Welcome to Take the Number 69, a blog by Eric Brook charting his ice hockey journey from being introduced to the sport, volunteering with the Australian men and women’s ice hockey leagues, learning to skate and now playing in the “beer leagues”. This week, Eric talks about his one and off ice adventures and answers the important question “where are your pants”.
Week seven started where week six ended – on the ice at Ice Zoo. In previous weeks, I’d played my game and then either headed directly home or via the pub. With a run of 7pm games and a scrimmage after the 8pm game, I decided to stay for scrimmage.
Joined by some of the more advanced Trash Pandas, both goalies who had just played, some Friday Night Hockey and club players, I returned to the ice. I was out there for effectively more skating in game situations. I knew that I would be outplayed and outskated even more than in usual Beerginners games but I’d try anyway.
My scrimmage ended about halfway through the hour session. I made contact with a player and I hit the ice. When I hit the ice, I had a cramp in my right calf muscle. I had previously torn the same muscle a few years earlier while walking at my place of employment, ironically when I was way less active than I am now.
Not wanting to risk further injury, I stopped playing and waited to see how I pulled up the next day. Surprisingly I pulled up OK with no further issues, even managing pilates the next day.
The next day, I ventured to a new (to me) fitness centre. I wanted to try the facilities and the pilates there. Unlike my current facility, pilates at the new centre is graded and I just can’t walk into intermediate sight unseen. So I returned to my current centre for my usual Wednesday night session.
To put this in a hockey context, my current centre’s pilates would be like scrimmage. You pay and do your best with your ability. The new centre’s pilates policy would be like playing for a serious club team where you have to do a trial and get selected.
Over the last few weeks, I have had an interesting problem which only seems to affect me at Wednesday night pilates rather than anywhere else. While doing mat work not standing up, the lighting has been really bad on my eyes. I have mentioned this to my instructor and I will try a different place in the studio next week.
Also over the last few weeks, I have been spending a lot of my pilates time working on my legs. While I’m not up to the “I love leg day!” standard of some of the hockey players in season two of Letterkenny, I can understand the importance of it. While I can always get stronger, I am happy with my leg strength considering the workload I am asking my legs to do.
Thursday has been a rest day for me lately but by dinner time, it would turn into another leg day for me as I pointed my car south instead of east and not to an ice rink.
Over the last few weeks, I have been playing street hockey by running instead of using rolled blades or skates like others have. I have never roller skated or roller bladed in my life. This was about to change.
While my original intention was to go straight to inline hockey school at 4pm, I found that skate school was at 4pm and inline hockey school was at 5pm. So I decided to try skate school first and see how I go after that.
The first issue was that I have no inline skates so for now at least, hire skates are the way to go. Using my ice hockey skate size (9EE) as a starting point, I tried different sizes until I felt as comfortable as one can be in wearing hire skates. I ended up in a size 11 blade which was OK for the sake of the exercise.
Once I was in my skates and using a lot of my ice hockey gear, it was time to head onto the floor for my first inline skating lesson.
I soon found that I could use a lot of what I do in ice skating for inline skating. Straight out of the box, I wasn’t too bad at all! I was pushing off both feet and getting up some speed! To do the same on ice took me months of practice, classes and training sessions!
I had been told already that stopping while inline skating is a totally different type of stopping altogether but that point was emphasised to me not to try and stop like I do on ice.
What did shock me though was the electric shock that I would receive every time I stopped at the boards! As I was told, there’s a lot of static electricity around due to the friction between the purpose built floor and the skate.
Also what shocked me apart from the static electricity was how bad my legs felt after two or so laps of the arena for the first time. Again, another ice versus inline difference.
Again, I’d come full circle. My first ice skating session and now my first inline skating session in full hockey gear surrounded by small children. I joined in where I could in the class, even if I needed some translation. For instance, an ice skating swizzle is known as a scissor in roller/inline skating. My almost impossible T-stop on ice for the first time became almost possible for the first time inline.
I did enjoy the session but was looking forward to the inline hockey session straight afterwards. I listened to my legs and decided that it could wait a week.
I wanted a nice photo of me wearing inline skates for the first time. Taken at the same location as the feature photo for this column, I borrowed a hockey stick and removed my helmet and gloves for the photo. Maybe one day, there will be a rookie session of inline hockey for this column to follow – who knows! There’s a long way to go before that happens, though! I need to repeat this shot on ice.
I’m fortunate that I have access to a lot of knowledge and experience in both inline and ice hockey worlds. I was not prepared for the question of “WHERE ARE YOUR PANTS?” after posting my inline photo online. That question mainly came from players with both inline and ice hockey experience. For the record, I was wearing my hockey compression tights that I always wear under my hockey equipment.
Unlike kindred spirit Homer Simpson, I have not misplaced my pants. I was advised by my inline instructor not to wear my ice hockey pants. I don’t own inline hockey pants at this time. Differing opinion suggests that wearing my ice hockey pants would have been better than wearing nothing at all, nothing at all, nothing at all…
Friday was a planned rest day anyway and I shunned my now semi-regular street hockey Saturday afternoon play for a rest day to compensate for Thursday’s inline session. I knew that I would again be on the ice for double sessions on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. My legs certainly appreciated the extra rest day!
I have had some issues with my skate laces not being tight enough. It turns out that all I needed was a little extra length. New longer laces that I ordered from the US on eBay arrived towards the end of the week and Sunday was the first time to try them out.
Expertly laced up for the first time, I found that I suddenly had a lot more lace to play with and tightening the laces was better than ever before. I noticed an immediate improvement on the ice compared to how I felt with the previous laces even at the tightest that other people could do them.
On Sunday and Monday nights, I had a good general skating session without my stick and good coaching sessions with stick and puck afterwards. Having a few different coaches has allowed me to learn different things of different people. It has also allowed me to have things explained and demonstrated in different ways. It also allows the coaches to compare notes on me to see how I am progressing. For me, it is hard to see and often hard for me to feel what I am doing on the ice so I rely on other people’s more trained observations to assist in my development.
Game day Tuesday and I am feeling great! No confidence issues this week! Added confidence due to the laces and skates issue hopefully resolved forever. No traffic dramas and a good stretch and warmup beforehand!
Blue 69’s ready for action! I’m sure that Grassroots editor Ellie isn’t the only one pleased to see some action shots of me doing something other than standing around at faceoffs this week! This week, we had access to two GoPro cameras however zebracam was replaced by goaliecam, which didn’t work as well or as long as planned. Hopefully we’ll get it right by the end of the season!
Game seven’s opponents was the Mighty Drunks. Playing them the week after the Trash Pandas won 7-0, who knew how they would play this week?
By the time of my first shift on the ice, my Jets were already up 1-0. I’d helped work out our lines and had given some Jets including myself a specific mission in the attacking zone.
One of the tasks that I had not expected to have was that of playing centre and taking faceoffs. Playing left or right wing as the situation dictates previously, our centres usually looked after themselves while changing lines. Somehow though, we had three wingers on for a shift with our two defencemen. So I jumped into centre for a shift and took some faceoffs.
Note to self: Ask for faceoff training on Sunday!
At one stage during the second period, we made another lineup error at a faceoff in our defensive end. There was no left defenceman at the faceoff! Blue 69 filled that gap for that faceoff but I’m a while off playing defence – or am I?
Again during the second period – maybe during my debut shift as a defenceman at the faceoff – I found that I was the closest Jet to the puck in the defensive zone. I couldn’t quite reach the puck, though. Somehow, I thought that the best plan of action was to get to ice level and swat the puck out of the way while lying on the ice. Nearby, an actual D player, Em, had seen me go to ground and held back on her initial instinct of trying to clear the puck. As she mentioned post-game, my face was too close to the puck so she held back on her clearing effort. While I am wearing a hybrid helmet, I am certainly glad I did not get a stick to the head, especially from a teammate and a friend!
My Jets were certainly working hard as a team. While some people might see some obvious technique errors in the photos and others might have a funny comment about the photo, I’m quite proud with the effort being shown in this photo! Three Jets (Arthur left, me centre, Ryzer right) are battling hard with Rick (on ground) for possession of the puck. It’s battles like these that have improved since the start of Beerginners and ones that are not always obvious on the scoreboard.
Indeed, I was battling that hard that I almost got sent to the penalty box for two minutes to go and feel shame. I was working hard and trying to keep an opposing player tied up. Being faster than me, he was too quick for me and Blue 69 was warned for hooking.
The effort by both teams wasn’t reflected in the final scoreline of Jets winning 7-1. Mighty Drunks sure made the Jets work for their goals but like last week, a more skilled team won easily on the scoreboard. It’s certainly not through a lack of trying at the Drunks’ end!
I am pleased to note though that more Jets are getting their names on the scoreboard and also making a big contribution on the ice. It isn’t simply just a case of passing the puck to one player and they score seven unassisted goals.
I’m also pleased to report that our third goalie of the season should be our final goalie of the season. Wearing a Rebels jersey from East Coast Super League this week, goalie Dean had some quality time with a GoPro camera in his net. He has agreed to stay a Jet for the remainder of season one of Beerginners. He was also able to share some words of wisdom between periods.
I also shared some words of wisdom during play and intermissions. Unusually for Beerginners at least, we had both a powerplay and a penalty kill to do. It was something that we needed to adjust to on the fly as we had not prepared for those scenarios. However with some experienced hockey brains, we got through both situations.
In the other game, Trash Pandas continued their dominance with a 6-1 win over Wayward Sons. Wayward opened the scoring early on with a clever goal taking advantage of a rebound but they could not score again, sadly. Again, it was not through a lack of effort on their behalf. Noisily cheered on by members of both earlier teams, Wayward heard the yelling but couldn’t do anything with the extra advice and encouragement shouted at them.
Trash Pandas continued to show their fine form in attack and defence. It sets the scene for a cracking last regular season game next week where my Jets hope that it is bin night again.
Progress by the end of game seven:
Skating forwards: Excellent progress by my standard. Would like to be faster in game.
Skating turns: Good. Better in games than in training. Training turns with puck improving.
Skating backwards: Not up to game standard yet. Didn’t get to practice it under supervision this week.
Stopping: Gradually improving. Can mostly stop using the right blade only. Left blade starting to work during training. Usually prefer to decelerate or turn to change direction, especially in game situations.
Passing the puck: Have practiced while stationary and moving, forwards & backwards (once). Little experience during game play on ice. Managed a couple of passes during this week’s game.
Shooting the puck: A little practice this week.
Stickhandling: Not a lot in game situations. Working on it during training sessions which is improving.
Positioning/tactics: Excellent work. More involvement in game play and spent a short time at centre & defence.
Penalty Minutes: 0
Week 7 Results:
7pm: Mascot Jets def Mighty Drunks 7-1
8pm: Trash Pandas def Wayward Sons 6-1
Week 8 Schedule:
7pm: Trash Pandas v Mascot Jets
8pm: Wayward Sons v Mighty Drunks