Celine Dion probably said it best.
It’s been a few weeks since I started training for the Steinberg Winter Classic. When it began, I had played ice hockey maybe 4-5 times in the past year. I’ve equaled that total in the past week and a half.
The old adage “the more you play, the better you get” seems to be a true statement (unlike those that say 31 is just outside of peak years). I’ve skated three times since my last post and I’ve really started to feel the puck better, my strides are longer and I’m not getting as tired — that last one may be that I’ve stepped up my off-ice workout routine, too. More on that later.
Part of it may also be that I’ve been able to skate with some guys more my age, too. Early last week, I partook in a skate at the Fenton Forum in St. Louis County — an older rink with some issues, but still a serviceable rink that has the old-warehouse feel you don’t see as much nowadays.
It was a bit of a slower pace, as the average age from my last skate probably jumped up about 10-15 years (no exaggeration). It also helped that there were just seven skaters aside, meaning two subs on each team.
I found myself on two breakaways, as well as a plethora of 2-on-1 breaks. I don’t remember how many I scored, but that means that I scored at least one, which was far better than my outing I wrote about last time. I’m not even sure I registered a shot on goal during that skate.
On Sunday, I rejoined a drop-in skate that I used to attend fairly regularly. Held at the St. Peters Rec Plex in St. Charles County, this drop-in has some pretty talented skaters, as well as mid-to-low level players, as well. It’s a nice mix of talent that allows players of all skill levels the ability to work on their game.
It was during this skate I truly began to feel comfortable again carrying the puck.
As many drop-in regulars know, most skaters are delegated to forward in full-roster games. Defensemen spots are always called pretty quickly (even before the teams meet at the bench before puck drop), so I was again in my unnatural position at center/left wing.
However, this time I was able to find room to skate with the puck, as well as find open ice when my teammates were entering the zone. The positioning came back to me quicker than I thought it would, as I was constantly finding myself cycling in the zone and avoiding bad passing lanes for my teammates.
I actually felt like a hockey player again. It’s a pretty nice feeling when … well, you know, you’re playing hockey.
Drop-In Vs. Stick-N-Puck
Since I’ve started this journal, I have exclusively been skating in drop-in games. Due to having an afternoon free, I was able to partake in some stick-n-puck action this week.
For those that are unaware of the difference in terminology, a drop-in is a game between two teams as if it were in a league (without refs and faceoffs). Stick-n-puck is an open sheet of ice with no plans of a game. It’s unorganized mayhem as everyone is out to just work on shooting, passing, skating, stickhandling or whatever aspect of the game they feel needs attention.
I’ve only skated in a handful of stick-n-pucks during my lifetime, as they are normally held during daytime hours and are meant for those who simply need the time to develop fundamentals. Sometimes, though, you get players like me who just want to utilize the ice time since it’s rare to find.
When I took to the rink at Creve Coeur Ice Arena, there were three or four players on the rink with me, most just scattered in front of the two nets, just lining up wrist shots. I was there mostly to skate as hard as I could for an hour and a half, working in some stickhandling along the way. Even though slap shots aren’t allowed at the Steinberg Winter Classic (nor at drop-in games), I wanted to get my point shot back on track, too.
However, the competitiveness of hockey players kept us from just shooting around and a 3-on-3 tournament broke out.
With three teams of three players each, two teams faced off on half the ice surface in a game of post. The rules were similar to that of half-court basketball; offensive team can enter the zone when all three players are onside and the defensive team has to carry the puck past the blue line to be on offense. A hit post or crossbar resulted in a win for the offensive team and they would stay on the ice to face the other three-man team. This continued for the last hour of the skate.
I hit two posts as my team was the clear winner in the event, but I fear the gentleman who put the teams together stacked ours a bit — our team was the only one where all three skaters were clearly experienced hockey players.
But, hey, a win is a win, right?
Although it was hockey at its lowest level, the 3-on-3 play (which is the format of the tournament I am gearing up for) kept my feet moving, my head on a swivel and my stick on the ice. It was tiring as finding an open spot in the offensive zone became increasingly difficult as the other two teams began learning our tendencies and clogged up passing lanes. Working in such a tight space made for extremely interesting hockey, as board battles and working the puck around the perimeter were the name of the game.
I’m feeling stronger and more confident. My training —as well as my heart — will go on.
Alright, that Celine Dion reference was a bit of a stretch.
My Workout This Week – Plyometrics
This is a bit of a step up from the jump rope that I attempted last week. This time around, I gave plyometrics a shot.
What are plyometrics? According to Breaking Muscle, “Plyometrics, in simple terms, means jump training. Plyometrics enhance our explosiveness, power, and body control. They teach us how to stretch our muscles before we contract them as we land after a jump.”
Thanks to Bryce Salvador’s and Ben Shear’s helpful video, I was able to start training in plyometrics. Here’s my sad attempt at recreating a few of the drills recommended by the xHockey Performance Series team:
When you watch Bryce’s and Ben’s video series, you’ll notice the emphasis toward these being great workouts for young hockey players. Keep in mind, though, these are specific off-ice drills made for bettering yourself not only as an athlete, but a healthy individual. In short, it’s for kids of all ages.
Stay tuned as I have just a few posts left before the tournament begins. It’s grind time and, unlike Celine, I will not surrender.
Until next time.
Beer League Journal
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