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

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