JMS Hockey Blog

JMS is a pickup hockey league

Month: April, 2009

Most Embarrassing

by barbaragarn

What’s your most embarrassing hockey moment?

I’ve had so many, it’s hard to choose. And frankly, I’ve probably “blocked out” some of them from my consciousness.

I do remember one time in beginner school when I was shocked and thrilled to be on a breakaway… after weeks of lagging behind the other players, finally! I had the puck! I couldn’t believe it–no faster skaters around to take it from me. I was thrilled and the adrenaline rush was immense. People on my bench were yelling and yelling as I streaked towards… my own net.

Fortunately, I realized my huge mistake before I actually shot on goal. Not that it would have gone in–or even close–of course.

I’m sure there have been (many many) others. Some are more common: everyone has stepped onto the ice with skate guards still in place. CLONK!

I also lost my temper pretty bad my team’s first season in D2. We ended up going 0-17 (long, unhappy story, full of drama) and our goalie was a bad netminder and a total megalomaniac. I was… incandescent with rage and got into a shouting match with my own goalie (well, okay: he skated up to the blue line–THE BLUE LINE!–to check someone). Still, no excuse.

What’s your worst hockey moment? Or if you don’t have one–or have blocked it out, like me–you’ve probably seen someone ELSE’s embarrassing hockey moment.

Share. We want all the dirty details.

Dryland Training

by barbaragarn

Working on technique and conditioning off the ice will help your hockey game–dryland training develops and reinforces muscle memory through many repititions.
How much time do you have with a puck during a game?
Probably very little, not enough to “train.”
When you’re playing during a game, are you thinking about the game or about improving your form?
Probably about the game, not extending your leg at a 45-degree angle and completing the skate return.
Concentrating on technique off the ice will increase your power and improve your form–and your success–when you’re on the ice.

Depending on what you choose to work on with your dryland training program–and if you do it in your basement or at a specialized training facility–you’ll be improving different things, including strength in key muscle groups, shooting, form, speed, explosive starts, shooting, stickhandling, core strength, stride and game vision.

Simplest is working at home with what you have available, or cheap tools.
Just stickhandling for 30 minutes a day, with a [url=]specially weighted ball will provide results. Find a smooth floor and put out some obstacles and you’re in business.
If you have room, a shooting gallery is helpful too. When I started playing hockey, one of the coaches I talked to said, “Best thing you can do is shoot a hundred pucks a day.” In the driveway, in the basement, backyard–wherever you can find the space.
And one of the cheapest and easiest ways to improve wrist strength is to fill a plastic milk container with water, tie it to a string around your hockey stick and roll and unroll it. Over and over and over again. Soon you will have wrists of steel!

If you want to invest some money, there are a variety of devices that will augment your home off-ice training. There are shooter tutors that [url=] cover garage doors or [url=] plywood models under $100 with wall protection.
A [url=]passing buddy will help you work on solid shots, right on the tape. You can also buy [url=]skate and stick weights , [url=]balance trainers (this is actually way, WAY harder than it looks), and [url=]leg trainers help with stride technique and conditioning.

There are also many hockey-specific training facilities with more expensive equipment– like [url=]slider boards, [url=]Russian boxes, radar guns and coolest of all, simulated skate treadmills, ramps and the amazing [url=]crossover flywheel.

Most of these facilities offer the best deals for group training. In the past, I organized this, but I’ve got enough with JMS growth right now. If your team isn’t interested in going as a group, use the thread under “Coaching and Training,” to find workout buddies at these and other off-ice training facilities. (PLEASE be sensitive about when JMS sessions are scheduled; I want to help people improve their game through hockey training, but posting “Need six more novice skaters for Burnsville dryland!” on a night when I’m trying to fill Burnsville Level 2 is just plain tacky. I pay to host this site for JMS and it’s not good business sense for me to run forums taking skaters away from ice I’m trying to fill. Thanks.)

Dryland forum:

Total Hockey
I attended several sessions with Total Hockey West (no longer in Plymouth) and this is a great workout and excellent training. Now with [url=] Hat Trick Arena in St. Louis Park, Total Hockey uses a synthetic ice speed ramp with clock for times and splits. The facility offers a flex pass for open workouts, including the speed ramp, shooting, stickhandling and skating stations. The shooting area has a radar gun, shooter tutors and other specific equipment. The skating stations have slider boards–yes, you will probably fall down, but the learning curve is steep and they’re very useful.
We’ve worked with Cory Peterson in the past and he knows our needs–mention you’re with JMS and he’ll understand right away (so you don’t have to explain it’s NOT for your kid, or that you’re–sadly–NOT a pro, just an adult rec player looking to improve your game). Call Cory at 952 /303-6883 or e-mail him at Cory at TotalHockeyWest dot com.

Acceleration Minnesota
I have never been to an [url=] Acceleration Minnesota facility but I know others have and have said good things. Acceleration uses the patented skating treadmill [] now with skill decks. With plyometrics, players focus on integrated footwork, balance and agility drills. Upper body exercises increase strength and control, improving maneuverability. Trainers work with stickhandling and shooting, improving the mechanics of players’ shot to increase power and accuracy.
Acceleration Minnesota has facilities in Apple Valley, Arden Hills, Baxter, Eden Prairie and Plymouth. Like Total Hockey, players can go as a group or purchase individual passes for flexible sessions.

Competitive Edge/Power Plant
Home of the amazing [url=] crossover flywheel ! Located in Rogers, the dryland facility has the unique system to help players learn to trust and use their outside edges. Not just about crossovers, though, the training center has synthetic ice so all stickhandling drills are on skates in a realistic environment.
I talked to Scott Brokaw, who suggested that groups of three or four were most efficient. He has a special for first-time visitors of $40 per group for an hour of training, definitely worth checking out! Scott is eager to help adult rec players like us, so mention you’re with JMS Hockey when you contact him at 612 /875-5150 or

E-Train Hockey Systems
Located in the Bloomington Ice Gardens’ third rink (the Olympic one), E-Train has an Acceleration Minnesota skating treadmill and other off-ice work, including skating, stickhandling, shooting, explosive starts and strength training that will develop form and core strength. Contact Eric Scott at 612 /207-3742 for more information about single or group training.

Thanks to clever Ben Seipel for the idea for this post!

Post a comment to this blog about general dryland training.
Use the dryland forum thread at to talk about specific programs (like Acceleration Minnesota) or to organize/join a dryland training session.

Shakespeare Quotes for Hockey

by barbaragarn

Today–April 23–is usually acknowledged as William Shakespeare’s birthday. This is his 445th. Obviously, The Bard would have loved hockey, with its fast action and battles for glory. One imagines him nodding at Ovechkin’s celebration, or tut-tutting at Avery, clapping his hand on Hull’s shoulder as a seasoned comrade who has seen just about all the world has to offer.

A true sage of human nature, Shakespeare knew the thrill of battle and pitting against an opponent, the heady wine of victory and the agony of defeat. Shakespeare gave English more than 2,000 new words. Among them: critical, frugal, dwindle, extract, horrid, vast, hereditary, excellent, barefaced, lonely, leapfrog and zany.

As well as memorable phrases such as “dead as a doornail” (2 Henry VI), “all that glitters is not gold” (Merchant of Venice), “every dog will have his day” (Hamlet), “it was Greek to me” (Julius Caesar), “not slept one wink” (Cymbeline), “set my teeth on edge” (1 Henry VI), “in a pickle” (Tempest) and “wild goose chase” (Romeo and Juliet)… among many, many others.

So, with adaptations and apologies, quotes with hockey applications:

Low roster night? No worries:
“The fewer men, the greater share of honour.”
Henry V, Act IV, scene 3

How does the captain gather you at the beginning of the session? Try this one:
“Friends, Romans, hockey players, lend me your ears…”
Julius Caesar, Act III, scene 2

What to say when a puck bounces crazy and inexplicably slips past your goalie and into the net? Truly forces unseen.
“There are more things in Heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
Hamlet Act I, scene 5

And what to say when someone trips you? Look up and ask,
“Et tu, Brute?”
Julius Caesar, Act III, scene 1

For your mad breakaway, tearing up the ice:
“I go, I go, look how I go! Swifter than arrow from the Tartar’s bow!”
From the aptly-named Puck in Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act III, scene 2

But what if your hockey stick breaks? What then? How will you finish the night? Cry out,
“A stick, a stick, my kingdom for a stick!”
Richard the Third, Act 5, scene 4

Speaking of crying out, this is what I feel like hollering after both skaters insist the other person instigated the chippy play:
“A plague on both your houses!”
Romeo and Juliet, Act III, scene 1

Is your hockey career not progressing as fast as you’d like? Just keep working at it…
“Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.”
Twelfth Night, Act II, scene 5

And why are we–otherwise rational people–so obsessed with this simple sport?
“Lord, what fools these mortals be!”
Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act III, scene 2

After a session, are you still thinking about your mistakes… the mighty whiff, or scoring on your own goalie? Stop fretting.
“Things without all remedy should be without regard: what’s done is done.”
Macbeth, Act III, scene 2

Happy Shakespeare’s Birthday! I think we should all have some ale to celebrate.

Joining a Cult

by barbaragarn

Sometimes I tell people that starting to play hockey is like joining a cult.

It’s weird– things you previously would have dismissed as inconsequential suddenly become of utmost importance. Can you cut out of that late meeting to make your icetime? Will you persuade your spouse to authorize new gloves? How did you just spend hours online researching NHL stats?

And things that were important suddenly aren’t… Friday night with your sweetie? Um… can we do that before hockey?? And smells–suddenly having “glove hands” all the time doesn’t bother you. So you stink, so what?

Priorities aren’t the only things that change: friends and habits, too, as one becomes more entrenched in this new and singleminded community. Of course it’s not bad; most of my own new contacts in the Twin Cities are hockey-related, and knowing these people and their non-hockey expertise has been helpful (see earlier posts about Kirk Nelson the Accountant). But as your interests change, so do your associates, not to mention habits.

Eat differently on game day? Take a detour home past the hockey shop, to ogle new gear or get your skates sharpened? Small things, but little changes like this add up into a different life.

And just like family members react to newly-brainwashed cult members (no eye contact, nods as they back slowly away), so you too will be oblivious to your family’s puzzlement at your newfound and consuming passion. It may be interesting to you, but they’ll be gritting their teeth or rolling their eyes when you start another story with, “There I was, heading down the ice…”

I’m the last person to talk, of course. My life is almost entirely hockey, so most people I know are part of the same happy hockey cult I follow. Well, it’s the coolest sport ever, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of being single-mindedly addicted to something so awesome.

Hmm, I’d propose a secret handshake… but to be honest, we could probably identify one another by smell, really.

To hockey!

Best or Worst?

by barbaragarn

Is it better to be the best on the ice or the worst on the ice?

If you’re the best skater at a session (and this is assuming that you’re at a session you’re supposed to be at; a Level 3 player at a Level 3 session, and not some ringer — after all, of the 22 skaters, somebody has to be at the top of the heap), it’s fun to have such an impact on the flow of the game.

You’ll get plenty of time with the puck and can work on stickhandling confidence and working it through traffic. And gee, isn’t it nice to score?

But it can be frustrating to be the best, or fastest. Other skaters recognize your skill and, sometimes, instead of carrying the puck themselves, they’ll fling it at you. When your team does break out, you may think you’re leading the rush, only to get to the net and find no-one from your team has joined you. All alone, take the shot and try to cover the rebound yourself.

And you also have to be a leader. You have to include the other skaters in your moments of prowess, remembering to pass instead of always taking the shot. Or pass instead of carrying it up the ice yet again.

If you’re the worst skater at a session–and again, with 22, someone is going to be at the top and someone is going to be at the bottom–then the other players don’t have expectations for you to execute sophisticated plays. You’ll probably be left alone and uncovered, so you can get used to positioning and struggle your way up the ice, following the play.

When the puck comes, you’ll be tempted to whack at it because the other skaters are faster and you know you won’t have much time with it. Obviously, this doesn’t help your stickhandling skills.

As the worst skater on the ice, your participation will be minimal. But you can–and should–learn by watching the better skaters. And hopefully join their ranks someday soon.

This didn’t start out as a lecture about “don’t try to jump up a level too soon,” but I’ve realized it’s pertinent. By jumping up when your skills are ready, and not because of ego, you’ll do yourself a real favor. By being the best–or one of the better skaters–you’ll have more time to react, more time to handle the puck, and more time to improve your vision for the game.

Of course, once you do jump up to the next level, and find yourself at the bottom of the continuum again, don’t forget what you learned when you were at the top: skate hard, keep your head up, and think before you pass.

Getting Back in Shape

by barbaragarn

Many of the skaters new to JMS aren’t new to hockey, but are returning to it after many years–sometimes decades–off the ice. This wasn’t my experience, so I can only speak to what I’ve observed, and what I’ve learned from my own brief hiatus times. What’s clear is that bodies need tune-ups in two different ways.

The skills “re-learning” curve is very steep–I’ve watched many guys, off the ice for YEARS, play markedly different between the beginning of a 90-minute session than at the end. Muscle memory, or proprioception, goes deep. “It’s like riding a bike,” they say–hard to forget.

And so while the feet may be slower than the mind, while the puck angle calculations are off a bit at first, it’s astonishing how quickly the body remembers what to do.

But a return to hockey also necessitates another acclimation: getting your “wind” back. For many people returning to hockey, the last time they played was as a spry 20-something, fresh legs and tireless. And 10, or 20, years later, it’s a different story. The muscles remember WHAT to do, but are older, and not conditioned yet, and the body tires.

It’s even tougher for returning skaters who have had NO physical activity. It’s not just hockey conditioning they need, but ANY cardiovascular improvement.

I had a three-month break in 2004 when I pulled my groin, and coming back after that was TOUGH. Hockey is so intensely physical that coming back even after such a short break is a bit of a shock. The best thing I did was to start running three miles a day. Running! Boring! I hated it. But, it helped my hockey game more than any other thing I’ve tried; if you can’t get to the puck first, it doesn’t matter if you know what to do with it.

The other problem with resuming hockey after a hiatus is nutrition and weight. Since we burn so many calories while playing regularly, ceasing that activity without changing intake means packing on the pounds–which of course makes it even more difficult to step back on the ice where we were. Running helps with that too, of course. And, hard as it is, getting those three vegetables a day makes a incredible difference as your body is craving the vitamins and minerals they contain. I know I feel BEST, most physically prepared and eager to play, when I’m running regularly and eating my veggies.

But I’ve never had to come back after years and years off. I know what I’ve been told by guys who have returned to hockey and physical activity. Anybody have personal experiences to share? How did you get back in shape to play hockey? What worked, what didn’t?

Dont be a poser

by barbaragarn

My USA Hockey magazine came this week and I’m ticked by the ad on the back cover.

How to look like the all-star MVP:
1. cut out mask
2. glue to face
3. Use AK27 stick and gloves


I know we need ads to sell stuff, and to find out about products, but I’ve seen too many beginners get lured into poser-dom with ads like this. I understand the hunger to do whatever possible to get better–including dropping a lot of money on egregiously sophisticated products.

The premise is bad on two fronts. Like most these days, it’s selling not a product but a lifestyle, or mojo. “Buy a Warrior stick and gloves and you too will be Kovalev.”

Erm, NO. The reason Kovalev is so special–and the other revered NHL elite–is BECAUSE they’re rare. If we all could BUY something to make us as good as they are, then their skills wouldn’t stand out and they wouldn’t be exceptional anymore. They got there through hard work, not walking into a store and buying something.

And that’s the second point: buying expensive equipment to improve your hockey skills is is almost NEVER successful. The vast majority of people who get USA Hockey will actually be able to appreciate and capitalize on the technological sophistication of Warrior’s wares. Ridiculous. Don’t get sucked into wasting money on things that won’t help your game.

Because most of us, as novice and rec players, are so far away from having the skills to actually capitalize on cutting edge equipment. For most of us, we’ll still be moderately adequate with a $40 stick or a $300 one.

There is no shortcut for practice, practice, practice. You need to stickhandle in your kitchen, shoot pucks in your driveway, and get more icetime. Dropping a ton of money on uber-sophisticated gear is not going to help you improve.

I’ve seen a lot of beginners try to emulate known hockey players: level 1s (and above!) refusing to wear face mask or shoulder pads, because they think it looks “cooler.” (I was actually told this once, no joke.) Or behavioral posing: treating every situation like it’s the Stanley Cup finals, overly aggressive play for ADULT REC HOCKEY.

Buy these lovely toys and you’ll be out a lot of cash and you won’t be any better of a hockey player. Sheesh, keep your money in the bank and spend TIME doing the things you need to get better.

We’re not the NHL and we never will be. I like new hockey toys as much as anybody, but the idea that buying them will miraculously improve my game over spending time on ice… is just silly.

If I buy a Warrior AK27 stick and glove set and in hopes to LOOK like an “all-star MVP,” most likely it will just draw comparisons between my less-than-stellar play and that of the mighty Kovalev.

There is no “easy way out.” No shortcuts. You. Have. To. Practice.
Despite what Warrior Hockey would have us believe, you can’t buy your way to hockey excellence.

Crotch Peas

by barbaragarn

Don’t eat them.

This is a big bag of frozen peas–appropriately labeled!!–that should never be consumed.

This EXTREMELY useful hockey item lives in your freezer until you pull your groin and need something handy that will conform to your body contours, so you can sit on the couch and watch TV as you ice your hurtful parts. (Guys, I’m told this works for painful cup-checks, too.) The peas’ shape and packaging flexibility are perfect for application to difficult and painful places.

Other non-hockey things that have hockey uses include average glue sticks–see discussion in JMS forums, [url] — that work just fine without the hockey-specific price tag.

I’ve also heard of people using surf wax for their hockey blade, thank you Mr. Zog and your stalwart (and amusingly-named) “sex wax.”

What about hockey items that have non-hockey uses?

Every morning when I wash my face at the sink, I put a hockey sock over my head to pull back my hair, out of my eyes. Yes, this looks extremely amusing, but it does the trick.

I have read that many cowboys on the rodeo circuit are opting for hockey helmets–the New York Times ran a very interesting article about it: [url]

Personally, I’ve used a helmet with cage outside of hockey only a few times–when I first started playing, I’d put on the helmet and play with my dogs on the living room floor. Besides freaking them out, it kept their doggy slobbery mouths from reaching my face… it amused me to vex them. (Yeah, I have no life. I’m not proud. But it was funny!)

Any other non-hockey items useful for our game, or hockey objects that do duty outside the hockey sphere?

Feeder Sports

by barbaragarn

What are ice hockey’s feeder sports?

I think the best transition players have come from roller hockey, of course.

These players know positioning and can stickhandle. They have balance, though it’s attuned to the wheels and not the ice. Once these converts figure out the footwork, they’re very strong ice hockey players. One thing I have noticed about roller-to-hockey players is that they tend to kick up their feet at the end of the striding motion–I guess this is related to the heavy wheels?

The other strong transfer is from soccer.

The positioning seems very similar and I’ve noticed soccer players are heads above other beginners in figuring out where they should be on the ice. Soccer converts are also usually in the best cardio shape, I guess from running around on that big field for long minutes at a time.

However, not accustomed to moving on ice (and learning to skate is no small thing!) and not having experience with a stick and small object are where these converts need to work on their skills.

Former figure skaters have all the footwork we need and more, but without stickhandling experience, these converts will need to concentrate on puck work; it’s usually easy for them to streak up the ice, but they need to make sure they can handle the puck on the way up and shoot it once they get in the zone.

Though I haven’t heard of anyone playing ringette lately, I know it was designed as the “female alternative” to hockey. When I did my anthropological study of hockey back in 2000, a couple of the girls said they had played ringette early on (and were quick to follow with, “but I like hockey much better!).

I’m not familiar with bandy or broomball, but the positioning seems it would carry over, though possibly not the cardio (both seem slower than ice hockey) or the same stickhandling–especially broomball. And what’s with those huge nets??

The last two possibilities I can think of are field hockey and lacrosse. I would guess that the positioning and cardio would benefit these athletes in their transition to hockey, possibly also the stick-and-ball coordination necessary. Like soccer players, though, figuring out the whole skating (and skating-while-puckhandling) thing is a big component of their learning curve.

Anybody have any other feeder sports in mind? Did you play one of these sports before coming to ice hockey? How did it augment or challenge your game?