Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Too bad you can't do this in Pasadena

I found this lovely photo at Flickr -- on a page devoted to pond hockey. It was taken by Davo McDougall somewhere in Ontario, Canada.

Between this photo and the news yesterday that it was snowing in Mammoth, I sometimes wonder what the hell I'm doing living in So Cal. I love it here -- but how awesome would it be to play hockey with some friends outside on a Sunday morning?

--Steve Hymon

Move over Florida Panthers -- Chicago Blackhawks suck, too

I took a jab at the Panthers yesterday for losing to the sixth-place team in the Finnish hockey league.

Well, the Blackhawks -- who came within a series of reaching the Stanley Cup Finals last season -- took it on the chin yesterday, losing to the ZCS Lions of Zurich. The Lions are not even the best team in Switzerland. Davos won the Swiss title last year. Here's a good story in the NYT.

The Blackhawks were without their new free agent stud Marian Hossa. But if they are truly this wretched -- let's face it, it's only September -- that could be good news for conference rivals the Ducks and the Kings.

--Steve Hymon

Even my dog can steal the puck from me!



That's Teddy, the rescue dog. He's a scrappy little hellion that would surely serve well on some team's fourth line.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Puck Boy contemplates first half-marathon with dread

I ran a half-marathon Monday night. It was 13.1-mile training run that almost threatened to leave me laying face down in the parking lot of a Honey Baked Ham store with a bad hamstring (the irony!) about a mile from the finish line. Instead, I limped across Sierra Madre Boulevard, yelling "motherfucker" to no one in particular, avoiding arrest (we're very civil here in Pasadena) and ending my little jog.

The good news: I ran my course through the mean streets of Pasadena, San Marino, South Pasadena and back to East Pasadena in 2 hours, 6 minutes and 36 seconds. And I did it without losing control of any bodily functions or having my nipples bleed. Nor did I get hit by a car -- a major accomplishment in an area that boasts some of the most untalented and assholic drivers on the planet.

I mean, really, what kind of spacehead drives with their brights on at 7:30 p.m. on a street with street lights? The kind, apparently, that wants to blind joggers trying not to fall on uneven, unlit sidewalks. This is what happens when you populate an entire city with 110 year old people and send them to Denny's for the early-bird special dinner at the same time. By 7:30, they're nearly comatose and I resemble Big Pussy in 'The Sopranos' -- a big, fat target.

What does any of this have to do with hockey?

Well, about the same time that I decided it was imperative that I learn to play hockey, a friend of mine and I signed up for a 5K race in late March in Pasadena. I barely trained and went on a ski trip the week before the race. And then I ran a terrible race. I'm not going to publish the time it's so embarrassing. Mothers pushing two-ton strollers filled with quintuplets were beating me.

The perfect cure for work: Tuesday's hockey timewasters

ESPN's first power rankings of the season puts the Ducks at No. 9 in the NHL and the Kings at No. 14. I'd pay to see a Ducks-Kings playoff matchup but I think the police would be well-advised to do weapons searches before each game -- I mean for the players, not the fans. ESPN

Looks like Sega figured out a way to ruin good ol' air hockey by superimposing graphics and other nasty visual crap on the table. This is a good example of fixing something that wasn't broken. Geek.com

The Florida Panthers managed to lose to a team that finished in sixth place in Finland's hockey league. Ouch! NYT Slapshot


If you're one of those nutcases that likes to dress your pet in human clothes, USA Hockey is having a pet-in-hockey-gear contest--that's my favorite entry above. This is probably how both myself and my dogs will spend the afternoon. USA Hockey

Fantasy Sports Girl weighs in on goalie prospects for your team while wearing shirt that appears it remained in the dryer a few minutes too long. YouTube 

Ever do so much drugs you couldn't help but wonder what would happen if you put three hockey pucks in a blender? Maybe you didn't, but Tom Dickson did. YouTube

Check out this facility -- Shoot2Score -- that is in San Clemente and is dedicated solely to training hockey players. The downside, of course, is that it's in the OC hinterlands and the lessons are pricey. Shoot2Score

--Steve Hymon

photo: USA Hockey

Monday, September 28, 2009

Kings get some love in the NYT!

The Kings' smart decision to hire Rich Hammond as a writer received coverage in the New York Times on Sunday.

The most salient part of the short story was a reference to the Cincinnati Bengals decision to hire a sportswriter, Geoff Hobson, to cover them a decade ago -- at the time a pioneering move.

Some fans, of course, say that Hobson sold out. But I've found his coverage of the team on the Bengals' website to be fairly even-handed over the years. He certainly isn't afraid to criticize the team. Although I think he has very occasionally soft-pedaled the Bengals' ineptness, the vast majority of the time I find his reporting fair and informative.

I'm a Bengals fan (it's not my fault I was born in Cincinnati!) and I recently mentioned the hiring of Hobson during a job interview with a government agency. My point then, and now, remains the same: if the media isn't going to cover your team or your business or your agency, then it's up to you to try to provide the most honest coverage you can muster.

--Steve Hymon

At least the rink is photogenic



Here's a photo of exciting adult rec league action Sunday afternoon at the dumpy Pasadena rink -- although those windows definitely provide some ambiance. I was at the rink for some stick time -- where members of my Wednesday night class spontaneously started practicing drills we kind of fucked up last week before enjoying a little three-on-three pickup.

Interesting thing about the game was that one of the team's lacked a goalie. So they played with a screen over that team's goal. The screen had small openings in the corner and a hole in the middle. Apparently the openings were still too large because the team opted to lose the screen and instead play with a sixth man after giving up a bunch of goals in the first period.

I'd provide the teams' names and final score except the website that keeps track of the league is presently down.



Sunday, September 27, 2009

Puck Boy discovers new, most excellent hockey clinic

It's probably extremely normal for a 43-year-old adult male to wake up at 4 a.m., too excited to sleep because of an adult hockey clinic later that morning. If so, I'm pleased to be part of the bell curve!

That was me on Saturday morning, laying wide awake and staring at the ceiling at such an unseemly hour. As it turns out, my excitement was warranted: the hockey 101 class I participated in Saturday morning at Burbank's Pickwick Ice Center was most excellent, an intimate little affair on a full NHL-sized rink.

And, get this: I finally put together some cross-overs while dribbling the puck. That may not be something you veteran hockey players drop trou and whack the stick over. But for me, Mr. Beginning Hockey Player, it was totally whack-worthy.

Pickwick has an in-house coach -- I'll call him T (I rarely use names of fellow players to protect their privacy and innocence) -- who is often seen giving private skating lessons during public sessions. The dude just floats on his skates and apparently clocked some time with the Chinese national team.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Kings do the smart thing and hire their own beat writer

As Kings fans likely know by now, longtime Daily News beat writer Rich Hammond announced this week that he will soon be covering the team -- with the team as his new employer.

This is a good move, both for Hammond personally and the Kings. As bad as things are at the Newspaper Whose Name I Shall Not Speak (my former employer), they're even worse at the sinking ship that is the Daily News. So Hammond is smart to jump now rather than be pushed later.

As for the Kings, they've seen their media coverage shrink. Some of it is self-inflicted, of course, owing to the fact they haven't been in the playoffs since 2002 in a market that boasts a lot of other pro or pro-like teams (i.e. USC football). But it's also true that the media treats hockey as a second-tier sport for a variety of reasons -- including, in my view, the bias of editors toward baseball, football, the Lakers and USC.

The sad result was that too often the Kings were going uncovered last season. No area newspapers sent reporters on the road with the team and instead relied on Associated Press coverage. And some of the Kings games in Canada weren't even televised.

So the team did the smart thing -- something Major League Baseball and other pro teams began doing a few years ago. They hired a beat writer to cover them and, according to Hammond, gave him editorial freedom to write what he wants.

Yes, there's always the danger of self-censorship -- i.e. someone not writing something because they don't want to anger their employer. I tend to think that's mostly an aesthetic argument. My view is that on balance hockey fans will gain a lot more than they lose. Hammond is now freed up on a full-time basis to write about the team and travel with them. Being on the road will also help give him a league-wide perspective.

I'm writing about this issue because it hits home for yours truly. In recent years, I covered City Hall and the transportation beats at the newspaper where I worked. Now I'm working for some of those folks and one of those jobs will involve writing for a government agency that, like the Kings, isn't happy that the media doesn't cover them much anymore.

Is it an ideal situation? Yes and no. Like pretty much everyone, I'd like to see a free press pursue coverage of all the many things that make the world interesting, including sports and government.

That said, for many years now government hasn't been very effective explaining what it does because they relied on the press to do it for them. As someone who spent much of the past 20 years working in journalism, it's my firm conviction that the press is hardly perfect. Things go uncovered that should be written about, things are covered only because they're easy to cover and context is often missing or exaggerated to please the whims of editors -- who may or may not know what they're talking about.

So, all in all, this is a good solution for the Kings and, if anything, Hammond will find himself in the same position of the team he's now covering. Fans will expect him to deliver and will likely hold him accountable if he does not (in other words, he'll be tried and sentenced on other blog sites). But I doubt that will be an issue. Hammond has done a fine job over the years and it's hard to imagine him doing anything less this season.

--Steve Hymon

Adult hockey even better than Fight Club -- too bad no one knows about it

I received word yesterday that the Wednesday night adult clinics at the Valley Ice Center in Panorama City were being canceled because too few people where showing up.

That's a shame. The world, in my humble view, needs more adult hockey classes -- not less.

I'm heading to Burbank tomorrow morning for one of their adult clinics. I met the coach during a public skate last weekend and he invited me to come out -- also mentioning that attendance recently has been sparse.

In no way am I picking on any particular rink, but I do think there's a larger problem out there in hockey-land: the skating industry is not going a particularly good job of getting more people involved in the sport, at least here in Southern California.

It's peculiar, because in my view the thing missing from the life of many adult men and women is ice hockey. They may not know it's missing yet -- at this time last year I was among the uninformed. But if they had a chance to try to the sport they may soon realize a few hours of fun playing hockey each week goes a long way to erasing a lot of the drudgery and bullshit of everyday life between ice sessions.

I'm not exactly what the cure is, but I have a few ideas. Hockey is kind of like skiing in that the perception among many people is that the barrier to entry is high in terms of cost and equipment. Plus, I'm betting many adults don't realize that most recreational leagues are non-checking and don't tolerate or encourage fighting, as does the NHL.

At present, each rink markets its own hockey programs and information is oftenhard to come by. There is no standard and no one organization charged with figuring out how to grow the sport (or at least keep it from shrinking) in the region.

If there is one group that may have the reach to turn the tide, it may be the L.A. Kings, as they're the hockey club with the most visibility and the team seems to be on the cusp of being pretty good. The Kings, plus the area's minor league teams, could organize beginner adult clinics around the area and then market them at games and through their telecasts.

It would likely be a royal pain and pricey to organize, but I think there are plenty of adults willing to give hockey a try with a little shove and if they knew there were adult beginner programs. I also think a Kings-led program would help rebuild the fan base, as there's no better way to create a fan than to give them a chance to play the game.

--Steve Hymon

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Paper Cranes really isn't that bad a team name

Just an addendum to the previous post: If you think about it, Paper Cranes is actually kind of an interesting name. It's distinct and it's a lot better than several of the awful team names in the NHL -- in particular, the Thrashers, Predators, Wild and Lightning.

My problem with "Wild" is that it's an adjective and I firmly believe that team names should not be adjectives. They should actually be an object.


'Thrasher' is a bird. Problem is, it's also easily mistaken for thrasher's other meaning -- one who thrashes or skateboards, according to Merriam-Webster.com.

Predators is just plain stupid. It means an "animal that lives by predation." Hey, no shit. It's the kind of name a collectively stupid, generic name that people choose when they can't think of anything else. Could you seriously call yourself a "predator" with a straight face?

As for lightning, the only thing positive I can say is that it's a noun and there is lots of lightning in Florida. Just like there's lots of lightning in the Colorado Rockies, New York, Ohio, Texas and a zillion other locales. The worst part about it is that there's a whole Gulf of Mexico filled with interesting species right next to Tampa but instead they chose to go generic. Hey Tampa -- nothing personal, but maybe next time you get a hockey team you should first spend $20 and get a fucking nature guide.

Interestingly, I think a pretty good argument can be made that three of those teams would probably be better off in other cities that take winter sports more seriously. When I'm NHL commissioner, the teams in Atlanta, Nashville and Tampa would be relocated to three of the following: Seattle, Portland (OR), Salt Lake City, Boise, Milwaukee or Fargo.

Why Boise? The team name could be the Idaho Spuds and fans would have the opportunity to throw potatoes on the ice to show support for the team. Now that would be fun.

--Steve Hymon

Let's Go Paper Cranes! Puck Boy has new favorite Asian hockey team



This is why the Internet may be one of the greatest and worst inventions of all time: My hockey buddy Scott was apparently sitting around last night when it occurred to him to step over to the computer and Google the phrase "Asian women ice hockey."

The only surprise here is that it took until Sept. 22, 2009, for Scott -- who is 43 -- to Google this particular phrase as there are two things in life that Scott really, really likes: 1) Hockey, and; 2) Asian women. Not necessarily in that order.

Much to Scott's chagrin -- and presumably to the disappointment of executives at Kleenex -- he instead found a website instead for Asia League Ice Hockey, which he then forwarded to Puck Boy. A few clicks then delivered me to the Promised Land: the home page of the Nippon Paper Cranes.

Check out these dudes' haircuts. If there was ever a team in need of a stylist, I humbly suggest the Cranes are it. Scott and I were also both struck by the fact that these guys look like they could really, really mess someone up in a variety of different ways.

If I had to choose a player I would like to most avoid on the ice it's probably forward Daisuke Obara (that's his photo at top). In his case, it's the lack of haircut and something about that smile -- it's like he's saying "I just had a few human kidneys for lunch. Yum!"

I also would not want to find myself in the corner with defenseman Jun Tonosaki. You just know the phrase "mixed martial arts" shows up somewhere on his resume.

In any event, I'm adding the Cranes to the list of teams I'll be following this winter. In fact, of the teams I follow -- the Kings and the Cincy Bengals (we've patched things up, btw) -- the Cranes may have the best shot of actually winning something. As of this morning they boasted a record of 2 and 1 and were in first place.

--Steve Hymon

photo: Nippon Paper Cranes

Puck Boy exhausted after working for 1 1/2 hours, rewards himself with afternoon skate!

As regular readers know, I've been a little under-employed the past few months. It all started when a certain bespectacled android/editor at the Newspaper Whose Name Shall Never Be Uttered on This Blog called me and requested that I not return from work from my Tahoe ski trip.

Of course, he called me after I had actually returned from Tahoe -- where ski conditions were, naturally, really fucking great.

That's history. My main point is that since then I have not had to report to a job on a regular basis. Bliss. Instead, I've patched together some dandy freelance assignments, many of which can be accomplished in the comfort of Puck Boy's homestead.

Yesterday, however, was a bit of a challenge. The fine folks at "Airtalk," the show hosted by Larry Mantle on KPCC, asked me to be a guest along with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Richard Katz, the former assemblyman who serves on the board of several transportation agencies. Mr. Mantle and Co. wanted me to drop a few nuggets of wisdom on listeners about transportation policy (or the lack thereof) in the region.

I love bloviating on the radio, but still this required some work. For one, I had to rise and shine by 8:30 a.m. in order to sit down in front of the computer and collect my thoughts. Then I had to walk two whole blocks over to the KPCC studios at Pasadena City College. Two blocks!

The show went fine and I managed not to say anything stupid or profane -- which, in its own way, is quite an accomplishment for me. But the show also required me to really concentrate for about 35 consecutive minutes. I'd love to know how some people do this for eight hours at a time. Needless to say, I was mentally exhausted afterward and decided that the only way to hit the reset button would be to go for a skate and work on my reverse crossovers.

Monday, September 21, 2009

You made it to Tuesday! Now reward yourself with Puck Boy's Tuesday time wasters!

How does the Canadian women's Olympic team prepare for the upcoming Winter games? By playing against teams comprised of 16- to 18-year-old men. Smart -- and it's a chance for the girls to shatter the confidence of young men. I mean, why wait until their adults? Canadian Press

The Rock's next movie? He plays a minor league hockey player who commits a bad deed and then must serve a week as the Tooth Fairy. Why don't I think of shit like this? Yahoo Sports

I don't know the source of the photo -- it was emailed to me -- but you have to laugh at the predictability of the Kings' Kevin Westgarth and the Ducks' George Parros mixing it up. And you have to think the only reason that Parros wears that horsetail of a mustache is because it bugs people.

Need another reason to believe Canadians are sneaky protectionist bastards? Well, they're not letting foreigners train at some of the facilities to be used as part of the Winter games. Seems the Canuckians are looking for any advantage they can get in their quest to finally earn an Olympic medal on their own soil. If they want a medal so bad maybe they should add some beer drinking events. NYT

And the person that Nashville Predators dancer-girl Stephanie most wants to meet? Jessica Simpson, naturally. Oh, and Stephanie says she has a flying squirrel and describes herself as "outgoing." Really? I'm shocked. Whatever it takes to don short shorts and prance around with a wedgie at professional hockey games. Predators

Did you know there's more than a few YouTube videos dedicated to the sound of horns that blare when hockey goals are scored? I didn't. This one says the Buffalo Sabres have the best horn. Sounds like someone is spending way too much time in Buffalo to me. 

If you find a link that I should feature, please email it over. Links should be somewhat related to hockey, but I'm willing to stretch things for a laugh.

--Steve Hymon

Puck Boy thinks Whitehorse has it going on!


As regular reader(s) know, I like to bitch about the lack of time for hockey at area rinks. Well, The Girlfriend just sent over this nice link from Whitehorse, that mighty burg (pop. 25,636) of the Yukon Territories.

Whitehorse maintains "approximately" 30 outdoor rinks during the winter, according to the city's website. There is even has a nice Google map showing the location of all the rinks for those in dire need of a pickup hockey game. Very nice.

It makes me almost -- I repeat, almost -- want to forgive Canada. But I'm not ready yet. At least not until I get my coveted job washing the pucks at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver -- a job, it seems, that only Canuckians are qualified to do. Like an American can't clean a puck! Please! My middle name is "menial labor!"

--Steve Hymon

photo: City of Whitehorse

Puck Boy gets some linkage love

So I just noticed that my little hockey blog has received a couple of mentions recently on LAObserved, one of my fave blogs. Thank you, sir!

If you're a new visitor to my slice of silliness here, I recommend going back to the beginning and reading my first post that explains what the hell I'm doing. It also pokes a little fun at the Newspaper Whose Name Shall Not Be Spoken, Written or Contemplated. Yeah, that one.

And, if you're at the Mobility 21 Conference today, come by and say hello. I'm the confused looking fellow who wears glasses and who will be swearing at his iPhone.

--Steve Hymon

Here's a pic of the lasagna from the previous post

Insomnia strikes Puck Boy who in turn blames figure skaters!

It's 2:15 in the morning and I'm standing in the kitchen in my
skivvies snarfing down leftover lasagna.

This unfortunate scenario -- sorry for the visual, folks -- was set in
motion this afternoon when I came to realize the stick time session at
the Pasadena rink was canceled to accomodate a figure skating
competition. So I decided to go for a little 11.5 mile "jog" to South
Pas and back, seeing how my first half marathon is approaching in
three weeks.

I ran it in about 1 hour 51 minutes -- not bad for me -- but didn't
finish up until 9 pm. I treated myself to a double-double, "Curb Your
Enthusiasm," and "Entourage" (memo to Eric: for the sake of male
viewers, please bed your red-headed assistant) and then tried to call
it a night.

Wrong! I'm wired.

And, tonight I'm also famished. So it's lasagna time. Plus I'm double-
fisting 'Dunkers' from Trader Joes. And I'm thinking about a little
early morning NHL Channel, although I know if I turn on the TV The
Girlfriend will kick my ass in the am for making too much noise.

That's all. I just wanted to get it on the record that it's always
totally fair to blame figure skaters for your personal problems. Stick
time would have been over by 6:30 and I'd be snoozing by now. But
no.....

--Steve Hymon

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Puck Boy witnesses first pickup game brawl -- and it's amazingly lame

Hand-King 2

As I've written before, I attend a Wednesday night adult hockey clinic at the Pasadena rink. After our class is done, I usually stick around with a couple of the guys to watch an adult pickup game that follows the clinic -- a game that features some very talented players.

Obviously the above photo isn't from that game. I grabbed it at Flickr; it was taken at a minor league hockey game by someone who goes by the screen name Dread Pyrat No Beard. But I like the photo because it illustrates the point I'm about to make. (Here's the link to more of his photos).

One of the regulars in the pickup game is a dude named Chris. I run into him during public sessions and he's a nice guy who always has encouraging words for me -- but he also happens to be wound a little tight. So it was hardly surprising when a few minutes into the pickup game Chris and another guy start jawing along the boards.

I was watching with a friend of mine. Neither of us saw what precipitated the jawing. But within a few seconds the gloves were dropped and Chris and the other dude were taking a few whacks at eachother before toppling over. At that point, a few other guys from the game -- all of whom seem surprised there was actually a fight -- skated over and broke things up. None seemed impressed.

The damage was slight. Chris came over and showed us a small cut on his lip. I almost felt bad for him the cut was so small. And telling him it was so small was like telling him he had a small dick. The other guy went into the small locker room with a bloody nose that I would score about a 1 on a scale of 1 to 10. A kid I knew in grade school could produce a better bloody nose just by doing multiplication tables.

Here's the thing: While the pro game obviously feels the need to have fighting to sell tickets, the recreational game seems the polar opposite. Owing to the fact that many of us in my adult class can't stop well, there's a fair amount of jostling and knocking one over. No one, myself included, has gotten upset enough about it to start something. In three months I'm not sure I've even heard angry words. We play because it's insanely fun.

That said, I totally can see how fighting in the game has infected (okay, maybe that's a strong word) the culture of the game. If you watch enough pro hockey and you play, it's hard not to want to do as the pros do and whack someone.

A few weeks ago, for example, I was chasing a dude who was in his own defensive zone with the puck and was starting up the ice along the boards.

Through no skill of my own, I just happened to have a perfect angle to crank the dude. It was, admittedly, very tempting. And this was a guy that I liked. I didn't do it, but I did skate along side him and give him a little hip check -- enough to warrant a friendly "what the fuck?" from him. I just shrugged my shoulders as if to say, "sorry dude, I was up until 2 a.m. watching the NHL game and had a really bad testosterone surge back there."

Okay, maybe such aggression is just part of the sport, a byproduct of flying around on skates with sticks and a lot of padding. And I don't happen to think there's anything wrong with that. Part of the fun of the game, I think, is the jostling and rough-housing. If you spend any time at all in CorporateLand or my current world, LocalGovernmentPalooza, there's something wrong with you if you don't want to jostle a little at the end of a long day.

That said, I do think the excessive fighting in the pro game casts a sort of spell over all those who play the game. Most of us understand it's just theatrics used to fill seats. But I think it also sends the message to the more weak-minded players that fighting is a necessary part of the game. I've read all the justifications for fighting from the NHL execs -- that it's the only way to properly police the game and such. Yadda yadda yadda, it's crap. Football is more violent than hockey and yet officials have figured out how to police the game. They simply don't tolerate fighting.

I'm not particularly worried about it, but it makes me wonder if I'm going to get cranked by someone who took up the sport looking for an excuse to punch or demolish someone. If so, that's pathetic.

--Steve Hymon

Thursday, September 17, 2009

One Councilman explains his anti-rink stance

I was sitting in the tiny locker room at the Pasadena Skate Center last evening preparing for my adult hockey clinic. A kid one bench over noticed something dripping from the ceiling and asked his dad what it was -- and mentioned it smelled kind of ba.

A few of us looked up and realized immediately what it was: the locker room happens to be located right under the bathrooms on the second floor. Something up there was leaking.

Even by the standards of hockey, that's gross!

As some of you might know, the fate of the Pasadena ice rink has been in the news. As I posted the other day, the Pasadena City Council on Monday voted against building a new rink with two sheets of ice in the city. Instead, the Council is going to explore renovating the current rink (shown above) with its one small sheet of ice. The rink is located in the Convention Center and there is no room to make the rink any larger without expanding the size of the old ballroom that is home to the rink.

Chances of that happening in Pasadena? Pretty much zip, considering it's a historic structure (the city is very protective of anything that is historic) and such an expansion would likely cost millions of dollars.

I'm a supporter of the new rink. After I published my post on the rink controversy the other night I zipped off a fairly nasty email to my representative on the Council, Terry Tornek, who voted against building a new skating facility. I received a response within 24 hours in which the Councilman better explained his views.

I still do not agree with him, but at least I know better his logic. I wanted to post both my email and his response:


Dear Councilman Tornek;

I am writing because I have tried really, really hard and still do not understand your support for renovating the current ice rink in Pasadena.

The existing rink is too small. Therefore it's often crowded and there isn't enough time or space for all potential uses (public skating, figure skating, hockey, broomball, private rentals, etc.).

There is no room to expand the size of the rink. So how does renovating the rink solve the real problem-- that the place is too small? The answer is obvious: renovating the rink accomplishes nothing but making it appear that the city is doing something when the city is, in fact, doing nothing.

In the interest of full disclosure, I write a blog called Puck Boy Chronicles about my attempt to learn to play hockey at the age of 43. I frequent the Pasadena rink. Here's my latest post on the issue of building the new rink: "Pasadena City Council to Ice Skaters: Burbank is That Way! Now Leave!"

I do not think you will like the aforementioned blog post! But I suppose that's the joy of serving in public office: you get the opportunity to read cranky emails and blog posts from constituents such as myself about yourself. We may disagree on the ice rink issue, but I bet we agree on this: local politics sure are fun! :)

Thank you for your time,

Steve Hymon

TORNEK'S RESPONSE:

Steve -

I'm sorry that you don't feel that I'm adequately representing your interests. You (and others) are entitled to a more detailed explanation - although you would have heard it all if you watched the Council Meetings on KPAS.

I voted against the rink proposal because:
1) I don't think that it is a responsible expenditure of public dollars - particularly in a time of economic scarcity.
2) I think the site is poor from both access & geotechnical perspectives.
3)I think that the use is inappropriate for a site designated as Open Space in the middle of residential neighborhoods. The neighborhood Association agrees.
4)I believe that there are more important but unfunded youth sports priorities.
5)I don't believe that it will be profitable; hence Polar Ice Ventures' unwillingness to invest any equity & demanding that the City make a $9M commitment.

I understand that the existing facility is undersized for competitive hockey & aspiring world-class figure skaters. However, I believe that it can serve the needs of most recreational skaters.

In an era of limited resources, the City cannot provide everything for everybody.
Thanks for the civilized dialogue. Not everyone has been quite so polite.

Terry Tornek

I continue to believe that an expanded skating facility could thrive and introduce skating to many people who haven't previously tried it. It would take some work, of course. But none of the rinks in the area do an impressive job of marketing their skating programs -- in fact, most of them have horrible, horrible websites -- and all it would take is someone willing to make an effort.


--Steve Hymon

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It's adult hockey time...again!

This happens about this time every Wednesday afternoon. This evening, at 6:30 p.m., my adult hockey class will take the ice at the Pasadena Ice Center and I've got the butterflies.

There's usually about 10 to 15 of us, with most north of the age 40 and a trio of teens. I'm in my second 10-week session of the class. Everyone gets along fine and we're all there because for a variety of reasons we've come to the sport of hockey late in life. For some guys, it's something to do with their kids. For me, it's turned into some sort of strange salvation from middle age -- a place where all other problems cease and desist.

Because, let's face it, it's kind of hard to worry about the termites chewing up the backyard fence when there's a puck traveling at high velocity toward your head.

The class alternates between two coaches. Both are perfectly nice guys. One is a local who works at the rink much of the week and is a talented former player who now coaches. He's in his late 20s and a typical quote from him is this: "I know you guys are old and out of shape, but come on -- doing these drills right is important." He's right.

The other coach hails from--get this--Siberia and played much of his hockey outdoors on frozen lakes that the team would first have to groom before skating. He works in academia and coaches for a little extra money. He, too, is an amazing player and I can hear him yelling "you're not looking up, Steve" and "skate, skate, skate" in my sleep. He's the guy I hired last winter to teach me to skate and I hold him in absolute awe.

They're both nice guys. They have to be. Watching us flail about the ice and try to follow their simple instructions ("skate around the cone slow and do a crossover) requires the patience of Job.


Where are the Kings fans?

 
Puck Boy had the good fortune to be invited to Tuesday night's Los Angeles Kings preseason opener against Phoenix. The Kings won the split squad contest 4 to 3 behind two goals and an assist from defenseman Jack Johnson, who just happens to be my favorite Kings player.

But check out the crowd. Or, should I say, lack of it. The Kings listed the attendance at 8,432, but I'm not sure they had that many people. Staples Center was empty and it was quiet -- well, except for the timeouts when Kings employees threw T-shirts into the crowd. Fans get themselves into quite the frenzy over that -- the hockey, as far as I can tell, is just something to kill time between promotional giveaways.

It will be interesting to see how many people come out to see the Kings when the season starts. The team, like many other pro teams, didn't raise ticket prices in the off-season and the Kings, to their credit, seemed to make an effort to improve. But crowds were often light last season and I'm not sure given the economy that it's realistic to expect more seats filled this year.

Pasadena Council to Skaters: Go to Burbank!

The end of ice skating in Pasadena may be near after the City Council in Seniorcitizensville on Monday voted against building a desperately needed new ice rink. My advice to skating enthusiasts: fetch a Thomas Guide and memorize the route to the Pickwick ice rink in Burbank -- the next closest sheet of ice.

What happened Monday? The Council voted 4 to 3 to build the new rink. But five votes were needed for passage and the potential fifth vote, Councilman Victor Gordo, was absent from the meeting. Madison tried to postpone a final vote, but the three opponents of building the rink -- Chris Holden, Terry Tornek and Margaret McAustin -- also voted against that motion. It needed five votes to pass, so Holden, Tornek and McAustin were smart in a sneaky, sleazy kind of way: they knew that if Gordo decided to show up at a future meeting, the new rink might actually be approved.

Instead, the Council ended up passing a motion to investigate renovating the existing rink.  The current rink has one, small sheet of ice. The new rink would have had two -- meaning actual time and space for ice hockey. That's a good thing if you, like me, are 43 years old and trying to learn to play the game. Here's the thing about learning to play ice hockey: I've found it really helps to spend time on actual ice.

In a sharply worded email sent to fellow supporters of the new rink, Councilman Steve Madison wrote that there are numerous reasons to believe the current rink in a converted ballroom at the Convention Center is doomed when its lease expires in Sept. 2011 (I added the italics for emphasis):
"I have asked for a detailed investigation into why the project took so long to come to Council such that we lost our momentum and ultimately the project itself, wasting a decade of time, energy and literally millions of your tax dollars. At the end of the discussion, a majority voted to explore renovating the current civic auditorium single sheet rink, so that the three council members’ votes do not end ice skating in Pasadena. But the reality is that is likely what they accomplished--with parking now $9 at the convention center, a dilapidated rink that is too small to begin with, crammed into an old ballroom, and a lease that expires in September 2011, this may well be the end of figure skating and ice hockey in Pasadena."
The new rink would have cost about $18 million. According to a city report, the city would have had to commit about $1 million to the project and guarantee about $8 million in bonds, meaning the city was potentially at risk of losing money if the new rink was under-utilized.

In a short blog post on the vote, the Star News' Dan Abendschein reported that Madison implied that the three opponents of the rink aren't exactly supporters of youth activities. My opinion is that Madison is extremely correct on this point. The vast majority of people who use the Pasadena rink happen to be under 18. Go anytime and see for yourself. It's all munchkins, all the time -- with a few geezers like me thrown in as a novelty.

Terry Tornek is my representative on the City Council, although I use the word 'representative' only in the strictest technical sense. He doesn't represent my views, nor does he seem even slightly interested in explaining his views. As I posted earlier, when I emailed Tornek last month expressing my support for a new rink, I received a bleak two-sentence no-reply:  "Thanks for your comments. Sorry we disagree on every aspect of this proposal."

Isn't it refreshing when a politician tries to explain himself? (Note to literal readers: That last sentence was intended to be exceedingly sarcastic).

I'm going to email Tornek now and ask him the BIG question: How does renovating a rink that is too small -- and with no room to expand -- remedy the problem that the rink is too small? I am no physicist, but I'm pretty sure this makes no sense whatsoever.

Here's my take: Ice skating is still seen as a freaky sport in Southern California. Although we have two pro hockey teams here and some of the world's best figure skaters (world champion Evan Lysacek, to name one) have called the area home, people just don't associate skating with the region -- likely due to the weather, poor media coverage and ineffective marketing of hockey by the perenially losing Kings. So when politicians are faced with a decision to spend public money on skating, their instinct is to think it's a waste, although anyone who has been to a busy rink knows that it is not.

The full text of Madison's email to ice rink supporters is posted after the jump. It's worth reading.

P.S. In case you also live in the 7th Council district and were curious, Tornek is up for reelection in 2013. He was elected to the Council earlier this year after serving on the City Planning Commission -- a gig he was appointed to by his predecessor on the Council, Sid Tyler.

As for Tyler....In my former capacity as transportation reporter for the Newspaper Whose Name I Shall Not Speak, I once called Tyler and asked him why the traffic lights in Pasadena are amazingly unsynchronized. Tyler didn't know what I was talking about. Please. Anyone who has ever driven in Pasadena knows exactly what I'm talking about--green, red, green, red, red, red, etc. So whenever I hear the words "Sid Tyler" I always think of the phrase "out of touch."

--Steve Hymon


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tuesday time-wasters

Bored to tears with work? Can't concentrate? That's why God invented the Internet....

Canadian astronaut admits he's a Boston Bruins fan. It should be noted the admission came while the astronaut is circling the Earth aboard the International Space Station. Canadian Press.

U.S. tries to stop Canadian firm from running charter flights for NHL teams. This one is funny only because one might think the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation -- in a nation with a lot of transpo needs -- would have something better to do than worry about how the Ottawa Senators get to their next game. WSJ

Sidney Crosby personally delivers season tickets and Stanley Cup to longtime Pens fan. NHL, with video. By the way, if one of the Kings wants to deliver by Pens-Kings tix to my house, I'm usually around in the mornings. If you come early, we can practice taking slapshots against the garage door. Fun!!
 

Hockey moms against Sarah Palin video gets a lot of hits on YouTube. Good idea -- it's modeled on Swift Boat ads -- but too bad it's not actually funny. This one's better -- allegedly shot by a hockey mom freaking out when her son gets into a fight. Don't watch if you're offended by the words "cocksucker" or "motherfucker."

The Sporting News ranks the L.A. Kings as 17th best team in NHL and has them missing the playoffs. Meanwhile, Hockey News blogger picks the Kings to finish 12th in the Western conference, meaning another season of no playoffs. His issue: the Kings lack an experienced goalie. If you're reading this Jonathan Quick, that's a bit of a "fuck you" to you!

--Steve Hymon

Monday, September 14, 2009

What's up with the Ice Dogs?

I was just on the Pickwick ice rink's website and noticed that even though the fall and winter season is just a couple of weeks old, three members of the Ice Dogs rec team have managed to get themselves suspended for one game.

Anyone know how that happened? Must have been a good brouha.

--Steve Hymon

Puck Boy resigns as Cincy Bengals fan and adopts L.A. Kings




Sept. 14, 2009

Mike Brown
President, Cincinnati Bengals
1 Paul Brown Stadium
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202

Dear Mr. Brown:

This letter is to notify you that after 34 intense and often deflating years, I am resigning as a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals as of 11 a.m. Pacific time today. It will no longer be solemn duty to watch your team lose game after game via my satellite dish.

In fact, if I had a big enough ladder, I would also unhook my satellite dish as I no longer want the signal from Bengals games invading my otherwise mostly peaceful homestead.

I do not take this decision lightly. For the past three-plus decades I have:

    *Watched nearly every game the Bengals have played, even the dozens of meaningless games played from mid-September through December when the team has already been eliminated from the playoffs.

    *On sleepless nights when insomnia strikes, I have laid awake counting permutations of the Bengals offensive line instead of simply counting sheep – as a normal human being might do.

    *Have suffered countless impure, adolescent fantasies involving the Ben Gals, their heaving bosoms and Greaters chocolate chip ice cream.  I am now 43 years old. My heart simply can not handle bosoms and ice cream at the same time anymore.

    *On at least two occasions I publicly wept after hard-fought Bengals losses, including the heart-wrenching defeat in Super Bowl XXIII – a game that the 49ers should not have won under any circumstance. And perhaps they would not have won if the Bengals running back Stanley Wilson didn’t go on a cocaine bender the night before the game.

    *Speaking of which, I have turned the other way as a parade of Bengals players were handcuffed and marched off to the pokey for a variety of serious offenses. These guys make an infantry unit like the Vienna boys choir!

    I know what you are thinking: I would not be quitting on the team if the Bengals hadn’t given up a super-freaky 87-yard tipped touchdown pass in the final 20 seconds of yesterday’s soul-stripping loss to the Broncos. But it’s more than just that.

   

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pasadena City Council to yammer even more about ice rink they don't want to build

It's back! The Pasadena City Council on Sept. 14 will once again discuss what, if anything, they want to do about building a new ice rink in the city.

I wouldn't get too excited. The Council has been talking about this for years but has thus far been unable to make any kind of decision beyond "let's keep studying it." It's their equivalent of a punt. I went to a Council Finance Committee hearing on the matter and it's fair to say watching the Zamboni circle the ice is both more fun and fruitful way to spend your time.

A little background: The line ice rink in Pasadena is a ballroom that was converted to a rink in the mid-1970s at the rear-end of the Pasadena Convention Center. While the place certainly has ambiance due to its tall windows, it's also a dump and the only sheet of ice is only 150 feet long -- 50 feet less than an official NHL rink. The rink's lease with the Convention Center expires in 2011 and there are no guarantees it will be renewed.

The rink is often crowded and demand outstrips supply of ice time -- particularly in an area where figure skating is so popular. The rink, to its credit, finally started a once-a-week stick-time session this summer, whereas other rinks (Toyota Sports Center, Valley Ice Center) have sessions almost every day. It sucks for someone like me who is learning to play hockey and needs as much time on the ice as possible to screw around with my stickhandling.

(I will say this about the public skating crowds: Teens are out in force and they do entertain. Just last week I was watching a young skater administer a tonsilectomy to his girlfriend on the ice after several laps of constantly pawing her. As a man, I find this admirable but I was irritated they kept getting in my way as I worked on my reverse crossovers).

To make a long story short, the city of Pasadena has been toying with the idea of building a new rink with two sheets of ice. They even found a suitable location and solicited construction bids. But the Council has balked at the cost of about $18 million, worried they won't recoup the money from the rink's vendor if not enough people show up to skate.

It's a legit concern, I suppose, unless you consider the fact that the Los Angeles area isn't exactly saturated with ice rinks. The Pasadena rink, as far as I know, is the ONLY rink in the entire San Gabriel Valley, which has a population of two million. Here's the text of a recent email I sent to Terry Tornek, my rep on the Pasadena City Council:

Subject:  ice rink
Name:  Steve Hymon
Email:  steve.hymon1@gmail.com
Comments:  Dear Councilman Tornek;

I was extremely disappointed to read in the Pasadena Star-News this morning that you oppose the proposed location for a new ice rink in Pasadena and that you believe it's best to renovate the current facility.

The proposed location, in my view, is compatible with a park and makes sense, given that the land is currently under-used. This is also an objection you should have raised much earlier in the process.

I also do not believe it is wise to renovate the current rink. The rink now in use is too small (it's about two-thirds the size of an NHL-sized rink) and there's not enough room or time each day to accommodate public skating, figure skating practice and hockey time. The new rink would have remedied that issue by having two sheets of ice.

A new rink would have been a place for the public to gather and would have been an attraction for skaters from all over the San Gabriel Valley....The current rink is often extremely crowded -- and would have been an excellent addition to the city's already diverse recreational opportunities.

Your shortsightedness in this matter is very disturbing and I hope you reconsider the matter and move to build the new rink. It is expensive, but it will also pay off for years to come.

Sincerely,

Steve Hymon

Now, here's his less-than-thoughtful response:

Steve -

Thanks for your comments. Sorry we disagree on every aspect of this proposal.

TT

The bottom line is that there are enough members of the City Council who don't believe that ice skating is a big deal -- or big enough deal -- to warrant spending some city money to give it a boost. Mayor Bill Bogaard says the Council is just trying to protect the city's pocketbook, but I believe it's more than that. They don't skate and they certainly don't play hockey. Which, perhaps, explains their sour dispositions. 

Tornek appears to be the staunchest opponent and wants to renovate the current rink, which doesn't eliminate the problem of the ice being too small -- there is no room to expand the rink. Tornek is up for reelection in 2013 and it's fair to say that at this point of his tenure on the Council he's done pretty much nothing to represent my interests. At the least, he needs to spend some time in the electoral penalty box.

--Steve Hymon

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Kings rookies do better

I needled the Kings rookies for getting lumped by the Coyotes rookies yesterday, so I thought it would be polite to mention that the Kings prevailed in today's matchup, 4 to 0. Brayden Schenn, the Kings' first-round pick this year, scored the first two goals.

I know I'd rather be watching hockey right now than the NFL game that is presently on television. I love pro football, but why did NBC and the league decide to ruin opening night by featuring the loathsome Pittsburgh Steelers?

Yes, I am both a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Kings. And, yes, I have a soft spot for underdogs.

--Steve Hymon

Bend that knee, Brother!


Click here to view these pictures larger

I linked to this photo from the Inside the Kings blog -- it's from a guy named Chasen who shot these pics at the Kings rookie camp this week and posted them on his shutterfly page. The first thing I noticed was the deep knee bend of Tyler Maxwell, a center who hails from Manhattan Beach.

The photo is a good reminder for novice players about body positioning. As I posted earlier this week, my friend Scott -- who has been playing for 40 years -- got all over my case at stick time recently about bending my knees and getting lower to the ground while keeping my back upright and shoulders square.

In case you missed it, there's some links at the earlier post to some skating videos that are worth watching.

Chasen, by the way, has started a blog, Chasen Thinks, with a heavy focus on L.A. sports. It's always nice to see bloggers take interest in area hockey.

--Steve Hymon

Puck Boy contemplates league play

I've been skating for a little more than six months now and I just finished my first adult hockey clinic -- which I re-enrolled in for the fall session at the Pasadena rink. I'm still dreadful, having never before played hockey plus the fact I could barely skate (here's a post explaining how I got bit by the hockey bug). But I'm slooooowly improving.

Here's my question for any experienced players out there: When am I ready for league play? I was kind of hoping to play this coming winter and some fall-winter leagues around town are already starting up this month.

My feeling is I'm not quite ready yet. It's not that I can't go out there and survive and hustle and such. I'm just not sure that I can make much of a contribution to a team and that bothers me. People pay a lot of money to play in adult leagues around town (typically $500 to $600 per season) and I don't want to stick those folks with me if I'm going to be a liability.

And what do I mean by liability? Well, I can't really hockey stop to my right, my snapshot is limper than a wet noodle and my offensive puckhandling skills leave a long list of things to be desired. On the plus side, I get up really quick after falling down! 

And, right now, the pylon drills are indicating I'm a liability.

If you have any thoughts on what I should do or want to recommend a league or team, please leave a comment or email me at steve.hymon1@gmail.com. I live in the Pasadena area and would generally prefer to play out this way, but I don't mind traveling a bit as I work at home a lot as a freelancer.

--Steve Hymon

Kings rookies show fight -- and ineptitude!

I laughed out loud when I read this on Rich Hammond's Inside the Kings blog:
The Kings' prospects showed a lot of fight Wednesday night, but not enough offense and defense as they fell to Phoenix 6-1 in the first game of a two-day rookie tournament in El Segundo...

The game was often interrupted by fights, started by young players looking to make an impact. Colten Teubert, a 2008 first-round pick, got a 10-minute misconduct penalty in the first period and 2009 second-round pick Kyle Clifford got in two fights.
Of course, this makes you wonder if the Kings rookies have collectively taken a few too many pucks to the noggin. Think about it. They're playing for a team whose offensive woes aren't exactly a secret and one would think the best way to actually impress would be to score some goals, not sit in the penalty box.
I have to wonder if after all these years young players -- who work on honing their skills throughout their whole childhoods -- still really believe the path to success in pro hockey is fighting. If so, I think that says something pretty sad about the National Hockey League and the messages it's sending to its future lifeblood.
The second Kings-Coyotes rookies game is live-streaming on the web at 2 p.m. on the Kings' website. In a related note, a U.S. bankruptcy judge may rule later today in favor of a bid that could allow the Coyotes to move to Hamilton, Ontario.
--Steve Hymon

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Finally, someone gets me

 
Being the organized and fastidious person that I am, I dumped all my hockey stuff in the middle of the backyard yesterday for a good airing out. Trust me -- if the Department of Defense could somehow weaponize the smell emanating from my equipment there would never again be a war.

Yes, I suppose I could launder it. But that would require, you know, effort.

Anyway, so I throw the stuff in the yard and here comes Teddy, a chocolate lab that The Girlfriend insisted we rescue last year to provide company for our other rescue dog. Teddy then plopped down next to the equipment and stayed put for the next 15 minutes.

This is analogous to walking to Ground Zero of the Nevada Test Site and then calling over your shoulder "go ahead and smash those atoms now." 

It probably should be said that this behavior is in keeping with Teddy's personality. His original owner was twice sent to the Big House, resulting in Teddy being sent to the dog pokey -- from which he was saved by a rescue outfit. This haunted past has resulted in a dog who is happy doing three things: A) Barking whenever there's something on the TV I want to hear; B) Eating anything made of paper product, and; C) Finding smelly objects to sniff and/or bathe in.

A new session of my adult hockey league clinic begins tonight meaning that come 8:30 p.m., I'll also have a new helping of wet, soggy, stinky gear. Bon Appetite, Teddy -- glad to know you find hanging with my hockey gear even better than rolling in someone else's shit.

--Steve Hymon

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Puck Boy seeks to possess just one hockey skill: is that too much to ask?

The good news on Sunday was that I got a two-hour session of stick-time at the Pasadena rink for only $7.50. I was so hungry afterward that I doused my entire left leg with Soy Sauce at Din Tai Fung in Arcadia and didn't even notice because I was too busy trying to determine if I could cram an entire pork bun into my piehole (answer: almost!).

The bad news: I suck. I made the key mistake of having my hockey buddy Scott shoot a video of me skating and shooting and watching the replays this morning has been painful. The still at the right is from the tape -- it appears I am taking a slap shot. Or just sucking. 

Yeah, I suck less than I did when I started this hockey thing back in February. But still – my shots often look awkward and my skating seems slow and tentative…i.e. I skate like an elephant with half an erection.

I have no idea what that means, I just imagine it would be difficult for an elephant to skate with any kind of erection.

In the meantime, Scott found some pretty good videos on YouTube. The big thing he and everyone else has been preaching to me is finding my balance – that everything comes from that and also getting low to the ice.

“You find that balance and it’s going to be very hard to knock you over or out of the play,” Scott said. “Look at Jack Johnson [the Kings’ defenseman and one of our favorite players]. When he skates he owns the ice in a three-foot circle around him. And if anyone tries to fuck with that circle, Johnson uses his balance and leverage to take him out.”

To illustrate that point, Scott then knocked me over. Lesson well taken, sir! 

Of course, it’s not the first time I’ve heard this. At a public skate one day, another hockey player approached me and said I was leaning way too forward and that it should look like I’m sitting in a chair (I’ve also been told that countless times). “Imagine you’re skating along and taking a crap,” he said.

Scott dutifully sent me a quartet of videos that I think are useful to most hockey players.

The first video looks at basic positioning – keeping the skates shoulder width apart, the knees bent, and your head up. If you’re going it right, a hard shove or check should propel you backwards and not onto your ass.

The second video shows what your arms should be doing when skating hard -- pumping hard in tandem. This is something most of us in our Wednesday class are rarely seen doing during our scrimmage, by the way.

This third video has a nugget of wisdom that I like: A good, deep knee bend of 90 degrees means that most skaters will find that their head is barely above the top of the boards as they move along quickly. In other words, get down!

Finally, here’s a great video of the Caps’ Alexander Ovechkin. Watch his knee bend and balance and how he uses that strength and leverage to dump a much larger Penguins defenseman on his ass in front of the Pens’ goal. 

One thing I’ve been doing that is helpful is taking a weekly yoga class at L.A. Fitness in Pasadena on Tuesday evenings. Rose, the instructor, likes to throw a lot of moves at us that involve standing on one leg and such and I think it helps. I do know that Rose was greatly pleased when I mentioned to her that yoga and hockey are related -- and now I get extra attention from Teach. Nice.

I also recently picked up Laura Stamm’s “Power Skating” from Amazon. Absorbing skating tips from a book isn’t easy, but there’s still a lot of good stuff in there. I put the book in one of the most coveted places in my house – the bathroom – to ensure that I read some of it on a daily basis.

--Steve Hymon

Saturday, September 5, 2009

USA Women's team game alert and a few thoughts on Canada

Just a quick heads up that the U.S. Women's team plays at 3 p.m. Pacific time in the semifinals of the Canada Cup against Finland. The squad triumphed over Canada by a 4 to 2 margin on Thursday, bringing great joy to my heart because it's always fun to see the Canuckians get clobbered at their own game. You can watch the U.S.-Finland tilt online at fasthockey.com.

Oh, and while I'm on the subject, I just wanted to send this heartfelt message out to the Great White North: Fuck You!

Why the enmity, you ask?

Both The Girlfriend and I have been trying to get jobs at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. I'll take any gig just to be there -- I don't care if it's washing pucks with a toothbrush or using a pocket comb to groom the snow for the ski events. NBC's coverage, as it has in the past, is pretty much guaranteed to suck -- unless you really like spanking the monster to Bob Costas' warm anecdotes -- and I've concluded the only way to actually see the games is to be present.

But good luck with the online job application process with the Vancouver Organizing Committee and their poorly designed website. I applied for a sportswriting job with the media department and when I recently went online to check my application status I received a "No Results Found," message. Same thing happened to The Girlfriend.

Yes, we both followed directions and yes we're both qualified, having worked in journalism for many, many, many years.

The jobs, obviously, are going to Canadians. Okay, fair enough. They're the home team. But if the Committee is going to invite non-Canadians to apply, they should at least be decent about it. And having your website consume job applications and burp out the equivalent of a "you've-been-deleted-now-go-piss-off" is not being decent about it. 


One more thought: The three mascots for the Vancouver Games are really bizarre, even by Olympic game standards -- that's them in the photo above. They are, from left: Sumi, a Guardian Spirit/Environmentalist (seriously); a  Miga, a killer whale/sea bear (seriously), and; Quatchi, a mythical Sasquatch (seriously).

BTW, I highly suggest that Sumi spend some time reading this NRDC report on how Canada's shoddy oil and gas industry "is destroying Canadian air, water and land resources." That's the spirit!


--Steve Hymon

Friday, September 4, 2009

You want excitement? Try over-40 hockey



In need of a hockey fix and tired of 30 Rock reruns, I motored down to El Segundo Thursday night to watch the title game of the Toyota Sports Center's over-40 summer league. It turned out to be well worth the haul from Pasadena.

The California Leafs rallied from a 5 to 2 deficit in the final 10 minutes to take the league trophy with a 6 to 5 win in overtime over the L.A. Force (the online box score has errors in the order of scoring). Trailing by a goal, the Leafs survived a Force power play with 4:39 to go in the third and then tied the game on their own power play with 1:13 left in the period.

The video -- sorry about the crappy camera work -- shows the game winner by Mike Pearson with a Thomas Szabo assist that came 7:13 into the sudden-death period. My hockey buddy Scott -- the dude who persuaded me to give the sport a try -- notched three assists.

It was a well played game. It also was a pretty good reminder how far my skills have to advance to even think about playing with some of these dudes. In fact, I'm heading over to the Pasadena public rink now for some late afternoon skatework and toddler avoidance practice. I'm toying with playing in the Sports Center's beginner league this fall, but still need to find out how they define "beginner."

--Steve Hymon

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Need a hockey fix? U.S. Women's team plays Canada tonight

The Winter Olympics start in just over five months and the U.S. Women's team has an important warmup game tonight, taking on Canada in the Canada Cup. The game isn't on television, a sad failure on the part of USA Hockey. But you can watch it online at Fasthockey.com; it's free but you have to register and possibly install some software from Microsoft (good luck with that!). The game starts at 7:30 Pacific time.

The U.S. Women's team won the gold medal in the 1998 Olympics and then Silver in '02 and a Bronze in '06 in Torino. There's only one Californian on the roster, but she's a local -- Angela Ruggiero, a defenseman from Simi Valley. Here's a great "skating 101" video featuring Ruggiero that I plan to watch 20 or so times each day!



Ruggiero is a veteran of all three Olympic squads, played on a men's pro team alongside her brother and also appeared on the sixth season of "The Apprentice," according to her website. I was cheered to read that she holds a degree from Harvard in government. Hey, I used to cover City Hall for the Newspaper Whose Name I Shall Not Speak and I currently do some government work. I have something in common with a real hockey player!

Here's an NBC News video of Ruggiero playing with men with the Tulsa Oilers. Check her roughing it up on the boards with the boys. Very impressive.



--Steve Hymon

You're man enough to play hockey, but are you man enough to wear women's underwear?

A couple of weeks after I was dumped as a reporter from the Newspaper Whose Name I Shall Not Speak, my buddy Scott and I had a revelation: since I was now unemployed, it would be absolutely criminal if I didn't use some of my severance pay to purchase hockey equipment.

So, on a sunny Monday, Scott and I visited Play It Again Sports in Torrance, which as I mention in an earlier post carries a decent variety of both used and new hockey equipment. Little did I know that by day's end I would be parading around the house in a garter belt and boasting about it.

As I ventured into the store, it's fair to say that I knew absolutely nothing about hockey equipment. I had never before suited up in full gear -- I was still taking skating lessons. I had never even contemplated hockey equipment. Sure, I went to plenty of Kings games last season. But it's not like I was sitting there wondering how defenseman Jack Johnson kept his socks from bunching up.

At the store, Scott helped me pick out new shin guards, elbow pads and hockey pants to go with the used gloves, used socks, used jersey and used helmet he already scavenged for me from his league teammates (more about the joy of used gloves in a future post). Then Scott vanished into an aisle and emerged clutching both a pair of intensely bright yellow shorts and an athletic cup.

I quickly grasped the purpose of the cup, of course -- protect the ol' Ding Dong from getting Ding Donged. But the shorts were a mystery, particularly because there were four garter straps hanging from them.

"What the fuck are those?," I cheerfully inquired. "I haven't checked in a while, but I'm pretty sure I still have a working penis."

"It's a garter and a jock," Scott said. "Everyone has one."

"Hockey players wear garter belts?"

"Yep. Do you want the small jock or the extra small one?," Scott replied.

All this was, I must say, a bit of a revelation. And there was this little indignity I was trying to absorb: the first garter belt I would ever snap or unsnap would be on me. At a skating rink. In front of a bunch of guys. This is what happens when you favor jeans-and-T-shirt type of women.

Aside from that, the shorts were a fascinating little piece of athletic apparel. The shorts basically serve, pun intended, as a multipurpose tool. Inside the shorts are a jock strap, complete with a little kangaroo-type pouch for the athletic cup. The garters hung from the outside -- not a true garter like Scott and other players wear (as shown in the photo at right). The shorts themselves looked like the kind of running shorts that are too short and you may not want to wear, at least in public. All that rolled into one $30 package. Again, pun intended.

I went home that night and practiced putting on the gear. Then I plopped down on the floor and to the strains of Bruce Springsteen's "Girls in Their Summer Clothes," began playing with my new garters. Getting the hooks secured on the socks took some practice – I couldn't get them to grab the sock fabric -- and certainly wasn’t the kind of thing I wanted to attempt publicly until I was proficient.

It was a disturbing and intriguing enough ordeal that I couldn’t resist telling a friend of mine about it when I ran into her at the gym that evening. She dubbed the shorts my “Daisy Dukes,” and has since inquired about them on a disturbingly frequent basis.

A couple of weeks later my skating coach commanded me to show up for next week’s lesson in full gear. My skating was faster and my falls were correspondingly more violent. He wanted me to both get used to skating with all the crap on and also ensure that I didn’t kill myself. The Pasadena rink doesn’t have a real locker room so I put the Daisy Dukes on under gym shorts, unaware that one of the garters wasn’t tucked in.

So, if you happened to see me walking around Pasadena one April Sunday morning, the answer is yes, that was me with a garter belt flopping in the wind outside my shorts. You got a problem with that? Like I'm the only guy wearing a garter belt in Pasadena!

In the months since I’ve discovered that the Daisy Dukes and garter belts are a bit old school. Here’s a great explanation of the hockey garter I found in an epinions.com review of a Pro Guard garter from a reader named puckmugger, who also gets credit for the witty headline on this post:

Garter belts are filled with amazing high tech design features fresh from the turn of the century . . . well the turn of the 17th century perhaps. Interestingly enough the wearing of stockings was reserved entirely for men. It wasn’t until the mid - 1600s that women infringed upon the right of men and took away our honored privilege. Frankly we haven’t protested too often because the ladies look much better in stockings than we men do. But I digress, we were talking about how the garter belt works.

Garter belts, as the name implies are essentially a belt. Unlike a normal belt, designed to keep the pants from falling down, or to turn a fan in a automobile, the garter belt is worn as an undergarment. Four adjustable straps hand down from the belt – one at the front and another at the back of each leg. On the end of each strap is a metal hook with a sliding rubber piece that hooks to the socks. This keeps the socks from falling down.

As puckmugger explains in a related sock review, hockey socks aren’t really socks as they have no feet. “They are open at both ends to cover the player’s shin guards,” he writes. “Hockey socks are in fact more like leg warmers (gasp!). Wait, maybe [calling them socks] isn’t a conspiracy but an attempt to separate hockey gear from dance gear and popular women’s fashions of the 80’s . . . Leg warmers? Socks? You pick which one sounds manlier.”

So there you go, ladies and gents. Hockey, one of the manliest of all sports, is weirdly affiliated with women's fashion.

Now that I’ve been taking hockey class and attending stick time sessions I've noticed that garter belts no longer rule the day. Many players have switched to athletic shorts with Velcro on the legs – the socks stick to the Velco. In hockey circles, Puckmugger notes, the garter is thought to have a longer lifespan than the Velcro but Velco and its convenience appears to be winning the favor of most younger players.

“Still there is some level of respect that I automatically grant to any man who is brave enough to wear a garter in this day and age.” Puckmugger adds. “I mean I just look at the guy and think, ‘Wow, old school! I bet this guy is good.’ Point is, that you don’t have to be afraid to wear a garter, really.”

Well, no one who saw me wipe out in front of the goal I was trying to defend during last night's hockey class -- there wasn't anyone within 15 feet of me -- would label me as "good." But until I wear out the Daisy Dukes and must ponder a replacement, I will proudly carry on this strange tradition. In a Manly Man way, of course.

--Steve Hymon

Related post: What the hell is this blog about?

Coming soon: Jack Johnson, man or beast? Does it matter?

Yes, you probably do need to spend even more money on hockey junk

If you don't already posess enough hockey-related stuff or just want to upgrade, HockeyGiant is having a sale this weekend to promote its new larger location in Anaheim. Click on the flyer for more info.

I bought my skates there earlier this year, sitting under a TV showing videos of some of the hardest checks ever administered in the NHL. I'm talking total bonecrusher, lights-out hits -- the kind of videos that made me thing maybe I should be signing up for a nice over-40 doubles tennis league instead of leaping headlong into hockey, even the non-checking variety. 

The retailer is pretty much the place to go in So Cal for new hockey equipment, although you can also find some decent stuff at Play It Again Sports' store in Torrance -- they also have a wide selection of used equipment. They were actually selling hockey pants previously worn in the pros for those who way to boast their terwilliger played in the same neighborhood as, say, Jack Johnson's Johnson.

--Steve Hymon

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Puck boy takes issue with inspirational hockey poster!

This poster is tacked onto the wall of the Pasadena rink where I skate. I didn't notice it until one day I was killing time while the rink's smoke-belching Zamboni lurched about the ice, contributing to global warming in a million different ways.
 
The poster stood out because I don't entirely agree with it.

First of all, the poster shows a kid playing goalie, presumably on a voluntary basis (he's not chained to the goal post). I humbly suggest that anyone who voluntarily plays goalie -- that is, volunteers to get rocked by pucks, bodies and skates at close range -- doesn't have a confidence problem. Maybe a "I'm fucking crazy" problem. But not a "I have no faith in myself" problem.

My adult beginners hockey class runs concurrently with a clinic for kids and often one of the kid goalies -- he's about 12 years old -- will man the net during our drills and scrimmage. I don't think lack-of-poise is going to send him to the shrink anytime soon. If he has any problem, it's that he has douchebag teammates like me inadvertently screening him from people trying to maim him.

So that's my first issue.

Issue No. 2: At the risk of sounding sappy -- and there's absolutely no room for sap in hockey unless you've just won the Stanley Cup, IMO -- I think the lessons of learning a new sport are as potent for adults than they are for kids. Maybe more so.

I earned whatever self-confidence that I have long before the first time this year my ass slid across the ice in front of two six-year-old figure skaters in tutus who were pointing and laughing at me (bitches!). So, hockey hasn't taught me to stand on my own two feet. It has, however, been a vivid reminder that it's never too late to put yourself in a foreign environment and learn to survive. And that's kinda cool. Scratch kinda. It's amazingly fucking cool.

Plus, I get the thrill of putting my male garter on in front of a bunch of other guys and some girls. That, I do agree, takes some confidence and a photo of me snapping my socks to the garter would make for an excellent inspirational poster if anyone out there has a good camera.

--Steve Hymon

Related: What the hell is this blog about?

Coming soon to this blog: The hockey garter: A useful necessity or the first step toward cross-dressing?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Spend thousands on Kings tix, get free T-shirt! Whoa nellie!

I've been toying with getting a ticket package for the upcoming Kings season but haven't quite been able to justify the expense. I was able to find tickets below face value for most of the games I attended last season--either from friends selling them or the ticket exchange on the Kings website. 

The team has been pushing season tickets like crazy. I'm getting a call every two weeks. Last week the team's ticket dude offered me a pair of third row seats in section 320 and offered to hold them a week for me while I made up my mind. As my hockey buddy Scott said, the fact that the team still has third row seats and can hold them tells you that ducats must not be flying off the shelves down there at Staples. 

An email I received from the Kings amplifies this point: 

"PLUS, with the purchase of a Full Season, Half Season, or adding Opening Night to your 10-Game or 5-Game ticket package, you will receive a FREE LA Kings T-shirt."

Oh Goody! Let's think about this. A pair of full season tickets in the 200 sections -- they wrap around the corners at each end of the rink -- will cost you about $4,000 boxes of ziti, as Tony Soprano likes to say. And what are the Kings prepared to offer as an incentive? A free T-shirt. 

I'm not exactly leaping for the phone. Now if it was a lap dance from Bailey, that's another story....

--Steve Hymon