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.

The crime: I'm at right wing, game tied, about six minutes to go in the third. The puck is in our end. Our D regains possession and looks to make a breakout pass, except somehow both wings are bunched up on the right side and neither of us are in good position to take a pass.

The result: With too many bodies in too little space, the other team makes a play and regains possession and scores the winning goal.

The lesson: If you're playing forward, the only thing that matters when your D regains possession is to give them a good target. Not a so-so target. It doesn't matter if you're playing right, wing or center -- the idea is to find open ice where you can cleanly catch a pass. It may mean skating back into your own and looping around. Or cutting across the ice from right to left.

But just standing there is likely to result in something very unfortunate happening. Plus just standing there is kind of stupid -- if you want to stand around, go play golf. If you're standing in the neutral zone in hockey, you may as well drop the pants and rub one off -- which will likely result in a very cold terwilliger, a delay of game penalty, and the all-around embarrassment of being the wanker (literally) on YouTube who couldn't catch a breakout pass.


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