The fun started on Saturday, right off the top.
“To warm up,” said coach Shona, “I want you to dump your sticks and pair up. OK, one person has to protect the puck and one has to get it.”
Will and I had faced off and he had the puck, so we went to it; a fun drill actually, as you lean hard on one another while trying to push your weight off a skate without losing the edge so that your foot slides out. We pushed and shoved and he was smart enough to kick the puck away from me. I got it once or twice, mainly by falling and landing on it.
Then Shona ordered us to swap, and now I had the puck. My 18-year-old son glided in, ready for more body-weight tests … and you should have seen the look of shock behind the visor when my first punch, a fast right hook, caught him perfectly in the midriff, just in the gap between hockey padded shorts and chest armour.
Before he registered what was happening, I hit him with a left-right combination to the shoulder armour and then snuck another sneaky right to the stomach – nothing so hard that it was going to see me dragged before the Worst Fathers in History Commission and, anyway, we’re wearing armour, right? And we’re hockey players, right?
Will finally got what was happening, and then it was on. We were both crying with laughter while beating into each other. Of course, it was me who lost my balance and fell on my back, still aiming rights to his stomach and trying to hold his jersey with my left glove. On Facebook, later, Will was bragging about how he’d beaten me up … I’m happy to sit quietly in the knowledge of what really happened.
(Big ups to Icehouse Rookie Daniel Epstein, who found that video.)
So Saturday’s session was a good one with lots of end-to-end skating drills, which is when I’m happiest.
I’ve also been aware that this intermediate term is fast coming to an end, even though it has two or three weeks to go. I’ve got lots of travels and adventures looming, which will keep me away from the ice for an extended period and, anyway, I’m thinking of stepping away from lessons for a while.
After last Wednesday’s session, I was talking to classmate Jay who made the very kind and hopefully accurate observation that my stick-handling (as in, controlling the puck, passing and general hand-eye-coordination) is up there with most in the class, but agreed that it’s my skating that is still letting me down. I’d been telling him about my crazy plan to become the skater I want to be.
My theory is: I go diving with manta rays for eight days on an Earthwatch project (leaving next Friday; oh yeah!), then I go to America for almost six weeks, with Will and Mack, taking in some Detroit Red Wings games (leaving late September, Oh yeah!!!) and then I get back to work on hockey, but not in another round of intermediate.
Instead, I sign up for private skating lessons.
The fact is that I’m slow but solid when skating forward, calling for a puck, passing, etc. But as soon as any of the trickier hockey skating moves like pivots, tight turns (front leg forward), transitions and even fast backward skating are required, I’m not up to it. The next steps for me are drop-in hockey games (where Melbourne Ice players might show up) or Development League, and I need to be a lot better on my legs if I’m going to tackle either.
A couple of friends, Dave and Mel (who used to do hockey class, and with whom I had my celebrated first on-ice fight) came along to watch last night and Mel couldn’t believe how much better we had all got, since she quit to travel. “You looked like you knew what you were doing,” Dave observed, which showed I had him fooled.
But they’re right: the improvement since January’s first skate has been fast and steady. I’m heading in the right direction. But I also know where my weaknesses lie and it’s time to step out of class and fix them. Private lessons at the Icehouse are my go for the first few months after getting back from overseas.
Having said all that, last night’s Wednesday session was a beauty, with Lliam and Army getting ever scruffier around the face as this weekend’s play-offs loom. Melbourne Ice is in a semi-final on Saturday and then hopefully the final on Sunday night. I was expecting some pre-finals edge to the coaches but they both seemed pretty calm.
We finished the session with an awesome drill. Two Wings take off down the ice, tackling a Defender, two-on-one, then the Defender passes the puck, if he or she wins it, to another couple of Wings ready to charge the other way. It’s a continuous drill and actually needs judgement on when to take off, when to step in and try to help. I loved it, and on my final run of the night even managed to slide home a goal. It was my last touch of the session in maybe my last class of the year.
Nice way to go out.