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”. Life as a hockey player is coming to an end for Eric, but not before the season finale games!
With the Beerginners semi-final matchups sorted, time living the hockey life is rapidly coming to an end before I return to my place of employment after the Australian Ice Hockey League Finals.
Semi-final week started with more Tuesday night scrimmage. This would be my last scrimmage at this time because I want to celebrate after Finals weeks. So I wanted to make the most of it.
Still buzzing despite the loss an hour before to the Pandas, I stepped onto the ice determined to work hard and get some stick on the puck. With a couple of goalies present for the start of the scrimmage, I also would use this time to practice my screening.
I managed some puck possession and passes. In the attacking zone, I made a pass to a teammate who scored. For me, an assist – even in scrimmage – is important.
Wednesday is pilates night. While not as fun as my regular Monday morning class, I am starting to talk to some of the regulars. While a couple of ladies thought my latest effort to avoid distracting lighting was hilarious, I’m not sure if Joseph Pilates would agree.
Joesph Pilates initially invented the exercise program now known as pilates to assist sportsmen and wounded soliders recovering from injury without the use of a lot of equipment. Right up until his death at age 87, Mr Pilates was still teaching. I know that my use of pilates is probably different to the female dominated room but I am pleased with the fitness pilates and hockey is giving me. I’m a little surprised that more players don’t use it as a tool in their training.
Until a couple of weeks ago, Wednesday night pilates was the start of my rest period after a heavy Saturday – Wednesday. Now, however, Thursday night is now my inline night at Max Arena.
Having experienced the learn to skate and hockey development sessions, I wanted to see what the open training session was like. With a couple of familiar faces, the training session had a lot of drills and passing. I also wasn’t the newest inline skater, having made arrangements via social media earlier in the day for another ice hockey mate to join me.
I’ve soon learnt that the better a skater you are, the easier the transition is from ice to inline or vice versa. I was seeing a good example this week during the training session. There is also the little differences to work out between the two.
My original plan was to go home after training. Somehow, I decided to stay for inline drop in. As I’ve been learning, there are several differences between ice and inline. While I knew that inline periods are shorter (12 minutes) and that there’s an extra period compared to ice, I was still shocked with what my new scrimmage teammates were going to tell me.
Six 12 minute periods with a shorter bench than ice which became shorter as the scrimmage went on. After I was spent midway through period six, a player swapped teams to allow the standard four-on-four to continue.
I was managing to stay on my feet even though the speed of play was very fast for me thanks to the more experienced players around me. For once, I wasn’t the oldest person out there with some players who represent Australia at masters level on the floor with me.
After an hour’s training, a 90 minute scrimmage session – including getting checked into the boards from behind – and needing to skate harder inline compared to ice, I was tired but not dead.
Sunday and Monday night training sessions featured a lot of puck work and physical contact. While body checking is banned in Beerginners, it is recognised that there will be contact as people go for the puck. The amount of coincidental physical contact has increased over the last few games.
On Monday night, I did some backwards skating during the general and hockey sessions. While in the latter session I was giving and receiving passes, I’m still slow at it. I am noticing more backwards glide, though.
Tuesday game day saw Trash Pandas (one) blank Wayward Sons (four) 6-0 in semi-final one. Pandas were very clinical in their game and try as they might, Wayward had no answers and could not keep up with the Pandas scoring. To their credit, Wayward never stopped trying.
Meeting Pandas in the grand-final are my Jets (two). Up against Mighty Drunks (three). Drunks opened the scoring with a goal that simply can be explained away by saying “That’s hockey” if you conceded the goal. A shot off a defenceman’s skate got past our goalie and Drunks took the lead.
After replying with a goal of our own, the game was tied 1-1 for quite some time. Jets dominated possession and shots on goal but could not convert for a long time. Period three saw the game open up and Jets took the win 4-1.
It was a tough, physical game. I was throwing myself around and trying to stay busy on and off the puck. I managed to be on the ice for two goals including one wave of attack where shots kept coming towards me while screening the goalie before one went in. I had my chances but I’m still goalless – not through lack of trying.
The best thing about the game for the Jets was how we followed the game plan and worked as a team. Over the season, there were positional changes for various reasons but overall, we have coped well with those changes.
We’ve always tried to play a positive style of hockey in good spirit. Even when we have lost or things have gone wrong, the team talk has been good.
It was also good to see Sydney Ice Dogs captain Scott Stephenson come to Beerginners and offer his experience coaching off the ice. He jokes when he says that his coaching record is 0-3 however he enjoys being involved with the competition. We look forward to seeing him again in season two.
The finals are now set. Playing for third place is Mighty Drunks (three) against Wayward Sons (four). In the grand-final, Trash Pandas (one) play my Mascot Jets (two). Regardless of what happens on grand-final Tuesday, hockey will be the winner.
Progress by the end of semi-final
Skating forwards: Going well. Working hard on ice & at inline.
Skating turns: Good. Better in games than in training. Training turns with puck improving.
Skating backwards: Not up to game standard yet. Managed to pass the puck & receive passes while skating backwards again. More glide noticeable.
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: Improving in game situations. Getting more passes to teammates and clearing the puck out of the defensive zone. Training passing going well.
Shooting the puck: Not much this week.
Stickhandling: Nothing in game situations. Working on it during training sessions which is improving.
Positioning/tactics: Excellent work. Almost scored while providing a screen late in the game.
7pm, Semi Final 1: Trash Pandas def Wayward Sons 6-0.
8pm, Semi Final 2: Mascot Jets def Mighty Drunks 4-1.
Schedule, finals night
7pm: Mighty Drunks v Wayward Sons (Playoff for third)
8pm: Trash Pandas v Mascot Jets (Championship game)