pergamond: ([Futurama] Bender // Applause)
By my quick assessment of the sea of red jerseys the other side of the score keeper's box, I would estimate our opposing team had at least three lines of players.

We had two.

Players, not lines.

To be totally fair, our first line was on the ice, so we had one complete set of players and two substitutes. For those not glued to the NHL, in ice hockey a line consists of five players; two defence, two wings and a centre who both attacks and defends. For novice hockey, an ideal team would have at least two sets of defence players and three sets for the wings and centre; so a total of 13 players plus the goalie.

Seven players was therefore slightly short-handed.

Apparently, people went away in the summer; a shocking lack of commitment to this predominately winter sport! In the end, we managed to capture three extra players from teams that had played earlier that evening, making our bench a cheerful rainbow of coloured jerseys. Just don't pass the puck to anything in red.

One of the fun things about playing slightly short-handed is everyone tends to play their absolute best. After all, there is no point in leaving the leg work to someone better than you if your only substitute has collapsed from exhaustion a mere 30 seconds previously. This works until the third period where no one can move any more.

In the end, we lost but narrowly by a goal scored quite late in the game. I ate nachos with my team. Then found I couldn't stand up. It rocked.

pergamond: ([xkcd] Canada)
I stepped on the ice and flailed as my right skate shot out from underneath me. Hurriedly, I swung my weight to the left, becoming an ice ballerina as I sailed on one foot towards the barrier. Was the rink slick with water from the new surface deposited by the departing Zamboni? Normally, freshly cut ice has the reverse problem, with the residue thin layer of water causing the puck to stick to the rink before it freezes properly.

Gingerly, I put my skate back on the ice only to have it slide hopelessly sideways. What crazy ice problem was this? Two of my team-mates passed me, apparently unaffected. Was the issue with my skate? Had my blade come loose without me noticing? That would be bad; I couldn't skate with a blade so displaced it sent me flying every time it touched the rink. I'd have to not play.

I scanned my friends performing warm-up exercises. We were low on numbers tonight, I had to skate! I'd just have to ... have to .... skate on one foot. At least I'd have the element of surprise. Maybe if I pushed off from the bench really hard at the start of each of my shifts, I could sail across the rink, intercept the puck and ...

... be carted off for six weeks traction before the end of the first period.

This was clearly a COMPLETE DISASTER! However you looked at it there was going to be carnage and missed goals and broken bones and bandages and probably an iron lung. 

I reached the barrier and leaned against it, allowing me to get a proper look at my feet. My eyes narrowed at the lump of sticky tape attached to my right blade. Okay, perhaps no one had to loose the use of their lungs. This seemed like a solvable situation.

The next few minutes progressed in a remarkably similar manner to this video clip. I pushed the lump of tape with my free boot but it just slid along the blade. Next I tried pinning it down with my left blade while I lifted my right skate up. That caused my skates to be stuck together. Then I tried trying to rub it off on the barrier after which I attempted ... Look, it doesn't matter. Let's just say in a battle of me versus tape there was a clear winner and leave it at that.

Ultimately, I was rescued by a team-mate who was able to bend down and tug the offending stickiness free of my skate. The exposed blade finally cut into the ice and I shot forward just as the whistle blew for the game to begin. Fortunately, I had just stretched out every single muscle. It was the ultimate warm-up. I must write to the NHL.
pergamond: ([PoT] Ryoma // all or nothing)
"On the off-chance this ever becomes an issue ... which way are we shooting?"

Even for me, it was strange question to ask during a hockey game. This, though, was no ordinary match. This was sled hockey. Designed for disabled players, sled hockey is played --as the name suggests-- on sleds. These devices resemble metal stretchers supported on short twin blades with a plastic bucket seat on one end.

A member of my regular hockey team coaches in a sled hockey league and, finding her team had an hour of extra ice time at the end of their season, she suggested we come and try it out in an exhibition match. There is clearly no other answer to such a suggestion than 'hell yes!' and it was utterly awesome. The 'exhibition' naturally turned out to be us, rather than the game, but this was suspected well in advance of the reality.

The first obstacle I had to cross occurred in the changing room when I attempted to put my hockey gear on without my skates. The issue was not the emotional guilt from leaving my skates in my bag (although that was rather sad) but simply that my kit goes on in a certain order. Like Ikea furniture, forgetting one of the steps usually results in the end product falling to pieces. In this case, my shin pads felt dangerously slippy.

As it turned out, this wasn't a problem since my ankles got taped to the sled. What was more of an issue was getting my GIGANTIC BACKSIDE into the tiny plastic seat. If the proceeding game wasn't enough to wreak my ego, this would have sealed the deal. It transpired later that sled hockey players don't wear the same padded shorts as skaters in the traditional game (IT'S TRUE I TELL YOU!). They either wear lighter shorts similar to those used in roller hockey or just leggings. As a result, I had to be levered into my sled by the referee.

Then I was off!

.... if I could work out how to move. Instead of a single long stick for manoeuvring the puck, sled hockey players have two short sticks roughly a third of the length of a traditional hockey stick. The shooting blade on each is the same size and shape as a full-sized stick but the reverse end is equipped with metal teeth that are dug into the ice to propel you forwards. It was quite like rowing a boat on frozen water. When you wanted to hit the puck, you inverted the stick to put the blade against the ice and shot towards the goal. At least, that was the idea.

The sled blades were adjustable and could be set at different distances apart. Ours were separated by about half a foot rather like the training wheels on a bicycle. A few of the real team members had theirs mounted so close together they looked like a single blade. This forfeited stability in favour for manoeuvrability. Since I had a habit of tipping over, being unable to do handbreak turns on one stick was not overly upsetting. Normally when I fell to one side, I was able to righten myself with one hefty push. However, while guarding the goal (probably from nothing, I have no idea where the puck was at the time), I tipped over so fully that I partially came un-wedged from my seat. This meant that when I tilted back up, my centre-of-mass was off to one side and I just fell down in the opposite direction. Team members surrounded me like a bovine heard around a wounded animal. However, since we were all tied into our sleds, no one was able to provide the leverage and stability to correct the problem. In the end the referee (laughing hard) appeared to stuff me back into position. Time to go!

Never had the ice rink looked so big. None of us were used to working our arm muscles so much and we couldn't yet move at any great speed. Someone sped past me, guiding the puck with one stick and manoeuvring with the other. He approached the goal, lifted the entire sled up about an inch, and shot the puck underneath it to land in the net.

I waved my sticks a bit in stunned admiration.

When the whistle blew, I cut myself free of the tape round my ankles and tumbled unceremoniously onto the ice. Strangely, one of the sorest parts of me was not my arms but my unused legs. This is apparently not uncommon, since you do not normally sit with your legs absolutely still for an extended period of time.

I picked up the sled and carried it to the store room noting, with some surprise, that many of the regular players did the same. Upon inquiring, I discovered that to play in the sled hockey league, you have to have some form of disability, which need not be physical. This led to one very important question:

If you could walk, why on earth is sled hockey considered easier than the traditional sport?

Late night

Mar. 8th, 2011 08:58 am
pergamond: ([Random] kitten // rar)
As the zamboni rolled onto the ice, we pushed open the rink door and made our way over to the benches. We stopped in the 'away' team's area and started to deposit our sticks and water bottles.

"Guys, we're the home team tonight!" Our captain had arrived and was now waving us to the next bench over.

We all turned to stare at him for a moment. "But....that one's further...." someone protested.

Can you tell it was a late game? It was.

Apart from the fact that everyone looks dazedly confused when the puck is first dropped, the other problem with late games is that the outside temperature is prone to plummet. As Saturday night swung to Sunday morning, the heavy rain morphed into horizontal snow. I left the rink to find one half of my car covered with a dusting of white icing powder and the other half buried under 2 inches. It was kinda awesome. And difficult to shift.

After about half an hour of dedicatedly fighting against nature's desire to preserve my car in ice while the fans warmed the windscreen, I was able to trundle away out onto the road.

Hamilton city is divided into two halves by what is locally known as 'the mountain'. This is a wholly inaccurate description for what is actually an escarpment, the same one that runs south-east of Hamilton to form the cliff from which Niagara Falls plunges. The ice rink is located on the raised escarpment while my apartment sits in the downtown city area below. This meant I was looking at a steep and snowy decent to get home.

I rolled unenthusiastically along the road, trying to follow the path carved by the few other vehicles up and about at this hour.  I could mentally see myself turned upside down in a ditch, my car wheels turning like its upturned bug namesake. Sadness!

Then, I spotted a snowplough. Sneakily, I went twice round the roundabout and slid in behind it to follow it down to the city. It was a bit like tailing an ambulance to avoid red light except .... much .... slower.

I ditched my new best friend at the bottom of the hill and scooted off for home. When I arrived, my driveway was already thick with snow. Should I risk trying to pull into it? Images of angry old ladies lecturing me on the location of my broken-down car filled my mind. I scuttled off to park in the street. That woman seemed just the type to be out at 2 am.

Orders

Dec. 12th, 2010 12:39 am
pergamond: ([Toy Story] Buzz // wibble)
"Why aren't you on the ice?"

As one, we turned on the bench to see the director of our ice hockey league walking up behind us, carrying a clip board.

"We're not allowed until the referees get here," volunteered one of my team mates. "Last time we went on before them we got into trouble."

Helmets nodded in agreement. In truth we had been gathered up and lectured at length about skating before an official rink attendant was present. It was pointed out to us that no one was going to rush to take responsibility if something HORRIFIC and AWFUL happened during warm-up. Like ... a mass pile-up in the goal .... or a puck rebellion.

"That is wrong," our director told us crisply. "You are not minors."

Blank faces peered at her from behind wire helmet cages. We totally were a minor league team. If there had been a mistake and we were this night facing a team from the pro league .... oh my.

"You're over 18," the director explained patiently. "You don't need to wait for a referee to warm up. Get on the ice. This will be resolved tonight."

There are some people you argue with and some people you really don't. Unfortunately, both our league director and the referee were examples of the latter case. Still, since the referee wasn't here ... We pulled open the door and pushed out onto the ice just as our captain appeared.

"Hey! How come we're on the ice?"

"She told us to!" At least five arms shot out to point accusingly at the director, who had moved across to talk to the other team.

Yes, we're clearly twelve.... That was probably where the confusion arose from in the first place.

pergamond: ([Disney] Sleeping Beauty // rooting for)
I shot down the ice. My blades cut into the smooth surface in steady strokes. Ahead of me, the small black disc slid towards the far end. The referee was probably going to blow his whistle, but that didn't mean the defence shouldn't give chase. It was like flying.

Either that, or the fact our game hadn't started until 11:30 pm was addling my brains.

In my league, there are three time slots for games on Saturday night: 9:15, 10:15 and 11:15 pm. A balance is attempted so that no one team gets landed with all the late games, but those slots that we do get are universally hated. This week was a 'make-up' game, due to us missing a match last month because of a tournament. It resulted in a bizarre ice time and, in a strange twist, playing the exact same team as we did the week before. To top it all, this rival team was the one I was on the previous season so I had only the haziest idea of who was friend or foe out there.

Plus, I was exhausted.

Coming off the ice, I decided that next shift I would simply take a nap in front of the goal and hope this was disconcerting enough to cause the other team's shots to all go wide. I was just falling into a light doze on the bench when someone smacked the puck so hard it shot over the barrier. It ricocheted off the wall behind me with a loud bang and flew over my helmet to land by my skate. I picked it up with narrowed eyes and threw it back onto the ice.

"Are you awake now?" asked my team-mate, grinning, as she exchanged places with me.

Oh yes, this had gone too far. I had been hauled out in the middle of the night to play a confusing game against my old team in a surreal parody of the week before. Then to top it all, someone tries to kill me with a puck. I was tired, shocked and suffering from deja vu in which I played on both sides of this match.

THEY WERE ALL GOING REGRET THIS.

Of course, given the previously listed problems, it wasn't obvious who 'they' were going to be.

The puck shot towards the opposition's net and I hung back to mark their right wing player. He was hanging by the blue line, ready to take the puck back down the rink towards our goal. But I had his number, I was on him like a fly on jam --an appropriate analogy since he was wearing a red helmet-- slamming on that pressure that was bound to cause him to make a mistake. Assuming that was, he noticed: he was the size of a bear. I consoled myself with the fact he'd probably trip over me if he turned.

The puck shot out the other side of the zone and I moved for a more prominent position, skating rings around the pursuing player. Literally so, I should add. He looked unsteady on his feet and I thought it might unsettle him. I then played a few rounds of hockey tennis, bouncing the puck toward the opponent's goal as it came my way three times in a row. I think I wasn't the only person having deja vu.

Then we won.

By 'we' I think I mean my current team. Either way, I credit my own awesome defence for the victory... or attack, if it was the other team that came out on top. That'll learn them for waking me up.
pergamond: ([Bleach] Ichigo // -.-)
I was in the bar after hockey feeling that my life, frankly, rocked. With mingled horror and fascination, I was hearing of the troubles one of my team-mates was having with her soon-to-be-ex spouse. The situation was nasty: neither party was talking to the other and a judge had ruled a time-share on the kid .... and the house. The latter meant that for half the week, my friend wasn't allowed in her own home and had to couch surf around the town.

I was deeply sympathetic but could offer little apart from a potential surfing location if she ever started to seriously consider the ice rink as a bedroom. Despite us being almost the same age, I had neither kid, husband (past or present), mortgage or any form of asset that wasn't straight forwardly mine. It made my curses at indecipherable code errors seem like a picnic. The kind you have on a ridiculously sunny day where the provider of said packed lunch has remembered you don't like celery. 

In short, my life more than rocked. It was the equivalent to Rock Band 3, Lego edition, on the Playstation.

Fortunately, other members of our team had more practical advice. With bankers through to car salesmen in our ranks, we had most problems covered. They offered opinions on credit ratings while I sat there ready for anyone who had a problem with their star forming galactic clouds. (No one did, but someone is bound to next week. I mean, I can't go a day without running into these kind of issues). Somewhat alarmingly, there were also a number of people who had battled similar problems, including facing bankruptcy and custody wars.

My rocking life acquired a second keyboard.

One banker-turned-student offered his take on the situation. "You don't want to declare bankruptcy," he advised. "Or it'll be seven years before you can get a decent credit rating again. Then you'll end up like El."

WUT?!

I accidentally swallowed an ice cube and spluttered while it painstakingly melted in my gullet.

"She's got no credit," my team-mate helpfully continued. "So she has to pay the bank to get a Visa. Plus, she moves so much that it appears as though she's defected on her rent almost every year."

OH SO NOT TRUE!

... Well OK .... I did have to have a secured credit card because border control hates credit ratings crossing between countries even more than people. And yes, I had moved roughly every year since graduating in a crazy work-related globe trot but .... but .....

Fine. It was all true.

"I built up a solid credit rating in the US," I protested. "And I only move because of my job!"

"Did you explain that to the bank?"

"Yes!"

"Did it make a difference?"

".... No."

My rock band life was reduced to a microphone with a faulty battery.

I was offered an extra slice of pizza. Clearly, it was felt that I might not see another meal until our next game. I took it. 7 years as a student leaves deeply ingrained habits regarding refusal of food.

"Cheer up!" I was slapped on the back. "At least you don't have to contend with dividing a household with an ex-husband or boyfriend!"

"If you do start sharing a house though," Another team-mate lifted a finger. "Charge them rent. That way, even if you break up after years together, you can declare them a tenant and not a common-law marriage partner!"

It is quite amazing what you learn. I sincerely hope that information will be utterly useless to me in the future.

pergamond: (it's gonna be me)
I am currently sitting sprawled on my floor watching the semi-finals of the men's Olympic hockey. My TV is only able to get one channel on its internal aerial but, since this is Canada, there wasn't any doubt that I would be able to catch this game.

The women's hockey team have already won the gold; they beat the USA team last night. There was nothing odd about the game until the commentator mentioned the USA players were all wearing heart monitors so that their coach could see who had the freshest legs. The two thoughts this produced were both mildly concerning; either the coach totally didn't believe a word his players said regarding their fitness or he considered them all duracell bunnies (or maybe energizer bunnies -- did anyone else not realise there were two?).

The men's team, meanwhile, are taking the scenic route onto the podium since the only thing they were able to put into the goal when playing the USA last week was one of their own players. That particular game saw the public screens in Vancouver removed for fear of riots. In fact, it transpired that there was nothing to fear; Canada went into complete denial the game had even occurred, including the reporter on that night's news. (Although this picture made me laugh a lot.)

By the time Canada were playing Germany, a cautious allusion to the previous .... thing ... occurred on the radio where the DJs speculated the serious question of whether the whole Olympics would be a disaster if Canada didn't place in hockey. Meanwhile, our lunch table at work discussed the likelihood of anyone turning up to Friday's game if Canada were knocked out. Would Vancouver simply decide the hockey was over and the players would show up to an dark and empty rink with no TV crew? It was possible. And no, in case anyone was wondering, the acquired gold in figure skating didn't quite hit the spot.

Still, the worrying was for nothing. Canada has now won the semi-finals (you can all speculate whether I wrote this before or after the end of the 3rd period) and we will discover whether it's because these bunch of stars have started working as a team (I'm going to come out and say the women's team - WAY better at this) or if the USA team are just that hot. They are now guaranteed a silver although (and I quote the sports commentators) that is not the colour anyone in this country wants to see. Whether they will or not probably depends on if [livejournal.com profile] crazy_marik stops jinxing the team.

Either way, it seems likely that Lacuna, Inc will not be needed for every Canadian.
pergamond: (Gryffindor; defeat the dark arts)
So my moving boxes are now largely empty. The resulting horizontal filing system has been upgraded in almost every room and a clear path to the door is visible in the remaining areas. It was time to get down to the real reason I came to Canada; the ice hockey.

Thursday night I joined my department's twice weekly pick-up game. That's right; the Physics department has a hockey team. I swear they also do research in my field.

This week, we were somewhat short on players. In fact, we had no bench[*]. So my first time back on the ice after almost a year resulted in some body complaints: "You're doing this again?! .... And ... you're not getting off the ice ... at all .... seriously?!"

By the end of the hour, I had remembered how to skate and even regained the use of my legs just in time for Saturday's match with my new city-based hockey league.

Ironically, I was put on a team called "the Canadians" (named after the NHL Montreal team) and was told upon arriving at the rink that I would be in changing room 5. This is changing room 5 .... out of 24.

The "Mohawk 4 Pad Arena" is something out of a Florida hockey player's dreams. Yep, you heard me, "4 pad"; four NHL sized ice rinks sitting side by side like quadruplets with multi-coloured fleas. The fleas in question were the hockey players who were in full swing on each rink when I arrived... and when I left at 1 am after eating in the bar that sits upstairs overlooking the games.

From what I could see, there was no mention of figure skating or family sessions. This was a rink with a single purpose .... x 4. Did I mention the Walmart here is packed full of hockey equipment? Or that I was planning on giving up my apartment and moving to the rink? 

[*] For non-hockey enthusiasts, the bench is where the players not currently on the ice sit. You rotate in shifts, with each player usually being on the ice for a couple of minutes hard skating before changing.

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