My First Hockey Tournament: an Eye-Opening, Nightmarish Experience

My First Hockey Tournament: an Eye-Opening, Nightmarish Experience
"C is for cookie, and cookie is for me!"

Earlier this month, my Blades of Steel teammates and I entered a hockey tournament. None of us had ever played in one, and we were still pretty high on the hog about winning our league championship last month. After playing so many games against the same teams over and over, we were looking forward to facing some different opponents and gaining some new experiences. Unfortunately, those experiences consisted of us losing by many, many goals.

The tournament was held at The Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville. It was hosted by a company called Canadian Hockey Enterprises, and had different skill divisions. Four teams played in the lowest level: Blades of Steel, Team Iowa, the Eagles and the Black Aces.

What we didn't know is that in Canada, "D-League" and "Novice" are two different things. My Blades of Steel team -- which included some guys from other teams for this tournament -- are clearly "Novice" and not "D-League." We found that out the hard way.

Game One (Friday night)
The first game did not start off well. We faced a team from Iowa, cleverly named Team Iowa. It was a group of guys from different cities; sort of a D-League All-State team.

Team Iowa scored almost immediately after the first puck drop, and it was downhill from there. By the end of the first period, we were down 6-0. After two periods, we were down 7-0, and the game went to a "running" clock. Basically, it was the "slaughter rule;" the clock would continue to run during stoppages of play.

Despite being down by 7 goals, I did my best to be a good stay-at-home defenseman. I blocked five shots, including one off my head! The worst was a shot that hit me on the side of the left knee, right where there is no padding, late in the third period. It was the proverbial icing on the cake of a demoralizing loss. The tournament did not count any goals when one team was leading by seven. So, the true score would probably have been 11-0 or 12-0.

Our goalie, who probably made 40 saves, was named our team's player of the game and was given a "Player of the Game" t-shirt for his efforts.


Eric (left) and Mike (center) do their best to keep the slot in front of Henry (right) clear.

Game Two (Saturday morning)
Our second game was the next morning against a team from Michigan named the Eagles (cue Life in the Fast Lane on the boom box). This game was almost a repeat of the first: we got scored on very quickly, faced a ton of shots, saw the game go to a "running clock" yet again and lose 7-0. Our top scorer during the regular season in the Heartland League was our player of the game. This was for being one of the few guys to get some shots at the other team's net.

I talked with one of the players from the Eagles, and he informed me that they got beat by the Black Aces 5-0. Yep, the team that beat us 7-0 lost to our next opponents 5-0.

We had a few hours of down time, which we spent nursing our metaphorical wounds with some free beer, then lunch at Portillos.


Mark, Blades of Steel's leading scorer last season, won player of the game honors for our team in the second match, and scored a goal in our last game.

Game Three (Saturday afternoon)
Our final opponent was the Black Aces, who were from Ontario, Canada. We lost 8-1, though again the real score was probably 12-1.

How bad was this game? We got a power play, and the Black Aces kept the puck in our zone for almost the entire time. Let me say that again: we had the man advantage, but could not clear the puck out of our end.

At that point, I knew these guys were toying with us. They had a sizable lead on us, but not too high; maybe five goals. This was so that the game would not go to a running clock. Apparently, they wanted more ice time. But with the third period winding down, the flood gates opened up and they probably scored six more goals. A Black Aces player even hit the roof of our net with his shot and sent our goalie's water bottle flying.

At least half of their team was pretty intoxicated, too. I guess those guys used up all their free drink tickets.

The mood in the locker room was pretty good after the game, despite getting trounced. Sure, we lost, but we all worked hard, had fun, experienced new things, and played alongside some guys who are usually on other teams in the Heartland League.

I should also mention that the other teams were gracious winners. They all played a clean game and didn't resort to any unnecessary rough stuff -- not that they would have had to in order to beat us.

As we headed back to the bar use up the rest of our free drink tickets, one of our players said "Man, after this...we are SO going to trounce the Red Liners next week."


Alternate team captain Ali (right of referee) was our team's player of the game in our final game of the tournament.

Lessons Learned
Stay away from smaller tournaments. Small tournaments will lump together "Novice" (brand new players) with D-League into one skill division, whereas larger tournaments get more teams and can have more skill divisions.

Also, it is rumored that many times C-Level teams will "play down" and enter a tournament as a D-Level team. I might sound like I'm complaining, but those teams we played did *not* look like D-Leaguers at all. Even their fat guys skated faster than me.

I also learned that I can always try harder. I thought I was a pretty hard worker, but after these games I realize that I have a long way to go.  I also need to play more aggressively. Sometimes, as they say, you have to learn by failure.

The very next week was our first game in the second season in the Heartland Novice Hockey League. The referee skated over to me during warmups.

"Didn't you guys play in a tournament in Bensenville last weekend?" the referee asked.

"Yeah," I replied. "Were you one of the refs?"

"Yes, I was."

"Oh, well then I'm sorry."

The ref laughed and skated off.

We then beat the Red Liners 8-0.

I think we'll avoid tournaments and just stick to league play for a while.

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