Monday, December 27, 2010

This week in hockey crimes and misdemeanors

As I mentioned last week, my team made it to our league championship game and...lost three to zip. Not a blowout, but not exactly our best game. And if the Hockey Police had been present, I would have been arrested and charged with the following:

The Crime: I'm at right wing and manage to get a shot off from outside the right face off circle. The goalie blocks the puck, one of my teammates stuffs in the rebound and it looks like we've scored -- until, that is, the ref waves off the goal saying the puck didn't entirely cross the goal line. While all of us are standing around the goal and debating the wisdom of this call, a guy from the other team skates up and starts yelling it obviously wasn't a goal. This is a guy I know from clinic and like, but in the heat of the situation I did what seemed reasonable and bopped him in the shoulder with my glove and requested that he shut the fuck up. He bops me back in the shoulder and the ref promptly whistles him for roughing.

The Result: We went on the power play but didn't score.

The Lesson: It's always fun to get away with one. But if anyone out there can tell me what I was thinking, I'd love to know. Although I didn't cost my team a penalty, I easily could have and for what? A bop on the shoulder pad with a padded glove? I bet that really hurt him! If you have to take a penalty any time, do it during the course of play and preferably trying your best to make an aggressive play -- either scoring a goal or directly preventing one. The best thing you can do after the whistle blows is either get a drink of water or skate away from sources of potential conflict -- if you're operating at 10 percent brain capacity, as most hockey players are, chances are you aren't going to resolve whatever conflict you're engaged in peacefully or with success.

The Crime: I'm at right wing, the puck is coming hard around my side. I try to pick it up and try to fling it out of our zone -- and send it right back to the other team's D-man on the point. The other team's possession continues and now I'm in puck chase mode to try to clear the zone and erase my guilty conscious. Somehow I end up in front of the left goal post when the puck kicks out toward the blue line and to the best player on the other team. He takes a wickedly awesome shot that...

The Result: ...manages to find the six inches between me and my goalie -- who, by the way, I'm now partially screening. The puck glances off our goalie for the other team's first goal of the game. I want to die.

The Lesson: Where to begin? My first unpardonable sin was to try to fling the puck out of the zone and to no one in particular. I was a good 10 feet inside the blue line when I tried to clear the puck along the boards. I've written repeatedly on this blog that there's RARELY A GOOD EXCUSE TO JUST GIVE THE PUCK TO THE OTHER TEAM. Which, of course, is precisely what I did. The smarter play would have been to either skate right at the D-man and let him try to take the puck from me or chip it past him off the boards. Or I could have tried cutting inside. As it happens, the guy on the point for the other team was clearly a superior player than me and I knew it and he knew it and I let that fact dictate the action. Dumb. Unless you're standing in front of your own goal, in most cases it's better to let the other team take the puck from you.

As bad as that mistake was, the second might have been worse. Teams fail to clear the zone all the time. But I then decided not to play my position and go on an expedition in my own defensive zone to get the puck. Allowing myself to get sucked so far left, meant that there was a ton of open ice on the right side of our zone. And I got in the way of my own goalie. I probably didn't need to be playing that low -- at the least I should have been on the right goal post to give my goalie a clean shot at guarding the strong side of the goal.

As many of you know, it doesn't take a lot of mistakes to lose a hockey game. And let this be a lesson: a bad 10 seconds is all it takes. I only pray the Hockey Gods grant me many more chances not to screw it up in 2011!!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Permanent winter

To change the topic from hockey for a second, check out these pics from the ongoing storms at Mammoth Lakes -- more than 130 inches in the past five days. Should be a good season, eh?

There's always next year...

It took me a few days to even want to write about this, but my team lost our league championship game this past Sunday by a score of 3 to 0. Beer, tequila, chicken wings and sleeplessness followed.

I won't even bother to mention how the slight altercation at the end when I thought -- erroneously I've been told -- that someone from the other team threw his gloves in my face, leading me to blow a fuse. I then skated alone into the other team's celebration to call the other player an impolite name and then a lot of shoving and yelling and silliness ensued.

That's hockey for you. As my hockey buddy often says, a beautiful sport played by idiots. Like me. 

It was, as expected, a physical and chippy game and the difference was that the best player for our opponents did what good players do -- made a couple of great plays resulting in two goals. We couldn't take advantage of some power plays and we had a goal waved off by the refs, who ruled the puck didn't entirely cross the goal line. I thought it did, but it wasn't the difference in the game.

I knew going in that the game could go either way. So losing wasn't entirely a surprise. And I think my team's feelings about the game were mixed -- pleased that we were good enough to get to a championship game, disappointed we're not yet good enough to win one, surprised perhaps how much the game meant to everyone.

I've been racking my brain trying to decide what we could have done different -- I'll get into some of my personal mistakes in my regular hockey crimes and misdemeanors post tomorrow. If I can pinpoint any one reason it was that our opponents did a very good job of holding the point, giving them second and third scoring chances and denying us the chance to play offense.

My advice to any beer leaguers out there: of the zillion things that your team should be working on, I would first and foremost practice the basic breakout over and over and over again until everyone is comfortable they can do it successfully on a frequent basis.

In the meantime, winter league starts early next month. So there isn't that much time to feel too badly.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Playing for the cup

Okay, The Cup residing in the manager's office at the Pasadena rink looks like a mixing bowl I have in my kitchen at home mounted on a recycled piece of wood from a shipwreck. But nonetheless, my team has advanced to the lower division league championship game next Sunday, meaning we're playing for The Cup.


This is only our second season together and it's only the second season for a good chunk of the team -- and our team isn't going to win any awards for youth, although our demographic would make Viagra an ideal sponsor for us.

Oh, and we started last season 0-10-1 before winning our first game. This season has gone better.

By the way, if you ever want to do something super duper exciting, be on the ice for a penalty kill and a pulled goalie situation while defending a 3 to 2 lead in the last four minutes of the game and a trip to the title game on the line. To quote Bruce Springsteen yet again, it was like a shot of adrenalin straight to the heart.

As for next week's game, I already have the major yips and it's only Monday at 9:05 a.m. Like, seriously, if I wasn't sitting here at Corner Bakery choking down a chicken sausage panini, I'd probably be throwing up. In fact, when I'm done with the panini, I may actually throw it up and then re-eat it, which seems like a hockey kind of thing to do.

Here's my current dilemma: I haven't shaved since last Thursday and want to avoid shaving until after the game, even if my face looks kind of like a briar patch at the moment. The problem: on Tuesday I have a meeting with the CEO of a multibillioin dollar public agency and then on Friday I have to moderate a panel discussion which includes a prominent elected public official.

Any bright ideas anyone?


Friday, December 10, 2010

This week in hockey crimes and misdemeanors: what to do when the goalie drops his stick?

And the mistakes go on and on and on....

The Crime: Due to some kind of cosmic burp, I’m playing center. We’re up by a goal late in the third period, in the left faceoff circle and on offense. I kind of win the faceoff and pull the puck backward on a diagonal – a four o’clock direction – into a space unoccupied by any of my teammates. An opponent picks up the puck and heads down the ice unescorted.

The Result:
First, I almost crapped my hockey pants. Second, the opponent got off a pretty good shot, which was blocked by my goalie. We take the puck back up the ice, warding off the threat.

The Lesson: I had the right idea – pull the puck back to one of our D-men. Problem is, I didn’t check immediately before the puck dropped to see where our D-men were stationed. If I had seen there wasn’t anyone there, I could have either signaled to my teammates to move or tried harder to make sure I didn’t send the puck the other way up the ice.

The Crime: I’m at wing and follow the other wing into the other team’s zone. I set up in front of the crease and in the jostling for a rebound that follows – get this – the other team’s goalie drops his stick. I give it a girlie kick away from the crease to get it out of my way and, of course, deny the goalie the use of his stick. But it only goes three feet or so and a D-man from the other team is above to recover the stick and give it back to the goalie before we take another shot.

The Result: Even though the goalie got his stick back, I had a decent screen going and the other wing takes a shot from the slot and scores.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Slapshot time

Like pretty much everyone else I know who plays hockey, I'm kind of obsessed with trying to develop a slapshot that consistently looks like, actual hockey slapshot.

My shot at the moment is a bit of a mess. So I went searching in the great wide open spaces of YouTube and found the above video, which I thought was helpful and helped break down a slapshot into easy-to-digest pieces.

All this said, I often times find myself thinking it's nice to have a slapshot, but of the skills I need during a game, it's not high on the list. I rarely have the time to even line up a shot -- largely because I need to improve my skating, passing and stickhandling skills. And, to be honest, I've taken more backhand shots on goal than I have slapshots.

Still, one of these days, it would be nice to be able to do the real deal...


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Way to go, Ohio

I just got back from a less than splendid eight days in Cincinnati, Ohio.

One highlight: attending a Cincy Cyclones game and admiring the skating abilities of their mascot, Twister (at right), who when not flattening suburban neighborhoods can be seen tossing free T-shirts to hockey fans.

I'm still mystified how Columbus, Ohio, managed to nab the Blue Jackets, the city's only major league sports franchise. In the eyes of snobbish Cincinnatians -- who quite frankly don't have a lot to brag about -- Columbus was only on the map because it was the state capital and a convenient place to take a pee while driving to Cleveland.

In any event, I had to laugh when Puck Daddy ran this photo the other day of the BJ's new mascot, a very penis-like cannon named "Boomer." At least they gave him a furry mustache, a must-have I suppose if Boomer is trying to pick up chicks from nearby West Virginia.


Solution for the Kings is same solution for every team!

I don't spend a lot of time reading quotes from players on LAKingsInsider. Most of them are riddled with the same boring cliches.

But I had to laugh when I read this one from D-man Drew Doughty on the Kings' loss to Anaheim on Monday and their recent slump:

DOUGHTY: “We know, as a team, we haven’t been creating as many chances as we’d like, and we’ve got to get back to the basics. Getting pucks to the net and getting guys to the goal, that is the only way we are going to be able to score goals. We just need to focus on getting our shots on target, first of all, and having a body in front.”

I hear the same thing from both my own big mouth and others on my team, win or lose. It's not exactly rocket science -- keeping a guy in front of the other team's goal -- but we have to remind ourselves to do it time and time and time again.