Category Archives: Hockey

Wine and Women Tournament with Pandora Women’s Hockey

Six months ago, I was debating going to my first practice with Pandora Women’s Hockey. Sitting here now, I know that was the best decision I’ve made in hockey.

We hit the Pandora/Foothill Flyers practice over a week ago, partly to get ready for the Vacaville tournament and partly to expand the number of hockey players that recognize us in hopes of possibly finding a team to play with this season. The same coach that ran the first Pandora practice I went to, Randy, was there running this one. He’s an amazing skater and an even better coach – I love his style; he pushes us without making us feel stupid if we can’t do something and he keeps it all light and fun.

At one point I was laughing about something and he said “hey, no smiling in hockey!” Which only made me laugh harder as I’m well known at the dropzone for telling people to quit smiling (“Skydiving is serious stuff, knock that smiling shit off!”).

Sunday evening I wasn’t feeling well so I missed class. Escaped the heat of the valley by visiting a friend in the Sierras mid-week, so I hadn’t been on the ice for almost a week when I arrived at the Vacaville rink for our first game of the tournament Friday afternoon.

Pandora sent two teams to the tournament – one silver and one bronze. I was on the bronze team – Pandora’s Wrath. The tournament also had a beginner bracket with four teams, one of which had the best novice team name ever – The Mighty Pylons.

Keith and our friends Shaun and Barbara (Shaun officiated at our wedding) showed up to watch and root us on. Keith was Wrath’s biggest fan this weekend; he made it to every game and got some great photos from two of them.  Check them out on my facebook album.

We had a variety of skill levels on our team, ranging from a few women who have been playing for years down to me and Casey, who were both playing in our first real hockey games. Some of them have played togther before, others play against each other in the bronze league at Skatetown.

About all I can say for my performance in the first game is…. damn, I learned a LOT! Got the team a penalty when I was the 6th woman on the ice – first game, first time in the sin bin. Got caught flatfooted and had to give chase repeatedly. We didn’t manage to put anything on the scoreboard and I was on the ice for most of their goals but I had a lot of fun.

Saturday morning was our second game. We scored within 30 seconds of the puck dropping and managed to hold that lead for the entire first period. Unfortunately we couldn’t generate enough offensive pressure to score again, and they ended up beating us by a few goals. I got caught flatfooted a number of times (but less than in our first game), and even tried relying on the desperation puck check at the blue line (hero zero move; I’m zero). My overall awareness of what is going on and what I need to be watching for had increased quite a bit. I learned a huge amount, and one big thing I learned really showed in our third game later that day.

Pandora’s silver team, Remorse, had two games Saturday, the second a couple hours before our second of the day. After our first game, I went home to air the gear, wash the clothes and rest. Came back to the rink in time to watch their second game. Jillian told me after our morning game that keeping my feet moving would help me not get caught flat footed as much. After watching them play a game and focusing on what the defensewomen were doing, I got it. I knew what I needed to do.

And once we got on the ice, I did it. Wow. Just by continuing to move around in the neutral zone when the puck was in the other end, I had momentum to use when I needed to bust out after the puck or a player. Can you say breakthrough? This may be obvious to others, but it was a revelation to me. I was able to be first to the puck a few times. I was able to skate forwards toward the walls. I was able to be in the way of the pass. I was able to poke a puck away from a skater coming down the boards. My teammates noticed it too; got several compliments on my play in that game. 😀

I also learned more about what I should be doing in front of the net. I’m not big enough or strong enough on my skates to be pushing 200 pound people away from the net, but I can be a big pest by tying up their sticks so they can’t receive a pass or knock the puck into the net.

We didn’t win that game either, but overall we all played really well.

When we were done, a bunch of us went over to a local pizza place for food, beers and laughter. Our last game of the tournament required that we be there around 8 am the next morning, so Keith and I left the party early to get some sleep.

After three games in two days, I woke up Sunday morning still tired. Dug deep (with the assistance of coffee) and made it to the rink on time. We giggled a bit at the other team who had gone running to warm up. We probably shouldn’t have giggled, as they outskated us pretty much the entire game. 😉

Again, we didn’t win – didn’t even put one on the scoreboard – but there was some good stuff going on. Lots of good individual plays and, considering that it was our fourth game and we were all pretty beat, at least some of us managed to keep our brains engaged through the third period (I don’t include myself in that!). And the most important thing – we all had a good time.

Six months ago I was worried that Pandora would be a bunch of really competitive atheletes and I’d be out of my league, so to speak. I seriously considered not going to that first practice. Sitting here now with sore, tired muscles and a lingering grin, I am so glad I did.

Oh, and I didn’t make it to hockey class last night either. We got home from the second game and I barely left the couch until bedtime.

Too Pooped to Practice

It was a long weekend of hanging out with some old and new friends at the dropzone. I didn’t go big on the partying; we were home before 11 pm every night. But still didn’t sleep well Friday or Saturday night, which left me debating going to class by late afternoon on Sunday. Decision made when I was almost falling asleep on the couch at 5 pm – I was too tired to skate and even massive amounts of caffeine weren’t going to make it happen. I spent the rest of the evening planted firmly on the couch while Keith went off to skate.

He said it was a pretty good class. They did a lot of skating, and with only 18 people there the shifts were long in the scrimmage. Introduced climbing over the boards and changing on the fly – of course. That’s one thing I didn’t want to miss. Oh well, I was so tired I’d probably have smacked my head on the boards on the way over.

While hanging out and chatting over beers, he learned that several people from the class are hitting the Thursday morning sticktime at Skatetown. Now we are torn… we love the empty ice at Vacaville, but these are the people who are likely going to be the core of the team that comes out of the class. We haven’t decided if we are for sure going to be a part of that team, but we want to keep our options open – and it would be good to be able to run some drills with other people at sticktimes. Ideally, we could hit an early morning sticktime at Vacaville on Tuesdays to focus on skating and then join the others at Skatetown on Thursday to work on team play…

Was all excited about getting to play some 3 on 3 with Pandora this coming Saturday, but not enough people responded in time so it’s been cancelled. The joys of summertime scheduling, I guess; most everyone has things going on this time of year.

I’m still very excited about getting the chance to play with Pandora at a women’s tournament in Vacaville the first weekend of August. Pandora will be sending two teams, a silver and a bronze. Assuming I’m good enough to even be on a team, this will be not only my first tournament… the first game of the tournament will be the first time I’ve played 5 on 5 in an actual game. Nothing like putting some extra pressure on myself!

Even better, we leave on our delayed honeymoon a few days after the practice and we won’t return until a day or two before the tournament. I won’t be worn out after 10 days of backpacking. Really I won’t.

Defense!!

Good stick time on Wednesday, but I won’t bore you with the details when I can tell you about the excitement of Sunday’s class.

Started with some skating drills.  We’re doing them end to end now instead of board to board.   Our current favorite is one where the entire class  makes a snake and chases each other around the circles at one end, the circle in the center and the circles at the other end, going as fast as you can.

Broke into three groups again.  This time we worked on wrist shots with Brian first.  Learning the wrist shot is going to be a long process… I think I have it, then they tell me what I’m doing wrong (everything).  If it was easy, anybody could do it…  I do like my new stick, though.

Next was skating with Spencer.  Not sure what it’s called, but he taught us the basics of a cool move – how to go from skating forward in one direction to skating backwards in the opposite direction without losing momentum.  It looks really cool when it’s done right (watch some NHL defensemen skating, you’ll see it).   This is where practicing C cuts (swizzles) all those weeks ago is coming in handy, as it’s a wide C cut with the outside foot that is the key to the maneuver.

Last we did a “breakout” drill with Jeff.  Dump the puck, pick it up and pass it, receive a pass then shoot the net. Wow do  I suck at handling a puck.

And then what has become the best part of hockey class – scrimmage time.  We got an extra 15 minutes of ice time too, so we ended up with about 25 minutes of play time.

I’m finding that I’m most comfortable playing defense, so that’s all I did this week.  Our coaches were out there with us, helping us understand where to go/be and bashing the puck away from us just to make things more interesting.  I tried to focus on positioning again, keeping myself between opposing players and our goal, not getting too far into the offensive zone yet still being close enough to knock the puck back into it.

Made one outstanding defensive play where I dove across the shooting lane and kept one of the better skaters/players in the class from scoring,  blocked at least one shot with my stick and cleared the puck with a hand pass as I lay on the ice.  Oh, and I got high sticked in the face too.  I love my face cage! The rest of my shifts I pretty much flailed, but I’m grinning while I’m flailing and that’s what it’s all about.

Keith played forward on his shifts.  And he shot.  And he scored – on a live goalie no less!  He claims he got lucky.  I disagree.   He honored the skydiving tradition that goes along with doing anything for the first time and bought a pitcher of beer to share after class.

Besides being a load of fun, scrimmaging is showing us how much we still have to learn and improve.  And more importantly, increase our on-ice awareness.  To reference the sport I know best, most novice skydivers are pretty unaware of what is going on around them; with more jumps, awareness increases.   I hope the same applies to hockey.  There’s so much to think about out there!

Our stick times will focus a lot more on skating for at least the next few weeks, as we try to solidify what we’ve learned so we don’t have to think about our skating so much.  Today an order went in for two Green Biscuits , an off ice training puck recommended by Jeff that we can use to practice puck handling and passing out in the street.

Giving up watching at least the first period of Game 3 for stick time tomorrow.  I’m sure the Sharks will do just fine without me watching.  😉

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.

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.

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.