So anyway, the season is in full swing now and the first whack of games has delivered a handful of “snapshot moments” that have illustrated where I stand in the hierarchy of beer-league greats. In short, I'm a few notches above where I was last year but still nowhere near the top.
Most of these snapshot moments have been subtle and likely imperceptible to anyone besides me — a won footrace, a few extended moments of puck control, a shot delivered with a hint more force. However, I did experience one snapshot moment that had a noticeable impact on the game.
My team was on a power play and I had the puck. I circled behind our net to orchestrate our assault on the opposition end. A forechecking opponent was hot on my heels, his stick lashing out like a serpent’s tonque trying to slurp up the puck.
I kept my legs moving and eventually left the guy behind, but all my teammates had advanced far ahead and I had no one to pass to. So I lugged the puck all the way into the opposition’s zone. As I crossed the blue line, another opponent advanced toward me and the puck slipped just beyond my reach. I had visions of being swarmed and denuded of the puck as has happened so often in the past. It filled me with self loathing.
With a furious outburst of strides, I caught up to the errant disc and regained possession of it. Then, as I circled in the corner, it eluded me again. This time an opposition defenceman latched onto it and prepared to fire it down the ice. I lunged desperately, and to my surprise, I got it back. By this time, my legs were dying, but I was able to take some quick strides and reach a safe area.
Hearing a voice call for a pass, I saw a wide open teammate sliding down toward the goal. I slid him the puck and he promptly slipped it through the goalie’s legs and into the net. Ha, ha — assist for me! It was one of just a few points I’ve collected this season.
I ambled slowly to the bench, exhausted from the frantic exertions I’d just performed, but also feeling deeply satisfied.
* * *
While I have enjoyed some muted successes, the seismic transformation I was hoping for hasn’t happened. I haven’t morphed into an explosive, puck-dangling sniper, a “game breaker” who can single handedly manufacture scoring chances out of routine situations. I haven’t become one of the best players in the league, nor can I even say that I’m one of the best players on my team.
However, I have upped my game to the point that I now blend in with the rest of the rank-and-file schlepps who populate my beer league, rather than standing out for being slow and ineffectual. I’m more in the thick of the action now, handling the puck more and skating with it, making good passes more often and defending more effectively. Though my shot is still pretty weak, I’m getting more of them away. All these subtle improvements make me feel good about playing.
Another positive thing is that I’m still developing and improving as the season unfolds. Since I play just once a week, I’m usually able to do one strength/power workout between games, while being careful to leave at least three days to recover before the next game.
During those recovery days I try to do at least one stickhandling session and one session of agility and quickness footwork. The former is necessary to prevent a lapse to my cow-handling-a-snow-shovel status. The latter is necessary to prevent a return of static leaden-ness to my feet and legs.
If I’m able to keep up with this workout routine, I believe I’ll be able to maintain my skill level and increase my leg strength throughout the season. Then, come next spring, I’ll be at another crossroads, having to decide whether to put in another summer of training or call it a beer-league career.
I can tell you right now that I’ll probably opt for training, but I can also say that I cannot endure another summer like the one I lived in 2014. The training was just too constant. I’d like to work out less often but in a more focused way, basically blast the legs thoroughly every four days with the odd bit of skill and cardio work thrown in here and there.
That sums up where I am and where I’m planning to go with my training. It’s been a bit more than a year that I’ve been at it and from here on it seems to be a matter of constantly fine tuning my approach.
Given this situation, with not much new for me to experience or write about, I feel it’s time to sound the final buzzer on this blog. That way we can all move on to other productive pursuits — you to watching cat videos on YouTube; me to training our cat to use a video camera (that’s how it works, right?).
As I stated, I expect I will continue to train and I hope to experience incremental increases in my abilities and my enjoyment of the great game of hockey. I still hold out hope that, someday, I will experience a magical moment when, in the heat of game competition, I grab a loose puck and propel myself explosively to the opposition’s goal, eluding any and all defenders who attempt to halt my progress before undressing the goalie and depositing the puck in the net as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
If and when that happens, I’ll know that I’ve finally completed the transformation that I’ve been pursuing and that I’ve become what I’ve always had the potential to be: a big leaguer ... big beer leaguer, that is.