This small child is a better hockey player than me
A few weeks ago I played a game of pick-up hockey in full equipment for the first time in my life. I had never been a strong skater growing up, so it has been a bit of a challenge but entirely worth it. I’m hooked. Playing three hour long pick-up games has given me some new insights into the game I already loved.
I am hardly adopting the stance that “if you never played the game” you are unqualified to speak about it and your opinions and insights invalid. Simply that you gain a more nuanced and deeper understanding as a result of seeing the game from the players’ perspective, irrespective of the level you play at.
Here are the things that stand out the most to me after only three games.
Holy hell does the game move fast:
I always knew that hockey was “the fastest game on ice” but you really cannot appreciate how fast until you try to keep up with the pace while lacking the most basic of skills. And this is Sunday morning pick-up against guys who never got near any sort of professional play. Even watching a game in person does not convey simply how fast the game moves.
I think this may be part of the reason that big lanky skaters get the reputation of being lazy. If they aren’t moving their legs like crazy they must be just floating out there.
Needless to say I often get back into the play just as it moves in the other direction, so I spend a lot of time skating between the bluelines, getting nowhere fast.
Almost everything that looks “simple” is absolutely not:
I used to get enraged when Kessel did his patented skate hard into the offensive zone and cut hard into the middle and fell over. Now I’m amazed that he is able to do the move with enough regularity for it to become a staple of his. I have enough trouble stopping and changing directions in general, and this is without the puck, often completely uncontested. I can’t fathom doing it at top speed with the puck on my stick and a defender draped over me. I’ll take it easy on Phil the next time he catches an edge.
Scoring a goal is a lot of fun:
Hockey players are supposed to act all non-chalante and “like they’ve been there before” after scoring each goal. After banging in a loose puck for my first ever goal, I was throwing my glove into the air and shooting it, Selanne style; in my mind, in realty I just shrugged and smiled like I got lucky. It’s funny that even though I’ve never played, I intuitively knew how I was “supposed” to behave out there. I get why NHL players don’t celebrate wildly after every goal, but it must be hard for them to resist the temptation.
Right now I’m only playing once a week, but will be able to play more once the outdoor rinks open up. To anyone out there who hasn’t played, either ever, or in a long while, get out there. I’m 26, it’s never too late.
To those with more experience playing, I’d welcome any advice you think would be helpful to someone like me.