Late last week, I played my first hockey game as an adult. I did not embarrass myself. A few times, I even impressed myself. Other times, I made big mistakes -- but quickly learned from them.
Oh, and I had tons of fun.
This was our seventh and final class in Franklin Park's "It's Never Too Late" Adult Ice Hockey Clinic. My classmates and I faced off against a team called the Penguins, who play in Franklin Park's "Original Six" league. Many of the players on the Penguins are relatively new to hockey, so we were not completely outmatched. It was close but -- spoiler alert! -- we still lost.
Our team was bolstered by a few other guys who were better than my class, but not so much better that we couldn't keep up with them. We also had the Penguins' goalie playing on our side, so we had an experienced 'tender stopping pucks for us.
Here is what really upset me, though. No one showed up to coach our team. Neither of the guys who taught our class for the past six weeks were present to tell us what to do; we had to figure it all out ourselves. If I wanted to "figure it out" myself, I'd play in pick-up games instead of paying for a clinic.
Even worse, one of our hockey instructors was actually playing for the other team! But he did not give us any feedback after the game on what we could have done better. He could have at least played for our side, maybe as a player-coach who helped show us the ropes of being in a game.
That pissed me off. I have never been in a "game situation" before. I needed to know what parts of the ice I was responsible for covering depending on what position I was playing. It would have been nice if someone was keeping track of line changes, or advising us on how to not get our asses kicked.
But it worked out. Yeah, we lost, but we weren't blown out. I think the score was 4-3 or 5-3, though no one was keeping score for our game.
In the game, I only got one shot on net. I got a good pass in the slot (area in front of the net) and lifted a high backhand shot...right into the goalie's chest protector. Oh well. I'm still impressed that I was able to lift my shot and get it off so quickly.
I was also on the ice when one goal was scored, and on the ice when two goals were scored against us. That makes me a minus player (-1) for the game.
I learned a few valuable lessons while playing in my first game:
- I am OK at "fighting" for the puck in the corners, and won control a few times. However, I then made poor centering passes that were easily picked off by the opposing team.
- My endurance is not as bad as it was a few weeks ago. The running is paying off. However, I am still a slow skater -- even though I tried to skate hard in the game.
- I NEED TO KEEP TWO HANDS ON MY STICK. A great pass skipped off my stick because I tried to get it with one hand on the stick, and my one arm isn't strong enough to stop a good, hard pass.
- So, for the rest of the game, I made it a point to keep both hands on my stick.
- A teammate of mine was open and ready for a pass, but I was being selfish and took a shot that the defenseman easily blocked. (I honestly thought it would get through the defense and surprise the goalie.)
- Whenever I was in my own zone and got the puck, I got rid of it way too quickly. I was always trying to clear it or pass it, instead of skating with it. Most of the time, my passes or clearing attempts were picked off.
After the game, I ended up talking with a few of the Penguins' players in the parking lot. They praised my team, and said we did really well for a bunch of beginners. One of them even said I did well, though I am not sure if he was thinking of me or the other guy on my squad who wears yellow socks.
I've been learning hockey for two months now, and everyone I have met is very nice and supportive of my quest to play. No one has told me that I am too old, too slow or too out of shape.
I don't know when my next game will be, but I am now looking forward to it.
Filed under: Hockey Lessons