BLOG - HOCKEY & HEAVY METAL
April 11, 2014 • 08:16 AM
THE LOS ANGELES SHARKS, GAME 3: “I SCORED?”
As about nineteen of you know, last month I played my first competitive ice hockey games since junior high school as a substitute member of the Los Angeles Sharks, a rec league team based down in the Bay Harbor section of Los Angeles who play once a week, always on Sunday. Being a substitute means I’m on a list of people who get an invite to play only after regular team members can’t make it, but after my first 2 games as a sub I did not get an invite for 4 weeks. (Fortunately, the league’s director dropped me an email to tell me that it was because everyone had been showing up, and not because I sucked.) Finally last Saturday another invite came in during the Los Angeles Kiss football game, less than 18 hours before faceoff, but there was no way am I could to turn it down after 4 weeks without a game. Never mind that I had too much to do already, I had ta do it.
It was a beautiful, sunny Los Angeles day for the drive down, and I arrived at the rink a full hour before faceoff. That meant I could take my time getting the gear on and the skates tied, and had plenty of time to stretch and warm up. As it turned out, both the Sharks and our opposition, the Force, were pretty low on numbers. We had 11 skaters and they had 10, so everyone on both teams got a ton of ice time. For whatever reason, I just felt more confident before the game started today and it showed pretty early. I’d had four weeks to let the constructive criticism from the previous game set in, and I’d spent more time than usual watching what the wingers were doing in the NHL games I took in over that time. As a quick recap, in the previous game I was caught badly out of position a couple of times and was not shadowing the opposition’s left defenseman enough when the play was in our zone. So from the first shift today, my game plan was to really pay attention to where I was and to be where I was supposed to be, and it I stuck to it and it worked. The regulars make it a point to give verbal support and pointers to newbies as they come off, and the improved play was not going unnoticed. As a team we played really well, and three of us rotated shifts at right wing. By the end of the second period we had built a 5-1 lead, and I’d picked up my first assist. Steve, one of or two-way defensemen kept the puck in the offensive zone and pushed it forward to me, and I picked it up the pass and shot it from about 35 feet out. The goalie made the save but Niko was right there to slam the rebound home for his second gal of the game. It all felt good as we headed into the third period.
I never actually saw the goal I scored on my next shift. I did some good work on the boards in our end to clear the puck out and get it to a teammate at center ice, who passed it to our starting center, Nick. He swooped in on the left wing and took a shot that the goalie saved, and the rebound came right to me as I crashed the net from the right. I got a solid shot off but the goalie saw it all the way and saved it, but he was not quite able to secure the puck in his glove and it dropped to the ice. By then I was just about skating past him at a pretty good speed and I reached across my body to try and get at the puck with my backhand, but the extension of my body sent my skates flying out from under me and all I could do was swipe at the puck on my way down to earth. I came down hard on my hip and all of a sudden there was yelling and the sound of sticks being pounded against the boards from the bench. I looked up and saw Niko looking down at me with a huge smile on his face and his glove out, offering a fist bump.
“Hell yeah you did! That was amazing!” Apparently I had managed to go 5-hole on the goalie, and as I got up he was also looking at me with this look of, “Nice one, man.” Well, then. After a 32 year break, I’d scored a goal in a competitive ice hockey game and had some happy teammates. Cool. It was early in the shift, so I stayed out on the ice and we all immediately went straight back in and I very nearly scored a second one ten seconds later. If I’d lifted the shot another foot, it’d have been in.
The game finished 8-1, and when the stat sheet came in we’d outshot the Force 49-12. Nick looked over the score sheet and gave out his 3 stars of the game, and I ended up receiving the #2 star for the goal, the assist and for major improvement in positional play and forechecking. Very gladly accepted. At this point I feel like I’ve made the jump from a new guy of unknown quality and a potential liability to a new guy who doesn’t suck as much and can be trusted with a shift, and that goes a long way. And most importantly, the Sharks won and no one on either team was injured. Oh, and the Sharks clinched a playoff spot too.