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Beer League Journal: Losing Never Felt So Good

Usually, allowing over 50 goals in three games would make a team feel bitter and contrite.

This isn’t a case of the 1974-75 Washington Capitals, though. This was in a charity event where good times were had by all, even the officials and event workers.

The Steinberg Winter Classic was held this past weekend in Forest Park, St. Louis’ marquee outdoor spot. Although pond hockey was at the core of the tournament, it was the reason for the weekend that brought everyone together.

Taken from the Steinberg Winter Classic website:

The Steinberg Winter Classic was created by Mr. Joe Fresta, Jr., a Two-Time testicular cancer survivor and avid hockey player.

All proceeds from the tournament will benefit the Cancer Care Foundation, directly aiding local families with loved ones stricken with the deadly disease.

cancer care foundationAs someone who has lost his father to Leukemia, it was easy for me to relate to this cause. When I was asked to play on the Mercy Medical team, one of the sponsors of the event, I didn’t even have to think about my answer. Because of my experiences, I’m happy to be a part of it, even if the money I spent over the weekend only helped one person in the slightest.

And it’s a great feeling knowing I wasn’t the only one in this mindset.

Mercy Medical Saw No Mercy

As you can judge by the title of this post, the Mercy team did not fair well in the tournament. Cobra Kai may as well have been the opponent for three consecutive games.

In lieu of goalies and nets, the tournament features small boxes at both ends that each team must defend. Needless to say, the game scores are extremely high as it is completely up to puck control … or simply scoring more than the other team.

No goalies, no nets. Only boxes.

Simply put, if hockey analysts were to pick favorites heading into the tournament, Mercy would not have been the ones to advance. Of the six players, two hadn’t skated in over 10 years and two others played ice hockey under five times in the past year.

Then there was me. A guy who blogs about preparing for a charity hockey tournament.

Team Mercy Medical

It’s rare I get nervous. However, it’s also rare that I play in an ice hockey tournament. So there were nerves on the way to the rink on Saturday morning.

When I stepped on the rink, the nerves quickly went away as the cold 30-degree weather blew into my face at an alarming rate. I started sizing up the other five teams on the ice (the rink was separated into three smaller playing surfaces). It seemed that there were some beatable teams, but more that were going to prove to be extremely difficult to match.

The first game was our closest, a 20-9 final. That’s all we need to say about final scores.

As far as my play was concerned, I felt confident with the puck and assured in my defensive abilities. We kept our shifts to about a minute tops, which helped in my endurance throughout the day. I never really felt overly tired, which was a testament to the hard work I have put in the past few weeks.

There was never really one true highlight of my day, as I would probably point to the multiple odd-man rushes I broke up (although many of those still ended up in the goal and there were even more that I did nothing to stop a goal).

However, there were two plays in particular that will stand out to me. One involved a stretch pass from the opposing team that I broke up, but the puck slid into the tiny opening of the box  (own goals are something of a specialty in my hockey career). The other was recorded on video.

I thought it would be a good idea to video myself taking the ice in our final game of the tournament. I started in the dressing area, walked to the rink and skated a few times around the ice to provide viewers the opportunity to see what the setup looked like whilst on the rink. As I was skating around, my teammate lined up a shot from about mid-rink and struck me right in the ankle.

This hurt. A lot.

I skated in the final contest, laboring a bit on my right side. I played through it, as I knew that I would have regretted skipping out on our final game.

I limped the rest of the weekend and will continue to do so into the workweek. But, as hockey players of all levels know, it’s one of the risks we take every time we lace up the skates and pull down the jersey.

Final Thoughts

Although the games didn’t go as my team had hoped, it was still an unbelievable experience for a wonderful cause. I would do this all over again in a heartbeat.

As I stated in my previous post in this series, I have improved myself on and off the rink thanks to this tournament. I’ve shaped up, I’ve tried new workouts that I probably would have never attempted and I participated in a great weekend that I likely would not have experienced if in any other medium. I’ve written a blog series that, quite frankly, I have enjoyed from start to finish.

The only people who benefit more from this tournament than me are, hopefully, those who the Cancer Care Foundation are assisting. I will be joining an ice hockey league sometime later this year, and a large part of that desire is due to my ability to play in this tournament.

Many of you have told me how much you’ve enjoyed this blog series. I’m happy I could provide some insight, but more importantly, some laughs.

Thank you for reading and joining me on this adventure. It was worth every moment.

In closing, I’ll summon my inner Happy Gilmore:

There’s only 364 days until next year’s tournament; I have to toughen up!

Photos from the 2017 Steinberg Winter Classic:

Beer League Journal

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Tags : cancer care foundationmercy hospitalpond hockeysteinberg winter classic
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.