Monday, May 31, 2010

Long time no post; gone fishing/skiing

This past week got away from me and I haven't had time to post about the most important of matters: my beer league hockey team and my feeble attempts to play the sport in some type of competent manner.

I'll be back soon. I'm up in Mammoth this weekend for some fishing and skiing -- they got a few inches Friday night -- and then it will be back to the blog.

The above photo was taken Saturday at Hot Creek, looking west toward Mammoth Mountain. Ski conditions were pretty good Sunday but the snow got pretty sticky after noon. Cornice Bowl was nice in late morning.

Off to get in a few more turns before returning to L.A....

--Steve Hymon

Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, May 20, 2010

More beer league photos

2009 01 03 223
Originally uploaded by baconbern
Here's another fun shot I found over at Flickr. Kind of reminds me of my lower division hockey league -- in which at any given time there can be more players sitting than standing on the ice.


Both skates off the ice!

Originally uploaded by baconbern
If you're bored at work, I suggest heading over to Flickr and doing a search for "beer league hockey."

What happens? You get shots like this one. The photo was taken in 2007 but it's still a great capture. I'm not sure where the stick is that belongs to the player in the white jersey, but I suspect the guy in blue knows.

--Steve Hymon

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Nice tribute to the beer leagues

Found this well-written post by a bloke from BC about his beer league team. Give it a read -- I guarantee it's more interesting than anything on your work desk at the moment.

And sounds as if he enjoys the beer leagues for most of the same reasons I do, although come to think of it my team needs to drink more. A lot more.

--Steve Hymon

Still searching for that first win

The good news: Sunday's game was probably our best yet. Although we lost 4 to 3, we lost to the best team in our league (they're undefeated) and the game went down to the wire.

The hardest thing we're dealing with are extended lapses when teams score in bunches on us. On Sunday, the game was scoreless for about 11 1/2 minutes -- a really good start for us -- and then our opponents scored four goals in the next 13 minutes. We quickly countered with a trio of goals but it wasn't enough to pull out the game.

I actually finished the game not completely disgusted with myself. To wit:


•As right wing, I got my ass in front of the other team's goalie early and often. It paid off in the second period when I was able to knock the puck away from an opponent and knock him down. My center picked up the puck and scored -- my first-ever league assist!

•I got up and down the ice a little quicker than the previous week. I realize this is like saying a snail is faster than an inanimate, stationary object. But it's progress.


•Two offsides calls on me cost us potential rushes on goals. On one, I mis-timed entry into the other team's zone. That happens. Later, I inexcusably lost track of the puck and didn't clear the zone. So I was sitting there like a lame asshole when the puck came back in and I got the whistle.

•I didn't execute the breakout along the boards competently and I still don't have the ability to carry the puck for more than a short distance in traffic or when I've got someone chasing me or in front of me. I am, however, pretty good at carrying the puck at stick-time when there's no one within 20 feet of me.

•I have some shifts in which I can't tell you where I am, what I'm doing or why God put me on this Earth, assuming there is a God. This is partially a hockey problem and partially a metaphysical issue, I suppose.

Wait. Strike that last one. It's a hockey problem.

Losing, of course, sucks the Gigantic One. But I'm pleased that the finger-pointing on my team has been minimal and the focus has been on team and individual improvement. It's a great bunch of guys (and one girl) who deserve to win some beer league hockey games and spank off about it the rest of the week.

So there's not much we can do other than keep showing up at the rink and keep getting after it.

In related news, I did something novel last night: I attended stick-time at the Pasadena rink from 6:30 to 7:30, made a quick change of clothing and hustled over to LA Fitness for an 8 p.m. yoga class.

In other words, I went from the chilly ice and practicing my slap shot while surrounded by a bunch of guys in full hockey gear to a warm room and being positioned in Downward Facing Dog and Happy Baby while surrounded by a bunch of girls not in full hockey gear. In less than an hour.

And, somewhat surprisingly, my perpetually sore groin feels great today! 

--Steve Hymon

Monday, May 10, 2010

My growing rap sheet of hockey crimes and misdemeanors

Well I'm closing in on one goal -- and not the kind with a net. I've managed to devote 99.9% of my waking hours to thinking about hockey.

Seriously. In the past two weeks, I had coffee with a lady friend with the barn door wide open for an hour and twice have gone out in public with my shirt inside out. I've also misplaced my ATM card five or six times and had trouble recalling my home address recently -- I've only lived here seven years.

In other words, if I can eliminate the .1% of the time I'm thinking about eating, going to the bathroom and girls, I'll have achieved perfect harmony with the hockey universe.

So why the obsessiveness?

Because my team -- the team I helped organize because I wanted to play in real games -- has started the spring league season 0 and 4. As I mentioned in a recent post, we're not getting butchered. But we have eight guys out of 13 playing in their first ever hockey league and we're not winning.

As for the scores, we've gone down 6 to 3, 4 to 2, 4 to 0 and 5 to 1. Our defense is actually playing fairly well. Our offense is improving and we're taking more shots. But we're still doing enough things wrong to prevent The Hockey Gods from awarding us with a win.

The Domestic Partner came to yesterday's game and shot about 13 minutes of video. With 99.9% of brain activity devoted to hockey I stayed up half the night watching the low-res clips. My intention was to make some notes on how we were doing as a team, but I ended up focusing on yours truly and it was like watching a hockey horror show over and over again.

Let's catalog some of my efforts to rewrite the position of right wing:

THE CRIME: There I am on the right side of the left face-off circle in our defensive zone. The puck scoots over to me. I know the puck has now entered The Death Zone -- that area in front of our goal -- so I give the puck a nice dainty slap to the left toward the boards. Never makes it there--puck instead goes to a guy wearing the wrong color jersey who actually seems surprised I made such an accurate pass to him. In other words, I didn't even manage to get the puck out of our zone.

RESULT: The other team didn't do much better with the puck and we were able to clear it up the right boards and make a rush on their goal. So my turnover didn't result in a goal against us.

VERDICT: I had the right idea, but the execution was poor and essentially brainless. I should have either taken off with the puck OR taken a split-second to look around for a pass OR for fuck's sake, iced that rubber motherfucker.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Ice hockey: almost as popular as muzzleloading!

With the NHL playoffs in full swing, there's been a spate of media stories about interest in the sport. Exactly how much interest depends on who your listening to.

If, for example, you're listening to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, the "metrics" for pro hockey are good and improving -- and all is well in the land of pro hockey. 

If you're CBS Sports columnist Mike Freeman, there's something that doesn't smell right about a major league sport getting beaten regularly in the television ratings by reruns of "Homeboys in Outer Space."

My view: the TV ratings are a reflection of a deeper problem. No one plays ice hockey. Or those of us who do are freaks -- just 1.9 % of the population.

Take a look below. Dart throwing is more popular than ice hockey. So is loading up a muzzle and blowing the dickens out of something.

Where the hell do you get a muzzle? The pilgrim store? And don't those things blow up in your face?

The following charts are taken from the National Sporting Goods Assn. website. The gist of it: the as the nation's population keeps growing, fewer people are playing ice hockey.

Why does this matter?

If you want to create a fan base, I think you need people to play your sport. Granted, ice hockey will never be as easy to play as going to the local park to hit a softball or shoot some hoops. But most major metro areas do have rinks and all the guys I know who have started playing hockey in middle age remind of Edward Norton in "Fight Club" -- they've found what was missing.

So if I was a pro hockey executive, I'd be scanning the statistics below and perhaps not concern myself with the latest T-shirt toss or strobe light display. I'd be dialing up the local rink, asking the following question: "How do I get more of my fans playing the sport and spreading the gospel of ice hockey?"

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Working on the simple breakout

One of the skills my team is still learning is the breakout. To put it simply, the ability to take the puck from deep into our zone to deep into the other team's zone without just winging the puck out there, which usually gets us an icing call.

The problem is that my team has eight guys playing in our first league. We don't get to practice a lot together, although a bunch of us participate in a Wednesday night clinic and play some pickup.

So we're trying to keep it real simple. I thought this post at the Hockey Player Tips blog captured our problem and offered up a pretty good solution in the form of a basic breakout. The above video also has some great tips -- particularly using your skates to catch a pass along the boards from your defenseman.

I've played right wing the past couple of games and I'm struggling with the catching the pass issue. A few times during last night's pickup game, for example, I had already turned up the ice and had to catch a pass coming from behind. I often missed. Or I'm facing my zone and have to catch a pass and turn around and get going.

I'm not the only guy on the team having issues with this. But we've got to get it down because we're stronger on defense than offense and we can't rely on our defenseman to take the puck from goal line to goal line and then get back and play D.

As always, any tips on the comment board would be appreciated.

--Steve Hymon

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Now that's how you market hockey

I think I may have mentioned before that I think the local marketing efforts by the Kings and Ducks is pretty dull and humorless and lacking in any kind of imagination. I'm guessing the marketing is handled by those who have actually studied marketing, perhaps the main reason such efforts suck.

So check out how it's done by the Boston Bruins. The above and below are just a pair of their TV ads. Click on either to watch on YouTube and you'll find links to other great commercials in the sidebar. The ads are brilliant because they are a nod to hockey culture and make you think you're missing something by not being a Bruins fan.

--Steve Hymon

Monday, May 3, 2010

Learning the game: Is castrating another player a two minute minor or game misconduct?

My team played its third game of the season yesterday and it was fun but didn't entirely go well from a scoring goals point of view. If that's how you measure success, the other team had four of them to our none.

On the other hand, if you measure success by having fun and having some good stories to tell, then we're achieving some success. We got into our first fight in our second game and it goes without saying that the guy on my team with the least skating experience -- and the last dude to sign up the for the league -- is our leading scorer.

Here's a good one: In yesterday's game, I had a nice collision with a woman player on the other team who while laying on the ice tried to kick me in the balls with her skate blades while suggesting I get away from her. She thankfully missed, I got cross-checked by the team's big dude for my alleged aggression and the more I think about it, the more I'm digging Ms. Castration. While I like my balls, I also like her spunk.

The whole incident also raises the question of when on-ice castration is legal and how it should be penalized. I'm thinking a mere attempt should be a two-minute minor and an attempt that draws blood a one-game suspension.

My lady issues aside, we're now 0 and 3 on the season; it's the first ever league experience for eight of 13 players and it's been years since a couple with real experience have played in a league. I haven't had time to write about the second game of the season, but we lost that one 4 to 2 after surrendering a goal in the final two minutes while trying to tie it up shorthanded.

I thought we would win one by now, but it's pretty clear we're also still learning how to play hockey against a league of mostly younger players although I don't think the age thing is a big deal. Yesterday's game was actually closer than the score, but we're still facing several issues.

I'm going to list some of the things we're doing well and some of our mistakes with the caveat that a lot of these are mistakes I've made. No one on the team is being singled out. I write this as food for thought for all beginning hockey players and teams.

•On the advice of my friend Scott -- who is basically my hockey Yoda -- we tried to evenly distribute the talent on our team across all our lines. It feels like that's working. No one line is getting slaughtered; on the other hand, no one line is achieving monster success.

•We play like a lot of us are nervous, although I'm starting to see more smiles out there.

•We have a severe tendency to chase the puck and get out of position. There are times it's appropriate -- there's a scoring chance or someone needs to be covered. But it's costing us, too. For example, I was playing right wing yesterday and on a couple of occasions I shaded too much to the middle or let myself get sucked too low into the corner. When my defenseman would come up with the puck, I wasn't where I should be, hugging the boards in the neutral zone to take a pass and turn it up the ice and it meant my defenseman had to cover a lot of ground on his own, often with a couple of guys on him.