Wednesday, September 23, 2009

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.

I've been obsessed with reverse crossovers lately owing to a couple of things.

For one, I've been playing some defense during the scrimmages at the end of my Wednesday night adult beginners clinics. The big problem I'm having is skating back fast enough to stay between the goal and the guys coming down the ice on offense. In particular, if I'm sitting on the blue line my first few steps backwards aren't explosive enough to really get going. I can turn around and launch going frontward, but then I commit the terrible sin of turning my back to the play.

So, that's been weighing heavily on me (I never said I was deep). Then, on Saturday, I went to Pickwick Ice Center in Burbank for some public skating and couldn't help but notice one of the in-house hockey coaches there working with two of his charges.

He was working with an adult student, a guy about my age. Over and over, the coach had the guy doing three reverse crossovers in one direction and then three in another. These weren't long strides. They were just three quick steps, change direction, then another three quick steps. Boom-boom-boom.

I watched and a light bulb went on: that's exactly what my defensive game needed. With those kind of moves, I could get going faster and also better change direction and cut off potential lanes to the goal.

And that's what I worked on for a good chunk of the hour at the rink yesterday. How'd I do? I nailed the three quick steps part but had issues with the switching directions. It feels like one of those things that is totally doable but will require a lot more ice time.

As is often the case at public sessions, I met another hockey player who was practicing his skating. This guy was from Toronto originally and the difference between him and me is that he could really skate and he was generous with a few pointers. The big one: "skate like you're riding a horse." In other words, get those knees bent. I've had similar advice from others, who have likened the proper stance to both sitting in a chair and taking a crap.

His really big point was that it's smart to go to public skating whenever possible and not worry about puckhandling -- or at least not worry too much. That's how it's done, he said, in Europe, where kids often spend way more time skating than in North America. "That's why those guys are better skaters," he said. "Think of it this way, if you can skate you can just blow right past somebody."

All in all it was a successful afternoon. Most importantly, I had the chance to do the wrong thing -- choose skating over work -- and I seized the opportunity.

--Steve Hymon

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