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.
THE CRIME: We had 10 guys last game. So shift switches were easy. As captain of the team, I pointed out to my team that all they had to do was memorize the one other player they were switching with at their position. Easy peasy, right? The other right wing, after a longish shift, jumps off the boards during play and correctly expects his partner at right wing to take his place. This doesn’t happen because the other right wing – that would be me – is so captivated watching his teammates play. I am jarred back to planet Earth by a chorus of “Steves!!!!”
THE RESULT: The other team gets a free five-on-four power play for the 15 seconds or so it takes me to extract my head from my ass. Luckily, they don’t score.
THE LESSON: If you’re playing beer league hockey, here’s a good off-ice mental exercise: try to memorize your name and the name of one other person (for example: Steve and George). If you can master that, take it one step further by trying to fully comprehend that if Steve is on the ice, George isn’t and if George is on the ice, Steve isn’t. I know. It’s tough! Concentrate!
THE CRIME: We’re back in our zone, the puck comes loose and comes to rest along the boards in the corner. Again, I’m the nearest guy to the puck and I get there first, this time get it on my stick and…and……surrounded by three members of the opposing team, I don’t see an obvious pass, so I just fling it straight up the boards, right to the D-man on the other team playing point.
THE RESULT: He actually seems a little surprised to receive such a nice pass. In this case, my team recovers and regains possession of the puck, but still the question remains: why can’t I make those kind of sweet passes to my actual teammates?
THE LESSON: I panicked and treated the puck like a hot potato. Classic rookie mistake except for the fact I’m no longer a rookie. This was my 14th game! I should have tried to skate it up the boards and make the other team take it from me – in a place where they wouldn’t have had a shot anyway. Or I could have lifted the puck up and tried a football type pass to a teammate in the neutral zone. Potentially giving the other team a free slapshot
THE CRIME: One of my D-men makes a nice rush into the other team’s zone. I’m the second player into the zone and receive a beautiful pass from him that my stick magically converts into a goal. That is a good thing but it was such a sweet play (not because of me—because of my teammate) that I dropped (or fell) to my knees and started shouting something about “that’s the way you do it,” never-minding the fact that I happened to be situated in front of the other team’s bench.
THE RESULT: The other ring wing broke me out of my trance and escorted me to the bench, where I nearly threw up from all the self-generated excitement.
THE LESSON: I haven’t found any studies to document this, but I’m pretty certain the very act of playing ice hockey reduces brain capacity by 98 percent. In other words, if I have an IQ of 95 sitting here and writing this at the coffee shop, I have an on-ice IQ of 1.9 – about the same as the chair I’m sitting on. Even so, getting that carried away over a goal in the second game of a lower division league suggests immediate need of Extreme Psychological Therapy (in which I put on a diaper and relive my babyhood to see what went wrong). When someone from the other team retaliates in our next game, I plan to congratulate them later.