First Time Wreck: Game 7 – It Gets Worse / Don’t Want To Talk About It

 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.

(What happened to game six? I missed it due to work. I was going to write about that, but we have moved on to game seven, so we are letting game six go.) 

 

I don’t want to talk about game seven.  I should talk about it, because that’s what bloggers are supposed to do, bare their souls and all that.  But this game, I don’t want to talk about.  I have never felt this upset after playing hockey.  I have never been this angry and disappointed after a hockey game.  I have never wanted to give up.  

We lost 2-1, which isn’t an awful score.  I wouldn’t even mind losing, were it a game that I felt I came away from having fun.  But I didn’t have fun tonight, despite my initial intentions.  And it had less to do with the play on the ice than with other factors.  

A few of the highlights:

- Both goals against us came off my stick.  The first deflected off my stick right to an attacker in front of our net.  The second one deflected directly off my stick and into our net.  So yeah, not a good night for me on defense.

- I blocked – unintentionally – a slap shot with the boney part of my ankle.  It hurts.  I’m limping.

- I got into it with one of our teammates.  The guy from game 4.  It got ugly.  It did not get physical, but words were said.  Loud, angry words.  We had to be separated.  

- Things got pretty chippy out there.  And hey, when you have a trainer and a good medical staff, and insurance, and don’t have to be at your day job tomorrow, and get paid to play rather than pay for the privilege of playing, by all means, get chippy.  But this is rec league hockey.  I don’t want to separate my shoulder because you want to “play hard” or “play the right way.”  

- I was OK on defense, but my few shots on goal went wide, including the last shot of the game, with five seconds left.  A wide hard shot that went around the boards and out of the zone.  So yes, the last shot, the one that could have tied it up on, was off my stick and wide.  So that felt AWESOME. :-/

If it isn’t obvious, it’s that third point that I don’t want to get into.  I would be biased towards my side, no matter how hard I tried not to be.  I would color things with my own involved perspective, and that isn’t fair.  What I will say about it is that I lost my cool, and I shouldn’t have.  I apologized to my teammates, and they were good about it.  But I was as much a problem as the guy I got into it with, and I made things uncomfortable and less fun as much as him.  I had my part in it, and I am not proud of it.

Words were going to be said at some point.  This issue wasn’t going to go away on it’s own.  And it’s probably a good thing that it happened now, rather than later.  Still, I’m not proud of myself in that moment.  I’m not pleased that I wasn’t able to blow him off, or relax a little.  I can be nice to our opponents, and even after a fight for the puck in front of our goalie, I can turn to the guy afterwards and say “good battle.”  It happened tonight.

But my own teammate getting under my skin doesn’t feel right.  And even after telling myself that I was just going to have fun tonight, I didn’t.  Part of it was the stress of being on defense (which I know I’m going to write about) and part of it was this guy.  And then when things escalated, it didn’t get any better.  

I want to have fun.  I didn’t pay this much money to be on the ice and not have fun.  That doesn’t mean I have to get my way or be catered to.  It doesn’t mean we have to win every game, or even most of them.  But it does mean that if something is ruining things for me, something needs to change.  And if that change needs to be me, so be it.  If there is something I need to figure out for myself, then that’s what I need to do.

When the NHL returns, and the fans weigh the value of going back, the only thing that is going to be worth going back for is the game.  And the game should be fun, to watch, to write about, and especially to play.  And if it’s not fun to play, and you aren’t making a ton of money doing it, what’s the point?  It’s time to make it work. 

(after our game, I went to Denver University to watch Ryan Bolding of Hockey on the Rocks play in one of his many rec leagues (ok, he only plays in two, but still…) and it was great to see how much fun they seemed to be having.  I prefer that.)

Have any perspective on this?  Comments are open.  Just be nice. 

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.

First Time Wreck: Game 4 Frustration

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.  I don’t know why.

(I should have started this game one, and wrote some things I didn’t publish about game three.  Those might come up.  You might as well read on.  It’s not like there’s NHL hockey to talk about.)

Wreck League 1

That’s me in the middle (red)

Last night was game four, and it was my most frustrating game yet.  But let’s back up a bit.

I already knew I would be late to the game.  I had to work in downtown Denver until five, and the puck dropped at 5:25 pm.  The rink is 28 minutes from work.  My girlfriend had the car idling at the loading dock, ready to make our escape.  Thanks to warm ups, we got to the rink just as the game started.  

Normally, it would take another ten minutes to rush putting on my pads and skates, but since I wasn’t driving, I started suiting up in the car.  I hope other drivers saw what was going on, and I was someone’s interesting story.  I don’t know what I would have thought had I seen what I was doing in another car. 

My pre-game ritual has been to get to the rink early, listen to my hockey playlist (power jam!) on the drive down, and spend some time prepping for the game.  I get my pads and skates on slowly and spend some time stretching and psyching myself up.  

This time, I talked to my girlfriend instead of listening to music, while struggling to get my shoulder pads on without interfering with her driving.  When I got to the rink, I saw how short the bench was: two lines of forwards and three defensemen.  So far, I’ve been playing defense, and it’s been working out OK, for a first timer.  I know when I screw up, but this is lower level hockey (lowest level in the league), so I screw up quite a bit.  

(Also, I’m fairly hard on myself.  I remember my mistakes well before my accomplishments.  My version of how much I screw up might be different than other people’s.)

I hustled to the empty (save for emptied hockey bags) locker room, and laced up my skates.  Through the door, I could hear every stoppage in play, and each one felt like time I was wasting.  I wanted out there.  As soon as my skates were on, I got to an entrance to the rink and waited.

The time between whistles when you are ready to step on the ice are the longest.  Getting caught in your end on a long change doesn’t seem that long.  Waiting for the zamboni to finish it’s scrape of the ice before you step out for warmups is an eternity.  Standing outside the rink that is soon to be yours, waiting for your chance to play, time stands still.  You live a lifetime in that stretch.

Notice what didn’t happen before the game.  There wasn’t any stretching.  There was no warmup.  There wasn’t any moment with the team before.  I didn’t check the board to see what position anyone was playing (and I don’t know enough names for that to really help, but it’s nice to fake it sometimes).  I knew I was playing D, and that’s it.  There was no time for anything else.  The standard path to hockey was interrupted.  It was strange.

I stepped on the ice and was told who my defensive partner was, and stayed out.  I dropped my extra stick and water bottle off at the bench, and stayed out for my first shift.  Game on, right away.  

If you were to ask what was going through my mind at the time, I couldn’t tell you.  I know it wasn’t hockey.  I don’t remember thinking anything other than cursing, which I do in my mind a lot during the game.  It took a while to get into the game.  I wasn’t feeling it, and I wanted to feel it.  It didn’t feel like game day, and I didn’t feel ready.  I don’t know what feeling ready is supposed to feel like, but I know I wasn’t there.  I knew who I was playing with, I knew where to go (most of the time), but I didn’t feel into it.

The other frustration was with my defensive partner for the first half of the game.  Whenever we were on the bench, he would start telling me what I was doing wrong.  He was probably trying to direct me more and help, but what I was feeling at the time was someone who was constantly complaining either to or about me.  I was close to telling him to shut the front door.  I already wasn’t feeling into the game, and this wasn’t helping. 

I know how I felt about it at the time, but looking back at it, I can gain a little perspective. I believe he thought he was being helpful.  He is also a hockey parent, and his kids could skate circles around me.  At the time, I couldn’t see any of that.  All I wanted him to do was shut up and let me skate.  

Being new to the team, I feel like I should be the one to shut up and skate.  I feel like that’s my job right now, and figure out where I fit.  This guy has been around the team for a while, and in the hierarchy of teams, seniority rules.  I don’t think it’s my place to tell him to give it a break.  In the third period, I didn’t have to, as we shuffled defensive pairings (more on that some other time) and I wound up with our team captain.  By then, I had turned sour and angry.  I wasn’t having any fun, and any mistake I made was amplified in my mind.  Any moment out of position made me more mad at myself.  It pushed my energy up, but it didn’t help at all.  I didn’t believe in myself on the ice, and I started trying to do too much.  

One of those moments of trying to do too much led to the game tying goal for the opposition.  I was between the face-off circles in the slot, and the puck made it’s way to the point.  No one was pressuring the defense, so I stepped up, which was a big mistake.  The puck got past me, and I turned around in time to see we were outmanned in front of the net, and I was too far away to be useful.  Then the puck went in.  I felt like giving up at that point.  The goal wasn’t entirely my fault, but it seemed like it at the time.  Goals against are rarely the fault of only one person, but in the moment, you only see what you did wrong.  

There is no four on four OT in this league, as there is limited ice time.  OT goes directly to the shootout.  I wanted to be in the shootout.  I wanted to take a shot, and make up for my previous errors.  I wanted to redeem myself.  

The thing is, the only person I needed to redeem myself to was myself, and I think I was too far gone for it to matter at that point.  I was angry, and I wanted to go out there, and I didn’t want to go out there.  I wanted to win the game, and I didn’t want to be a non-factor.  This, as always, leads to the classic phrase, squeezing the stick to hard.  There’s a reason it’s a cliche. 

My chance came third on the shootout.  I decided to go backhand, starting to my right, cut left and shoot.  The goalie got just enough on it to tip it past the net by one or two inches.  All I could do was put my head down and skate to the bench.  I didn’t even look at anyone.  I was done.

We lost in the shootout after going seven or eight deep.  The locker room didn’t feel like it had after any of the other games, not even the losses.  It felt sour all around.  It felt like a loss that stung.  I know I felt stung.  

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I didn’t have any fun playing hockey, and that might have been a first.  Hockey can lift me out of a funk, it can feel like an accomplishment just being able to keep up, and even when things go sour, I feel like I am lucky to be out there.  It didn’t feel that way this game.

It isn’t about winning the game.  It wasn’t about things not going my way.  It was about how I played the game.  And I wasn’t playing the game the way I wanted to. It barely felt like a game.  But there’s always the next one, a week and a half away.

Rampage lost 3-2 in the shootout to Half Nuts.  Our record is 1-2-1 for three points.