First Time Wreck: Game 5 – It Gets Better

This is First Time Wreck, talking about my first rec league and first team.  I play at the Ice Ranch in the RMHL in Denver, CO.  You can find our league here, and our team stats here. I wear number 5, even though the stats list me as 84 (and now 35).  I don’t know why.

(This is about game five, which we played October 30th, 2012)

“How do you feel about playing right-wing,” my goalie asked.

“I’d feel better playing defense.” He gave me a look.

I would be offended if we hadn’t talked about this last week, or if I were actually good at playing D. But after the last game, I said I would like to try a game up front, and he agreed (he agreed I should go up front, not that I was horrible at D). The last game was the game I was pissed off about. My play wasn’t awful, but my attitude coming out of it was awful. I had no fun, and being on D didn’t help.

For this game, we were starting with a short bench. It wasn’t going to last, but we were going to be short for the first period. Four or five of our guys play on another team, one level up from this one, and there was a conflict of scheduling. They were at the other rink, our normal rink, several miles away, and they were going to be late. That included our captain, and three or four of our better players. We started the game with a three-man rotation on D, and about seven forwards, rotating them out instead of worrying about full lines. Things would change eventually.

So for the better part of the first period, I played defense. And I should write about playing D at some point, because there is something to be said about that first time experience as a defenseman. It isn’t way you think it’s going to be.

Here’s what I remember about playing D that game: A goal went in while I was on the ice, defecting off my stick to the front of the net before one of their players knocked it in. I couldn’t wait for it to be over.

But I also came to the rink with a different attitude. After the last game, I decided that I was out there to have fun (which I was before, but I let someone ruin it for me), not to beat myself up or let someone else beat me up for my play. And even if I was on D, I was going to have fun. So even though I was ready to move up to a wing, I was OK with where I was. It also helped that the guy who got under my skin was part of that late conglomerate. In other words, I could do what I was doing in relative peace (even if what I was doing wasn’t perfect).

For the second and third period, I moved up to left-wing, or whatever wing my other winger wasn’t playing at the time. We had a tendency to switch a lot, but started with the good intentions of staying on our own side. I would love to attribute this to being aware of the ice, the play, and being forwards rather than wingers (f1, f2 and f3, rather than center, left and right), but this is rec league at its lowest. We were just doing what we could to keep up.

Since our captain wasn’t there to start the game, and we switched players up partway through the game, we didn’t have set lines, and just kept an eye out for who we followed on the ice. I don’t know if that’s how it usually works in rec league, but it was working for us. That let me play with all three centers, and all three right wingers. Perhaps if I were a better player, I would have more awareness of who was on the ice with me, and what their strengths were, but all I really knew was who was the center was, and which way we were skating.

It took a few shifts for things to start clicking, but they did click. I got the puck along the left boards, skated into the zone, and put a nice backhand pass on the stick of my center, who was driving the net. He took a shot that bounced to my stick, and I had a wide open net…. which I missed completely. I blame the stick wax that I decided to try for the second time ever, and will never use again. Was it the fault of the wax? I want to think so. I will blame the wax. Yeah, the wax.

I got a few more shots on net, a few more rushes, and helped kill of a penalty. Things were going well. And then it happened.

I don’t know how the puck found it’s way to my stick, but I remember it was in the slot just above the circles, right side. I had a lane to the net, and I was going to shoot, damn it. I took a shot, and the goalie closed his five hole. The puck disappeared into his pads, and the ref blew the play dead….

And pointed at the net. It took me a second, but it finally dawned on me. I scored a goal. I scored my first goal in this league.

First Puck

So I did what everyone does when they score their first goal: I got the puck. I skated up to the ref and asked for it. When I told him it was my first goal, he smiled and congratulated me. You only get one first goal, you might as well be proud of it. And I don’t have to act like I’ve been there before, because I hadn’t.

It’s meaningless, right?  That first goal, it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme. We made the playoffs before the first puck dropped on the season. We paid our money, we are guaranteed a slot. One goal, one game in 22, one shift, none of it really matters. We aren’t playing for the Stanley Cup. We aren’t playing for money. We play because we want to, because we love the game. We paid a lot for the privilege, so we might as well take everything we can from it. Every moment it feels good, we should cherish. We should be happy for what we can get.

Pain is temporary, glory lasts forever. In those small accomplishments and little personal victories, the glory is all internal. And you have to recognize it and hold on to it. It’s a big world out there, and no one is going to care about you as much as you care about you. So you had better care while you can. And if no one else knows why you are smiling, that’s OK. The important part is that you are smiling in the first place.