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Beer League Journal: Go Big or Go Home

This one’s for all the marbles.

It’s tournament day. I’ve been prepping all month for the Steinberg Winter Classic and the day has come for all my efforts to rise to the surface and prove that they were worth it.

Well, tomorrow is the day that happens. The tournament begins this evening, but my team doesn’t begin play until 8 am Saturday morning.

league hockey
League play at Rec Plex South in St. Peters, Mo.

It’s true that this series of posts has been lighthearted with a serious tone in the backdrop, but it has made me a better ice hockey player in the end, while also being a driving force for me to drop a few pounds and attempt some new workouts. With the tournament just hours from beginning, I am down just seven pounds. However, ask any personal trainer what’s most important.

Do you feel more energetic and slimmer? How are your clothes fitting?

Yes. And I am no longer stuck between large and extra large shirts; I have gone back to being a large-shirt guy. Now I don’t have to go buy a new summer wardrobe.

The truth is that I have noticed an uptick in my endurance on the rink, as well as my willingness to hit the gym. As I stated in my original post in this series, I have always been an active person who runs 1-2 times per week, while going to the gym another one or two times per week and filling in the other days with inline hockey. But the workouts I have been doing have been maintaining my weight, keeping me afloat in terms of endurance and agility. What I’ve done the past month has made me feel more like how I felt 10 years ago, when I was going to the gym daily and trying new workouts constantly.

Plus, it’s gotten me back into playing ice hockey, which is something I have sorely missed.

Some Things I’ll Never Do

The more ice hockey I’ve played, the more confident I am in my abilities. During my first skate at the James J. Eagan Center, I wouldn’t have dared try any fancy stickhandling or passing moves. In my most recent drop-in, Thursday night at the St. Peters Rec Plex, I was extremely confident with the puck, attempting dekes on the best players and trying to thread the needle with passes through defenders. They weren’t all dandies, but I had the confidence to do it because, frankly, I know I can do it.

However, there are just some things that can’t be done. By me, at least.

Take Buffalo Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly’s smooth goal last Saturday against the St. Louis Blues.

The swift-skating O’Reilly faked the shot on Blues forward Alexander Steen, backpedaled through the faceoff circle, then positioned his body for the shot and beat goaltender Jake Allen high on the blocker side.

Someone who has never been on skates before may say that this play is simple skating technique accompanied with a nice shot selection. However, anybody who has played the game knows how difficult this play is to pull off. The coordination it takes to switch your skating stride as easily as he did, while also being aware that he had time and space, is truly something to behold.

You’ll never see me do this.

I’m not saying that if I attempted this every day for the next two months, at multiple hours per day, I wouldn’t be able to accomplish this. The issue is that I don’t have that kind of time to devote to a maneuver such as this. I can work on my strides and cornering as much as possible in the time I have on the ice, but the ability O’Reilly shows here requires delicate time spent on so many different facets of the game. That’s time only a professional, or junior player, has to spare.

This just reminds me that hockey is much like life; work just outside your comfort zone and you’ll discover you are capable of so much more. O’Reilly’s move is far outside of my comfort zone, and I doubt it will ever be in reaching distance, but there are plenty of things I’ve worked through in the past month and I’ve seen vast improvement. I’ve pushed myself a little more each time and I am capable of so much more than I was a month ago.

We’ll see how that plays into the tournament this weekend.

Steinberg Winter Classic: It’s Gut-Check Time

Steinberg Winter Classic

All the hype is in the past. The boys need stay home; the man’s game begins today.

If a man’s game doesn’t include boards, is 3-on-3 and features a small box in lieu of a goalie, that is.

All of my team’s round-robin games will take place on Saturday (8 am, 2:40 and 6 pm), with playoff teams battling Sunday afternoon. My next post will detail the events of the weekend, including photos and video of the event.

If you live in the St. Louis area, I strongly encourage you to stop by Steinberg Winter Classic, taking place in Forest Park, as this is the closing event of the season for the outdoor rink. Although pond hockey is at the core of the weekend, the event includes silent auctions, concerts and even a presentation with an American Bald Eagle. All proceeds benefit the Cancer Care Foundation, which directly aids local families with loved ones stricken with the deadly disease.

It’ll be a fun-filled weekend with plenty of stories to tell afterward. For me, let’s hope those are tales of triumph … and not complete embarrassment.

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.