One of the happy coincidences of my west coast hockey tour was that the Bakersfield Condors games that I had selected to attend lined up perfectly with the Bakersfield Hockey-thon, a charity event to benefit Links for Love, a breast cancer organization. And even though I am a simply awful hockey player, how could I not participate?
The event was 41 hours of games, held at the Bakersfield Ice Sports Center and the Rabobank Arena (ie: the Condors games, and the Alumni game). There were games from all levels of local teams, and six teams of people like me (well, ones who could play hockey at least) who got pledges from sponsors. One of my sponsors came from the Into the Boards forum, where minor league fans like to hang out online.
Now, let me get this straight: I was clearly the worst player on the ice. I made a few turnovers that led directly to goals against, and I don’t mean that I turned the puck over, and they eventually scored. I mean, I turned the puck over, and they immediately scored. In fact, it happened on my very first shift. I thought, “at least we got that out of the way.” Instead, I got that out of the way two more times. It was a humbling experience. Not that I went in with any illusions of greatness. I knew I was going to be terrible, and had very low expectations. Of my positive accomplishments, I won my first faceoff (which was my first ever faceoff), got a few assists, and made a few good defensive plays (more on that in a moment).
A few photos:
The games were two 25 minute clock running periods (meaning the clock never stopped). Our schedule had us playing most games after midnight. Five games in two days, mostly overnight, takes it’s toll. After the first game Saturday night (game 3) we lost all our Condors Alumni (they had a noon alumni game to play, so I don’t blame them).
Our last game was at 3:15 AM, and our bench wasn’t short, it was barely a line. Only four players from our team showed up, to face a dozen on the other bench. Worse yet, we didn’t have a goalie. We borrowed a few players and a netminder (who had to play the next game as well, poor guy), and we made a go of it. With only seven players, line changes were ridiculous. One or two of us could come off, but that was it. The other team was taking it to us pretty bad. Since there was no icing, sometimes the strategy was to get the puck, fire it down ice, and wait for them to come to us, just so we could catch our breath. I played at least 40 of the 50 minutes of the game. The final score was 10-3. I don’t know how we ever got 3. One goal against us went off my skate and in. But I did make some decent defensive plays every so often. At one point, a slap shot went off my stick and high into the netting. The goalie thanked me for that one, saying he wouldn’t have had it.
Later in the game, I stopped a slap shot with the outside of my leg. Contrary to popular belief, there is no padding on the outside of hockey pants. I heard the other players around me suck wind, and a few say, “That had to hurt.” Only a little, but it left a mark:
This did not feel nearly as bad as my back, nor my legs. I could barely lift my legs after the final game, and my forearms hurt just from the weight of my hockey gloves. The next day, I could barely roll out of bed, much less go to the Condors game.
And It was all worth it, not only for the charity, but also for the experience. I had a great time, and got to know a few of my teammates. Some really great people. Also, several of the people from the Into the Boards forum were there, and stopped me to talk. So much more than I would have ever expected.
As for me, I wasn’t sure where to put this at first, but here is as good a place as any. This is the jersey I was given for the Hockey-thon:
It’s actually a good quality jersey. This one is a little different to me. I may have been a terrible player out there, but I showed up for every game. I took a few shots, stopped a few with parts of my body that never did anything mean to deserve that sort of treatment, and gave it everything I had. I didn’t buy this jersey. I earned this jersey.