An important announcement

Melbourne, Tuesday, June 21 (AP): The Braves Hockey Club and management for Nick Place were pleased to announce today that they have agreed to terms for the upcoming 2016-17 Ice Hockey Victoria summer season.

‘We think it’s a great deal for everybody,’ said Braves President Liam Patrick. ‘If Place pays his fees in full and on time, buys a new jersey, drives himself to trainings and games, doesn’t open his mouth in the changerooms, and doesn’t get in anybody’s way, we might let him play very limited fifth line minutes for the Cherokees in Division 3.’

Place managing to stay vertical in a previous summer. Pic: Luke Milkman

Place managing to stay vertical in a previous summer. Pic: Luke Milkman

Place’s manager, Nick Place, said: ‘I, I mean my client is thrilled that the Braves have agreed to let me, I mean him, don the famous black and yellow for the forthcoming season. I think there’s definitely a role for older, wise veterans in today’s hockey world. When I think of Jaromir Jág-‘

He was then cut off by President Patrick, who whispered: ‘Stick to the agreed script or it’s over.’

President Patrick told reporters, ‘There had been some hope-I mean thought that Nick might consider retirement at the age of 67 but, trooper that he is, and photos of me that he has, he’ll be allowed to go around this summer. What I need the hockey world, especially the Braves family, to understand is that legally we can’t stop him. If he pays his fees, there’s nothing I can do. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.’

The news of Place’s resigning was greeted with universal joy across the league with opposition teams admitting to being rapt with the development. ‘Place’s son, Will – AKA Kittens – AKA Big Cat – would be a huge offensive threat under most circumstances,’ said one coach. ‘So the fact he’ll be totally hamstrung by having to put up with his dad’s ineffectual skating and passing on the left wing should cut his point production in half at least, and is a boon for all of us.’

Cherokees coach Georgia Carson was not available for comment. Friends say she was enjoying a quiet night yesterday evening when she received a txt that appeared to horrify her. ‘They promised! They promised he was gone! They told me it was over!’ she screamed before storming out of the house to a nearby speakeasy bar. She has not been seen since.

Place left immediately after the press conference, telling reporters he was heading to a secret training camp to prepare for September’s action. However, Braves officials confirmed he actually just went to work.

 

Playing the arenas …

Seeing how it feels to skate like a USA-Canada star, just, you know, without the talent.

Seeing how it feels to skate like a USA-Canada star, just, you know, without the talent.

There’s a great comedy routine by a guy called Bert Kreischer. It’s on YouTube as ‘The Machine’, and it tells the story of how he allegedly, as a college language student, hooked in with the Russian mafia while on a train bound for Moscow. Bloody funny routine (click below). Anyway, at one point, the mafia dudes he’s hanging out with announce they’re going to rob the train. And Kreischer says: ‘I would love to tell you that I stood up and said, ‘Not me”… but sometimes you’ve just got to fucking rob a train, man.’

And that was me today, in the middle of a Thursday.

I would love to tell you that I sat at my desk all day, a picture of diligence and hard work and commitment to the Media Giants cause. Or to finishing the novel draft that has consumed me for the last few months.

… But sometimes you’ve just got to fucking go skating on centre court of Rod Laver Arena, man.

I blame Melbourne Ice president Emma Poynton. She posted on Facebook at around 11 am that the ice had been laid on the drop-in rink for the international USA v Canada match, battling for the Doug Webber trophy, happening at the arena tomorrow night. Apparently, once a rink is frozen, it needs to be skated on a few times to really take hold. So she was looking for members of the local hockey community willing to turn up at about midday and general skate hard on the rink, to shred the ice.

Cut to my car seconds later, as I race to the Icehouse to grab my skates out of my locker. Cut to midday when I’m parked at the Rod Laver Arena, meeting a bunch of hockey friends. We all know each other well enough now that everybody has a nickname: Big Cat, Christmas Angel, Apollo, Alexandra McNab … We headed inside, having our names ticked off at security and walking through the bowels of the tennis centre to the rink.

This was a fun moment for me already. I have a lot of personal history at this place. I covered tennis for years, for newspapers and the Seven Network, and so have hung out at many Australian Opens. I had a stand-up polite argument with Steffi Graf in an underground corridor there. I hit balls ineffectually at some top Australian players at media days. I even once found myself playing tennis in front of maybe 3000 people, on Rod Laver Arena’s centre court. I can sort of hit a tennis ball but was way out of my depth in that kind of spotlight. Plus, it should be mentioned that I was partnering Bijou the French tennis clown, who had some weaknesses in his game like spinning 720 degrees on the spot under a lob before trying to hit a smash. Ex Australian tour star Paul McNamee and a former Australian top junior and then glamorous sports reporter, Dixie Marshall, wiped the court with us. But hey, it was for charity.

Big Cat and Apollo Patrick get a feel for international hockey ice.

Big Cat and Apollo Patrick get a feel for international hockey ice.

I’ve also covered world title fights at the centre court, even fortunate enough to hang out in the rooms with Jeff Fenech before he went out and smashed Georgie ‘Go Go’ Navarro in front of a packed stadium. I walked out of the tunnel and into the arena that night literally at Fenech’s back, and felt the wall of noise that greets a top fighter. It was incredible.

And now I was here again, years later, carrying my much-worn skates of all things and walking past the dressing room Fenech had used to step through the door onto the arena, to discover not a tennis court or a boxing ring but an ice rink.

This Doug Webber Cup thing seems to have gained momentum, which is good for the sport. I actually went on the record last year as saying it was lame first time around, and it was: Melbourne’s hockey community is far to expert to be excited by a bunch of players, whether NHL or the level below, phoning it in, and skating in a distinct gee-I-hope-I-don’t-get-hurt-and-jeopardize-my-large-pro-contract way, which is not unreasonable from their point of view. From what I hear, after several games of the current tour, the international players are putting a much more committed effort into this time and the games are real games now, not like the yawnfest we saw at Hisense Arena last year.

Plus friends of mine in other states who don’t know hockey have ventured along and loved every second, which is probably the point. And Nathan Walker, the first Australian drafted into the NHL, is playing, giving locals a chance to salute his achievement. And it’s at the larger Rod Laver Arena, which can build strong atmosphere.

So, sing it loud: let’s hope tomorrow night is awesome. It could only help the sport.

We’ve already had a huge win from the show. It was fascinating skating on brand new, virgin ice under the watchful eye of thousands of empty green seats. The rink’s surface felt very brittle and was chipping shards instead of snow as we ploughed it up and enjoyed such empty ice. American and Canadian flags are everywhere of course and it was a strange sensation to stand at the centre face-off circle and look up to see one of those giant video cubes above, just like at an NHL venue. None of us were wearing armour but I boarded myself a few times, to see how the glass felt, and it made a pleasing thudding echo around the empty seats. Big Cat did even better, losing an edge and genuinely splattering himself on the ice and into the boards. He got up, laughing. A genuine hockey player.

Happy skaters: Big Cat, Christmas Angel and Apollo on the ice.

Happy skaters: Big Cat, Christmas Angel and Apollo on the ice.

Melbourne Ice import Sean Hamilton cruised around, testing out new blades, along with a few local players from various levels of winter and summer competition – all digging our blades into snow ploughs and hockey stops and carving manoeuvres to give this fresh ice a work out. Given hardly anybody was wearing a helmet, we had been told not to use sticks for health and safety reasons, and that lasted maybe half an hour before somebody produced a puck and it was on, with sticks being shared around. I had fun, using a right-handed stick for the first time in a long time. And hit the puck okay … is it possible I’ve been playing wrong-handed all this time? Sadly I don’t think so. I think I am just that crap at shooting on my preferred side. Hey ho.

It finally occurred that it was the middle of a work day and I’m not The Machine and don’t have the Russian mafia to watch my back. Reluctantly, I left this beautiful prime-time slab of fresh ice – the third rink that Melbourne so desperately needs – and headed back to my desk. The afternoon has been largely lost but man, have I been smiling.

Sometimes, you just have to hang the consequences, no?

 

Guest writer: Liam Patrick on doing it for Charlie

Nothing needs to be said for this one.

Well written, Liam ‘Apollo’ Patrick.

Carrying Charlie, through good times and bad

Liam Patrick in action for the Fighters.

Liam Patrick in action for the Fighters.

By Liam Patrick

Have you ever been “that guy”?

“That guy” who can’t look his (or her) teammates in the eye?  What about when it goes beyond those in the change room?

I’ve been that guy.  It sucks.

A wise man has taught me the only way to be a good hockey player is to give into the team.  This has always been my mantra anyway but it was a good reminder and way of putting it.  Team first.  Do what’s best for the team.  Team > Liam.

Sitting in the penalty box watching the Devils put in the tying goal (whilst Mark Stone impersonated a brick wall) was not what was best for the team.  The call was debatable but it was the karma bus catching up and running me over after I had gotten away with a lot in not only the season but the game itself.  The tie effectively put the Fighters out of finals contention (by half a game) and ended our season.

The post mortem began as soon as bums touched seats in the locker room.  The whole team had the opportunity to say something.  I managed a limp apology and then returned to forensically examining the lacing on my skates.  People didn’t blame me. But the fact was we were on the PK when the goal was scored – I had put us at a disadvantage.

It took half an hour to get out of my gear and into a shower where I attempted to put Victoria back into a state of drought.  Still, trying to avoid my teammates.  Unfortunately it’s much harder to avoid yourself.

Of course even worse than avoiding your teammates in the change room is avoiding the ones who aren’t.  I’m of course talking about Charlie.

Charlie should have been in that room with us, undoubtedly trying to make us feel better.  But due to the bastard that is the universe he wasn’t.  So naturally I felt like I had let him down as well.  I had the opportunity to be here and played not only like shit, but may as well have worn a Devils jersey.

For the next 24 hours I was the most miserable individual in the world. Yes, I had mostly reconciled that “hey, its just a game of hockey – there are more important things in life than damn hockey”.  Letting my mates down still hurt though, and the thought of letting Charlie down hurt the most.  All I wanted was a chance to be able to look back and know I hadn’t let Charlie down and had given everything I could.

Then the karma bus stopped, just before it was about to pancake me completely (OK, it was now a karma steamroller).

In an amazing turn of events, we found ourselves in third position when the dust settled and the 79th iteration of the IHV ladder was released.

The Fighters were back, baby.

This was it.  How many times in sport or life do you get a genuine chance to atone?

It got better.  We were wearing our alternate jerseys in the final, and Charlie’s 21 was my size.  Having the opportunity to wear Charlie’s number was truly special and something that I will cherish for a long time. It even smelt of money (well monopoly money – and Aimee Hough can vouch for me!).  I’d like to think by wearing that jersey, Charlie was out on the ice with us and had his chance to be part of our team in a final and the final game of that team.  Truly the highlight of my season.

History shows we lost 1-0 in the final.  I had a game that was neither brilliant nor disastrous.  I had a shot late where I should have passed had my vision been up.  Dave White clearly hadn’t worn deodorant that morning (sorry Dave) as nobody wanted to be within coo-eee of him leaving him open to take a pass and tie the game up.  However I took the shot and the goalie froze the puck.  I skated to the bench completely spent.   I knew I had given it all I could for the team and Charlie.

Time ran down.  We lost.  The mad cheering fans (all 8 of them who sounded like 8000) still cheered.  I waved in appreciation and pointed to the 21 on my sleeve.  Being the hard man that I am, I had to contend with the foggy/sweaty visor and the annoying tears/contact lens combo whilst skating off of the Oakleigh ice.

Even back in the rooms, the lid stayed on with the visor covering my eyes to maintain the appearance of being a heartless, hardman goon.  I was again forensically examining those laces in my skates but this time had a small grin.  We hadn’t been able to go all the way, but at least I knew both myself and the team gave everything we had in the tank.  Our brother in arms was out there with us – I’m sure of it.  He probably would have scored on that last shot too.

I also know his family came down to watch and experience something that was very dear to Charlie.  The story goes that they weren’t sure which team to follow but felt like they should cheer for the white team (i.e. us).  That must bring a damn smile to even the hardest of faces.

Losing Charlie is one of the hardest and most emotional things I have experienced in life, let alone sport.  There no logic for it.  He should be here with us.

Liam, Wunders and Charlie taking hospital life seriously late last year.

Liam, Wunders and Charlie taking hospital life seriously late last year.

Instead of catching him for some drinks and shenanigans at the Spitfires’ presentation night this weekend, I plan to visit him beforehand and probably sound like an idiot talking to him and shed a few more tears thanks to the universe being an unfair prick.  I also owe Charlie thanks: I think he has appreciated the improved effort final and helped me out lately when I’ve needed an extra 10 per cent on the ice (in what is meant to be my off-season – but that’s a different story entirely).  Or maybe I just want that to be the case, so it feels like he is still part of our hockey world and that, while we want him with us in spirit, he isn’t really gone.

But if we can take anything away from the experience of losing Charlie, it is that we must take every opportunity and give it everything we have when doing something we love –you never know when the chance to do what you love is going to be taken away.

Either way – I wasn’t “that guy” anymore. At least until the next time my brain disconnects from the body and I do something stupid, which is surely not far away.  Again I’ll owe my teammates for an error of judgement.

But I won’t ever let Charlie down again – every time on the ice is 110 per cent now.

Guest writer: Brendan Parsons on scorekeeping

The scorer's box, looking down on the Ghetto's ice. @ Oakleigh.

The scorer’s box, looking down on the Ghetto’s ice. @ Oakleigh.

A change of gear today. Ever wondered who is operating the scoreboard and compiling the teamsheet at any given game? Even in Rec D, summer league, in Melbourne, a bunch of tireless almost-volunteers work to make it happen – and we are damn grateful. (I’ve only been in there long enough to feel sheepish that I don’t help more.)

A big thanks to Brendan Parsons for taking us behind the glass, ice-side, to explain the magic.

Hockey scoring: not for the faint-hearted

By Brendan Parsons

“Shit!”

“What was that?”

“I didn’t see! Get ready whatever it is.”

“What number?”

“Use double zero, just make sure you get the two in right, we can fix it after.”

“I’m on it.”

“Hey can I –“

“Shut up!  Hold on a second – watch the ice – anything coming in on the radio?”

“No…  OK, we’re good.”

“Time?”

“Fourteen twenty seven.”

Radio hisses

“Hey, you there?”

“Yep, what was it?”

“Fourteen, tripping, two minutes.”

“Ok, got it.”

“Sorted – shot on – two shots, home.”

The score box at Oakleigh ice rink is nothing short of parody of a TV newsroom– but without the Sorkinesque hallway walking.  Scraps of paper litter the eagles-nest perched high above the stands.  Aged, yellow control boxes operating the scoreboard and clock flash their analogue red LEDs alarmingly and intrusively.  Only the edges of the vintage, leather stools are used by the scorer and timekeeper; the scorebox is no place to sit in comfort despite its relative warmth.  Snacks and coffee sit safely away from the equipment, but close at hand for the occasional 20 second break.  The computer hums and grinds to process the demands of the byzantine excel spreadsheet.

This isn’t scoring a cricket match – an ice hockey game moves at the speed of the ref’s whistle (which is the speed of sound, so it’s pretty fast.)

With the growth of beer-league hockey in Melbourne, the league should not have been surprised by the massive response to their call for timekeepers and scorekeepers in the summer league.

I answered the call to give back to the league which I have been only taking from so far.  After volunteering, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a (modestly) paid gig. The pay nearly covers the cost of the non-kosher snacks (for wannabe hockey athletes at least) consumed within the box.

Working in the box has given me a new appreciation for the support structure required to play hockey, and the importance of doing things right; like wearing clear and consistent numbers on your uniform, handing in proper team sheets, and only playing registered players.  In a recent game, the numbers on one player’s back, arms and helmet didn’t match – and they wonder (and complain) how the ref may wrongly attribute a goal.

Rookies Rachael Hands and Lliam "Apollo" Patrick man the scorer's box during a Rookies v IBM social game.

Rookies Rachael Hands and Liam “Apollo” Patrick man the scorer’s box during a Rookies v IBM social game.

The box requires two people.  The time keeper is predominantly in charge of keeping the clock running, keeping the scoreboard up to date, displaying penalties and, at Oakleigh, controlling the walkie-talkie which serves as our only link to the ref.  The score keeper operates the flawlessly macro-ed score sheet.  Both need to watch and record all shots on goal – a call requiring consensus, as not every goalie’s ‘save’ is a shot on goal.*

You begin to appreciate the teams that play cleanly – minimizing penalties, playing around the opposition and not through them.  You notice the teams that continually lob pucks to the net, like a prisoner in solitary confinement with only a tennis ball.  You start to feel how each team constructs, and reconstructs, their lines through the game.  You see how goals and assists are not the golden metric against which to measure a player’s skill.

With all the sound and fury of a hockey game below you, from your cloistered, anonymous, impartial isolation, you can see the beauty of the game in its rarer moments. It’s a haven from the regular week; removed from quotidian mediocrity.  A Zen Koan, not requiring anything from you but the application of the rules. No hype, not fans; just the game itself.

But mostly, it’s a pleasing way to spend a Thursday night, or a lazy Sunday afternoon; watching hockey from a heated room.

*A shot is counted only if, with the goalie removed, it would have been a goal.  Brilliantly catching a puck that was not going straight into the net unfortunately does not count.

A final game sheet, as produced by the scorers from every official IHV game. Oh, wait, did I happen to pick one out where No. 4 (Nicko Place) got an assist and an unassisted goal? Wow, what are the odds?

A final game sheet, as produced by the scorers from every official IHV game. Oh, wait, did I happen to pick one out where No. 4 (Nicko Place) got an assist and an unassisted goal for the Interceptors? Wow, what are the odds?

Guest writer: Liam Patrick on life and hockey

I know, right? You not unreasonably assumed this blog would be devoted (possibly at 7 pm Sunday, minutes after stepping off the ice) to long, glorious, over-written accounts of my first ever official hockey game, as a Spitfire Interceptor … an endless narrative of our 4-2 win over an Ice Wolves team, including my first official hockey ‘point’, for an assist on a Jimmy Smith goal, with Big Cat also picking up his first Ice Hockey Victoria point for a second-assist.

But no. I’m far too humble for such self-indulgences *

Instead, my longtime foe-friend Liam “Apollo Creed” Patrick bobbed up with a piece about where his head’s been at after making his debut on Sunday in the Spitfire Fighters’ 11-1 win over the Jets.

So over to guest writer, Liam (who scored a sweet goal, btw, in that win)  …

Hockey within the jigsaw

By Liam Patrick

So no need to admit I’m an “Ice” addict right?  I stunned myself the other week adding up my hockey costs; suffice to say I stopped and decided just to start cutting back (hence my emotional retirement from Dev league *waves to equally devastated fans*).  But lately I’ve been wondering – just what it is that I want out of playing hockey?

Liam Patrick (No. 28) in action for the Spitfire Fighters on Sunday. Pic: Nicko

I have played team sports all my life (some would argue I am no good at solo sports as there is nobody there to carry me). I love the camaraderie of a strong team, however, I am deeply entrenched with many close friends at my cricket club.  So that fills that need – hockey is the icing on the cake in terms of that (but cake NEEDS icing and I wouldn’t want to give up my newly found hockey family).  I hardly skate very fast, handle the puck like it has a mind of its own and shoot like I’m on my 5th hip replacement.  So it’s not a sense of being excellent at something.

I believe it’s more of the challenge.

A peak to scale.

People to prove wrong.   People to prove right…

The ability to surprise myself.

Combine this with the camaraderie and mateship I have found, plus the joy I get when I finally nail something on the ice and that is why I am hooked into hockey.  Ok, so that’s why I love the sport.  It brings me a lot of enjoyment.  Whether I hit the ice Friday night at NLHA, in my number 28 Jets jersey or just hanging laps of the Bradbury with my mates (tweeting love song dedications or accidently punching Wunders in the mouth while proving I can figure skate with the worst of them) I love being there.  I love watching the Ice boys play their physical, fast and awesome brand of hockey.  I love tuning in to the radio or stream of a Pens game (no lockout commentary) or extolling the virtues of S Crosby, E Malkin & Co to anybody who will listen.  The game brings me a lot of happiness (as do the friendships I have formed from it).  That’s the base level of what I want from hockey.  To play (or watch) and enjoy myself with friends.

That’s all it ever will be.  The only time I will wear an Ice jersey is from behind the glass cheering.  My only NHL experiences will be as a fan.  I know that.  I know that Prem A is never going to happen for me.  At 22 I’m relatively young by Rookies standards, but I’ve only just gone 12 months in the game and I’m not naturally talented at any facet (other than annoying both teammates and opposition alike).

But I’m a person who needs goals, otherwise I fade off.  12 months ago that goal was to make a summer team.  6 months ago that was to make what was newly christened as the “Spitfires”.  Sunday afternoon I ticked that goal off.

What is the next thing I needed to work towards to stay motivated?  It needed to be something that provided mutual benefits for where I was at now.  It needed to force me to become a better player.  Logically it’s making a Prem C team sometime down the track.  Is that next season? Not sure.  Is it five years from now? Maybe.  There’s another reason for why I consider this an end goal.  My cricket season clashes horrifically with summer.  I’m giving both sports 80% of the attention they deserve.   It feels like in many ways I’m letting all my teammates and club mates down.  Quitting cricket was never an option to play hockey.  The only option is to get good enough to play during winter.

So, whilst I play for the love of the game, and I know I’m never going to go very far (maybe playing checking hockey, one day down the track) I need to commit to my development.  Who better to ask for help than NLHA Sensei – Joey Hughes.

I chewed the fat with Joey (pardon the pun) before bootcamp.  We covered off points such as my fitness, my skating and some stupid habits I’m developing, my thought process, where I was playing on my summer team and how to become better, my diet and even my sleeping patterns (10pm hockey and 7am work just do not work out well unfortunately!).  Anybody who knows me would know I’m not the smallest guy.  I eat a lot of crap.  I work in the alcohol industry and get lots of samples and allocations.  Coca Cola is my favourite drink however, followed by Solo.  Both can be consumed en masse whilst sitting on my couch.  Finely tuned athlete right here.  If it weren’t for the 6-plus days per week of sport or training I undertake I would most likely be on one of those TV shows unable to get out my house without the jaws of life.

Guess who just scored? Oh yeah! Pic: Nicko

I walked away from our chat feeling positive as I inevitably do after a chat with Joey (seriously if we went to war tomorrow can he give us the speech before we go over the trenches?).  But then questioned myself.  I’ve done the whole “lets get fit, eat right, lose weight” etc before.  Both my grandfathers died of heart attacks, one in his 50’s.  Yet I still haven’t been motivated enough to eat well.  The sleep thing is hard to fix even with a few ideas Joey gave me.  Cricket hasn’t motivated me.  What makes hockey different? As I said – I’m not on the road to be a super star.  I play for the love and enjoyment.

On the flipside I enjoy improving at hockey and think I have lots more in me and my fitness is holding me back from some of it.  I definitely need to lose some kg’s.  My family history in the health department needs considering.  Can hockey provide me more than just enjoyment?  Can it provide the basic components to improve my health – fitness, supportive people around me and the advice of people such as Joey or Martin Kutek?

I don’t know the answer.  It’s easy to focus on my sport as an outlet socially.  It’s where my friends are, I’m single with no kids and outside of work and my deferred bachelor’s degree I have no responsibilities.  Perhaps it will prove the motivation and means I need and in addition to giving me an enjoyable outlet it will improve my wider life (again, no pun intended).

Maybe it won’t.  Hockey is just a puzzle piece in a wider jigsaw that is yet to be completed.  Maybe I’m unique? Or maybe there are others wondering where this addiction fits into their lives?  Maybe some people know exactly what hockey means to them, where the lines and drawn and where it sits in the scheme of their lives?

But like all things in life – I’ll never know if I don’t try it myself.

* Nicko’s assist on Jimmy’s goal? Video available on Facebook.

Sub-standard skating in context

Spitfires v Tigersharks. Waiting for a whistle to start things off. Pic: Zac Arato.

Quite the weekend. In Melbourne, a classic AFL grand final took everybody’s mind off the unspeakably horrific murder of Jill Meagher, although in her local hood, Brunswick, they did what Brunswick people do and discussed “yarn-bombing a tree” as a tribute to her. Well played, Swans, and thank you for the distraction.

In Sydney, fuckwit shock jock Alan Jones said Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s father had “died of shame” when he passed away a few weeks ago, because his daughter was such a liar. A paid-up dinner of Young Liberals chortled and applauded. Sponsors are now pulling out of his radio show but what’s the bet he isn’t even sacked?

Big Cat Place prepares for a face-off against the Tigersharks.

Overseas, things were even stranger. American being America, there was a report of a man in a black ski mask being spotted near a window and so a neighbor strode out, invoking his goddamn Constitutional Right to bear arms and to defend property, and shot the intruder dead. Then took off the balaclava and found out it was his 15-year-old son.  This was on the same day that Fox News America was busy following a police car chase in Arizona after some guy had carjacked a vehicle and taken off. The coverage was being enjoyed by the Fox audience right up until the bad guy stopped his car, got out and shot himself in the head, live on national TV. “We really messed up,” a Fox spokesman said.  Meanwhile in Manchester, Britain, two female police – unarmed because that’s how the Brits roll – were shot down by a psycho who had phoned in his own burglary to attract them, and then turned himself into the local police station. In one report on that story, it was pointed out that five British police have been killed by gunfire in the past decade. In the same period, 544 American police have been slain. Over the weekend, of course, in Tennessee, in the USA, there was also a conference of those opposed to gun control. “In a perfect world, without carry permits, anybody ought to be able to own a gun and anybody ought to be able to carry a gun,” said enthusiast Mike Crow.

The point of all this is to provide context to my hockey battles of the weekend. I played twice and was mildly frustrated both times at how my skating is going, or not going, depending on how you look at it. In both games, I was serviceable, didn’t suck – and in the first game, on Friday night, my passing, especially to Big Cat in the forward line, was really happening.

Several of my hockey mates on the move in Spitfires v Tigersharks action. Pic: Zac Arato.

But I still need to work on moving my feet. I still need to get those first few quick steps to put distance between me and back-checkers on a breakaway.

Even so, driving home on Sunday night, I was very aware that my world and the wider world had bigger issues than whether I can train myself to have faster wheels by the time summer league starts in a fortnight. Context can be a good thing sometimes.

On Sunday, a bunch of our new summer team, The Spitfires, took on another actual team, the TigerSharks. This was my first time playing against players I didn’t really know, against genuine opposition.

Sure, I skated onto the ice to take a face-off and said, “Oh, hi, Brendan,” to Brendan Parsons, facing me across the red dot (he duly kicked my arse in getting the puck away) and then said, “Oh hi, Georgia,” to Georgia Giblin, the TigerSharks’ other centre I faced. And said hi to Dan and Mark and others I knew on that team … but honestly, really, there were people playing who I didn’t know, and therefore it was a good test of where our team was at, and where I was at.

Short answer: still not a good enough skater to play centre now we’re playing for real. On a wing, I’m okay, and I’m getting better, but I have to get to more general sessions, just to keep my legs getting faster.

The Spitfires team listen to our coach for the day, Melbourne Ice player Austin McKenzie. It’s quite possible he was saying: “Kittens? Really? Kittens? Was that to get the chicks?” Pic: Zac Arato

Hockey remains a lot of fun though. It was a very clean game on Sunday; hard-fought but with great spirit. Just the way it should be. I got to share a line with Liam Patrick,  my friendly rival, Apollo Creed to my Rocky,  who excelled by yelling the opposition team’s name instead of our own as we did a group gloves-together-inspirational-yell thing at the start of the third period. “I honestly didn’t mean that,” he said as we prepared for the face-off. I told Georgia, newly named among the Melbourne Ice women’s team and now an intimidating presence staring at me across the face-off dot. “For real?” she asked, wondering what she was up against. My distraction didn’t work; I think she won that one.

Even so, the Spitfires won the day. We somehow jumped to a three goal lead in the opening few minutes (it turned out the TigerSharks hadn’t really been together, as a team, on the ice at all since last summer season and had a lot of ring rust, as boxers call it). Once they woke up, it was a nil-all draw, but we had lots of chances and played well.

Can’t wait for the actual season to start now, in two weeks.

But in the meantime, I’ll distract myself by watching the wider world and scratching my head about bigger issues. Like how Melbourne is mourning Jill Meagher’s murder, or how Alan Jones can be such a dickhead after so many years on Earth, or even what the business plan is behind opening a Victoria’s Secret store at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium? Life is never boring.

Guest writer: Liam Patrick on the Newcastle adventure

WORLD EXCLUSIVE

Vinnie Hughes brings the Cup to the Rookies. Newcastle, 2012. Pic: Jessica Hough

A roadtrip chasing the Goodall Cup.

By Liam Patrick

What a weekend!

It was the weekend the Ice put the fairy tale finish on their documentary by sealing the 3peat in dramatic fashion in the industrial city of Newcastle.

It was weekend that a motley band of Melbourne Rookies travelled up to support our boys in their quest for a third round of glory.

I offered to blog the experience of following the boys into enemy territory and the finals for Nicko.  He asked for not merely a diary of the weekend but ‘an adventure that ultimately ends in glory’.  So here goes…

The now fabled weekend began early.  Very early.  So early in fact, that a certain Rookie managed to throw away his boarding pass before getting through security.  Whoops!  The players had flown up on the Friday but the first flight out of Melbourne to Newcastle Saturday morning was jam packed with Ice fans, the South Pole crew, the Women’s team and the MI players’ partners and families.  There was a genuine excitement in the air before quite a few people took advantage of the 90 minute flight to recharge their batteries.

Newcastle is, somewhat amazingly, a hockey hotbed.  This weekend was to be the North Stars’ ninth Grand Final in 10 years.  In this time they also have secured four Goodall cups, dominated junior hockey in the region and have a successful involvement in a women’s team.  They’ve accomplished all this in a town with only 190,000 residents.  I had never been to Newcastle before.  While driving the 40 minutes from the airport to Warners Bay where the rink is located, I was struck by how just much the houses we saw resembled those in places such as Broadmeadows and other tough, working class suburbs.  From where I sat, I saw a town that was built on the blood, sweat and tears of “hard” men and women.  A tough, fibro city.  Perhaps this is an indication of why hockey is successful.  The people are bred with hard work and physical strength in their blood.  Combine this with a hockey friendly rink, an intelligent and talented management team and perhaps a lack of competition from other sports or pastimes and I began to form my own opinions as to why the team was so successful for so long.  I chatted about it to a few of my fellow Rookies and while we agreed the North Stars are no doubt a power club of the AIHL, maybe my reasoning wasn’t the full answer.

The Rookies underpoooosh their way onto the Novastrian ice, pre-finals. Pic: Jess Hough

The Hunter Ice Skating Stadium was somewhat disappointing for me.  If this is the second best rink in the country then we are further behind that I thought.  Now to be clear, this isn’t a knock on the rink.  It had a beautiful ice surface for general skating and Joey Hughes later remarked it was “perfect” come game time.  It was clean.  It was safe.  It was easy to access.  We could tailgate (translation for non-hockey readers: impromptu drinking and socialising, centralised around the boot of a car) in the car park!   My view, however, is that the finals are the marquee product each season and need to be built to attract lucrative sponsorship dollars, global interest and mainstream coverage.  Furthermore, it should be accessible to fans, in a location that’s attractive for travelling fans and capable of providing modern day comforts such as video replays and quality live streaming.  I felt that this wasn’t achieved at the HISS, but conversely, could have been achieved at the Icehouse.  Yes, I know. I am somewhat biased being an Ice fan.  But at the same time, I LOVED being able to go away with my friends and cheer for our boys (next year we may go global and head to NZ for TTCL!).  I just wish the HISS could have the same facilities and benefits to help build the growing momentum of our sport.

Like many questions facing Ice Hockey’s Aussie family – what is the solution?  Is it good practice or sustainable to always use the Icehouse?  Will the Gold Coast get their rumored stadium that could do the job just as well?  Will a couple of other rinks be up for a facelift soon?  Is this where the dollars need to be directed as the league grows or are there other factors to consider (such as beginning to pay the best players)?  I’m not sure.  What I can say with complete certainty is that HISS had made the most of everything they had and helped put on a fantastic show, all while providing great hospitality.

All this being said, I’ll give you an account of our experience on the weekend and leave you to form your own opinions on the big questions above.

Having arrived in Newcastle before most people were even awake on a Saturday morning in Melbourne, our general skate at the HISS was fun.  The rink wasn’t as packed as the Bradbury – but the weather was a sunny 20 degree so why would you freeze yourself unless you were a true hockey tragic like those of us who pulled on our skates.  Martin Kutek (Lord of the Underpoosh and Rookies sponsee) was unable to play under the “four imports rule” and had been unable to make it up with us. It was Dan D’s lucky weekend when he got to wear Martin’s actual playing jersey for the weekend instead. Proudly displaying the number 13, Dan (playing the part of ‘Kutek’ magnificently) did quite well in an on-ice limbo competition narrowly missing out on a pseudo-Czech victory to an unnaturally bendy six-year-old before stacking it, superman-style, on his final crack at the limbo pole.  The marauding, erm I mean travelling, band of Rookies also took the chance to have a little bit of fun at our coach’s expense, staging a few interesting shots in a series known as “Kutek does….”.  For legal reasons and the fact that Martin can make us bag skate several times per week, these probably need to be locked away in a concrete bunker deep underground, or alternatively, posted to Facebook.

For those of us who made the trek, what was most interesting to observe was the mixture of emotions which played themselves out like silent movies across our faces over the course of the weekend.  Personally, I had been very busy moving houses and starting a new job so I hadn’t given much thought or considerations to the weekend other than “thank fuck I have a holiday coming up.”  Even while general skating, I was more worried about my “hockey hangover” (11:30pm finish to NLHA the previous night-30 min drive home-washing to be done so my housemate didn’t kick me out over the stench had meant I was running on three hours of sleep and very dead legs), rather than shift my focus to Finals and the main event. Others, such as MasterChef Rach, a 10-year supporter of Melbourne Ice, were beginning to show outward signs of nerves on behalf of our boys who were about to put it ALL on the line.  This was sudden death playoff hockey – nothing was assured and the best team on the day would take the spoils.  Unlike the NHL and AHL, there was to be no coming back from an off night this weekend.

The general consensus was that the Ice boys should progress to the final.  We had the Sydney Ice Dogs to get past and they would be a Scoobie Snack for us (see what I did there?!). The dogs are a team we had embarrassed 9-1 at the ‘house and then won another 4-3 in a spiteful away game which saw Joey Hughes (one of the Rookies favourites, coach and arguably the best player in the country), having a “brief” 5 game holiday after finding himself on the wrong side of the opposing bench.  Needless to say, the Rookies did not care for the puppies.  The other semi was definitely going to be more interesting.  The local North Stars who had finished one point clear of the ice for the minor premiership, were taking on the Adelaide Adrenaline.  As a Victorian, I found myself torn.  The North Stars were probably the best team all year (marginally ahead of the Ice who slowed a little in the final month as fatigue, injuries, suspension, pressure and other factors seemingly took their toll.)  We wanted to play the Croweaters whom we had beaten 3 times during the year and had smashed in last year’s semi.  But could I really cheer for a South Australian team in the semis?  Don’t they have “Kick a Vic” on their license plates?  We at least knew our $70 tournament pass was going to give us three great games of hockey seated fairly close to the glass.

The nerves finally kicked in while downing the first beverage of the weekend as we tailgated prior to the Stars game.  A brick suddenly dropped in my stomach.  I knew the boys weren’t in great form.  Two losses to Perth before a hard fought win, followed by a tough game against Gold Coast.  There had been so many hurdles for the club this season.  From Vinny having a controversial holiday, Tommy Powell injuring his knee and seemingly not quite having his killer edge (even if his Chemistry with the Bearded one is always exciting to watch), Baxxxy nearly losing his finger/hand/arm (he later admitted it wasn’t back to 100% but even now, still can handle a puck like its glued to his stick, bastard), Joey’s aforementioned battle, Szalinski getting poleaxed during a shattering 4-0 shutout, a taxing Trans-Tasman triumph, Todd Graham having to return to college, 10 year celebrations, the pressure of the 3Peat, a documentary being shot (which I am hanging out for) and I’m sure all the other pitfalls of a team environment.  From my perspective, our last month had been well below what our boys were capable of…

I comforted myself by looking for the positives.  After a slow start, the Bearded one (i.e. Lliam Webster) had been a beast of late.  Averaging over 2 points per game, using his size to keep opponents off the puck while slick and dangerous in his own puck-handling.  Marcus Wong had the pace and skill to be thorn in anybody’s side – and he hits anything that moves. Hard. Coach Jaffa looked like a hardened warrior who wouldn’t let his boys be anything other than perfectly prepared and enabled to use their skills and flair.  Army was up and about.  Sturrock was a rock in defense on the veteran pairing with Vinnie.  And Godammit!  The Rookies would yell ourselves hoarse for our boys no matter what was to happen!

Despite the mounting anxiety I was feeling, it was easy to get swept up in the atmosphere.  An excited bunch of mainly twenty-somethings, sun, alcohol, hockey.  Not a bad way to spend a weekend.  The first game began.  What idiot chose our seats?  We were surrounded by Novacastrians, (thanks to Brenda Parsons for ensuring I used the correct term there), our own little island refuge of navy blue, wedged between the bright superman-esque colours of the Northstars fans.  We were about two metres from the glass and sitting below the ice.  The players looked like giants.  Warriors speeding along smoothly then smashing each other without warning since we couldn’t see the puck while sitting that close to the boards.  The game was a fast, tight affair.  Every time the heavily supported locals drew away, the boys from Adelaide pegged one back.  They weren’t lying down.  It was not just a warm-up game.  It got to the last period.  5-4 Newcastle.  Ray Sheffield (Newcastle captain and one of my favorite non-Ice players) laid a check.  From our vantage point we couldn’t see it but Kittens Place described it as “Not great” and pretty deserving of the five minute penalty and an early shower.  This was it.  At least one goal should be scored.  Maybe two.  Even as a neutral supporter I was edge of my seat.  The logic kicked in: “Let’s hope they go to OT, tire each other out”.  The next five minutes were all about a tight, desperate defense from the offensive juggernaut of Newcastle.  They held on. Just. And that meant they were off to the big show.  Two teams worth of tired hockey gods hit the showers.  One could look forward to the biggest day of the year.  The other, the biggest night of the year and the worst morning after.

It was sometime shortly after that when my nerves ramped up.  Reality hit home.  This is finals.  Anything can happen.  Our boys are good, no doubting it.  But talent counts for nothing when you look at the scoreboard.  Goals marked up there are what entitles you to claim the win over anyone else.

The boys were out kicking the soccer ball around for a warm up.  Joey gave the group an almost shy smile and wave.  Most of us were somewhat well lubricated by now and gave him a big cheer along with any other man clad in a navy blue t-shirt. The Rookies are very ‘equal opportunity’ when it comes to our boys.

We took our seats.  We had survived being accosted by (the aptly or ironically named) Bruiser, the Ice Dogs mascot, on the way in to the HISS, and now the bay next to us was full of Dogs fans in full voice.  My gut twisted tight.  I couldn’t imagine how the boys must be feeling right now.  Maybe they are old hands at this? Many of the Ice guns have played high level hockey around the world, many already having two championships under their belts.  It may be finals, but at the end of the day it’s still hockey.  Skate hard, put that rubber disk past the guy in the leg mattresses.  Should I have been worried?

Fuck no!  Exactly 14 seconds after the first drop of the puck, a Rookies favorite and another sponsee Matt Armstrong, being criminally left unmarked by the puppies defensemen in the slot, put a sexy snipe past the Goalie after some nice passing from Joey and Baxxxy.  BOOM!  The Ice were up and about.  Then another.  And another.  The knot was gone.  Thank fuck!  The overgrown puppies mascot was nowhere to be seen (humping a fire hydrant maybe?).  As expected, the Ice Dogs turned physical, having decided that since they couldn’t beat them, they would beat them for it but, despite a few penalties, our boys heroically held it together.  No doubt they targeted Joey who did well to only take a few penalties.  At one point I remarked: “I just want to go over to the box, tap him on the arse and tell him to get back into it. Don’t worry about those bastards and put a few more in the net”.

The final score for the game read 6-2.  It was almost flattering to the Dogs and our boys never really looked troubled after the magnificent start.  The third line (which was really 5 different forwards who had all had their own moments in the sun during the year) played some minutes giving our powerful top 2 lines some respite.  Marcus Wong looked a metre taller than he really was, smashing anybody silly enough to go near him.  Todd Graham (freshly back from the US for the weekend) was solid as a rock, Dylan Moore looked like he had the decision making to match his skills and was making life really hard in our zone for anybody without the ice logo on the front of their jersey. The old firm of Vinnie and Sturrock looked formidable.  Our D was set.  Our forwards were rockin’; ‘Bring on the locals!’ we cried.

It had been a long day.  But still, despite the early start, it was Saturday so the group met a few other Ice fans in the hotel bar and settled in for a few cold beverages.  We were all obviously very happy with how the day had gone.  No injuries or suspensions to our boys.  The North Stars had played a tough game.  And the bar had something other than Toohey’s on tap!

The next day dawned.  We hoped our boys’ heads weren’t as sore as our own. Over the next three or four hours, all of the Rookies filtered through a local café who apologized for the slow service (45 minutes for that Hot Chocolate, Da Costa?) as they had never been this busy.  Their three tables were clearly a rush.

The noble hockey art of ‘tailgating’. Pic: Jess Hough

Another general skate was forgone in favour of more beers before some good ole’ fashioned tailgating.  Something I had never done before and loved.  The banter with the other fans – friends and enemy.  More “Kutek does…” photography which may or may not have received many likes on facebook.  It’s certainly a culture I think many Aussies would enjoy.  I have always been kept aghast by the soccer community (thankfully to a lesser extent here in Australia) who need to be physically separated before the start of a game.  Having Glaswegian blood I have heard many stories about the vicious rivalries and wondered how the hell that happens when I manage to sit next to an Essendon fan on ANZAC Day or an Ice Dogs fan in a semi?  It was the same type of vibe in the carpark at the HISS.  Both sets of fans knew they were in for an epic battle between the two best teams and some of the best players across the entire league.  Taylor, Bales, Sheffield and co for the North Stars put up the points while superstar goalie Oliver Martin stood in the pipes to shut-down the mighty Ice warriors.

After a few more slightly warmed beverages (including pre-mixed shots which included a tad too much cream for my nervously churning tummy).  The rink was quickly filling.  The tiny skaters of the North Stars ice crew cleared the warmup pucks from the rink like ball boys and girls at the tennis, much to the moans of the travelling Rookies “aww man, that kid shits all over my skating… Sigh…”.  The team assembled for the national anthem.  The Ice standing like zen masters in their white traveling uniform towered above the plebs in the crowd.  The teams crowded their nets, final words before battle. By this point I was in real trouble.  Stomach churning, sweat pouring off me, edge of my seat. Drop that damn puck!

The two power lines faced off. I later saw a photo of Baxxxy taking this face off. He was grinning ear to ear. It’s very endearing to see an athlete having the time of their life.  Then that black rubber disc hit the ice.

It was on.

Like the day before, the puck was quickly into the Ice zone and Baxxxy’s shot went… just wide.  It was quickly followed by a penalty awarded to Joey.

Oh god.

Fuck.

No. Crap, Fuck.

This isn’t the plan right?  A tough PK later and we were back… until the North Stars slotted one.  The Newcastle fans surrounding us went off like frogs in socks.  The eight or so Rookies in the bleachers (Kittens & co were on the glass, apparently regularly spied drinking via the livestream… in the dry venue) were dead silent with our mouths open, stock still. Our little island refuge of navy blue had been invaded and annexed by crazed North Stars fans. You could even hear our collective gasp over the commotion of the mental crowd.  Then we saw the documentary camera panning onto us.  Oh great, I hope they credit us as “disappointed Ice fans” at least.

Next thing we know we are 2-0 down.  No!

No-no-no.

More glum silence.  My stomach had dropped.  Maybe it was just the nerves but I was feeling really pessimistic.  Our boys were working hard but these bastards were so damn good.  Crack damnit! Rookies around me muttered to themselves quietly. Our collective spirits were a little dampened, not only by the scoreboard but literally by the North Stars fans behind us who had a particular penchant for screaming (or rather spitting) ‘FORECHECK!’ over our heads for the duration of the period. But, in true Ice fashion, by the end of the first we had pegged one back.  Thank god there would be no embarrassing shutout!  The boys had looked good in the last five minutes of the period.  The Rookies were suddenly less worried.  I secretly still felt like we were gone.  Usually we seem to bully teams early then coast home downhill, unassailably. Not today.  We had to want it more.

That’s exactly what happened.

Many internet sites will provide a blow by blow and we all know the Ice won 4-3.  But I merely want to comment on three more moments.

Firstly, the Lumberjack (aka the Bearded One, aka Little Sexy, aka Coach aka Le-Liam or aka Liliam in the official finals program) put away my favorite goal of the year in a spinning one time snapshot from near the blue line into the top corner, and beating one of the country’s best goalies dead cold.  That was when I KNEW we had enough to do it. This was going to be our day. My stomach slowly began unknotting itself.

Confidence didn’t last long though. It never does in a swings-and-roundabouts game like this had been.  When Lliam went to the box with about 6 to go in the third, and the North Stars scored, despair came flooding back.  Oh god. A huge  momentum shift.  Crap.  Here they come.  How much DO the Ice want this?  Are they hungrier than the team they beat last year,  the very successful club without a Goodall cup in the last two years? What influence will the contrasting semis have in these final desperate minutes…

The final 30 seconds of the game was spent ferverishly chewing nails, sweating bullets, squeezing knees and wringing hands by the Rookies.  Six on five with an empty Newcastle net.  My voice was gone.  Muscle and stomach aching with fear and adrenaline.  Tommy Powell lies on the goal line Doug Glatt style, the puck is lost among smashing sticks and bodies.  ‘Stud’ Denman freezes it or the boys dump it.  The mad scramble starts again and again. I look up and see the clock roll down past 00.01.

Pure.  Joy.

Pure Joy. (Liam Patrick second from left) Pic: Kittens Place

The ice is littered with discarded weapons.  The glass is hammered by over-excited fans.  It was one of those moments where none of the other troubles in the world matter right then to anybody who was on the winning side.  The brick had become a wave of excitement washed over with a tiny bit of relief.  The boys had the fairytale finish to the documentary.  We were the best team in the land.  No matter what the world threw at the Ice family, we would spit it back in their faces and put another puck in the net.

The presentations were made.  Todd Graham was finals MVP, playing a crazy 33 minutes in his second game in as many days.  Amazingly the “third line” didn’t touch the ice Sunday.  Questions were asked by the Rookies, is it a possible depth issue?  Probably not, we decided, as they were all very capable when the big guns were out.

The boys skated the cup around and apparently we made it onto the livestream screaming and hollering against the glass for our boys.  Then Vinnie came running through the crowd holding the cup.  This is probably the best moment of the weekend.  This is how much our boys love the fans and include us.  This is why we come to support them.  Jaffa also went to lengths to include us cheering and waving during celebrations, towards us, saying hello to travelling fans the day prior and all through the celebrations.  On behalf of all the Ice fans, I say this to any of the Ice players or officials: ‘Thank-you, you really are the most welcoming sporting organization I have ever had the pleasure and honour of watching’.

Christmas Angel, Aimee Hough, drinks from the Cup. Pic: Jess Hough

My pride also extended to my jersey. Sitting in my Melbourne colours watching a group of men give everything they had, playing with grit, confidence and determination, made me immensely proud to be part of the family.  I have seen my equally beloved Magpies win a flag, my cricket club with two premierships but this is my favorite victory.  It was won by simply wanting it more than the opposition.

The Rookies snuck onto the ice (perhaps ‘Kutek’ even made some of the official Ice team photos, but we can’t confirm or deny this and will plead the 5th until we die) and grabbed some great photos with our coaches.  The mighty Beard declaring “I’m not putting my arms down.  Get around me people”.  Gladly, and without hesitation, we huddled under his arms then quickly regretted our decision. We stayed long enough for a happy snap then we backed off quickly. The smell radiating from every pore of Lliam like a thermo-nuclear reaction would have choked a donkey! There’s even an awesome photo of me mid-high five with Joey.  We then left the boys to their locker room and families.  After some celebratory beers, a real “crash” feeling occurred as the adrenaline wore off.  Tired but satisfied, we, the travelling Rookies, piled into the van and headed to a buffet dinner.

Soon the boys joined the Melburnian fans and began the celebrations,.  The 103-year-old cup was being filled and ALL in attendance were called upon from Korthuis and Wilson to drink from it.  It may have been Tooheys but damn that was the best beer I’ve ever had!  Was truly a thrill to have the chance to feel so close to the team and, although clichéd, drink from the cup.  Soon the night was moving on and it was time to allow the players their own time to celebrate together.   This upset a couple of people but having played team sports all my life I knew that after such a great success the team had earned the right to lock themselves away and enjoy the moment together as these opportunities in life, not just sport, are rare.

Not to be deterred, the Rookies headed home and spent a very late night talking and drinking.  Despite the best efforts of one Rookie to get some shut eye, the son of a certain older Rookie who happens to be a grizzled ex-journo writing a blog about learning to play hockey *cough* was determined to keep going much to the chagrin of the sleeping Rookie. Incidentally, that same sleeping Rookie was also confronted by two roommates in various state of undress who felt he in his unconscious state really needed a cuddle and were then keen to play upon his somewhat discomfort while flying.

The next morning a few sore heads awoke and made it home in one piece.  The weekend left a very drained but happy group of hockey fans and hockey payers at the airport.

A trip away with your mates is always great fun.  It’s a real adventure of sorts.  Hopefully, you’re exploring somewhere new, chatting too much (always about crap) and forming inside jokes (I’m looking at you Brenda, Kutek does Newcastle and that de-fogger-mister). Throw in a Goodall Cup and what else could you ask for in really for a cracking weekend?!

True Story! The amazing highs, the stressful despair and nerves and a very Disney finish to the documentary.  Thank-you again to the Ice for being a fantastic team, fantastic people, a fantastic family (who love MINGLING), the AIHL for putting on a grade A event, the HISS for providing the best environment they could muster, including a perfect ice surface for our boys to break the Newcastle Hoodoo on, and to my fellow Rookies for putting up with me and not giving me too much grief on the plane!

Bring on an Awesome Foursome!