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Beer League Journal: The Journey Outdoors

The highest level of hockey I played was high school. I didn’t receive a hockey scholarship and I never dared dream of attempting juniors in Canada. My hockey claims to fame include playing pick-up hockey against Cam Janssen and floor hockey against Pat Maroon.

However, I am a hockey player. I was when I was a teenager and I am now at the ripe age of 31. Just because I never skated among professionals doesn’t mean I’m not any different than them.

Ok … I don’t get paid to play. I guess there is a small difference.

I love the game just the same, though. I play every chance I get and I am always tuned into the latest NHL musings. As sad as it may sound, I still have dreams at night about winning the Stanley Cup and skating it around center ice.

Obviously, this will never happen. So I cling to the small things that reward me for playing the game — playoff overtimes, all-weekend tournaments and, of course, beer league championships.

Scottrade Center
Me playing at Scottrade Center

I live in the St. Louis area and have only journeyed as far as Dallas to play hockey (of course, this was while I was living in Dallas for just under a year). The greatest venues I’ve been able to skate at include Scottrade Center (home of the St. Louis Blues), as well as Dr. Pepper Arena (practice facility for the Dallas Stars).

Inline Versus Ice

Inline hockey is a popular sport in the Midwestern United States, as organizations such as MOIHA (Missouri Inline Hockey Association) and NARCh (North American Roller Hockey Championships) have quite the number of participants every season. Naturally, it was something that intrigued me as a young man, as well as my parents, who balked at the sight of ice hockey league fees and equipment when I was getting started.

I picked up ice hockey through the years, but inline remained a viable option as I lived on a fixed budget through college. Now, as a working parent with a wife who just recently finished up a Master’s degree with no time for employment, I clearly see the benefits of having the cost-effective inline as an alternative to ice hockey.

However, anyone who has played both inline and ice will say the same thing: roller hockey just isn’t ice hockey.

It’s softball vs. baseball. Flag football vs. tackle football. Curling vs. shuffleboard. In every way that it is the same sport, it’s completely different. You skate in the same fashion, but each requires its own muscle build to handle the strides. The motion for shooting is the same, but you have to dig more into ice to get lift on your shot.

Still don’t believe me? Ask a goalie.

The itch for ice hockey is always there, even when I’m in the waning seconds of a close inline beer league match. It’s wanting to run a marathon, but only signing up for the half marathon.

Ice courses through a hockey player’s veins at all times.

What’s the Point, Jeff?

You’re probably wondering when the title of this post is going to come up, right?

Recently, I was asked if I would be interested in playing in the Steinberg Winter Classic — an annual 3-on-3 outdoor tournament held at St. Louis’ premier outdoor rink. You can imagine what my answer was.

This weekend tourney, held Feb. 24-26 this year, allows for six players per team. In lieu of goalies, the tournament features a small box for the puck to enter and goals are only allowed if the shot comes from the attacking zone (no center-ice or defensive-zone shots will count).

Admittedly, I haven’t played a tournament of this magnitude in a few years. As some of you know from experience, working multiple jobs and having a young child takes its toll on your time … and body.

In order to make sure I am ready for the 3-on-3 action, I will be putting myself through a training schedule that will prep my body for a long weekend full of cardio. This includes on- and off-ice training. I plan to utilize some xHockeyProducts items in stick-n-puck sessions, while also incorporating xHockey Performance Academy videos into my workout regime.

Beer League hockey at Steinberg
Steinberg ice rink

Consider this my Road to the Winter Classic. I will be sharing stories all month long about my workout progression and mindset. I hope you’ll join me on my journey as I, along with my five teammates, prepare for the best outdoor hockey St. Louis has to offer.

Although this is hockey at one of its lower stages, it’s important to remember that we are all still part of the same allegiance. We all want to play our best and deliver that all-important game-winning play, whether it be a goal, block or save.

At this point, I just hope I’m not the cause of one of those plays for the other team.

Beer League Journal

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Jeff Ponder

The author Jeff Ponder

Jeff brings a wealth of hockey retail experience to xHockeyProducts, as well as a vast knowledge of marketing and content development. Jeff is also a former hockey reporter for various media outlets in the St. Louis area and has attended numerous NHL Entry Drafts. He has played hockey since the age of 10.