toe lifts and knee bends that I’m already doing to rebuild muscle in my left leg. I’m sure my neighbors think I’m insane when they see me on the porch, balancing on one foot like a heron.

I’ve also started spending some time holding my stick. Out at 90 degrees from my body. With one arm, extended. For a minute at a time. Feel the burn.

Also found some tips on nutrition. As a lifelong lover of chocolate, the suggestion that chocolate milk is the perfect recovery drink after a workout is almost like being told I can have ice cream for breakfast. Will be stocking up on that, especially for after class (before beers). Still trying to figure out a few good pre-skate meals, both breakfast (early am stick times) and dinner.

Heading out to Skatetown tomorrow to watch Blue Thunder in their first playoff game and get signed up for the class. And then we spend all day Sunday at the dropzone, teaching a canopy control course.

It’s only Friday and I’m already jonesing to be on the ice. It’s going to be a long weekend.