Last week I introduced readers to my personal hockey history. Having learned to ice skate in my 50s, I’m entering my fourth season of beer league hockey and have not yet scored a single goal. Sad, but true.
I played defense in my team’s (Blucifer’s Devils) first game of the season and put only one puck on the net. Unfortunately, it was on my own net (a bad deflection of a blocked shot). Fortunately, it did not go in.
In week two of our season, we took on a team called the Bladerunners, and I moved back to offense. Here’s what happened.
Not the Team I Remember
Teams in our league typically get shuffled before each new season, moving between D2, D3, and E1. For the last two seasons, Blucifer’s Devils and Bladerunners have been in different divisions, so it’s been a while since we’ve faced one another. This year, we’re both back in D3.
Going into the game, I have two recollections of the Bladerunners. First, they wear bright yellow sweaters. Second, the team includes a number of skaters my age or older. Historically, our games have tended to be competitive, but overall, pretty mellow affairs.
We take to the ice for the pregame warm-up at 10 PM (one of our six late starts on the season), and while I see a sea of yellow sweaters, I’m not seeing any of the white beards and worn faces I remember. I’m not sure there’s a skater on the opposing team older than 40. This doesn’t bode well.
As the captain, I set our lines, trying to rotate which lines and defensive pairings start each game. One of the great challenges of being a beer league captain is making sure ice time is equitable. Our team knows that I’m going to get our best players (so, not me) on the ice for power plays and penalty kills in close games, especially late in the third period if it’s a two-goal differential or less. Absent that, I try to make sure everyone gets their fair share of minutes. (We all paid the same league fees, so we should all get roughly the same amount of touches.)
Trouble on the First Shift
With that in mind, it was my turn to start the game. Sean, one of our better skaters, was centering Doug and I. The Bladerunners’ center won the face-off back to his left defender, but Sean skated forward and poked the puck away to his left, and it skittered to the boards in the offensive zone. I pivoted, skated forward, and got there just as the Bladerunners’ defender arrived.
We got our sticks on the puck at the same instant, and since I was to his outside, he rode me into the boards…hard. His immediate apology told me it wasn’t intentional, but when I got back to my feet, my shoulder was barking. I am proud to say I won the battle and advanced the puck to the corner.
I finished my shift and hobbled to the bench, trying to work the kink out of my shoulder. We had a full complement of players, which meant three forward lines, so I had a couple of minutes to gather myself.
The shoulder never stopped hurting, but I played the rest of the game. While I wasn’t a complete and total liability to my team, I didn’t do much to help the cause either. I had zero shots on goal, not much in the way of stick handling, and not much in the way of passing. We lost the game 5-1. (I will say hats off to our goalie Danny, who kept it close for most of the night.)
(Video courtesy of Sarah Ott)
Blucifer’s Devils are now 0-2 with 12 goals against and only four goals for. Not the start to the season we wanted, and my first goal seems as far away as ever.
Our next opponent, the Pickleheads, are 2-0 with 13 goals-for and six goals-against. Gulp. Hopefully, my shoulder will feel better by then (it still hurts). Or, maybe for the good of the team, it won’t recover, and I’ll be sidelined all season. (Who am I kidding? I’ll be playing.)
At least there was some good hockey news this week with the announcement of Nathan MacKinnon’s new contract with the Colorado Avalanche. I wonder if MacKinnon ever, even when he was three or four, looked as bad on skates as I do now. I’m going to guess the answer to that question is a resounding no.
Watch this space for the next update on my quest to finally score a goal.