From the past few weeks, in no particular order:
1. Tonight (Thursday night) at the Icehouse. Mustangs v Ice (Mustangs home game). A few rookies somehow get hold of the “Spotlight Room”, AKA the VIP Balcony. Hilarity ensues.
Mostly, we’re in awe when we look down and see four Mustangs fans wearing their jersey with the names: “War”, “Death”, “Pestilence” and “Famine”.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Rookies unite in a gasp of Whoaaaaaaaa!
A little later, I wander into the bar and chat with a Mustangs fan who is also a Red Wing. He’s impressed by my prized signed Lidstrom jersey. It’s only when I go down for a coffee later in the second period that I see him again, glass-side,and realise I had been chatting with Death.
So I chat with Death some more. He explains that they’d wanted to get “Ice Suck” as their names on the back of the jerseys but the Mustangs president had frowned and shifted in his seat and said no, we don’t want to offend the Ice. Death and I agree, in hockey parlance, that’s kind of soft.
Anyway, there were four of them wanting jerseys, somebody had the brilliant idea … the Mustangs president frowned, shifted in his seat … “I’m not sure we can put ‘Death’ as the name on a Mustangs jersey …”
Thankfully, he lost the argument and the horsemen ride. Respect.
Just then, a Mustang rush happens right in front of us, the puck beating Denman and finding the top corner.
The orange fans go wild and I learn another valuable life lesson: Never chat to Death mid-game. It can only go badly for your team.
I go back to the balcony and the Ice dominate from that moment. Lliam scores a couple of scorching goals. Army drives home a bullet. Jason Baclig is back from injury and firing. 6-1 to my team.
Death and I shake hands after the buzzer. War stops by to say hello. We head our separate ways into the night. I love Thursday evening AIHL games.
2. Oakleigh rink. A Friday night. Freezing, foggy, dilapidated, wonderful. Intermediate class in full swing, apart from me, still on the Ice from intro. Alongside me, Martin Kutek, Melbourne Ice defender, is sliding across the Oakleigh ice with both arms outstretched, pretending he’s an aeroplane … the idea being to lean your body and find an outside edge. This is my homework … I’m four years old again. I love it.
3. A Wednesday at the Icehouse. I’m skating along, in the Intermediate warm-up, tapping a puck along.
Suddenly, my puck is gone. Ice star Lliam Webster has magically appeared to my right, controlling a puck.
The following exchange takes place:
Lliam: “What happened to your puck, huh? What happened to your puck?”
Me: “What happened to your face?”
Do AFL stars coach midweek and have exchanges like that? I doubt it. I’m five years old again. I love it.
4. Dev League and I’m gliding through the defensive blue line, concentrating hard, past the opposition bench. My legs are splayed apart, camped on my inside edges: my bloody annoying bad habit when gliding.
On the opposition bench, a player who shall remain nameless goes to yell: “Hey Place, my girlfriend can’t spread her legs that wide!”
But then decides such a sledge would be uncouth, and not befitting the noble, fine game of hockey where nobody ever cusses or cracks an inappropriate joke.
Plus his girlfriend, Tamara Bird, would kill him if she found out.
We’re teenagers again. I love it.
5. Watching the film, “Goon”. Crazy violent but funny.
Film’s hero gets called into the manager’s office.
The manager: “My brother has a team up in Halifax …”
(Jump cut to:)
A hockey locker-room, post game, with a bunch of bedraggled looking hockey players sitting around. In the middle of the floor stands a manager, hands on hips. Angry.
Halifax manager: “You know why you’re losing? BECAUSE YOU’RE SHIT!”
(Jump cut back to the manager’s office.)
The manager (still talking): “…Anyway, he has this player …”
“You now why you’re losing …?” becomes an instant catchcry in the Place household, right alongside “I’m so sorry I broke your rule, giant bat.”
6. Dev League. A backhand shot of mine finds its way through a forest of sticks and legs and skates, pings off the inside of the goalpost, Nate the keeper unsighted and beaten. Stays out. So close.
Later, the puck is at my feet and the goal is half a metre away but there’s no way through the sticks and Nate’s padding. So close.
Later, Big Cat pings a hard shot at a gap, it rebounds, I’m there but my shot catches a deflection and ends in the side netting of the goal. So close.
We lose by a goal.
7. The Red Wings yet again prove themselves a team to love by officially signing draft pick Tomas Jurco to an entry level three-year contract, which means he will play in the feeder team, Grand Rapids, this season, and is a strong chance to make his debut for Detroit.
Big Cat and I have been following Jurco since he was a kid and his mad skills showed up on youTube way before he was drafted by Detroit. Big Cat was slightly deflated when he discovered there is only one day in age difference between them. Jurco, having been playing for a little longer than my boy, can do things like this:
8. A puck spills loose down the boards. Miraculously I am closest to it, defenders all going the wrong way. I turn, I skate hard, I almost get the shot at goal in before I’m mown down by faster skaters, back-checking.
I curse. It sits with me. In the rooms, a teammate says breezily: “You need to learn to skate faster.”
I take deep breaths. This is something I am aware of.
I get home by midnight and, as usual, can’t sleep before about 2 am. Something is gnawing at me but won’t quite come to front of lobe.
In the morning, I wake and it is there: In starting that breakaway, chasing the loose puck, I didn’t crossover or attempt a tight turn. No, I turned, slowly, creakily, on both feet. I didn’t put a foot forward for a fast outside edge turn, or crossover to grab speed as I turned and chased the puck. I lost metres in that lack of manoeuvring, right at the start of my attack.
In class, or general skates, I can now mostly do crossovers, and tight turns, especially anti-clockwise.
But they’re still not instinctive, and that’s a problem.
Eyes only for an escaped puck and a free run to the goalie, these moves do not happen, are not my muscle-memory way to grab the speed I need. Or short steps, or whatever else would have helped.
A good realisation. Something I can work on. Interesting. Notes to self …
9. It’s now late on a Thursday night and the hockey week isn’t even close to over. Tomorrow night is NLHA training at Oakleigh; direct, meaningful drills and maybe a little philosophy with Joey Hughes. Then an Ice game on Saturday. (And one on Sunday, but I have footy.)
And so my hockey world continues to spin in its orbit. What’s not to like?