JMS Hockey Blog

JMS is a pickup hockey league

Month: May, 2009

Handheld Sharpeners

by barbaragarn

Love them? Hate them?

I don’t own one, but I’ve heard people swear by them–and swear AT them.

My humble experience with these tools has been limited. In my short hockey career, I’ve had many times when I’ve forgotten to sharpen my skates and realized only in the locker room that they were in terrible shape–whether from sitting in the guards and getting rusty, or just being too worn down to use an edge.

Of those times, when I’ve complained bitterly out loud, on just a few occasions I’ve been offered a handheld skate sharpening tool.

I wouldn’t want to use one INSTEAD of getting regular sharpenings, but these little gadgets seemed to work okay for the emergency or “quick and dirty” uses.

Do you have one? Do you use it? Is it worth it, or does it destroy your skates?

I’m most interested in seeing the replies of folks who have been playing hockey a long time (ie, decade or more) and have experience with these tools. I just haven’t used these tools enough to have a real opinion on them.

They Can Ruin the Game

by barbaragarn

(Guest blog by Steve Feinberg)

Just a few problem skaters can really make a big difference on the ice.

Some of the trouble comes from:

1) Players who cherry pick because they don’t want to play in the defensive zone or miss out on every scoring opportunity that comes by playing in the defensive zone to help out their team.

2) Players who take excessively long shifts–even though it’s apparent that they are gassed or have been cherry picking excessively and therefore not tired.

3) Players who clutch, grab, and slash when they are cleanly beat on a play… during pick-up hockey, with no score and no ref. (Our goal is to show up for work the next morning as well off as we were when we showed up for our session the night before–maybe a bit tired, but as always, a good kind of tired).

How can we, as a hockey community, work to decrease these situations?

The bottom line is… We all have a common goal for our participation in JMS. It is organized and designed for the purpose of fun, exercise, gamesmanship, and a love for the greatest game on the planet: HOCKEY.

Let’s work together to make it a good night of hockey every night.

{Steve Feinberg is a level 5 captain, but the items he mentions are applicable for all hockey players, regardless of experience and ability. Thanks for the great comments, Steve!–BG)

Hockey sensations

by barbaragarn

My favorite hockey sound is a puck slapping the ice.

At the start of every level 1 session, I toss them out onto the ice and each one makes a SMACK if it hits just right. It’s almost silly how much I enjoy that. I also like the sound of my blade edges cutting into the ice: deep C-cuts, kind of a crunchy, grinding sound as my skates bite into the ice.

My favorite hockey smell is (despite the last post, NOT your stinky gear) the rink… a mixture of Zamboni propane and the ice itself. I notice it most at Breck, where I learned to play in 2002. Every time I walk through those doors into the player hallway, I’m transported back to when I was entering the exciting new world of hockey.

It’s fun, too, being the first one on the ice and seeing the wide, white, clean sheet spread out before you. Pristine (if it’s done right), no skate marks save the ones you’re making, smooth and open. I like that pretty sight.

Alas, no hockey taste (gnawing on pucks? gross mouthguards?) or feel (putting on sticky, sweaty gear that hasn’t dried enough? ish).

But there are emotional sensations that come with hockey too, not just physical ones, and they have their own rewards.

The knowing where your teammates are, passing the puck and watching him score on the one-timer. Your teammate across the ice looks your way and you knowseconds later the puck will come racing to you… and it does. The smack-smack-smack of a perfect cycle, Player 1 to Player 2 to Player 3, everyone working together, everyone in the right position, everyone getting it right, all at once, and then you score.

That Zenlike moment when you’re flying down the ice, faster than you ever thought possible, not thinking but being as all your experience comes together–skating, stickhandling, positioning, reading the play. All of it, all together, being in that moment is my favorite thing about hockey.

Stinky on the Bench

by barbaragarn

How do you keep your gear from smelling disgusting?

I air mine out–I have a hockey tree and when it’s muggy, I turn a fan on the stuff. I used to just dump my hockey bag out on the floor, but the tree works better even though it’s a pain to hang it all up.

Some people have a dedicated room in their house, or a special contraption–homemade or purchased–to adequately dry stuff. I know the Shock Doctor power dry kit works pretty well, though the bags are kind of awkward to carry around. Still, it’s convenient.

I know some people who regularly get their stuff Esporta cleaned. And some use it and leave it in the bag to get… fetid… between games. I can only imagine how cold that must be in the winter… yow!

We’ve all had to sit on the bench with someone stinky. Have you ever had to do the “Sorry dude, but you REALLY need to air out your gear” conversation? How did that go?

Share your own tips for gear sanitation or horror stories here…

Ice Cred

by barbaragarn

People want to look like they know what they’re doing–even if they don’t.

In our hockey community, some people who care seek to develop (for want of a better definition), “ice cred.”

While most folks are out to have a good time and couldn’t care less what others think (beyond the standard “oh jeez he sent me a pass, hope I catch it so he’ll pass to me again”), some people are very, very eager to prove their hockey prowess. And it’s usually the folks who know the least about hockey–though understandably the most fervent to gain skills and be perceived as legitimized. I’m not talking about the average skater, I’m talking about the 10 percent who want SO BADLY for other people to think that they are awesome hockey players (even if they’re not).

Like anyone joining a new social group, people perceive hierarchies and try to emulate the leaders. In our case, these are the hockey veterans. Newbies copy their behaviors to learn hockey skills, but also to legitimize themselves.

I did it myself–when I started playing in 2002, all the “cool kids” wore mismatched socks. I thought that was something the cool, in-the-know hockey veterans did, so I did it too.
Yeah, I’m not proud, I cringe remembering this. I don’t know if other folks do this anymore (in retrospect this strikes me as rather piebald and juvenile), but I don’t do it any longer. If I’m wearing two different socks on the ice now, it means I forgot one.

What are some other ways some beginners seek to legitimize their ice cred and emulate more experienced players?

I always have to laugh when I see a level 1 or 2 player who has changed in his full cage for a half shield. It’s what the cool kids up in JMS L5 or the AHA’s Elite Tier wear, so newbies emulate the behavior. What the lower level players don’t realize is that those guys are in control of their sticks, they know how to skate and they’re at much less risk than the levels where folks are learning control.

It’s not a smart move to switch to the drastically reduced protection of a half shield unless you’re a very very skilled player–and even then I’ve seen too many broken teeth, sliced lips, etc. Is it cool to have your face covered in stitches and scars two months in to your hockey career?

Another thing I’ve noticed is how players anxious to “prove” their prowess will make a big show out of missing a shot. This is kind of funny–the REAL skilled players shrug it off; he’s made that shot a hundred times, he missed once, so what? He knows he’ll make the shot next time.

But the person new to hockey and concerned about perception wants SO BADLY for people to see him as an experienced player, to value his “ice cred.” If he can’t make the shot, he has to show his prowess in some other way. Bang a stick on the ice and holler and show everyone how frustrated you are, right? Nope, this just shows that you haven’t played long enough to be phlegmatic about the vicissitudes of hockey.

And then there’s the lecturing. Sometimes people want so desperately to feel they “belong,” to get that valuable “ice cred,” don’t have the skills to get where they want, so they use words.

And sadly, it’s often the people with the least experience who are so very, very eager to tell others what to do (on the ice or in other hockey venues). It’s frustrating; these people don’t understand that they’re achieving the opposite of what they want.
By constantly telling other players what to do, they’re only highlighting their lack of expertise, instead of hiding it. I know, I did this too when I started. I cringe again remembering the many lectures I gave in the first months when I was stumbling around on the ice and learning hockey. I should have heeded Ben Franklin: ‘Tis better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
These days when someone asks me for advice, I’m almost embarrassed. I preface my comments by saying, “I think…” and concluding with “but that’s just my view.” I don’t want to be a monolith; I’m atoning for my previous presumptions.

To a certain extent, I guess lecturing other people about one’s newfound passion is part of the beginner hockey experience, fine. It’s a component of the skater maturation process and I think most folks grow out of the coping behavior once they gain more self confidence, abandoning it when they realize how silly it looks. Because once other skaters are savvy enough to judge for themselves what is “ice cred” and what’s not, they realize that actions show skills and experience. Not gear choices, not words.

I’ve been running JMS since 2003. There’s always something more to learn, and I’m thankful for the many folks with more experience who responded to my requests and helped make the program function as a parity-based hockey organization. Their input helped shape the online assessment survey and the captains program to ensure balanced skate sessions.

Beginners are beginners, and sometimes part of the growing process is trying to be like the cool folks with more experience. I’m sure people gritted their teeth at me just as I do when I see novices emulating legitimizing behaviors today… and in a few years, those people will be rolling their eyes at the next crop of half-shield wearing folks who can barely skate, lecturing loudly to anyone who will listen.

I was suspended

by barbaragarn

So there I was, hanging from the overhead bar, the skating treadmill whizzing by under my feet, grabbing the support in front of me and trying to bend, bend, bend my knees–and staring at my reflection in the mirror in front of me as I huffed and puffed in agony.

It was GREAT.

Eric Scott, owner and operator of e-Train at Bloomington Ice Gardens, gave several of us a trial session. I learned a lot, and the skating treadmill is a fantastic learning device.

The fact that the surface is moving and not the skater seems to “amplify” certain elements of the stride–I think Eric told us that any mistakes we made would become obvious though exaggeration. And watching myself in the mirror helped me correct things I knew were wrong… but thought I wasn’t doing. Er, how humbling. But so very useful!

Eric runs an eight-week program that has three sessions a week. He stressed that this amount of time is what it takes to not just learn new things but make them part of our skating habits. Excellent point.

I was impressed by what Eric’s very “coachy” vibe–some people are just born to coach, and he is one of them. He noticed little things about each person and once he pointed them out, they seemed so obvious. It was incredibly valuable and I’m sure my skating will be much better after the e-Train program.

The cost for 24 sessions (three a week for eight weeks) is $500. This includes twice-weekly treadmill drills and then one hour of off-ice training with sticks or dryland stuff. He’s very flexible and people can schedule their three weekly hours just about any time. Eric trains groups of five or six at a time, so if you don’t have a group, you’ll be placed with one.

I think this is a great program. Though the five of us were on the beginner end of the spectrum, I have no qualms about recommending this program for more advanced skaters. I learned from watching myself on the treadmill (wow! longest 15 seconds of my life!) that there will ALWAYS be something to work on.

Comments from others:

Jenna Sawicki, Little Chicks with Sticks (WHAM C3), JMS Level 1&2
I have nothing bad to say about last night. I had a great time and felt like I learned something.
I would recommend that training for all levels of skill. Although, I would say that it would be beneficial for the groups to be similar level of play.
The training pushed me mentally and physically. It made me think about my actions as I was doing them. I hate looking at myself in a mirror, but it was helpful to see my form and posture while skating. Having a video tape would be even better. [BG: he does use videotape in the 8-week program]
I thought the trainer was very professional. He didn’t say the same thing to all of us. He tailored the training to our specific needs, even though we were in a group.

Lee Kimsey, Diablos/Nighthawks (AHA beginner school/D2), JMS Level 1&2
The good:
The treadmill was a great way to examine my stride. It’s really hard to see yourself in a game and understand where you are losing energy. I felt that Eric was very knowledgeable about skating and what it takes to improve your motion.
It was a good workout.
I could easily see how a person could improve their overall hockey/skating abilities with such a program.
Small groups make for personal attention. Probably more so than Rob Little or Tony Pena.
Seemed to be very safe.
The bad:
The cost is pretty steep. For a guy like me, hockey is already pretty expensive and I have to spend my hockey money with care. $499 is an entire AHA winter season with money left over to go out for a bite afterwards. I believe that an older player will reach a certain point in ability and that’s where they are, they can go no further no matter what kind of training they do. I definitely fall into that group. I can’t see spending this kind of money on a “hobby” sport.
The surface does not accurately reproduce the physics of being on the ice. The stick handling portion would have been better if we had used weighted balls rather than hockey pucks. I do not believe that the assertion that I should think of it as “resistance training” holds up. Too much of puck control is muscle memory and you need to approximate the movement of a puck on ice, even on dry land.
The surfaces are very hard on skates. My edges were completely gone by the end of the session. The guy who sharpens them even commented on how “dull” they were.
It wasn’t fun. I play hockey for several reasons. Sure, a good workout is among them. But long before I get to that reason comes fun, recreation, social interaction, stress relief and mental diversion. It was a lot like working out at the gym. Boring . . . I didn’t “lose” myself in it the way I do a hockey game. I’d rather buy 32 JMS sessions.
In short, I welcomed the input into my skating but would never sign up for the long haul. My motivation does not go down that road. If I was a young person myself wanting a hockey career, or had a child interested in a hockey career I’d definitely consider it.

Jon Nygren, current AHA beginner school, JMS Level 1
I think that going through Eric’s program could be a great way for beginning players to learn how to skate correctly and efficiently early on, which would be beneficial for the rest of the time that beginner plays hockey. Working on skating by itself while on the treadmill forces you to think about your stride without worrying about all of the other aspects of playing hockey.
The technology used is great, but Eric’s knowledge is what makes the program interesting for me. He was very patient, and was able to provide helpful instructions for a beginner about how to improve. The stickhandling session was also quite helpful.

Mike Schroeder, Ice Sages (last AHA beginner school), JMS Level 2
I thought the e-Training trial was a great experience. Eric’s enthusiasm and knowledge really impressed me. I liked the way he broke down the hockey strides into discrete parts and built each one up into a whole. He also adjusted his comments and critiques to each individual and skill level in a positive and constructive way.
I have no negative comments, other than he needs to sweep the plastic ice we were stick handling on. My hope is that there would be a couple of on-ice sessions as part of the program to transfer the off-ice “skills” to the real ice under his watchful eye.
I’m probably going to do the 8 week program this fall.

Eric trains by the group, so find others at your level on the JMS forums. Organize your e-Train group and start improving your skills–

E-Train at Bloomington Ice Gardens: Eric Scott, owner/operator; etrain0012 a T or via cell at 612 207 3742

Groin injury

by barbaragarn

Oh, dread. The words strike fear in the heart of any avid hockey player.

This injury can end your season, or at minimum, keep you off the ice for weeks. And it WILL happen: if you’re a hockey player, you’ve either had one, or will have one, guaranteed.

It’s a sneaky injury, with such specific muscles, an innocuous twinge off the ice can turn into OH NO! the minute you start to skate.

And there is NOTHING you can do. Nothing but rest. I know, I had a bad, bad groin pull back in 03 or 04, and I limped it along for weeks until I finally did what I should have done all along: stayed off the ice, for three months.

There are six muscles that connect the inner pelvis to the inner part of the thigh bone, the adductor muscle group. You can strain the muscles by stretching them too far; a severe strain will (yow!) actually tear the muscle. (This info and more at

Proper conditioning will help you avoid groin pulls, so do [url=]adductor strengthening, [url=]pelvic stabilization, and [url=]core strengthening to avoid a groin injury. And be careful–chronic groin injuries can result in a [url=]sports hernia.

So, once you GET a groin injury, how to get over it?

1. [url=]Ice it. During the acute phase–48 hours after the injury–and after any reconditioning activity. This will calm the inflammation and stimulate blood flow.

2. Meds. Take anti-inflammatories; Advil and Aleve can help reduce pain and calm the inflammation.

3. Rest.

4. Rest some more. Seriously, you may want to skate, but if you don’t wait long enough before taking the ice again, you’ll be back to square one and have to wait all over again, and longer this time. Argh.

5. Heat. Before resuming activity, gentle heat can help loosen the muscle. Apply before stretching or exercising.

6. Stretching. Gentle adductor muscle stretches can help, though stretching too zealously will only re-injure and add more time to the healing process.

7. Physical therapy. If necessary, advised by your doctor or nurse.

Fortunately, folks with a groin injury can usually do things like walking or upper body workouts that don’t affect the injured area. While being off the ice is wretched, at least you can try to keep conditioning. Of course, any pain is an urgent message to STOP and REST.

Please, please, learn from my stupidity. When I had a groin injury, I tried to suck it up and skate. I kept making it worse and worse, and then when I finally DID rest a bit, I didn’t wait long enough and went back to the ice too early. It’s incredibly frustrating, but the BEST THING you can do is fight the urge and give your body ADEQUATE REST.

Respect your groin and it will respect you.

Hair Glue

by barbaragarn

I don’t wear gel. Or mousse. Or hairspray or… any kind of glue in my hair.

As an active person, I learned a long time ago that prolonged physical activity (sweat) and hair glue are not a good combination.

I’m finicky anyway, and the feeling of sticky, sweaty hair glue dripping down the back of my neck, or in my ears, is just too icky to be believed. (I’m cringing as I type this. Eeyew!)

Have you changed your hairdo habits since starting hockey?

I stopped putting gunk in my hair back in 1993, when I stopped wearing makeup (totally separate soap box there). It wasn’t for athletic reasons, but I’ve enjoyed the benefits as I’ve returned to athletics. I was a swimmer growing up, so day-long meets of wet-dry-wet-dry set me on the path to swearing off hair glue all together.

But I had long hair when I started to play hockey, and I hated how it felt under my helmet. I sweat like a pig, and the PRESSURE of my disgustingly sweaty head with all my hair, pushing and pushing on my skull… I just cut it all off and went back to the short ‘do I had before college.

So– has hockey influenced your haircare choices? Or even other elements of your appearance? I guess I could see where maybe having a mustache would get sweaty and yucky. Hmm.

Sweat is bad enough. Mixing it with hair glue–and then feeling it … spread around, that’s almost too gross for words. It’s hockey. Nobody cares what you look like, and we can’t see under your helmet anyway.

Protect Yer Noggin

by barbaragarn

Carbster, we hardly knew ye.

I’ve only been playing since 2002, so I haven’t had a lot of helmets. My first one was a CCM–model now lost to mists of time–and it felt like wearing a plastic trash can on my head.

I dinked around with replacements until my then-boyfriend bought a Mission Carbster.

Oh my cow.

It was AMAZINGLY comfortable. I knew I had to get one, just from trying on his (three sizes too big) and feeling the soft, soft padding. This would have been in 04 or 05, when the Carbsters were on clearance for around $99.

I loved my Carbster. “So comfortable,” I told people. “So soft. Like a little baby bird nest.”

Well, that got me some funny looks (and admittedly, who puts their head in a baby bird nest?), but nobody argued about the Carbster’s comfort. The Carbster was a unique helmet: it was not adjustable, and so came in five adult sizes. I had to look hard to find one small enough for my head (most discounted ones were L and XL, which I most certainly am not). I bought a second one since they were closing out, supplies dwindling and I loved it so much. I couldn’t bear the thought of life without Carbster.

It wasn’t perfect: fitting a cage on the Carbster required about seven hands and unique helmet screws. And I was told I looked … er, “bulbous” when wearing it… But it was so comfortable and I made sacrifices gladly.

In the end, though, I couldn’t use it anymore: while it’s still in great shape, the cage screws stripped out and it won’t hold a cage. And I won’t skate without one.

I flirted with the idea of an Intake (made by the same company as the beloved Carbster) but it didn’t feel… right. Maybe I was on the rebound. I don’t know. I missed my Carbster.

I tried the Reebok 6K and 8K but didn’t care for them either. Someday, I knew, my prince would come along.

And I wasn’t about to buy something cheap. Talking with Charles Marais once about my helmet woes, he said something that’s stuck with me: “This is your head. You can work with a broken leg or collarbone, but you can’t work or even get around if you damage your brain. Isn’t it worth the extra money to protect your cognitive functions?”

Gosh, yes.

Last year I was at a tent sale at Wayzata Sports Hut and, still mourning my Carbster, I idly perused their helmet offerings. I opened a Cascade box and tried it on.

Oh my god! It wasn’t as good as my Carbster but … WOW! It was a heck of a lot better than anything else I ever tried. Still soft. Still comfortable. And it did not feel like I was wearing a trash can on my head.

I love my Cascade and loved it all through last season. It’s a fantastic helmet and its high quality is reflected in its two padding components to protect against two kinds of concussions. It has great air flow and the cage went on easily–or as easily as putting on a cage can get.

I mourn my Carbster, but I skate happily in my Cascade.

What’s your helmet preference?