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 almost brush with television fame and his third game as a Jet.
After game two, I am well out of work mode and well into hockey and holiday mode. Little did I know that my planned week before game three would include an appearance on TV by Blue 69! A lot of my week was similar to a recent post.
Post-game day pilates is certainly a nice day to relax and unwind even if I am totally surrounded by hockey civilians!
Social media has been a tool that has helped me communicate with like-minded people. It is directly responsible for me being invited to my first ever hockey game and has been a door opener ever since on many occasions. It also means that distance and time zones are no obstacles to talking to many people.
After the Stanley Cup has been awarded and paraded, NHL fans and media concentrate on the trade season as teams work on their teams for the next season. I was a little surprised to find that Jaromir Jagr is a free agent with no interest from any NHL team. So I made him an offer via Twitter to come to Australia and play with me on a Tuesday night.
Around Australia during winter, there are various winter festivals and temporary ice rinks that pop up to celebrate winter. One such temporary rink is at iconic Bondi Beach in Sydney’s eastern suburbs as a part of the Bondi Winter Magic festival. Somehow, Beerginners was going to be featured on breakfast TV on Friday morning at Bondi’s temporary rink.
Thursday morning and afternoon was spent co-ordinating collecting jerseys from players across Sydney with the collection on Thursday night. I even washed my jersey and demonstrated that the number 69 is hilarious the right way up or inverted. It was only fair that if someone else was to wear my jersey that they be wearing a clean jersey.
Coincidentally, jersey collecting saw me arrive at Macquarie Ice Rink just in time for Sydney Ice Dogs training. The food court at Macquarie gives great visibility of on-ice action and many people eat and watch whatever is going on at ice level without people needing to make a special effort to go to a rink.
Those who know me and my life know that there is no hope of seeing me in front of the TV watching breakfast TV. Even with the promise of Beerginners on TV, Friday was no different. Instead, I recorded the episode to watch back later in the day when I woke up.
There it was. Blue #69 on Channel 7’s Sunrise!
Hang on. That’s not me.
I’m not at least 20 years younger, much smaller and a goalie.
Notice that I didn’t say that I was on TV but Blue #69 was. Goalie Luca did a fantastic job of representing #69 on screen along with several other skaters from Beerginners and Friday Night Hockey. As has been done on TV many times before, the TV personality was suited up as the goalie while hockey players shot the puck at them. Sunrise weatherman Sam Mac was the target on this occasion during a couple of live crosses to the rink. Because of the temporary and public nature of the rink, Sam got off rather lightly because the rink’s not built for hockey. But it was good to see some familiar faces and jerseys on screen!
Over the weekend, I watched three AIHL games (one live, two live streams). Watching higher level hockey is an important educational and motivational tool. Speaking of motivation, my goal celebration coach Brian Funes scored for the Sydney Bears against Melbourne Ice on Saturday. Maybe I should ask him for tips about screening the goalie too as that appears to be a job that I’ve been given. While he plays defence, he is more than capable in attack. Thankfully, my Jets defenders are also capable in attack with a new forward line in front of them!
Massive celebrations should be saved for the professionals and should not be attempted by Beerginners. If any of my fellow Beerginners or I tried the celebration above photographed at OBGA in Melbourne, we would get majorly entangled in the Ice Zoo’s netting! I’ve already experienced that once and it was not as fun as that celebration looked!
My new favourite night of the week arrived – Beerginners game night! I arrived early to gear up and to watch the first game. Once again, my Jets were playing second. While gearing up, we watched the Trash (Bin) Pandas (Chickens) playing against Mighty Drunks. The Drunks fought hard but were unable to get their first win of the season. They are showing some promise, though. A win can’t be far off for them.
My aims for the game were to score and to be a contributor on the ice for the team. I also wanted to be active on the ice and give any photographers present good reason to capture me in action. Grassroots editor Ellie wants to see some action photos with me in it to feature in these posts! Me too, Ellie, me too!
My Jets played against Wayward Sons for the first time. Our lines were sorted but I was quickly thrown on earlier than my linemate. This would occur several times during the game as we were often changing one or two players at a time.
My first touch of the puck was showing some soccer skills as the puck arrived at my feet almost as soon as I stepped onto the ice. This exact skill was practiced briefly during a Monday night development session so I found it a little easier to try and kick the puck away from the boards.
I need to work at getting on the ice quicker! I want to ensure that I am stable on my feet before going in the correct direction. If only I was as quick getting on the ice as I am getting off! Should I take a run-up from the bench area and through the door? One of many things to think about. We have to make sure that the incoming players don’t collide with the outgoing players. Most of the defenders can leap over the boards which leaves the only door almost exclusively for the forwards.
Playing either left or right wing as the situation dictates, I was trying to stick to my positioning game plan as worked out for me by my more experienced team mates. In attack, fly with my fellow forwards but get in front of the net. In defence, stay high and watch the guy on the point. All of the Jets forwards have been receiving good advice from the more experienced players who are playing in defence. With a bit of practice and experience in front of the net, maybe I can be a useful weapon in front of the net as shown here by Bears captain Michael Schlamp.
In the first period, I received a nice pass onto my stick while I was near centre ice. I redirected it towards goal and to my surprise, I hit the iron! I was inches away from my first goal! An inch to the right and I could have celebrated my first goal!
It was during an excursion in the attacking end trying to screen Wayward’s goalie that I saw our goalie joining the play in the attacking half. I was waiting for the referee to penalise us because as most goalies know, you can’t cross the red line. A friendly reminder was handed out at the intermission but I know a penalty was warranted, even in a beer league. The goalie quote “do we have to follow the rules now?” certainly got a laugh from those who heard it on the Jets bench.
You might remember in last week’s game, our goalie took part in a defensive zone faceoff against the Trash Pandas. Consulting a couple of goalies I know, the move appears to be legal even if it is not usual or recommended.
Wayward had a goal denied due to offside, much to our relief. I seemed to be offside a fair bit – not that hard when I’m screening the goalie. But I would always try hard to get out of the zone and would always be aware that I was offside. Some players seem to be blissfully and totally unaware that when the puck leaves the attacking zone, so must they.
I was trying to stay busy in attack and defence even if I was not getting much puck on stick. I’d be given instructions in various situations which I have been trying to follow. I have been getting good comments about my positional play but I would like to be faster in and out of the zone, even with Ice Zoo’s smaller zones.
In the end, Jets won 2-0 and remain undefeated after three games. I had just completed a shift prior to the first goal and was on the ice and relatively close to the goal scorer for the second. While the Jets are firing well, we do need some fine tuning of some of our combat systems and listening to commands from Mission Control (the bench). Our on and off ice talk continues to be positive. We are continuing to improve and become a good team. The more experienced players are doing a good job of leading the team and supporting the sometimes wayward missiles.
I know I need more stick on puck time and more experience in traffic while battling for the puck. Hopefully training sessions on Sunday and Monday will help with that aim. Monday night development is going well and my skating is improving however I am finding a lot of game situations that I am unprepared for.
For the last couple of weeks, we have been trying to get an additional Beerginners specific training session in on Sundays. However, we need a reasonable number of players to the practice to be financially viable.
I was surprised – again – to see spectators and to see some of them with hand written signs! I rarely see that even at AIHL level even though there were several examples at the AWIHL Finals weekend earlier this year. I’d love to be able to fire off a cannon like a subject of one of those signs, Sydney Sirens import Erin Beaver. I had a couple of coaching sessions with her over last summer and I know that I am skating much better than then.
I may also take part in a ball hockey session on Saturday afternoon while other Beerginners are talking about an early morning scrimmage at one of the temporary rinks near the Sydney CBD. More news about that next week!
Next week, my Jets and I play the early game for the first time after three weeks of 8pm starts. I have been getting to the rink early anyway so the extra traffic for my earlier arrival won’t be a shock to me over the distance that it takes to get from my western Sydney home to Ice Zoo. Somehow according to Google Maps, my house is 68km away to drive to the rink and 69km back home if I travel on the M4, M7 and M5 motorways.
Progress by the end of game three:
Skating forwards: Good. Can always get faster.
Skating turns: Good. Better in games than in training.
Skating backwards: Improving. Have managed to get more initial push. Not up to game standard.
Stopping: Needs improvement. Can stop using the right blade only. Usually prefer to decelerate or turn to change direction, especially in game situations.
Passing the puck: Good while stationary. Little experience while moving or during game play.
Shooting the puck: Hit the iron after re-directing a pass from a fair distance out.
Stickhandling: Not a lot in game situations.
Positioning/tactics: Excellent improvement.
Penalty Minutes: 0
Week 3 Results:
Trash Pandas def Mighty Drunks 2-0
Mascot Jets def Wayward Sons 2-0