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05-08-2012, 01:08 PM
  #96
MortUWary
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Okay, I've done enough lurking on this (and the previous iterations of this) thread, I feel that I need to "share my story" with the group...

I grew up playing rollerhockey in my neighborhood. Never ice skated or played ice hockey. After recently losing a family member at the end of 2011 and turning 34 in February, I told myself that I need to start living and doing what I've always wanted to do: play ice hockey.

I had gotten skates last year, had them baked and sharpened and never used them. Enough was enough. I called the local rink and got matched up with a great hockey coach to work on my skating. He was pushing me from the first lesson to leave my comfort zone and work on hockey stops, edges and proper technique for skating backwards. He was tough, but encouraging and EXTREMELY patient.

Two weeks ago, I learned that another rink does an Adult Clinic on Tuesday nights, which included 20 minutes of skating drills, 20 minutes of stickhandling drills and a 40 minute scrimmage. I was curious to see if I could hang or if I would be completely out of place, so I went to check it out. The guy who runs it immediately quelled my fears, explaining that everyone is here to get better. Skill levels ranged from novice (like me) to college players in their off-season to some 40-somethings sharpening their skills. I was sold.

Last Tuesday, I packed up the equipment that I had been accumulating during recent sales/deals off of icewarehouse, hockeymonkey and hockeygiant. I read threads on getting dressed, stick-taping methods, etc... It was a long and unproductive day at work, as I was waiting for 10 pm to come. I got to the rink early (around 9:30) to give myself enough time to dress. I was able to do it in about 10 minutes. Small victory.

I hit the ice and try to stickhandle for the first time since playing organized rollerhockey in college. What a difference. Forget about keeping my head up, I need to get comfortable keeping control of the puck first! I take a few laps handling the puck and get the courage to rip a few wrist shots from 15 feet out. Not completely horrible. I was encouraged. Coach blows the whistle and lines all 25-30 guys up at the goal line. Time for drills.

As the drills started, I reverted back to my first skating lesson 8 weeks earlier: hesitant and not breathing. I was so concerned about failure that I wasn't engaged in the drills. One of the coaches pulled me aside and I told him this was my first time on the ice. He reassured me and told me to keep things simple. Focus on working on one thing at a time and HAVE FUN. Good advice and probably what I needed to hear at that moment.

After making it through 5 or 6 drills, we split up into white vs. non-white jerseys to scrimmage. Instead of seizing up like I did with the start of drills, I decide to think of my journey and how this is the beginning of what I hope to do in the Fall: play in a men's league. When my line is up, I was playing LW and I had a very non-descript shift. Focused on holding my position and making short accurate passes. It was only a 60 second shift, but I was gassed when I got to the bench. Heartrate was already elevated from the excitement and I definitely needed the short shift (all other shifts were whistled in 2 minute increments by the ref).

Things got interesting at the end of my second shift (playing RW) when I chipped the puck off of the left defenseman's stick at the blueline in our defensive zone. I heard my bench yelling "SKATE IT OUT!" and I decide to push as hard as I could. I glance up and see the right D closing in on me at center ice and my left winger tapping his stick. I pull the puck to my right and sweep a backhand pass right to the LW's tape. I almost stopped skating and admired the luck of that accuracy, LOL. It was such a fluke. He ended up blowing the shot, but I got some kudos when I got to the bench. Definitely started enjoying myself.

As we played on, I got to take a few draws (went 4 of 5!) including a defensive zone draw, which I won a little too strong and put on our goalie. Luckily, he was paying attention! The ref calls out for the final shift and I'm on the ice. They start cycling the puck and I notice their right D pinching, so I go to the slot where their center is parked and awaiting a pass. As I get behind him, I see the pass released and time a perfect stick lift. The puck went right across us. No doubt, I had a Kool-aid smile going on after that one. So play goes on and the ref starts counting down from 10. The puck goes behind the net and I head to the corner by the blue line. The d-man passes along the boards and I go to stop the puck and skate it out to ice the victory, except... I started skating a little too soon and deflected a perfect pass to the opposition. As I crossover to backcheck, I faceplant and get to watch a clear breakaway as the ref stops counting at 4. Our goalie doesn't bite on the deke and the shot is released -- hits the crossbar! We won.

I was exhilarated and exhausted. Got some pats on the head for the stick lift and chop to the shins from the goalie for causing the breakaway at the end, which was completely deserved. All in all, it was a blast. I'm getting ready to go back tonight and I'll keep you guys (and girls) posted on my progress. Thanks for the stories and letting me share mine.

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