BLOG - HOCKEY & HEAVY METAL

August 23, 2015

8-BITS SUMMER SEASON, GAME 6: MAYBE I SHOULD BE RUSTY MORE OFTEN

 

Believe it or not, ice hockey is a year-round thing in Southern California since the Ice Angeles Hockey League never truly stops - the Winter season starts in January and runs through late June, and then the Fall Season starts in July and runs up until Christmas.

This has actually worked against me recently, since the Winter season started when I was on vacation, which was followed by three more day-long sessions of tattooing over three weeks (no physical exertion for 2 weeks after each session while the skin heals) along with a prosthetics convention in there somewhere. But we worked it out so I can pay for and play half a season, and today was my first game (and the team’s sixth) out of fourteen. Although our record should be 2-2-1, we’re actually 1-3-1 due to a forfeit loss - a non-vetted substitute played (oy!) with a jersey containing the number of a rostered player who was out that week (double oy!), and our one lopsided loss of the season was to the very team we are playing today, the Canadiens. Four of our regulars are missing today, so no pressure.

Because I cannot stop listening to the Grateful Dead these days, I went with a blowout 1973 jam from UCLA in November 1973 for the drive down. I got to hear all of it, too, because traffic was bad - I only barely had my gear on before faceoff and got no warmup. In a way this may have helped because I had no time to become any more nervous than I already was. I’m rusty and out of shape and I was actually dreading the game a bit because I was worried about being a liability. But there was one good thing to report - readers from last season will remember I had ongoing issues with my hockey-specific prosthetic arm from Biodesigns fitting properly after putting on some mass during the spring. However, after what essentially amounted to a 2-month layoff I’d lost enough mass where the prosthetic fit perfectly today. So at least there’s that.

Although the Canadiens boast 2 of the league’s 3 top scorers and have more strong skaters than we do, they only had 8 skaters to our 10 so the first period played out pretty evenly. We had a couple more shots than they did, and I spent a lot of time shadowing those two top scorers. It worked - we were scoreless at the end of 1, and we felt pretty good. I hung in there okay even I was definitely rusty, but with the prosthesis fitting just right I was making plays, making and receiving passes, and winning a majority of faceoffs.

Somewhere in the middle of the second period I was at the end of a shift, and completely winded, and hoping for a whistle. But our star defenseman Adam (who has converted from forward) carried the puck from our blue line all the way into their faceoff circle, where it was poke-checked into the corner. I was trailing Adam and completely out of breath, but I was the first player to the puck and no one followed me. I was able to turn and see Ben heading for the slot, and I put a pass right onto his tape. Amazingly, no one was on him and he had time to pick a high corner. He did not miss. 1-0. Nice.

Early on our very next shift Ben returned the favor. He gathered a loose puck along the right-side boards near center ice and I headed for their blue line. He passed the puck towards me and I was able to take it in while skating past one defender, and now I’m barreling towards the net with the other defender heading my way. Their goalie covers the left post, but the defenseman is now screening the goalie’s view of me. Before I can really think about it I fire the puck towards the unprotected right side of the net and lift it a bit, and the goalie doesn’t see the shot until it’s too late. 2-0. We stay out, and I’m able to win the following faceoff at center ice and pass it to Chris, who carries it into the left corner. I recognize the give-and-go and head for the net, but their center is having none of this and barrels into me while tying up my stick. I can’t get a shot off, but I do get my stick on the puck and deflect it behind me to Ben,
who once again is left open in the slot. 3-0. As we skate to the bench we hear a goalie stick slam against the ice in frustration.

We take the 3-0 lead into the third period and we’re looking good for the win, but now I really want the shutout for our new goalie Nick so forechecking is my game. I take the faceoff to start the third and the puck soon careens into their end. I lunge for it and get a bit of stick on as it heads towards the corner and I chase it, but the Canadiens center is chasing it too and sort of foregoes the puck and takes me out. I see it coming and throw my shoulder towards him and we collide and go down, earning a yell (but no penalties) from one referee, and we both leave the puck sitting there for Emily to pass into the slot to Chris, who slams it home. 4-0. Late in the game two different Canadiens take frustration-related minors (elbowing and roughing) on the same shift. We don’t score on the 5-on-3, but we do run down the clock. Then with 30 seconds left there’s a scrum in front of their net, and their goalie is unable to trap the puck with his glove.
It’s sitting right there and my stick gets there first, and I smack it over his outstretched arm. 5-0. 30 seconds later, it’s over.

The weird thing is that I don’t feel like I played any better than I did at any point last season, and my shifts definitely got shorter as the game progressed. But the hockey gods’ determined that my linemates and I were allowed to be in the right places at the right times on 5 occasions today. Chris and I were both +5, which is still the best statistic of whether or not someone’s playing a complete game.

My usual role is defensive forward / shutdown center, so mostly I shadow the other team’s top forwards and prevent them from scoring. And with 2 goals and 3 assists today, I actually equaled my scoring output for all of last season. It felt weird while it was happening, and it feels even weirder to write it, and it’ll probably never happen again. Statistically, today was the best game of ice hockey I’ve ever played, and on a day where it should not have happened. But the fact that my prosthetic arm fit just right was clearly a factor - at its best I forget that it’s even there and I can just play without thinking about it, so all credit there goes to Biodesigns and TRS Prosthetics.

Most importantly, we won and we even made up some ground in the goal-differential category. Maybe I should be rusty more often.

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