Friday, April 22, 2011

Hockey pic of the day

IMG_7501 by paolobarzman
IMG_7501, a photo by paolobarzman on Flickr.

Not much info accompanies this photo on Flickr, but I think it may be a Montreal Canadiens' practice session. Whatever it is, it's a cool shot.


I'm famous!

Photo by Julie Sheer.
The Domesticated Partner has authored an exceptionally well-written post in a local newspaper on where to see wildflowers in the Santa Ynez Valley and requested that I help stir up some hits. Plus, she captured a very un-hockey like photo of me taking pictures of poppies on Figueroa Mountain.

And, you know, there's nothing like having my photo in the newspaper that called me on a Sunday afternoon in 2009 and requested that I stay on vacation until the End of Days. Poopheads!

Oh well. Life gets tricky sometimes.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Did that Kings game really happen last night?

A few thoughts on last night's epic 6 to 5 collapse by the Kings in game three of their playoff series against the Sharks:

•I was sitting in the Kings attack twice end of the ice. And guess what? All six San Jose goal were scored in front of me -- five in the second period and the final one in overtime.

•The 4 - 0 Kings lead was a bit of a deception. The Kings picked up a couple of cheap goals early and San Jose's defense and goalie looked very s-h-a-k-y before settling down.

•A four goal lead in hockey is nothing like a four touchdown lead in football. Football possessions generally take time and smart teams with leads know how to employ the running game to take a lot of time off the clock. In hockey, it can take five seconds for a team to regain possession of the puck and score.

•A lot of people in my section were beyond disgust with the play of winger Dustin Penner, who they accused of tepid effort and poor puck management skills. That didn't show up so much in the media coverage.

•That was the loudest and most crowded Kings game I've seen in my three years of going to games. That said, I'm inclined to agree with Mercury News columnist Mark Purdy that Staples Center is generally a pretty quiet place for hockey games. A lot of the noise at Kings games, including last night, comes from music and videos cranked up to rock concert levels. I have no idea who the Kings are marketing to -- seemingly 16 year old boys. It's funny, because I don't see a lot of 16 year old boys in the stands. Mostly I see adult guys, including some who managed to find dates.

As I've said before, at some point the Kings organization will realize that the most exciting thing about a hockey game is...a hockey game and all that other crap is just nonsense.


Average shift times in the NHL -- should this apply to the beer leagues?

Click above to see larger image.

One of the recurring points of discussion on my beer league team is shift times: many of us (including me) are pushing for shorter, more energetic shifts while some players prefer longer shifts, which they view as a way to get more playing time.

That's totally understandable. Who doesn't like to play? That said, if you watch a lot of hockey games with a critical eye, it's easy to see that players who are going all out get tired quickly. After all, there are numerous studies pointing to the fact that humans can only go all-out for a minute or so.

Here's an excerpt from the book "Exercise and Sport Science:"

Long shifts of high intensity result in accumulation of muscle lactate and a rapid reduction in myscle glycogen, particularly from the fast-twitch fibers. If high concentrations of lactic acid are produced, the muscle acidity caused metabolic and contractile disturbancees that result in decreased work performance." 

Check out these statistics from this past NHL regular season: they show average ice time per shift per player. The guy with the longest shifts in the NHL is Washington defenseman Mike Green, who averages 62 seconds per shift with about 24 shifts per game. (Click on the link to see the full list; that's a screen shot above).

In other words, NHL players are taking a lot of shorter and more explosive shifts. Obviously, things are a little different in beer league hockey, which often uses running time -- i.e. the clock continues to run even when play stops for a face-off or goal.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hockey pic of the day

Big Save by _becaro_
Big Save, a photo by _becaro_ on Flickr.

Nice save by the Slovakian goalie against the Swedes in the IIHF Women's World Championships being held this week. The Swedes won 3 to 0.

The IIHF website, btw, has this great headline about the Swiss women's team: "Swiss Misses Advance to Playoffs." Nice!


Timeline for construction of new Pasadena ice rink

This clever little timeline was linked to by the Pasadena Ice Skating Center's website. I put it here as a reference in case there should be delays to the new NHL-sized rink -- you know, just in case five months isn't enough time.

The good news is that the tent pavilion now has construction fencing around it. But it's hard to tell what, if anything, is actually happening. I walked past last night and construction of said fence seems to be the major achievement so far.

Stay tuned.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Outside the rink: Central Coast getaway

No game this weekend, so I spent the weekend in Santa Barbara County. A few non-hockey pics:

Sunset at Arroyo Burro State Beach in Santa Barbara on Saturday night.

Moonrise at Arroyo Burro, shortly after the above sunset.

Poppies and lupines growing near the top of Figueroa Mountain in the Los Padres National Forest.

A seagull at Butterfly beach in Montecito. Not a great image, but didn't entirely screw it up.

You can check out some of my other amateurish photography and spend gobs of money on my pics at my SmugMug page.


Friday, April 15, 2011

A few hockey notes

•My team had a game on Wednesday night -- which ended about 10:30 with a GLORIOUS 3-2 win in OT after we tied it with 90 seconds left in regulation. It took about 70 minutes to play the game; a few of us stood around talking about on the sidewalk outside the rink until 1 a.m. or so.

Time to Play Game: 70 minutes. Time to Talk About Game: 150 minutes.

After arriving home shortly after 1 a.m., I then stayed up until 2:30 watching a recording of the Ducks game.

•We were on a power play when one of our opponents tried to clear the puck and instead whipped it over the glass. Unfortunately, no delay of game penalty in our beer league -- I was told it's not part of USA Hockey's rules. It is, as you know, in the NHL rulebook. It would have given us our first 5-on-3 opportunity. Bummer. 

•Speaking of the Ducks -- and the Kings -- it would be nice if one of those teams could get to the second round of the playoffs. After one game in each series, please ignore my speculation about what it would take for both teams to play eachother in the second round.

Hey Kyle Clifford -- courtesy of the Ducks, your face looks like a watermelon after it has been stepped on by an elephant. Maybe you should work on your hockey skills and stop the fighting silliness. 

•In my never-ending quest for the perfect post-hockey beer, I recommend Stone Pale Ale. Not the best, but a good one. I don't think it has a great finish, however. More about my great taste in beer in future posts.


Hockey pic of the day

This one was taken in Banff at the Fairmont Hotel. It's the only hotel I've ever heard about that offers hockey facilities for guests. Sounds smart.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hockey pic of the day

Breakaway. I was just about to give up for today when I went to the grocery store I saw these guys playing hockey.  now they were having fun.

Everyone always looks so serious playing. It's understandable. Hockey is a damn hard sport. Here's a nice reminder how much fun it is, too.

photo by sparky675, via SmugMug


Puck Boy movie review: 'Win Win' wins

When not obsessing about my lower division beer league hockey team, I like to go to the movies and support the hometown industry. In that spirit -- and since this is my blog -- I will offer occasional and very short movie reviews to spare you the mental anguish of having to read the pseudo-intellectual dipshit reviews in the local papers.

"Win Win" is not really a sports movie. It's a well-acted family drama in which high-school wrestling plays a role. The gist of it: A small-town lawyer (the always excellent Paul Giamatti) who is a part-time high school wrestling coach ends up taking in a teen boy fleeing his drug addicted mother. Guess what? The teen turns out to be a wrestling stud.

I liked the movie and award it three pucks out of four. It was nowhere near as dramatic or funny as "The Fighter" but it was pleasantly low-key and entertaining. If anything, I wish there were more wrestling scenes, a terrifically eclectic and little understood sport. That said, the movie did a great job conveying the humor and obsessiveness of the middle-age wrestling coaches trying to recapture their past glories. 


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

When to go for that loose puck -- and when not to

I like to find videos that smartly break down beer league hockey games and point out mistakes. This one does that, reinforcing the point that it's the d-man's job to stay between the puck carrier and the net. Lunging for a loose puck may seem a good aggressive play, unless you don't get the puck.

Then what? Watch the video!


Hockey pic of the day

Larry   9012 by Kallik1
Larry 9012, a photo by Kallik1 on Flickr.
Have you blocked a shot or intercepted a pass lately? Not by accident--by making an actual effort? Inexperienced skaters should take note of how much this player is using that outside edge.

The photo was taken of a kids game in Quebec. It's a great shot -- the photographer bumped his ISO to 3200 and used a shutter speed of 1/400th with a 500mm lens and aperture of f/4.5.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Hockey notes of the day

•The Pasadena ice rink -- all 150 feet by 90 feet of it -- is adding two stick times on Tuesday nights -- at 6:30 and 7:45. There are also stick times at 7:45 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. It can be crowded but at least it's a chance to get out there with the puck and skate a little.

•If you are hoping to see the Kings and Ducks meet in the second round of the playoffs, they both obviously need to win their first-round matchups and also have Detroit beat Phoenix and Chicago topple top-seeded Vancouver. This seems u-n-l-i-k-e-l-y.

•I got a note from a regular reader praising the Weekend Warrior hockey camps held throughout the U.S.; he had just attended one back east and wrote that it really improved his game. There is a camp coming up from May 12 to 15 at South Lake Tahoe. I perused the website and it looks great for basically anyone who can already skate -- you get a ton of ice time and a structured environment to learn the game. It's not cheap -- $725, not including lodging or travel there. 


CicLAvia subs for hockey

My usual Sunday afternoon game is being played Wednesday night, leaving me with some free time. So the Domestic Partner and I enjoyed a nice spin through Los Angeles during the city's second CicLAvia event that shut down streets and turned them over to cyclists. Sweet. 

That's a low-res photo above looking west down 7th Street toward downtown L.A. from the Westlake neighborhood. If you need a high-res version for any purpose, feel free to download from my Flickr page. 

Two observations: 

1. Angelenos are more skilled cyclists than they are motorists. They are also better behaved. 

1b. That said, Angelenos are always better motorists than Pasadena motorists, who are the worst of the worst of the worst. The area around Caltech and Pasadena City College should be labeled on maps as "Driver Death Zones," meaning people may do random and unsignaled U-turns in the middle of a city block or try to ram you from behind while you're turning right. Pedestrians are treated as targets, not people. You suck, Pasadena Motorists!!! 

2. My bike seat could sterilize entire armies. Not sitting pretty this morning. 


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hockey pic of the day

The Mask by R. A. Whittaker
The Mask, a photo by R. A. Whittaker on Flickr.
Very artistic! I like it!

The photo was actually taken at a goalie camp in Ottawa that focuses on skills for netminders of all ability levels -- including older dudes with injury and flexibility issues. It's called -- and you have to admire the simplicity -- Ottawa Goalie.

Here's the camp's link for anyone who wants to decamp to the Great White North to learn a thing or two.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Hockey pic of the day

Can you imagine having this in your backyard? No drive to the rink with the hockey bag? Sigh.

The photo was taken in 2008 in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, which is outside the Twin Cities.


'I can't hear, I can't see, but I can skate' -- worship this dude!

Nice story in the Orange County Register this past week on Alex Patterson, who at 80 is still playing ice hockey with guys many decades younger. Alex is blind in one eye and has hearing problems -- but watch the video. The dude can still motor around the rink.

My favorite part of the video: he brags about making a good pass, albeit one that his teammate couldn't snag. More people should worry about making good passes!

BTW, I know the annual Senior World Tournament in Santa Rosa at the rink built by Peanuts creator Charles Schultz has a 70-and-over division, as well as many other divisions for players 40 and over.  


Friday, April 8, 2011

Hockey pic of the day

Moosonee Minor Hockey 2007 January 26

photo by Paul Lantz, via SmugMug

If this young player can puck handle and skate on his outside edges like this, why can't you? Why can't I? Wish I knew. The photo was taken in Moosonee, Ontario -- yep, that would be Canada.


A few Friday hockey notes

•If you correctly found much of the NCAA basketball tourney a bore -- all those fouls, free throws and timeouts are NOT exciting -- the college hockey finals are tomorrow pitting Michigan against the University of Minnesota-Duluth. The game is at 4 p.m. tomorrow (Pacific time) on ESPN. Set your DVRs.

•As I wrote recently, I think the fate of the Kings post-season rests with winger Dustin Brown, a guy known for his checking game who should be focusing more on his offensive game. I was in attendance Wednesday night when Brown uncorked this super sweet rush, ending with a beautiful pass to Jarrett Stoll, who tapped the puck in for the score. 

•A Non-Hockey Opinion: Dodger Stadium sucks. It's a nice ballpark in a lousy location -- on top of a hill surrounded by acres of parking lots -- and completely disconnected from the city it intends to serve. The team and city should have worked together to build a true downtown ballpark years ago that would have helped downtown L.A. become an actual destination and make it easier for people to reach the ballpark without having to sit in traffic and pay $15 for a space. I also think that having acres of parking lots makes it hard to patrol the place and increases the likelihood of something bad happening, such as the tragic beating of a Giants fan that left him in a coma.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hockey pic of the day

Maybe my team should get some Ice Girls to give something for opposing goalies to contemplate.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A few random hockey notes

•I'm going to the Kings game tonight against Phoenix, which means the boys are unlikely to clinch a playoff spot because I'm there.

The last two games I've attended, the sound system was turned up louder than a Who concert and it was nearly impossible to talk to the person next to me. Hey L.A. Kings management: I'M PAYING YOU TO WATCH PROFESSIONAL HOCKEY NOT BE STUNNED INTO SUBMISSION!!

The more Kings games I go to, the more clear it is that their marketing department must be run by 15-year-old boys.

I'll save you the trouble of clinking on the link--here's the photo.
•Twitter is mostly stupid, but following Coyotes player Paul Bissonnette makes it somewhat worthwhile -- the rare pro athlete who doesn't talk in cliches. One recent tweet:

Who is the blonde ice girl for the flames? Someone tell her i love her and she got more ice time then me tonight.

Second row down and farthest right. Shes got curves. I like a little meat with my potatoes. someone get me her name, need to
•If your team is looking to design a jersey, here's a decent online customizer (although it runs a little slow on my laptop): Can't wait to see the fight my team has selecting colors and a logo -- which I assume is the fight every team has when it comes to uniforms.

Hockey pic of the day

Labatt Pond Hockey 2011 by dhnieman
Labatt Pond Hockey 2011, a photo by dhnieman on Flickr.

A very cool photograph of a pond hockey tournament in Buffalo, N.Y., earlier this year. Looks a little wintery, eh?


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hockey pic of the day

parada by beatrizor
parada, a photo by beatrizor on Flickr.

A nice closeup showing that hockey can be a game of inches and this goalie knows what he's doing. The photo was taken in Spain earlier this year.


Perfect power play

If you didn't see this at Puck Daddy, here's an awesomely executed power play in Finland in which all five players touch the puck before the goal. It's one sweet pass after the other.

As Puck Daddy alludes, a lot of teams have trouble with the power play -- so much so that some would rather just play 5-on-5 instead of watch things go horribly wrong and surrender a shorthanded goal. The problem: getting the puck to the open guy.


Well said, Terry Murray!

I was doing some light grazing this morning on the cliches and quotes that dominate, when I came across this gem from Kings coach Terry Murray on his team's 6 to 1 drubbing at the hands of San Jose on Monday:
MURRAY: “We weren’t in positions. Whether it was on the checking part of the game, without possession, or if we had possession we were not in the proper lanes. Our centermen were not there, our wingers were not in position, our defensemen were looking up and they’re almost seeing the seat of the pants. There’s no way to get the puck up the ice, unless they get their feet going and get to the red line themselves. It got a little bit better in the second half of the game, but early, my goodness, structurally we were really broken down.”
This sounds like some of the guys on my team -- including me -- when we pick apart our latest defeat or narrow victory. It's refreshing to see we're not the only ones to fuck up the breakout, which has often been the bane of our existence.

I particularly like the "seat of the pants" part. That's one of our common mistakes: the centers and/or wings don't put themselves in good position to take a pass. Oftentimes that means coming back toward the D instead of skating to the other team's blue line and waiting for a long stretch pass that will never arrive.

Here's a website with animations of a variety of breakouts. Some of them are probably beyond the abilities of a novice or beginner's team -- but they seem worth learning and trying. 


Monday, April 4, 2011

A few random Monday notes on hockey and whatever

•Local NHL fans: it still looks possible the Kings and Ducks can come in fourth and fifth in the Western Conference and then play each other in the first round of the playoffs. If the Kings can somehow wrestle the Pacific Division title from the Sharks, then there's a chance they finish third and would play the Ducks if the Ducks finished seventh. Got all that?

•My lil' beer league team won 11 to 4 yesterday against a team that was missing some guys. In our first 10 games as a team last year -- when most of us were in our first-ever hockey league -- we scored only 15 goals. So to see 11 in a game was strange. And kind of nice.

•I actually heard an NPR reporter today report that it usually frightens passengers when the skin of an airplane rips off in mid-flight. Really? You think?

•I'm looking forward to going to bed tonight with Tina Fey. I've just got to figure out which socks to wear.*


*Fey's new book "Bossypants" comes out tonight. I plan to go to stick time, then come home and watch Kings-Sharks (after Domesticated Partner watches her fill of HGTV) and then hitting the sack with Tina and a glass of whiskey. Sounds almost perfect.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Hockey pic of the day

Slapshot by zibbelljr
Slapshot, a photo by zibbelljr on Flickr.
Cool shot from a Canadian Hockey League game -- the dude taking the shot plays for the
Saginaw Spirit. Check out the flex of that stick -- my stick feels like a telephone pole by comparison, although I am assuming there is some user error.


My guide to captaining a lower division beer league hockey team

I'm on the verge of celebrating my one-year anniversary of being captain of a lower division ice hockey team in Pasadena.

That encompasses three 12-week seasons at our local rink here in Pasadena, CA, and it's utterly amazing to me that I've survived this long. In the past year, I've gone from having no clue about what I'm doing to having mostly no clue about what I'm doing.

Me being me -- that is, having quite low expectations -- I am pleased with this progress.

Especially since personally I am coming off the single worst season ever played by a recreational league hockey player in the history of man/woman-kind. Here's how one popular blog posting about beer league personalities characterized the role I play on a team:

The Organizer – This guy is absolutely brutal but since nobody else could be bothered to do all the paperwork and collect the money he gets to play. Is frustrating to play with because they can barely skate let alone take a pass but nobody gets mad at him cuz he’s a really nice guy. Is often heard in the dressing room saying ‘Sorry guys, that one was my fault’ and if he’s lucky somebody will chip in something like ‘No worries Donny, it’s a team effort.’ What everybody is really thinking is ‘Hey Donny, my grandmother is a better player than you and yes you are right, that was your fault.’ If you are lucky the Organizer is usually smart enough to take himself off the ice in critical situations.  
Yep, that's me! Nonetheless, I have learned a few things, so here are a few tips to those putting together a beginner's or lower division team:

•Build around defense. A good defense coupled with a decent goalie will more often than not give you a chance to win games or at least keep games close. Sure, you can put all your talent on offense -- but what happens when they come up against a good D and goalie and get shut down? You're going to get spanked harder than Tiger Woods in a Texas whorehouse. Defense isn't sexy. Most guys would rather play on O and score, allowing them to pleasure themselves while admiring their statistics online. My tip: find guys who see value in D and want to play it and make them the foundation of your team.

•Get two or three guys who have played rec league hockey before. Just because you can get everyone to show up for a game doesn't mean you know jack shit about actual hockey strategy. I'd go after guys who are maybe a little older who don't want to play in the more advanced divisions and have a little hockey wisdom -- the ability to put a 12 to 0 loss to an all-girls team in correct perspective. In other words, get a couple of Yodas that have been skating for 700 years or so.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Weather prediction: why it will not snow in California until fall 2012

I have to pay property taxes and hockey league fees in a week, income taxes in two weeks and was just on the receiving end of a vet bill that almost made me crap my pants.

My natural response: I purchased my first-ever season pass to Mammoth Mountain yesterday for $659. The resort hadn't opened the sale of the "discount" -- cough, cough -- passes to the general public for a few years and I couldn't figure out a good reason not to buy one outside of the fact I can't afford it.

Besides, it beats getting hosed by the resort's regular lift ticket prices, which currently stand at $92 for a single day or about $70 a day with online (cough, cough) discounts. Oh, and the motherfuckers at the resort now charge $8 to rent a moldy locker at Canyon Lodge, the kind of gouging usually reserved for post-natural disaster situations. 

Mammoth set a new record for snowfall this year -- they're at 606 inches and counting this season. Naturally, as soon as I hit the "purchase" button on my pass for next season, I initiated a complex series of weather events that will result in the mother of all droughts descending on California for the 2011-12 ski season. For this, I offer the farmers, fish and other water users in the Golden State a simple apology. Whoops!

Conversely, if I didn't buy the season pass, I would have guaranteed at least 607 inches of snow to fall next season. So I was in a moral conundrum, as they say, and hopefully have erred on the side of trying to do the wrong thing: spend money I don't have so I can work less and ski more. 

photo: Mammoth Mountain's website.


Hockey pic of the day

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Photo by geezerhockey, via their SmugMug page 

A defensman in a geezer league game in Bethlehem, PA, tries to move a player right out the backdoor. See where the goalie is -- guarding the other post, meaning this O guy can't be allowed to enjoy this piece of real estate.


Pasadena spring league still needs a few players

The lower/intermediate division at the Pasadena rink starts spring play on April 10.

The league is trying to expand from four to six teams and I hear one of the new teams still needs a few players. If you're interested, contact the rink at or call 626-578-0800.

There are only two divisions at the Pasadena rink -- lower and upper. The lower is being renamed intermediate to reflect the fact that most of the people playing in it have some hockey experience. If ringers are kept at bay, it's a good league for advanced beginners (some scrimmage and/or pickup experience), intermediates and older players.

It's a 12-game season with games on Sunday afternoons and evenings with an occasional Wednesday night game. The rink is only 150 feet long -- 50 feet shorter than an NHL rink -- and there are no showers. A full-size rink next door to the current facility is scheduled to open in September.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Hockey pic of the day

If I'm not too lazy I'll make this a regular feature. Or a semi-regular feature.

As for this pic, it was taken somewhere in Canada according to Flickr. The caption says "The only reason it is empty is because it is -31 degrees. Generally hockey stops in Canada after it falls below -20."

Interesting. It's 85 degrees in Pasadena at 5 p.m. Friday and I'm actually praying it doesn't dip below 78 -- because then I'll be chilled sitting on the Wahoos patio tonight.