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.

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Empty Ice (Again!)

There is something kinda special about sharing an entire sheet of ice with only your significant other for an entire hour. Especially when the cost is $20 instead of hundreds of dollars. It was another stick time all to ourselves this morning.

We made a plan for the skate last night, wrote it down this morning and then left it sitting on the table when we left for the rink. But because we had discussed it twice, we remembered to spend some time working on almost everything on the list. Except the snake drill. We didn’t do the snake drill, which is strange because that’s one that I have come to enjoy.

We did spend time working on our stops, both right and left foot leading. The left foot leading stop is there, the right foot is there without speed and with premeditation. If I don’t think about leading with the right foot and then prepare for it with a short mental pep talk, I default to the left.

Which is fine for the moment. Technically you don’t want to lose sight of the puck or the play when stopping but hey, I’m still a tripod. Even if I do see the puck, I’m likely to miss it anyway.

Next up was transitions. I went down on the first one I tried. Used the excuse that I didn’t sleep well last night (I didn’t, but it was still an excuse) and worked on stopping with the puck (some to the right even) while he went forwards and backwards and forwards and backwards.

Took all four of our pucks down to the other end and did full ice 2 on 0’s. Some were better than others. Tried to skate even with and pass just ahead of him, which worked well. We did some backhand runs as well. If I don’t have the puck as I’m coming to the net, I’ve been trying to stop just outside the crease with my blade on the ice, ready to deflect. As a wannabe defenseman, it’s tough to think about angling the blade to knock the puck in instead of out!

Another huge positive to having the whole ice to ourselves is being able to skate the whole rink and go really fast – no moving pylons to slow down for. I’m coming to love the feeling of gaining speed through crossover lane changes all the way down the ice and then quickly dumping that speed in a hard (left foot) stop. As Richard Bach wrote in Jonathan Livingston Seagull, “perfect speed is being there”. I need to remember to use crossovers in the scrimmages – they will get me there much faster.

While he went off to work on transitions and skating some more, I spent some time bashing pucks towards the net from the point. Or the edge of the faceoff circle. More like the edge of the faceoff circle. My form truly sucks and I can’t elevate the puck at all, but I can get the puck in the general vicinity of the net with what I’m going to call a slap shot.

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Like I said, my form truly sucks! (pic from last week)

The sticktime runs from 6:30 to 8:30, but we are always off the ice by 7:30 so Keith can make it to work close to on time. Today there was someone getting dressed as we came into the locker room. This makes one other skater that we’ve seen in about 6 sticktimes. It’s getting too busy! 😉

The guy who takes our money (I need to get his name next week) told us about their adult learn to play class. It’s a drop in thing, Tuesday evenings. We’re tempted. We’d like to get another skate in every week, and we think it is good to learn from a number of different people – this instructor may drop gems that Jeff and Brian don’t know or he may be able to explain to me how to lift the damn puck when I’m shooting.

According to a paper on the locker room door, there is also an adult hockey camp next weekend – 2 pm to 8 pm, including 3 hours of ice time and a chalk talk. Also very tempting, but $75 each, while not excessive for the amount of time and coaching, would stretch the budget a bit further than we can stretch it right now.

Off now to “fold” the hockey laundry and contemplate how I got this new bruise on my elbow…

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.

Silly Stick Time

We’ve missed our Thursday morning stick times the past two weeks. Even though I promptly curled back up under the covers after turning the 5 am alarm off, I wasn’t going to miss it this week.

As I got in the truck, I saw our “Sharks territory” sign. They sent a bunch out to people they can take pictures of them while on vacation. We got a few on our trip up to Seattle last weekend.

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I’d forgotten to take the sign out of the truck. So it was back into the house to find the camera – if there are only the two of us on the ice, why not be a bit (okay, a lot) silly?

 

I remembered to put the camera in my gear bag, but I forgot the sign. by the time Keith mentioned it, we were already half dressed. I considered walking out to the truck wearing half my hockey gear but for some reason decided against it.

 

The ice was, once again, all ours. Not quite as perfect as some mornings; there were a few ruts here and there but they weren’t deep. We managed to ignore the camera for the majority of the hour. Did some transitions and I fell and smacked my head on the one I tried with speed. Doh! Then I fell and smacked my head again while doing crossovers. Double doh!

 

After that, I decided to just skate and not challenge myself. By the end of the hour, crossovers/lane changes were smooth on both sides, and right foot stops were beginning to feel “right” again. No huge leaps of improvement, but a good skate overall.

 

We couldn’t ignore the camera completely. All that ice and just the two of us… even without the Sharks sign, we managed to get more than a bit silly. 😀

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The dropzone is having it’s annual party – the American Boogie – this weekend.  Four days of skydiving, four nights of partying.  I won’t be jumping but I will be heading out to visit (and drink) with friends. Good times!

Catching Edges

It was a long weekend. Had to make a trip up near Seattle to pick up a new toy. We drove 1300 miles in three days, and still made it home in time to rest a bit before hockey class last night. 

We’d managed to avoid the hottest day of the weekend by being out of town (it was well over 102 degrees throughout the area on Saturday), but it was still plenty hot Sunday. The ice was about what we expected after that much heat… it pretty much sucked. Ruts everywhere and soft enough that the pucks were sticking to it  

Caught my first edge on the snake drill and down I went. Crossovers are easy on the awesome ice at 6:00 in the morning at Vacaville. Not so much at 7:30 pm after a full day of usage at Skatetown. 

I was happy with my right foot stops for once – even with a bit of speed. And my transtions weren’t bad either, even once front to back with some speed. Have had mental blocks for both of those for months now so it felt really good to do them. 

Jeff had us working on the slick move involving almost stopping then skating backwards. I’ve been doing this fairly well leading with my right foot, but have been having issues leading with the left. He made us work on both and I managed one or two decent transitions leading with the left. And then as I was doing one with the right, I caught an edge in a rut and down I went, legs flailing in opposite directions as I hoped they didn’t cross themselves up underneath me. 

At this point I was beginning to wonder if I wasn’t too tired to be out there. But I soldiered on to the next drill – short passes all the way down the ice, ending with a shot on goal. First couple went okay, even with the sticky ice. Third time I went down hard on my left hip and I was reminded that my pants don’t really provide a whole lot of protection in that area.

Managed another run, in which the puck got stuck and I left it behind. The hip was not happy, so I skated over to the bench to get a drink and sit for a few minutes. I knew nothing was broken but sitting on that cheek wasn’t the hot tip. After five minutes or so, I decided to give up for the evening and went to get out of my gear.

After taking my stuff to the car, I got back in time to watch one of Keith’s shifts in the scrimmage. He was playing defense instead of his usual offense, and he did good. A couple nice plays and I could tell he was thinking about positioning.

We hung out for a beer after he was done, watching Blue Thunder play on rink 1 (which is conviently located on the other side of some windows by the snack bar) and chatting with some of the people from the class. Despite the owie, it was still a good evening of hockey.

As I type this, it’s two days later and the hip is much better. Haven’t even had to take any vitamin I (ibuprofen).

Catching Up (Hi Jack!)

 

Fifty percent of my readership has been giving me shit about not updating this blog. My apologies to both of them for the long delay.

Life has been loads of fun since I last posted. April was a good month, despite the stupid Sharks and their less than hoped for performance in the playoffs. They even had the audacity to lose their last game on the evening of April 21st.

Which just happened to be mere hours after Keith and I took the big plunge. We jumped from an airplane with two good friends, finished the skydive with a few words on the ground in front of our families and we were married. 😀

Mr and Mrs 😀

 

The Pandora 3 on 3 league was SO MUCH FUN!! In the course of three evenings, I learned an amazing amount. By the last night, I could almost think and skate at the same time. Very basic skating and very limited thinking, but still. Progress!

And I loved playing with other women – they didn’t make it easy on me but they weren’t excessively aggressive like some of the guys in the class can be. The challenge of trying to defend against someone who is magnitudes better at the game than I am was awesome.

Unfortunately we have other plans for two of the five nights planned for summer, but I hope to be able to play one or two of them.

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Class has been going well. We’ve progressed to doing far more hockey drills than skating drills; last night was pretty much all break out drills after our warmup drills. It’s interesting to watch the improvement in everybody’s skills, both skating and playing, over the past couple months. It is most visible in the scrimmages; there is much less “bunchy puck” and more position play. People are starting to go to where they need to be to make a play instead of going to the puck, and fewer defensemen are randomly becoming forwards..

I’ve decided to stick with defense, which works well since most of the boys want to be forwards. Got three shifts each in the last two scrimmages and was very happy with my overall play. Some nice keep ins in the offensive zone and a few nice plays in the defensive zone. And I’m thinking more about the game than I am about my skating while I’m out there – which is a long way from where I started!

We are down to one sticktime a week right now instead of the two that we’d like to do. The Thursday 6:15 am sticktime at Roseville has been our favorite; we like the morning workout, the ice is nice and it usually isn’t crowded. But then we discovered that Vacaville has one at 6:30 on Thursdays.

Vacaville is 15 minutes closer to the house, which means he can skate for an hour and still make it to work on time. So we checked it out two weeks ago.

We were the only people on the ice. Beautiful, fast, hard, dry, smooth ice. And it was all ours. Same thing happened last Thursday. Heaven!

My skating has improved quite a bit. Crossovers in both directions are now pretty much owned; lately I’ve been working on using them to “change lanes”, which is easier without a puck than with one but will be a handy tool to have in my toolbox. Left foot stops are done with speed, right foot stops… yeah, they’ll come back eventually. That cool move from forward to backward changing direction is coming along nicely.

 Next up – backwards crossovers!

 

 

Scrimmage!

It was a great week in hockey.

 

We made it to the 6:15 am stick time on Thursday. I really love the early morning ice and am beginning to love the early morning workout. Not to mention the relative lack of people who show up at that ungodly hour.

Crossovers are coming along nicely. Right turns are still tough, but to the left I was riding the edge on each foot for a bit before putting the other one down. Discovered that when I’m following someone around the circle I’m much smoother than when I’m alone around the circle. Assuming that focusing on something other than what my feet are doing is behind that. Sure felt good!

We ended the session with some sprints. Working up to ending our sticktimes with suicides, but for now red line to goal line was about enough.

The crappy weather on Saturday didn’t deter us from making the trek to Oakland to visit Hockey Xsport. He needed a new helmet and we both wanted some new socks and practice jerseys. I picked up a light blue jersey and matching socks, a couple rolls of tape and a mouthguard. He got a new Mission helmet with cage (on sale for $44), dark blue jersey and matching socks, more tape and a mouthguard. It’s always fun to wander around there drooling.

Sunday morning found me at the rink at 8:15, three dozen snickerdoodles in hand, ready to help out with Pandora’s 3 on 3 Iron Man tournament. The teams were playing for “all the cookies” – the prize turned out to be pretty cool. A grey jar with a screw on cup on top; one of the women hand painted the Pandora logo on the jar and we filled it with about 8 dozen cookies topped with more in the cup. It looked awesome!

I helped a bit with registration, then slowly got the bbq area set up with Linda and Christy. Watched a bit of the tournament; if what I saw is any indicator, the 3 on 3 league is going to be so much fun!

Had to leave before the bbq and raffle because my son was passing through and offered to buy me lunch.

Had a bit of downtime in the afternoon while Keith was out working/jumping at the dropzone. A light dinner when he got home and back to the rink I went.

Arriving before 7pm is the hot tip for the most room in the locker room. We were dressed and out of there before it started to get crowded. Did some stretching and sat on the bench while the Zamboni did it’s thing. Noticed that the ice appeared a lot more rutted than it looked when I saw it at 8:15 am, before the 3 on 3.

It was only Jeff working with us as Brian and Eric were in San Jose with the Capital Thunder. They made the finals of the statewide tournament. After warming up, he put us through the now standard skating drills – push and glide, scooters, swizzles, stops – and added a couple runs backwards. Finished off the skating drills with the snake – starting in one corner, around each circle, around the center circle, around the two other circles, ending in a corner. A big line of people snaking around the rink. Lots of carnage along the way as people work on crossovers. That’s one of my favorite skating drills.

We had three goalies on the ice with us. Found out later over beers that one of them, Keith, took the class a couple years ago and just bought goalie gear so he’ll be joining us to learn his new position. One of the others was the teenager that was with us for our last class.

While we were waiting for what would be next, Jillian showed up on the bench and called me over. I’d won some stuff in the raffle! A really nice Blackhawks sweatshirt (it’s nice enough that I’ll wear it even though I’m not a Chicago fan), an NHL tshirt and a commemerative puck. Not a bad haul for a $5 investment.

Jeff broke us up into two groups, one at each end, and had us do some drills involving runs at the net. First we came up from the corners, one carryin the puck, cut across inside the blue line, drop pass, 2 on goalie run at the net. After a few runs at that, Jeff had us add a defenseman.

Wow, did I suck. Managed to pick up and drop the pass, but did a horrible job at defense. Gonna blame it on being tired…

We got to spend the last fifteen minutes scrimmaging, 6 on 6 (plus goalies). I played three shifts, all defense. Got to the corner ust in time to pick up and clear the puck when Bitsy got there a half second before me but overskated it.

And I took out Natasha. She had the puck, so I flat out tripped her. Dang near got a skate blade in the face mask for my trouble, too. We checked that we were both okay and then we both apologized. Never knew hockey could be such a great way to meet people, did ya? 😉

We’re going to have to be the first ones off the ice from now on. Either that or I’ll just go use the womens dressing room. There was no space to get undressed; Keith ended up using the middle of the floor and I was having to be very careful to not cut someone’s gear bag with my skate blades.

The beers were cold and the conversations were interesting later on though. Watched some of a bronze league game on rink 1 as I drank – there are a couple women from Pandora (including Jillian) on one of the teams that was playing.

Going to the 6:15 sticktime tomorrow morning, then it’s going to be a long week without ice time – no class on Sunday due to Easter. We do get to go to the last Sharks game of the year on Saturday night. We were hoping that it would be a game that wasn’t important so we could just enjoy it, but no. The Sharks have to do everything the hard way this season. They have to win their last two games to be sure of a playoff slot. And if they lose, the Kings get that slot. And of course both games are against the Kings. It should be an amazing game regardless of how it comes out on the scoreboard; I’m sure hoping that it’s LA’s skaters who will be playing golf next week and not the Sharks!

Oh, and that I’m the one who wins Dan Boyle’s jersey off his back. 😉