Myths about JMS

by barbaragarn

Recent reports of gossip, combined with noting recurring questions, prompted me to answer and address these issues.

MYTH: Barbara determines who skates up or down.
FACT: The captains are the backbone of the level placement system and I am incredibly grateful to them for their intelligent and analytical help. If someone wants to skate up or down, I ask a captain familiar with that person–and usually, I get more than one opinion to make sure. This is why it takes a while for level changes to be processed.
The only times I make the decision personally is when someone is moving from level 1 to level 2 (and in those cases, I follow up with the Level 2 captain to make sure the skater did okay) or when someone is brand new to JMS.
Since the assessment tool is self-reported and not ice-based, new JMSers can place too high (Gretzky yearnings) or too low (Minnesota modesty). I juggle the answers and make sure the guy with 17 years hockey experience doesn’t end up in Level 2, and the guy who started six months ago isn’t in Level 3. And, of course, the captains know who the new skaters are and can further tweak assessment when we have skates on ice.

MYTH: Breezers are not required, but shoulder pads and face protection are.
FACT: Breezers or some kind of hip protection (like Cooperalls) are ABSOLUTELY required. Not just for your safety, but for the community skate; if you don’t wear full gear, then the people who share the ice with you, go into the corner with you, will CONSISTENTLY have to dial back their play, which is not fair. People sign up to play hockey, not no-contact hockey. If you don’t have breezers or Cooperalls, I can help you find some. They are not an optional piece of equipment.
Shoulders and face protection ARE optional, though I’ll go on record (again) as saying I think anybody who doesn’t wear them is inviting trouble. Hockey is a physical sport and while YOU may think you’re 100 percent stable on your skates, what about the other 23 people on the ice? I broke the collarbone of a 6’7″ guy at one of my first pick-ups, oops. He told me later he thought he was too big to get hurt, before I flailingly crashed into him and crunched his shoulder into the goal post.
As for face protection, it’s your mug. Think about all the waving sticks and sharp skates. Think about those sticks and skates resting on the floor of the bench. Have you LOOKED at the floor of the bench lately? Yeccch. Do you want something that comes in contact with that, slicing into your face?

MYTH: People can be banned from JMS for asking to play another level.
FACT: Of course not, that is silly. “Everyone” is “talking about” a recent case with some level 2 skaters. When someone asks to move up and they aren’t ready (as noted above, based on extensive captain feedback), I don’t just say no–I tell them the specific things they need to work on to move up, which I feel is positive and constructive.
Unfortunately, sometimes there is a gap in people’s minds between “actual ability” and “perceived ability” (don’t we all know someone like this?). Some of these folks choose to say, “Fine, if you don’t let me dictate where I should play, then I won’t play anymore!” That is their choice and a rather poor attitude, but it absolutely is not banning anyone. It’s rather ironic that someone else’s overreaction could be viewed as MY wrongdoing. I know the juicy story is the exciting one, but it’s not true in this case.
People are rarely banned from JMS, and all cases but two were for safety reasons. Showing up drunk, being extremely rough (way, way beyond chippiness), fighting, etc., THESE are the reasons people get banned–and justifiably so. I’m not going to risk having known dangerous people on JMS ice, period.

MYTH: JMS is Barbara’s job.
FACT: hahahahahahahahahahaha (deep breath) hahahahahahaha. I love running JMS, but there is no way it could support me. I work as an editor for small law enforcement magazines. Last December, I took a 25 percent pay cut, down to 30 hours per week, so I’d have more time to spend on JMS stuff. My current rough estimate is about 25-30 hours per week on JMS stuff.
On the excellent advice of a self-employed JMSer, I started paying myself for JMS labor a while ago (though it’s less than minimum wage). Photographer Brian Scott Holman was listening to me grouse once after someone had sent me a particularly nasty message. He said that if I continued to go without pay, JMS would always be a hobby and eventually some loser would piss me off enough to make me quit doing it. But, he said, if I paid myself, then those grumpy notes would just be part of doing business. And while I would still grit my teeth, I could think of my “salary,” however small. Good advice.

MYTH: Most JMSers have perms for more than one level.
FACT: Most JMSers skate at only one level. We’re trying to fine-tune the parity so each level is distinct, and people won’t be skipping between. Sometimes a person is coming back to the ice after a long period away (for an injury, or after taking a summer off). I’ll open the level below for a set number of sessions or a set time–always with the lecture that the person playing down should be AWARE of the other skaters’ ability level, and to PLAY to that level.
When a skater is moving up a level, it’s best to have perms for both for a while. These “tweeners” can work on stickhandling in the lower level, when they have TIME to work with the puck, and then on skating speed in the upper level, where they’re not going to get as much puck time amidst superior players.

MYTH: Barbara adjusts levels based on where she needs skaters.
FACT: No way. As noted above, the captains are the driving force behind leveling. These decisions are ALWAYS made on an individual level and completely separate from which sessions need skaters. That said, I try to make sensible decisions. On a night when a level 3 doesn’t have many skaters signed up, if a guy who just got moved up to 4 asks to play and promises to be nice, I’ll allow it for that session.

MYTH: JMS doesn’t include a warm-up period.
FACT: The first five or so minutes of any session are for warm-up. This is a no-brainer… physiologically, this is absolutely imperative. Even if we get on the ice early, I want the extra time to be part of warm-up, instead of starting the skate early. Because starting early deprives people who were ON TIME, of the necessary and healthful warmup, which isn’t fair. So use any extra time for warmup–who here doesn’t need an extra five minutes to work on their shot or power turns?

MYTH: Barbara chooses icetimes.
FACT: No way.
Summer ice and winter ice are very different. For summer, the rinks practically crawl through the phone–they’re so excited to have customers. I have to push back a bit since most want their users to be continuous during the day. This means saying, “No thanks, always starting at 6.30 p.m. does NOT work for us….”
And then it’s like a giant switch flips, and suddenly it’s a SELLER’s market, for winter ice. They give me start times of 10.30 p.m. and I am so grateful to have any ice at all. The competition for winter icetimes is very, very, VERY steep. I get the best times I can, always. It’s just that what’s available is very, very VERY limited.
This is for the more popular rinks. I could book in Stillwater, or Chaska, or Rodgers, and MAYBE get some 9p starts… but then I just wouldn’t have enough people turn up. I’m always trying to branch out, but responsibly. It’s a balancing act between location and start time, and I try to find the best intersection of the two.
Some folks have asked for early ice (7, 7.30) so they can go out afterwards, or hit it on the way home from work. And some folks ask for late ice (9.30, 10p starts) so they can go home, have dinner, put the kids to bed and then play. I know everybody has different needs and I try to balance as best I can, I truly do.