Monthly Archives: July 2012

Hot and Cold

It was another triple digit weekend in the Sacramento valley. Some clouds were building as we arrived at the rink for class Sunday evening – this is not usual weather for summer here. It felt more like a July evening in Florida than California as we walked in. By the time we left (after 9pm), stepping outside was like stepping into a hot, wet blanket. Just like a July evening in Florida. Yuck.

The ice was surprisingly okay though.  Soft but the pucks weren’t sticking.

There weren’t enough pucks on the ice for everyone to have one on the snake drill. I was happy to skate without it; managed nice crossovers in both directions even with all the traffic. Next up was a big W – working on the slick almost stop then skate away backwards transitions. Those are so much fun!

My 2 on 0 runs were less than awesome, but I only screwed up a couple times once we broke into two groups to do breakout drills. Lessons learned: When playing center, either pass the puck to a wing at blue line or skate it in; don’t dump it directly at the net from the blue line. When playing defense, don’t try to deflect the puck away from the net; leave it for the goalie to get so you don’t deflect it into the net (doh!).

Spent some time working on backwards crossovers again.  Progress – I’m not picking up the inside foot yet but I am crossing over the outside foot.  Really felt the increase in speed.

We got a full 20 minutes of scrimmage time again. The dark team has upped their game; some fast skaters with pretty good puck handling skills over there. I got beat several times, but redeemed myself with one really awesome steal along the boards from one of the faster, better forwards – a full second of brilliance out of about five minutes of ice time that was.

Plowed myself into the boards behind the net after bashing a puck away. I may have had some help getting there (the guy I was defending apologized), but it was my own fault for going that aggressive. Saw the boards coming and let out an “oh shit!” Roadrunner style. Hit them full body and skated away no worse for the wear.

After class, we were surprised to see that the team forming out of the class – the one that we sent emails off to the guy organizing it several weeks ago – was having a team meeting. Neither of us had ever received a reply to our emails, so we figured it was still a work in progress. Not so – they have a full team already. We can be subs, though.

I think not.

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Gloves, Ribs and Beer

Hockey gloves have a lot of padding on them. This is a good thing in most on-ice situations. Leave it to me to discover a downside.

Class was really good last night. Standard skating drills to start the night, all done carrying a puck. Managed a couple crossovers with the puck in the snake drill and was happy with my left stops and transitions.

Broke into two groups and did 2 on 1’s. My defensive play was less than stellar, but I had a couple good runs as a forward. Almost got it past the goalie once after a nice pass from the guy I was skating with.

Next up was the line change drill. Defense – over the boards, out to position, dig out the puck, pass it forward, wait til it’s being dumped, in through the door. And repeat. This is way more tiring than it sounds.

Did some different drills with Brian and Jeff. Brian had us working on a breakout with all 5 skaters in the defensive zone. Jeff had us dumping and picking up the puck in the corner and passing it out, then coming back in for an attack.

Scrimmage time came early; we ended up with a bit over 20 minutes. Seemed that every time I was on the ice, I was skating against this one guy. He’s not fast but he’s big. Like over 6 feet and a good 240 pounds big. I, on the other hand, am not big. Trying to skate him toward the boards didn’t work so well. Neither did trying to push him out from in front of the goal. Sigh.

Was a bit deep in the offensive zone, going for the puck on what turned out to be my last shift of the evening. Not sure what happened, but I ended up going down with a glove between my ribs and the ice. It was like falling on a soccer ball.  Didn’t know that ribs could bend like that. Took a minute or so but I managed to get my breath back, get up and skate to the bench, where I spent the final minutes of scrimmage time sitting down, poking at my side to verify that it didn’t hurt so much that I was going to die.

Nothing broken, no lasting ill effects. It was a bit sore while we hung out drinking beer, watching Blue Thunder’s game and chatting; pretty much all better by this morning though.

The beer poured by the guy who took me out helped too. 😉

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Smoked By a Punk Kid

One of our skydiver friends, Phil, has an athlete for a son.  Brandon has played soccer and baseball on higher level teams.  When he said he wanted to check out hockey, I encouraged him.

A few days ago, Phil let us know that Brandon had all his gear.  Since they live close to Skatetown, we decided to go there for our Thursday morning skate this week.  Several people from our class hit the 6:15 every week; it was kinda nice to see a few people we know.

My plan was to work a bit on backwards crossovers and on carrying the puck while doing front crossovers.  For the backwards I didn’t plan to actually cross over; instead I focused on starting the C cut with the outside foot in front of the inside one.

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There were enough people on the ice working end to end that I didn’t feel comfortable working on back crossovers for very long. I did manage to start the C cut in front as I’d planned, and I think I kinda maybe felt what I was supposed to feel. Hopefully we’ll spend more time on those at class this week.

I spent most of the hour skating with a puck and taking “shots” and working on crossovers carrying the puck.  Did some 2 on 0 runs with both Keith and Brandon and played a bit of defense when they did a couple runs.

The kid is gonna be good.  He’s already a better skater than I am – crossovers in both directions forwards and backwards, smooth transitions – and damn is he FAST!

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I couldn’t catch him. Damn punk kids. 😉

That Sounds Like a Broken Leg

Sunday was a good day. We went to the dropzone in the morning to sell a parachute, went for a drive and had a fast food lunch (Jack in the Box burgers and fries do not compare to 5 Guys. We knew that, but Jack was the only option where we were at). The afternoon was spent lazing around the house until it was time to go to class.

I took a pre-emptive Ibuprofen before we left – Saturday’s public skate was a bit more strenuous than I thought. I was sore and tired just putting my bag into the truck. By the time we arrived at the rink I was feeling better (the caffeine in the Coke I drank on the way there helped too), and as expected the adrenaline took away the rest once we stepped onto the ice.

After a few minutes warm up, Jeff set us to the standard skating drills. But this time, we got to take a puck along.

Crossovers carrying a puck aren’t in my skill set yet. I’ve tried but it takes all my attention – as in my head is definitely not up. All those beautiful crossovers I’d done at the public skate on Saturday had me looking forward to this drill. Sigh. At least I only lost the puck once, at the end of the run. We then did stops with pucks and mine were fine. They let us not take a puck for transitions if we wanted; I left the puck behind and managed smooth transitions in both directions.

A few good 2 on 0 runs and a few not so good. Not surprisingly, my runs with Keith were some of the good ones. There’s a lot to be said for time spent skating and passing with someone.

Then Jeff broke us into 5 groups. Each group went to a circle. Where we got to do (drum roll please) backwards crossovers. Which just sound like a broken leg to me.

I did a couple runs around the circle C cutting like Brian had shown us, but I wasn’t getting how that was going to help me do the crossover. Tried to do it a couple times and it felt really, really awkward. So I was glad when that was over and we formed two groups for other drills. These will be practiced at stick times… I will own them. Someday. 😉

Back to two groups and Jeff had us doing a nuetral zone regroup and reentry drill. After a bunch of runs at that we went off with Brian to do some skating with the puck around cones, ending with a shot on goal. He made it a bit harder after a couple runs each by adding in transitions and backwards skating. Other people were going around the cone and then doing the standard transition. I did the bitchin’ almost stop and take off backwards transition. Rock star! Until I lost the puck.

Jeff had us working on retrieving the puck and doing a drop pass in the corners. Although this drill ended with a shot on goal, I think the practice skating to and being in the corners will be just as valuable to me as it will be to forwards.

Finally it was scrimmage time. The white team didn’t do as well this week; we spent more time in our defensive zone and skating than we have been. As a result, there was a lot more hard skating on my shifts. I got caught a couple times on breakaways (goalies are awesome…), but also made a couple good passes and took away a few shooting and passing lanes.

By the end of the scrimmage I was wiped out. We hung out afterwards for a little while, watching Blue Thunder play on one rink and Foothill Flyers play on the other. Neither team was doing well on the score when we left.

Damn, am I sore today! Kinda glad it’s going to be ludicrously hot here today; laying around on the couch is well on it’s way to overtaking any desire to go out and do anything.

Naked and Vulnerable

We met up with our friends, Muffin and Buttercup, for lunch and some skating yesterday. It’s been well over a year since I’ve been to a public skate; it was weird walking into the rink without the bag full of gear, weird to not go into the locker room, weird to be getting on the ice without my gear.

I felt so naked and vulnerable out there. If I fell down it was going to hurt.

The ice was pretty good considering it was 90+ degrees F outside. There were maybe 10 people on the ice, including a group of middle aged female figure skaters dominating center ice. We did some lazy laps at first, checking out the ice and chatting with our friends.

I wasn’t going to skate aggressively or push any of my skating skills without the gear, but the ice was good and my skates are pretty sharp…. tried some crossovers and they were very good. Tried some crossover lane changes and they were very good. Tried some left foot stops and they were good. Even transitions at slow speed felt okay. Huh.

Gave Muffin and Buttercup some tips on basic skating skills, making sure to remind them that we know NOTHING and are probably teaching them bad habits.

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The caveat comes from experiences in skydiving. It’s quite common for newer jumpers to give advice to those even newer. Unfortunately, many times that advice is bad; the jumper giving the advice just doesn’t know any better. We call them 100 jump wonders, and they can be found on every dropzone and on every skydiving related internet forum. The title isn’t mean-spirited though, as we’ve all been there.

We don’t want to be the hockey equivalent of a skydiving 100 jump wonder. But something we said must have been helpful, as they both said it was one of the best skating sessions they’d had so far.

Wasn’t so bad for us either. It was good to be out there without the pads and my stick. I knew I depend on the pads to keep falls from hurting, but I hadn’t realized just how much I depend on my stick – for balance and to make up for some of the lacks in my skating skill set.

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I was very happy with my crossovers, in both directions. Did quite a few laps including lane changes, focusing on smoothness and riding the edges before putting the next foot down. They felt so good that I wasn’t even jealous watching another guy building more speed backwards than I can forwards. I’ve come so far and there’s still so much more to learn – and that’s part of why I love hockey.

Oh yeah, I did fall down.  Twice.  Got a nice little bruise on my knee from one of them. Glad I get to wear the gear tonight!

Fireworks. And Stuff.

The ice had to go on without us this morning as yesterday was the Fourth of July. The dropzone sponsors a demonstration skydive into the city’s 4th celebration each year. The twenty or so available slots for this skydive are highly desired by local jumpers, as it is a fairly easy demo jump with a high “glory” quotient. Keith gets the rock star slot each year – he lands last towing a large American flag.

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After the jumpers pack up, we all hang out in our special reserved area, drinking and socializing while waiting for the big booms. The park is only a mile or so from the house, so we usually walk home after the fireworks to avoid traffic and possible DUI’s. Arriving home tired and a bit tipsy at 11 pm, we knew there was no way we’d make it to stick time today.

Met up with Jillian on Tuesday and had a great time chatting and picking her hockey brain. Got more details on the upcoming women’s hockey tournament in Vacaville, and now I’m even more excited (and nervous!). Our team name is Pandora’s Wrath. I’ll be playing defense on the bronze team, probably paired with the strongest defensewoman on the team. We play one game Friday evening and two games on Saturday, with the possibility of championship game(s) on Sunday if we do well. Which Jillian thinks we will.

There’s a saying in skydiving that I think will be bouncing around my head as I get on the ice for that first game on Friday. Please God don’t let me f&%k up. First.

She also gave me some tips on changing out as a defenseman. The biggie is to communication with your D partner. Something I hadn’t thought of before is switching out sides so the next skater to change is on the same side as the benches. Another key is waiting until the puck is deep in the offensive zone prior to changing, which is a bit longer than Jeff suggested in our drill last Sunday. He had us starting to change as the puck was being dumped, and we got caught short once in scrimmage because of it.

My former roommate and her husband are in town (they live in southern Washington now but have family in the area). They’re learning to ice skate and have their own hockey skates. Which they brought along. So we get to hit a public skate in Vacaville with them on Saturday. Besides being good to hang out with them, I’m hoping getting some skating in without the gear (and my third leg – ie my stick) will be good for me.

How We Celebrated Canada Day (In California)

We had nothing going on other than hockey class on Sunday. Did a bit of necessary shopping – yay for new walking shoes – and broke out the bins of camping gear in preparation for possible car camping/day hiking next weekend. It’s been two years since we’ve been out on the trail (last year’s injuries took out backpacking season) and almost a year since we’ve car camped; we’d almost forgotten what we have. It was nice to find that we don’t need to replace much; even still have fuel for both stoves. Put new batteries in my headlamp and the wind meter and we’re good to go for car camping. An REI trip is in the future to upgrade some of his backpacking stuff – by upgrade, I mean lighter and built during this century 😉 – and get us a new backpacking tent.

Got myself registered with USA Hockey so I can play in the women’s tournament in August. $44, which sounded like a lot for very little until I read that it includes excess medical coverage that will work as a primary with a $3500 deductible. I still owe for the ER visit for the broken leg last year; knowing that getting hurt at a USA Hockey sanctioned event won’t bankrupt us is worth every penny.

Also put cash in the gear bag to give to Jillian to cover my tournament cost. Minimum three games for $80 is very reasonable; I expected it to cost much more considering all the work that must go into putting it on.

Since it was Canada Day, we thought about buying a twelve pack of Kokanee to take to the rink, but they have a strict no outside alcohol rule (liquor license rules). Thought about suggesting that they stock a Canadian beer in the snack bar. I mean, geez, it is hockey after all, even if we didn’t have some Canadians in the area I think it it would be appropriate to offer Canadian beer. 😉

Got to the rink a bit too early. Even spending a few minutes chatting with some other early arrivals and having to unlock one of the locker rooms, we were still outside ready to go while the high school age teams on the ice were having a shootout. Several goals were scored, which resulted in several very awesome goal celebrations – one kid didn’t get his celebration right the first time, so he did it again! Too funny.

After warming up, Jeff put us through what are now our standard skating drills – snake around the circles two times, end to end working right stops, back working left stops and then back and forth doing transitions. I was really happy with my skating – the right stops were there! Transitions weren’t pretty but they were efffective – each one I do helps to rebuild the confidence in my ability that I seem to have lost.

Next up was 2 on 0 runs end to end. These are fun, and it seems that everybody’s passing skills are improving. Got to do a couple of those with Keith, and those were my best – we have a pretty good idea now how fast the other will be skating and our passes are much better as a result.

Broke up into two groups and worked some team drills. Jeff and Brian are making us think and play positions now and they keep the drills active – no standing around allowed if you aren’t waiting. I focused on playing defense on both drills, although I did do two each as a forward to mix it up a bit.

And then it was time to go over the boards. I missed this last week and I was a bit nervous about it, so I “let” everyone else go first. Jeff had us sitting on the bench the right way – forwards at the neutral zone end, defense at the blue line end – and we practiced changing out by position. I shouldn’t have been so nervous. It’s kinda fun. As a defensemen, I only have to go over them from the bench to the ice, not the other way around – good thing for me, that’s the direction that the forwards were complaining about being hard.

Scrimmage time finally arrived. This time we would be changing lines on the fly and climbing over the boards to make the changes faster. The class has pretty much gelled into a white team and a dark team for scrimmages, and several of the people in white have been skating together at sticktimes. This seems to have translated into some pretty good plays – people are stopping to look before passing, thinking about being offsides and thinking about breaking out as a team. It’s almost like real hockey.

Watched Keith make some nice defensive plays on his first shift, and we got to play as a defensive pair for a little while. We even managed to collide with each other on that shift – doh! I managed a few nice plays too. Made a point of not being in a rush to get rid of the puck in the defensive zone and positioning myself to where I thought the puck was most likely to go when we are on the attack. Defensively I managed to push two big guys off the puck by just kind of skating with them – skating very, very close. Really proud of that!

Between beers, chatting and watching bronze league games, it was almost 11 pm when we left. Got home, spread the gear out and crashed. It was a good day.

This morning we woke up to an explosion of sporting equipment instead of a living room.

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Guess what I get to do today?

I just walked past the pile of hockey clothes waiting to go in the washing machine. Oh. Emm. Gee. From now on, laundry first. Blog second.