Wednesday, November 24, 2010

This week in hockey crimes and misdemeanors

I spent an unlovely week in Ohio and returned just in time for my team's most recent game. It was predictable that almost two weeks off resulted in some hockey plays that didn't quite work out for me personally or my team.

In the world of spin in which we live, these errors could be called "unfortunate events." Attentive readers, however, know that I pull no punches on this blog and I can only say my boners are all my own.

And they ain't pretty. To wit:

The crime: I'm at wing, skating up the right boards in our own end and just before I skate across the blue line, some geezer from the other team steals the puck from me.

The result: The first result is I looked like a total duncecake. The second result is that I prolonged our opponent's offensive possession, although they didn't score. Still, one of their D-men got off a pretty good slapshot that went wide and almost smacked me in the nether-regions. Which, btw, I totally deserved.

The lesson: Don't stare at the puck. The puck has nothing to say to you. It doesn't want to compliment you on your own stick, ask you out after the game or admire that nifty move on the previous shift. The puck is a gob of vulcanized rubber and looks like all the other pucks, to be quite candid.

If I hadn't been looking down, I might have noticed I wasn't playing with myself and that there was a guy wearing a jersey coming at me -- and his jersey wasn't the same color as my jersey. I could have either chipped the puck along the boards or moved to my left -- a smart lateral move because my opponent's momentum was carrying him to the boards. In check hockey, looking down would also have resulted in me getting knocked senseless by an opponent who, quite frankly, would have been doing me a favor because the current wiring doesn't exactly meet code.

The crime: I'm at right wing, other team has the puck. I'm in the slot, one of my D-men smartly sends the pucks around the boards -- against the grain of the play -- and the other team's man on the point promptly beats me to the boards and the puck and even gets a pass off that I fail to block. Again, our opponent's possession is prolonged because you-know-who had a head wedgie, i.e. noggin-stuck-between-the-butt-cheeks. 

The result: We escaped again, but it's kind of hard to play offense when you're always on defense.

The lesson: I actually was in good position initially -- watching the point man on the weak side. My mistake was losing sight of the puck for a moment and not anticipating that our D was going to bang it on the boards to my side -- a logical play for them to make. If I see it coming, I would have gotten a better jump on the race to the boards/puck. I may not have beaten my man, but at the least I could have tied him up and prevented the pass back toward the middle of the ice, i.e. the danger zone where good offensive chances reside.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Imagine what a real concussion is like...


I was changing into my gear at the rink last night and noticed this sign about symptoms of a concussion.

What bothers me about the sign is that during my games, I exhibit many of these symptoms -- even if no one has hit me: is confused about position -- check! Moves clumsily -- check! Forgets sports plays -- check!

Shows behavior or personality changes -- check and I certainly hope so!

As I've said before, when you play hockey, assume your brain will be working at about five to 10 percent of normal capacity and make the appropriate adjustments.

--S.H.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Question for hockey fans who travel frequently...

Now that TSA is basically offering hand jobs at airport security, can I use my miles to purchase an upgrade?

Have a minute to kill before my flight boards...

--S.H.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Let's go Cyclones!


So, I had the good fortune to attend Saturday night's Cincinnati Cyclone's game against the Gwinnett Gladiators -- the Atlanta suburbs' answer to minor league hockey.

It was the first time I had attended a hockey game at the Riverfront Coliseum (now named after some bank whose name I refuse to mention) since going to Cincy Stingers games there in the 1970s. The Stingers were one of the WHA teams not invited to join the NHL and they folded; Robbie Ftorek was probably their best known player, although Mark Messier wore the black-and-gold for a spell.

As for the Cyclones, they play in the ECHL -- same league to which the Ontario Reign belong. It's AA hockey and players are paid about $400 a week. It's basically a developmental league. The Cyclones have won the league title, the Kelly Cup, in two of the past three seasons.

The game was terrific. I bought a seat on the glass for $25 three hours before the puck dropped. Between pounding on the glass, jumping up and down, spraying peanut shells everywhere and such, I must have sufficiently entertained myself -- because the teens on a date next to me left after two periods.

Too bad. They missed the Cyclones tying the game in the final three minutes and then winning in a shootout.

Some observations:

•Man, do I miss the hockey and basketball arenas of the 1970s. Riverfront Coliseum seats about 17,000, but all the seats cascade straight down to the ice -- the few luxury boxes are all the way at the top of the arean. There's really not a bad seat in the place and the upper level seats go for $8 for a Cyclones game. The ones along the side offer a view comparable to the $125 premiere section seats that are usually half empty at Los Angeles Kings games.

•One thing immediately noticeable about both teams was how many small dudes they had compared to the NHL. I'm not talking dwarves -- but a lot of guys who looked like they were 5-10, 180 pounds or so.

•These guys can clearly play hockey and there were some fast skaters out there. The difference between this and the NHL: most of the players were 25 or under, the passing wasn't as accurate and the shooting definitely not of the caliber you see in the NHL. Don't get me wrong: I'd probably commit serious felonies to have the skills of any of them.

•Speaking of passing, it was refreshing to watch both teams on occasion screw up the basic breakout just like my team still screws it up. One key difference: these guys screw it up a lot faster.

•Man, even at this level, some of these guys can really uncork a big hit on eachother -- which is much better appreciated when seated next to the glass. If I got hit like that, I think I'd just stay down until they sledded me somewhere safe.

•Without lasers, strobe lights and endless commercials on the video board, the team created a fun atmosphere at the game. It seemed like at least a little thought went into choosing the music and the mascot -- named Twister -- was actually a pretty good skater, not to mention all-the-way-around hilarious to look at.

•I don't really have $100 to spend, but I can see coming home with a Cyclones' jersey. I'm really getting a thing for that team icon. Did you notice the tornado is missing a tooth? Nice attention to detail. 

If you get stuck in a ECHL town for a night -- I definitely recommend checking out a game. On the West Coast, teams are in Ontario, Bakersfield, Stockton, the Salt Lake City 'burbs, Boise and Victoria, B.C.

--S.H.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Post-hockey grub



In the annals, or anals, of best all-time food to eat after playing hockey, I assume Skyline Chili -- a Cincinnati delicacy -- has to rank up there.

I have to assume because I'm in Cincy and my hockey gear is regrettably 2,000 miles away, stinking up the driveway in Pasadena during my visit to a Red State.

As for Skyline, some of you are probably wondering WTF is that in the above photo. Is it food? A shredded construction cone? In short, it's a plate of spaghetti topped with very soupy chili, raw onions and a heap of shredded cheddar cheese. The thing on the left is a cheese coney -- hot dog, mustard, chili, onions, more cheese.

It is to die for. Especially with a little bowl of oyster crackers. 

The most noteworthy thing about Skyline is that everything is overwhelmingly processed. I'm not sure that anything above has anything natural in it. I'm not sure I care. The only thing missing from the photo is the traditional dessert at Skyline: a handful of Peppermint Pattys because everyone knows that chili + chocolate = a digestion system that purs like a Ferrari.

More Cincy culinary delights soon....

--S.H.

Cincy time


Well I'm stuck in Cincinnfuckinati for the next week or so. But looks like my hometown has landed another minor league hockey team in the past few years -- the Cyclones of the ECHL -- and the team's logo is actually pretty good. And perhaps appropriate, given that a tornado seems to obliterate a Cincy suburb every few years.

I'm hoping to check out the Saturday night game against the Gwinnett Gladiators at the old Riverfront Coliseum -- once the home of the mighty Cincinnati Stingers of the WHL, my team growing up. I'm already not liking the Gladiators, and I have no idea where or what Gwinnett is. Maybe I'll look it up on the Internet.

Hey Gwinnett: wherever you are, you suck!

The Cyclones also have a home game on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. It's being billed as a 'hockey in education' game so that schoolkids can attend. By education I hope they mean teaching those future beer leaguers of the importance of watching the pinch and dropping down to pick up a breakout pass.

Or maybe the Cyclones will come out at intermission and teach the runts how to solve this: If there are 11 players on a beer league hockey team and there are 54 minutes in a game, how many minutes of playing time should each player get? Answer is after the jump.

--S.H.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

3 on 3

There was a proposal on the table for NHL general managers: if teams failed to score during the four-on-four overtime period, then four minutes of three-on-three would follow.

Sounds exciting, eh? The world's best hockey players getting the chance to skate and stickhandle and shoot with lots of open ice.

Naturally it got voted down Wednesday so games undecided in four on four go straight to a shootout. I like the shootout but three-on-three would have been better and been a more team oriented way to win or lose a game.

--S.H.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, November 8, 2010

This week in hockey crimes and misdemeanors

The league I play in doesn't do much in the way of stat tracking -- hell, the Pasadena's rink didn't even work for yesterday's set of games. But I've often occasionally about my plus-minus rating, although I'm probably happier not knowing it. My hope is that I've gotten to the point where I can achieve a zero rating -- nothing too good or bad happens when I'm on the ice!

And what that in mind, the latest batch of hockey mistakes that keeps me awake at night:

The Crime: Yesterday's game. I'm at right wing. My team's up 3 to 1 or 4 to 1 with maybe less than five minutes to go (thank you, non-working scoreboard!) and I'm working the puck up the boards in the other team's zone. I manage to get down to the corner before the other team's D-man steals the puck and takes off around the net, with me chasing him. I reach out with my stick and...

The Result:...allegedly trip him, according to the late whistle from the referee. I actually think it was more of a hook than a trip, but who am I to quibble about details. In any event, we're protecting a lead late in the game and now I've put the other team on the power play. All the way down at the other end of the ice I can hear my goalie call out to me "Steve!" as in "Steve, what the f--k were you thinking?" Excellent question! We almost surrendered a goal on the power play, but my goalie was able to sit on the puck an inch before it crossed the goal line. I'm sure he was silently thanking me for that puck suppository.

The Lesson: What was I thinking? The answer is, of course, I wasn't thinking. I was playing hockey, which attentive readers know shrinks one's brain matter to one percent of normal capacity. I was in "get the f--k away from my puck" mode and probably the only thing that was gonna stop me was a taser to the testicles. That said, the lesson here is think. Although many hockey teams -- including mine -- have pretty good penalty kills, a penalty kill still cripples a team's offensive chances and few teams are good enough to sacrifice quality shots on goal. So if you're reading this, don't revel in your PIMs. Vow to reduce them.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election blues

Thank goodness I have the NHL Channel so I don't have to watch the election returns. The nation's electronic media really should be dragged around by a Zamboni for a while -- My two dogs could carry a better conversation and the only thing they ever talk about is blaming eachother for the most recent fart.

Since no one asked, here are my election observations:

1. I hope that Christine O'Donnell has a great rest of evening relaxing next to her cauldron with a copy of "Origin of Species" and her vibrator.

2. I've never found anything approaching a good deal on eBay, nor have I ever owned a Hewlett Packard printer that actually works. See ya later, Ms. Fiorina and Ms. Whitman.

3. We elected the Terminator and a dude older than a meteor as governor, but voted down gay marriage and legalizing weed? Someone please explain.

4. In Arizona, it's possible to repeat an outright lie and act like Rain Man during a debate--and still win the governorship handily. Hey Arizonans: maybe you should put down the peyote and "I'm looking for an illegal alien" binoculars for a while and relocate your brains. And I hope the Coyotes move to Winnipeg.

--S.H.