Rookies on film …

So, on Wednesday night, one of the Icehouse Rookies, Daniel Mellios (looking resplendent in a black Red Wings hoodie), turned up with a camera, and quietly shot the lights out of our entire Dev League session. Then produced a music clip the next day.

In the interests of as many eyeballs as possible seeing his excellent work, I thought I’d link to it here.

It really captures arriving at the Icehouse, getting ready, camaraderie, and where we’re at in terms of game play and skills of various levels We remain such a small cult of hockey diehards, within a larger, mostly-disinterested city, so far from the NHL action … I love this video for celebrating our world.

Kittens and I were both on the Red team and therefore got to wear our Wings jerseys. I’m in the #40 Zetterberg with a red helmet and red socks. Will aka Kittens, who features more in this clip, including landing on his butt, is in the #44 Bertuzzi jersey, with black helmet and white socks.

Nice work, Mr Mellios. Nice work …

Triumph and disaster

“If you can meet with triumph and disaster,

And treat those two imposters just the same”

–       if, by Rudyard Kipling.

That quote is above the final doorway as tennis players make their way onto centre court at the All-England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, better known as Wimbledon.

I’ve always loved it as a quote, since I discovered in it my misspent youth as a tennis writer. It is so fucking true. Let me be the one to tell you, humble readers, that, in life, you’re going to win big, and you’re going to lose horribly. Triumph. Disaster. They’re waiting for us all but I’m with Kipling: see them both for what they are: temporary. For better or worse.

The Dev League game last night. Will AKA Kittens in orange socks mid-ice. Ray, still vertical, behind the goals.

A heavy start to a blog? Nah. All is good. Happily, we’re only talking hockey – even if the first thing I saw as I arrived at the Icehouse last night was a stretcher being loaded into an ambulance. Turns out it was a general skating disaster, so nobody I knew, but it had me wondering; especially because this was Week 10. Scrimmage week. Which meant everybody would be going their hardest.

Every other term this year, in this week, I’d been nervous, excited, fearful I was going to be found out for my lack of skills (justified), worried for my shoulder (End of Intro, second time around – fully justified), hoping I might even briefly feel like I knew what I was doing (end of Intermediate – occasionally justified) … feeling all kinds of emotions.

Last night, not least because I’d stood out of formal classes for the term, I found myself sitting in a three-hour Board meeting for my kids’ film festival while my hockey rookie buddies met their moment of game-play reality on the ice.

By the time I got to the Icehouse, and dodged the ambos, most were through it and full of their various tales of triumph or disaster; everyone eating Aimee Hough’s magnificent puck-shaped chocolate cake and with many wearing the Icehouse Rookie jerseys organised by Chris and designed by my boy, Kittens, who hilariously had “K.Place” printed on the back of his. What started as a Facebook bet is turning into something bigger; I’ll have to remember to show him that old classic film, Cat People.

Our custom jersey.

Anyway, I digress.

I heroically ate some cake, having not skated, felt my belt buckle strain, and wandered over to watch the Dev League end-of-term clash. Lots of my old classmates are now in Dev League so there were many big hellos, as Damon Runyon‘s Broadway narrator liked to say. After a huge day of what I understand to have been boat-based Christmas activities, possibly involving alcohol, a member of my original Intro crew, Ray, gave me a bone-crunching hug and thankfully announced he wasn’t going to skate, which definitely saved another ambulance call. Ray lurched to behind the goals where he grinned happily and supportively at the goalkeeper, whether a goal had gotten through, or a mighty save had been achieved. Ray was loving everything and everyone.

On the ice, Kittens and the rest were hard at it for an hour. I believe the score was 6-1 to the reds, over the  blacks, but whatever. I sat in the stands with Renee, who’d skated the Intermediate game, and started to get excited for 2012.

I realised that in my self-imposed exile to learn to skate, I’d built up in my head how far ahead everybody else must be getting. Had this idea that those doing Intermediate second time around, as well as Dev League, must be sub-NHL standard by now, – all budding Pavel Datsyuks – while I’m still wobbling around, battling to hockey stop.

Without taking anything away from those on the ice last night in the Dev League game, it was a relief to see falls, to see skates slip, to see passes miss or occasionally shoddy stick-work. Skaters wobbled.

Dev League action

Not that I wished anybody a lack of success; just that I was able to breathe out and think, ok, I’m not on another hockey planet from these guys after all.

Of course, some were flying. But that’s always been the case in every class.

And I definitely noticed that most could chase a puck, hockey stop hard when they got to it, and be ready to use it. I’m not sure where I’d be at with that.

But it was what I needed to see. I know I’m not a natural skater, not a genius, however I don’t feel like a total rookie any more. I’m definitely signing back up for Intermediate next term. I need to get back into class, skating skill or not.

And you know what? Fuck it. I think I’m up for Dev League too.

It will be a triumph or a disaster but I’m fine with that.

Or die trying, right?

Keep that ambo in the precinct. Classes start February.

Punches & Plans

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.