Monday, June 14, 2010

This week's Hockey Crimes and Misdemeanors

Did you know that it’s possible to buy cattle prods online? And that cattle prods can be purchased for as little as $61.50, batteries included?

This is what city living does: you get so obsessed with urban technology such as cell phones, you forget there’s a whole wide world of rural technology that may be useful for a beer league hockey player.

Sadly, my team lost again yesterday. We’re eight games into our first season now – and for most of us it literally is our first season – and we’re 0-7-1. That’s rough. Sundays can’t come soon enough.

So why the cattle prod?

I want to be shocked. I want to be punished. I want to tie the cattle prod to one of our defenseman and have said defenseman ram that thing up my ass every time I do something stupid.

Which brings me to this weeks’ version of Hockey Crimes and Misdemeanors – all the reasons that I deserve a few volts of unwanted electricity:

The Crime: I’m playing right wing. The puck is in our zone, I’m guarding the other team’s left defenseman – a pretty big dude. He’s about five feet inside the blue line. He gets a pass from down low. I lunge to my right to try to take the puck from him. He moves to his right, away from me and cranks a slapshot.

The Result: With moderate traffic in front of our goal, the puck finds the net -- no one touches it -- to give the other team a 1 to 0 lead. I am quickly filled with a blimp-ful of shame and if I was a Samurai, I’d be writing this while headless.

The Lesson: If I had stayed in front of the guy I was guarding I would have had the opportunity to block the shot or get a stick on his stick and disrupt him. Instead I gambled and my team paid the price. Cattle prod, stat!
The Crime: Again, I’m at right wing. The puck is in our zone. The puck squirts loose and comes to rest against the boards about halfway between the goal line and blue line. I’m the first one to get there and under moderate pressure gently swipe at the puck in what appears to be some sort of attempt to either remove the puck from our zone or deliver it to the other team's defenseman.

The Result: My pantywaist pass is, indeed, easily caught by the other team’s left defenseman who then takes a slapshot from just inside the blue line. It’s not a great shot and our goalie deflects it, absolving me of further shame.

The Lesson: Even though I had someone on me, I could have displayed to those in attendance that I am, in fact, in possession of testicles. For example, I might have skated the puck up the boards. At worse, I would have lost the puck along the boards high in our zone. At best, the defenseman may have backed up a step, giving me the chance to chip it past him. Instead I allowed our opponents to take a shot they might not have had the chance to take otherwise.

The Crime: My memory is a little hazy on how this unfolded, but I do recall how it ended up. I’m at right wing again. The puck is in the other team’s zone. Somehow I’ve managed to position myself on the inside of the left circle and the puck somehow ends up on my stick. Under moderate pressure, I take a shot from about 20 feet out.

The Result: My shot goes a good 10 feet left of the goal. Ten feet! I'm still not sure it's possible to miss by that much from that close. After the game, I mentioned the shot to a teammate who with a straight face responded, “That was a shot? I thought you were trying to pass it to someone.” You need not be a hockey expert to know it’s a really bad thing when your shots are being confused for errant passes. If you have an internal gyroscope you'd like to sell me, I'm listening.

The Lesson: I didn’t have to shoot. I could have held onto the puck and tried getting closer to the net. I could have also put on the brakes quickly and tried to dump it back to a defenseman, who would have had more space to take a shot. But I panicked and pulled the trigger too quickly because both myself and my team needs to get more shots on goal. But there's a difference between a desperate fling and a quality shot.

All that said, I didn’t completely suck it yesterday. There were times I was aggressive and kept the puck around the net or helped kind of move it down the ice -- or at least in the correct direction.

I still feel weird when I try to take the puck down the ice and get stripped of it – although I shouldn’t. Happens all the time at all levels of hockey. I was watching the World Cup at lunch today and that’s all that was happening – guys are constantly losing possession of the ball. But they get back and try again.

So that’s my goal for this week. Be aggressive. Move my skates and push the puck forward at the same time (interesting concept, I know). I came out of the corner with the puck yesterday once and made a beeline toward the other team’s goal instead of trying to dump it off. The defense made a play, but even so the puck bounced around a few feet in front of the goal before it was cleared.

I didn’t create something in that case. But I almost created something and that was a victory of sorts.

--Steve Hymon

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