Sunday, October 31, 2010

Liga Mexicana Elite de Hockey Sobre Hielo

Found this on Flickr. Nice pic and much to my surprise there is hockey in Mexico.

Halloween observations

Part of me -- my especially immature side -- wanted to answer the door tonight wearing my hockey gear, just to give the neighborhood moms something to chew on. "This dude lives among us."

Then a mom came to my door wearing a tiny shirt that exposed her pregnant belly that was painted white like a ghost complete with eyes and smile painted on and (presumably) fake legs dangling from her tummy. I'm writing this while hiding in the upstairs closet.

Before retreating from candy duty, I'm disappointed to report there were no slutty Lady Gaga costumes tonight or hockey players--not even a Jason with a hockey mask or athletes of any kind. I had one R2D2, one helmet-less Darth Vader and a three-foot-tall Decepticon. And one Iron Man, sadly missing the best part -Gwyneth Paltrow.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Miracle on ice, revisited

I just finished "The Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team" by Wayne Coffey. It's available in hardcopy or digital form on Amazon. The last couple of minutes of the game are above.

Coffey's book was a pretty good read, especially given the dearth of quality books on ice hockey. My only quibble was Coffey's choice to intersperse the narrative of the game against the Russians with vignettes about the players on the team -- I would have preferred a chronological approach.

The book has some nice bits about strategy which I think are applicable to more than just the 1980 Olympic game. To wit:
•On one coach's coaching philosophy: "In coaching players, he treid to find the positive things they could do. The sign on the wall of Johnson's coaching office said, "Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and it annoys the pig."

•On Herb Brooks' trying to beat the Soviets: "To compete with them, Brooks knew his team couldn't merely move fast. It had to think fast. The way he wanted to play the Russians put tremendous demands on players to read plays, anticipate, move without the puck. One of Tarasov's favorite sayings was "speed of hand, speed of foot, speed of mind. The most important of these is speed of mind. Teach it."

•Because of the Soviets' speed, Brooks kept his players' shifts to 35 to 40 seconds and had an assistant coach time it. The Russians realized the Americans had shortened their shifts, but were surprised by the tactic and continued to take their usual long shifts.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The NHL, head shots and concussions in hockey

As many of you know, there's been a vigorous debate in both the NHL and the NFL over the past year about concussions and what is and isn't a legal hit.

The NHL allows certain types of hits to the head (straight ahead checks in which the head is stricken), having recently outlawed blind side hits.

My own view is that the NHL is only half serious about protecting its players. The league knows of its rather low standing among pro sports leagues (this is a sport that can't even get its games on ESPN, home of televised poker) and figures that removing fighting or the heaviest hits would only lose fans. The above screen grab of the NHL home page earlier this week illustrates the point -- big hits equals fans in the eyes of the NHL.

As I've written before, part of the fun of hockey is the physical contact. But the fact that the NHL tolerates it in such extreme forms -- head shots and fighting -- tells me that those who run hockey's most visible league in North America also have a sad lack of confidence in the appeal of their own sport.

As the New York Times reported recently, the Mayo Clinic has called on the NHL to ban all head shots to prevent more concussions. The NCAA, Ontario Hockey League and International Ice Hockey Federation already do.

Read the above post. And keep in mind a few pieces of advice:

•Whether it's your beer league teammate or you get your bell rung in a game (falls and collisions are going to happen no matter what) stay off the ice and stay there.

•Mouth guards are a good thing, but they don't prevent concussions.

•Get on your teammates' case to keep their head up while playing (you can still yell at them about being onsides and the amazingly stupid pass they just made). It's safer and will also make them better players.


Straight outta Newfoundland--a good look at backward skating and playing D

One of the guys on my team found this video. Putting aside the humor -- oh Canada! -- it's actually pretty useful advice.

And don't poo-poo this if you're under the assumption that you're strictly a beer league forward. Maybe. But sooner or later, your D-men are gonna miss a game and someone on offense is gonna have to play back. It's either draw straws or drop your nuts and volunteer because your backward skating isn't totally sucky.*

Here's a short 40-second video also well worth watching for P.K. Suban's quick footwork. Don't try it unless you've stuffed a couple extra pieces of foam to shielf the ol' tailpipe.


*btw, I'm one of those beer league forwards who never volunteers to play defense. Even if only five guys show up for my next game, I like the odds that at least two of them will be better at D than me.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hockey crimes and misdemeanors

It's that special time again -- when I look back at my last couple of games and shudder in horror at some of the many boneheaded mistakes I made. To wit:

THE CRIME: Nine guys show up for our game. As captain, I put four on defense and five on offense. The D rotation is easy -- two guys on the ice, two off. We treat O like it's a pickup game. A guy/girl comes off, someone on the bench takes their position. Sounds easy...

THE RESULT: Except it's not. It's confusing. From shift to shift, we're in different and sometimes unfamiliar positions on offense. And we get tired. And we lost by three goals to a team with just seven players.

THE LESSON: We should have gone with three on D and six on O. The general rule of thumb in hockey is that D-men can withstand more minutes on the ice anyway and this would have resulted in a better organized offense.

THE CRIME: In aforementioned game, I end up playing center on some shifts. The center is usually one of the better players on the team. I am not one of the better players on the team. And, by the way, I had never actually taken a faceoff in a real game and on three or four occasions I find myself taking a faceoff. Hey, here's a fun hockey fact: faceoffs are really important!

THE RESULT: My memory is a little sketchy, but I do recall basically not touching the puck on my first two faceoffs. On the third or fourth one, I actually won -- in all likelihood because of divine intervention of the Hockey Gods. Or, more likely, because the other team was even more shorthanded than we were and didn't have the services of its regular center.

THE LESSON: If you're on a hockey team, practice faceoffs -- because sooner or later it's gonna be you in the middle of the circle and you want to at least look like you know what you're doing. In other words, don't be like me and hold the stick wrong (and don't assume you're friendly referee is going to show you the right way because he feels sorry for middle-aged men learning the exciting sport of ice hockey). And maybe it would even be a good idea to watch the following video, which has some good pointers.

What the hell, more pics from the Eastern Sierra

I missed a week of hockey, but at least my new camera works well...

Little Lakes Valley. Great hiking in here, btw -- take Rock Creek Canyon Road from US 395, about 15 miles south of Mammoth Lakes. Drive to the end of the road, park and start hiking. This is the view about half a mile up the trail.

Above Sherwin Creek, just outside Mammoth Lakes.

 Lightning over the Mojave Desert on the drive back Tuesday night.

Convict Lake. I screwed up the processing -- don't like the glare on the clouds. But the rest of the photo is decent.

Okay, mock me: I like to take pics of pretty leaves and sometimes even flowers. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A warm welcome to Egyptian and Turkish readers

I was perusing the stats for the blog provided by Google and got a surprise: unprecedented visits in the past week from readers in Egypt and Turkey!

My best guess is that either it's a Google search blown way off course (change one letter in this blog's title, for example) or perhaps there are some adult hockey enthusiasts quietly tucked away in the Middle East.

If so, please use the comment board to explain how ice hockey fans survive in either of those countries. And remember, wanting to learn to play hockey at an advanced age is nothing to be ashamed of -- even here in America hockey fans are openly shunned as simple-minded blockheads.

And while on the subject, I'd also like to say hello to readers in the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, France, Italy, the Ukraine, South Korea, Brazil (hola!) and, of course, my frozen friends in Canada.


My sore groin not impacting camera work

Still at Mammoth -- headed back to Pasadena tonight and hoping the ol' groin is up for some ice skating.

As for the above, pic, that's Arrowhead Lake near Mammoth. It's a great short hike, although yesterday was freezing out and weather was trying to decide to rain or snow or both.

To get there, drive to Lake Mary, then drive to the end of the Coldwater Campground and park in the day use/overnight lot. Take the Duck Pass trail for about a mile uphill, then look for the turnoff on the left for Arrowhead. The fishing there is great in the autumn, particularly near the inlet, where dozens of brook trout gather.

I'm going to try to post more hiking info from time to time, for outdoor-minded hockey enthusiasts.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Playing with my camera, not my stick

While my hockey team was winning a big game yesterday, I was toying with my Nikon D5000 in the Mammoth area. Yes, these have nothing to do with beer league hockey, but hey -- it's my blog...

Lembert Dome in foreground at Yosemite's Tuolumne Meadows.

Horse in Owens Valley just outside Bishop.

Northern part of Yosemite National Park, as seen from trail to Sunrise Lakes/Clouds Rest.

My dog Teddy, whose vet bills make the money I spend on hockey look trivial.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

This would be a good place to play hockey...

...but not sure Tenaya Lake in Yosemite National Park freezes over. And not sure you could get to it anyway in winter, with Tioga Road closed. Still, nice to think about.

Check out some of my other Yosemite pics at my Flickr account


Ouch, babe

Lyon Hockey Club
Originally uploaded by SylvainMestre
Found this photo on Flickr, taken in Europe. Dude in middle couldn't have enjoyed that too much.


Friday, October 15, 2010


No hockey this weekend for me. Instead, some Eastern Sierra leaf peeping and fly fishing. And nursing my stupid sore groin. At least I got to see a bear right off the bat -- this little dude was cruising the garbage cans in the parking lot across from the Village in Mammoth Lakes.

Of course, my good camera was back in the condo...

Meet the Kings

This is from L.A. Kings Insider. If any of the Kings visiting the Pasadena rink want to serve as a ringer -- I'm talking to you Jack Johnson -- my team plays at 5 pm. I bet we can find an extra red jersey....

Kings rink tour
The Kings will hold their annual “rink tour” on Sunday, with players, coaches and broadcasters appearing at six rinks throughout Southern California for on-ice clinics with local youth players and autograph sessions with fans. The event will take place from 2:30-4 p.m. at each rink, and this year’s selected rinks are in Aliso Viejo, Simi Valley, Valencia, Anaheim, Pasadena and Palos Verdes. Click below for a full list of the rinks and the Kings scheduled to be at each rink…

ALISO VIEJO ICE PALACE (9 Journey, 949-643-9648): Jonathan Bernier, Davis Drewiske, Scott Parse, Kevin Westgarth, Daryl Evans.

ICEOPLEX SIMI VALLEY (131 West East St., 805-520-7465): Trevor Lewis, Andrei Loktionov, Brad Richardson, Jarret Stoll, Bob Miller.

ICE STATION VALENCIA (27745 N. Smyth Drive, 661-775-8686): Drew Doughty, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Jamie Kompon, Nick Nickson.

KHS ICE ARENA, ANAHEIM (1000 East Cerritos Ave., 714-422-1236): Kyle Clifford, Anze Kopitar, Jake Muzzin, Ryan Smyth, Jim Fox.

PASADENA ICE SKATING RINK (300 E. Green St., 626-578-0801): Matt Greene, Peter Harrold, Jack Johnson, Willie Mitchell, Jonathan Quick, Terry Murray.

ICE CHALET, PALOS VERDES (550 Deep Valley Drive, Rolling Hills Estates, 310-541-6630): Dustin Brown, Michal Handzus, Rob Scuderi, Justin Williams, John Stevens.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A simple breakout even an idiot like me can understand

Part of cracking the mystery of team play of hockey -- especially for beginners -- is understanding a few basic plays. You can see the difference in pickup games at my rink between the newbies who tend to be puck-chasers and the guys/girls who know the basic language of the sport.

So I've been trying to learn a lot of the basics. Can't say that I often execute them during games, when my brain is usually in advanced stages of vapor lock. But every once in a while I do recognize a situation and try to at least do the right thing, even if I completely bungle everything.

In the meantime, I'll try to post more of these kind of plays. I like the one above because it's simple, yet also has the right wing (my usual position) swing to the left side of the ice once the center -- with puck -- heads up the boards. The idea is for the right wing to be a passing option, which could be fruitful if the D drifts to the right side, paying too much attention to the center.

Actually, my team kind of does this already, but we keep it even more simple. Our basic plan is for the puck carrier to enter the zone and try to get a shot. The second guys heads to the crease, the third guy into the slot. When we hustle, it's not a bad plan -- we've picked up goals off rebounds.

But I like the above because it introduces the concept of passing (what? passing the puck? that's allowed?) and a little deception perhaps.


Monday, October 11, 2010


I'm only posting this so that one day my already feeble brain recalls exactly how stupid I can be. I've got a nice big bruise on my cheek this morning, which I wish I could claim was the result of a hockey incident. Not quite....

I have a game yesterday and I get there plenty early to catch the end of the public skate session. I've had a tight groin of late -- yeah, I know, TMI -- and I was hoping to loosen up.

I skate for 15 minutes or so and practicing my frontward-to-backward transitions when I catch an edge on a rut left from bratty little figure skater. I usually just land on my ass, but this time I don't quite manage to get an arm to brace myself and land instead face first on the ice.

At that point, I could hear the bells-a-ringing. Of course, I wasn't wearing my helmet. I was in sweats and a T-shirt -- this was only public skate.

It gets better. I shake it off, we play our game. The groin gets stretched out pretty good a couple times -- but I'm able to still skate (or what passes for skating in my vivid imagination). We go to overtime, I take the first shift at right wing and the only thing I'm thinking is 'let's-not-blow-the-play-as-the-result-of-one-my-frequent-defensive-fuckups.'

Seriously, I've seen practice cones put better moves on guys than I do when on D.

So when one of their guys is taking it down the boards in our end and the puck comes loose, I'm all over it. The puck simply can't be allowed to come off the boards. I get there and the last thing I remember is running into one of my own D-man hard. And again I'm on the ice, the groin and hip now completely outta whack and the church bells again ringing....

In other words, as I type this I've got an ice bag down my pants, which certainly has a pacifying effect, if you know what I mean.

As for the game, well, we lost in OT. So that kind of added to the day's suckiness, although everyone put in a good effort. It was just one of those games when the puck proved once again what a cruel little motherfucker it can be and we learned once again that in hockey there's always, always, always room for improvement.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Some reading for NHL opening day

The NHL opens its season tonight, meaning the race is on to play 82 games to eliminate 14 of 30 teams from the playoffs. Which will end in June.

But league commissioner Gary Bettman opines that he's doing a pretty great job, according to an interesting profile in ESPN magazine. There's even talk the NHL will get a sweet new TV deal that would show games on a channel actually received by most cable viewers.

Of course, one reason that a pair of decent seats at a regular season hockey game may set you back $150 or more is that hockey gets fairly little money from TV. The sport is extremely reliant on gate revenues, the reason that the season is so long and the playoffs are played during some of the loveliest weather of the year.

And remember how exciting the Olympic tournament was in February? Bettman still isn't commiting NHL players to the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia, saying Sochi isn't such a nice place to visit. Yep, that's the best steward the NHL can find for the game. Pathetic.


Another not-so-great rink website

Attentive Puck Boy readers know how I feel about hockey's dismal attempts to attract new people to the sport -- especially adults. In a world that attempts to pacify, tame and strip adults of anything that may result in adrenalin or exciting behavior, ice hockey is needed more than ever. Plus, it beats having the shit kicked out of you in Fight Club.

The easiest way in the world to distribute info on hockey is this thing called the Internet. How easy is it? Even a dunce like me figured out how to create and maintain a blog -- and I get confused using tooth floss.

The above is a screen shot of Pickwick Gardens web page on adult pickup games. I guess this means there are none. The rest of the Burbank rink's website is a similar mess, as are the websites of many rinks around the region. Essentially, the website does nothing useful to tell an adult how to learn to play hockey--thereby denying the rink thousands of dollars the adult would probably spend in clinics, stick-times and league fees once properly addicted to the sport.

Thanks to a reader tip, and kind of confirmed by the Pickwick website, the once excellent Hockey 101 clinics that took place on early Saturday and Sunday mornings are no more. There is, however, a stick time session at $15 on Sunday mornings from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m.  That's not a good time for me -- I play on Sunday afternoons -- but I bet an early morning stick-time during the week would attract hockey players who would like to get their day started with a little puck action.

Just an idea....


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Art of hockey

Fine arts photographer Marina Chen was shooting photos during our hockey clinic last Wednesday night and has posted a nice slideshow on her Flickr page. The above shot actually was taken during a peewee practice after we left the ice -- but it's a great image of the current Pasadena ice rink, due to be replaced next September.

Check out her work and if you're interested in purchasing a print or hiring her for a photography project (i.e. shooting your next game), she can be contacted at


photo by Marina Chen

Tuesday morning hockey timewaster

Go ahead and watch this video that has been making the rounds in the beer leagues. It was made by someone named "D. Sloan," who is quite possibly some kind of genius. If you're watching at work, wear headphones. And if you don't laugh out loud at least once, then there's something very wrong with you.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

This week in hockey crimes and misdemeanors

Another hockey season has rolled around, so it’s time for my personal favorite feature on this blog: Hockey Crimes and Misdemeanors, in which I detail the many boners I commit on the ice.

And I’m not talking about the good kind of boner. In fact, I’m pretty certain I don’t have the skill to skate, stickhandle and…never mind.

In any event, we’re now two games deep into the fall season, time enough for me to set the exciting sport of ice hockey back a few decades. To wit:

THE CRIME: I’m at right wing, in the slot in the other team’s zone and a loose puck goes skittering over to the right boards, where it comes to a gentle rest. I’m the closest guy to the puck, so I head in that direction and shout “I’ve got it! I’ve got it!” to the second-closest player, who happens to be one of my team’s defensemen. I get near the boards, make a nice sharp turn toward the goal line, stick my stick out to gather in the puck and…and…and…missed the little fucker.

THE RESULT: But I had a lovely skate to the goal line, wondering when vulcanized rubber became so lightweight. That left my D-man to struggle for the puck while I played with myself in the corner.

THE LESSON:  First, there’s the whole “I got it” thing – don’t yell “I’ve got it” unless you are reasonably sure you’re gonna get it. Second, this was a good lesson on the joys of overskating. Grabbing a puck and charging toward the goal line is a good idea, but it would have been smarter to get to the boards, execute a good stop, grab the puck and then dash off to the races. Of course, that would have required a good stop with my right foot on the outside, and that’s not quite my stop-on-a-dime foot. Hey right foot: fuck you!

THE CRIME: We’re hanging on to a two-goal lead in the third period and trying to be defensive-minded. I chase one of the other team’s players through the neutral zone, catch him and poke check the puck away – and get tangled with him in the process. To prevent him from catching back up to the puck, I might have held his stick for a couple of extra seconds. To prevent me from possibly holding his stick, he bopped me in the head with his glove. I might have not let go of his stick after said bopping. We both got whistled two minutes for roughing and a four-on-four ensued. 

THE RESULT: Neither team scored during the penalty. But I earned the satisfaction of being assessed a roughing penalty for the third straight game.

THE LESSON: The play started as one of my better defensive efforts – and I’m not boasting by any means because on the hockey evolutionary ladder, my defensive game has yet to reach the slime stage. But as the play unfolded and the neurons in my brain were firing, I was vaguely aware that I was near or crossing that invisible line that helps induce a whistle. It may have been worth taking a penalty if the guy had a clear shot on our goal – but he didn’t. I would have been wise to untangle and get after that puck.