Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hockey Crimes and Misdemeanors, part 1,028,357

Well, my lovely red hockey jersey remains unwashed for the ninth consecutive week. I vowed I wouldn't wash it until my team won and we still haven't pulled off that feat -- we're 0-8-1 after blowing a 3 to 1 lead on Sunday and losing 5 to 3.

Yeah, that one was a real ball-tugger, especially because as usual I feel like it's all my fault. Which brings us to this week's edition of Hockey Crimes and Misdmeanors, in which I recount various shortcomings and the often disastrous outcome that resulted from my (choose one) inept/uninspired/mindless play of the otherwise exciting game of ice hockey.

The above pic is from the game preceding mine on Sunday. I was doodling around with my expensive new digital camera and, on further reflection, should have stuck with shooting pics rather than pucks. To wit:

The crime: I'm at left wing. The puck is in our defensive zone and I'm guarding the point, or at least trying to. Someone on my team gets a stick on the puck and it scoots all the way across the neutral zone and starts to slow just across the blue line. In a rare instance of heads-up play, I skate-skate-skate and manage to reach the puck first while someone chases me. Under pressure -- the guy behind me gets his stick on my stick -- I get a shot off square at the goalie.

The result: The puck never leaves the ice and the goalie, who has skated 10 feet in front of his net, makes a relatively easy stop. The whistle blows and I leave the ice greatly shamed for not scoring or getting off a better shot. If I was a Samurai, I'd probably have to request a beheading or sword-to-the-stomach on the bench.

The lesson: The effort actually wasn't half bad, but I have to get lower and skate faster and stop skating like a one-legged slug -- there's no way I should have been almost caught from behind with the jump I had on the puck. As for the shot, it was an attempt at a slapshot, but I didn't put enough on it to provoke a rebound or fumble from the golaie. In fact, with the pressure on me and not having a great shooting angle, it probably would have been wiser to try to go around the goalie, as the worst that would have happened is the puck would have been knocked into the corner. But that move would have required -- what's the phrase? -- actual hockey skills.

The crime: I'm at right wing. Puck is on our offensive zone, I'm on the weakside post. The other team poke checks the puck from my teammate and it scoots over and comes to rest along the boards on my side of the ice. I skate over and pick it up, but stop facing away from the goal and with pressure on, make a weak backhanded pass across the ice.

The result: The other team gets a stick on my pass, which somehow manages to bounce to one of my teammates. I can't recall what happened next other than the fact we didn't go on to score.

The lesson: I'm an idiot. If I could stop with my right foot to the outside as well as I can with my left foot, I could have picked up the puck and been facing the corner in our offensive zone. I would have therefore had several options -- I could dump it into the corner under pressure, I could make a forehand pass toward the actual goal or I could have tried skating the puck into the corner myself, giving a teammate time to come over and provide puck support. Instead, I allowed a long-standing weakness of mine help blow an offensive chance for my team -- and it's not like my goal-challenged team can afford to blow any offensive chances.

The crime: I'm at right wing. The defensewoman on my side of the ice picks up a loose puck at the goal line and with open ice ahead, makes a charge into the other team's offensive zone. I follow her closely, my intent being to crash the net.

The result: The other team's defense is able to end our rush and make a rush of their own down the right (my right) side of the ice because there's nobody back playing defense. They take a quality shot that our goalie -- thankfully -- stops.

The lesson: I've emailed the team several times about the importance of having the wings drop back and cover for the D if one of our D-men rushes the net -- a typical play on the short ice at the Pasadena rink. In this case, I showed zero awareness of my own admonitions and instead sought the glory of trying to score. But we have a center and left wing who easily could have played that role and instead I left my team highly vulnerable to a goal that would have been scored without some excellent netminding from my teammate.

In this last case, I sincerely hope that someone on my team watched the play unfold and muttered to themself, "what's that douchebag doing?"

So, as usual, the lessons keep piling up. Nearly every visit to the rink in the past couple of months has been for a game, stick-time, a clinic or pickup and I'm starting to wonder if somehow my skating -- not exactly awesome to begin with -- has suffered by lack of practicing the basics. Such as a good, hard stop with my right foot.

The other thing bugging me is that the coaches at the Pasadena rink run us through some very good drills, yet a lot of the skills those drills are designed to teach never make it into games. We practice cross-overs all the time in clinic, yet I can only recall using them once or twice during games. I'm not sure what the issue is, but I suspect making the jump into actually playing in a league is a small step toward actually learning to play the game.

--Steve Hymon

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