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.
THE CRIME: In the next game, I'm at right wing. We're in the other team's zone, I end up with the puck left of the goal and on the goal line, right below the faceoff circle. Instead of passing to a teammate, I take a shot, under the impression the puck would travel straight for 15 feet off my stick, sail past the goalie and then magically make a hard left into the ne
THE RESULT: The puck travels for 15 feet straight into the goalie's glove.
THE LESSON: It's generally really hard to score from the goal line or behind the goal line without passing the puck to someone in position to score or without having magical skills. I didn't just have to stand there and wing a shot straight at the goalie. I could have used some combination of brains, skating skills and puckhandling to buy time to look around and make a pass. On this play, all three were on vacation, the shot being the result of some weird nervous evolutionary reflex to fling pucks without looking, thinking or passing.
THE CRIME: We're in OT, 2:30 or so left and there's a loose puck in our end. I chase it and slam right into one of our D-men. Most of me goes in one direction. My groin goes in the other.
THE RESULT: I don't remember. My ass was on the ice. But we got a whistle and I was able to limp to the bench, a nice prelude to spending the next two weeks with an ice pack uncomfortably close to the boys.
THE LESSON: When I first started my skating lessons in '09, my instructor used to say "look up" over and over and over again. I got the hang of it -- but that was only skating. Now I'm playing with a puck and sometimes I can't help but stare at it like I'm in some sort of trance or it's an attractive naked lady. But it's not. It's a piece of vulcanized rubber, not worthy of anyone's gaze for more than a millisecond. Look around -- there are sights to see. Teammates to pass to. And bodies hurtling toward you.