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!!


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