JMS Hockey Blog

JMS is a pickup hockey league

Month: November, 2009

Kids at the X

by barbaragarn

I was watching the kids play at the X this holiday weekend. Most of them were between 7 and 10 years old.

I was really surprised by the difference between adult beginners and child beginners. The kids were ALWAYS moving, whereas adults are often gliding and watching the play. Adults will more often reach for a puck instead of skating to it.

The kids also seemed without any kind of embarrassment–another huge difference. They fell down a lot–and got right back up again. They took a shot and missed… and instead of banging the stick, giving up, all that–they just kept working to score.

Their enthusiasm was amazing. Some were skating awkwardly, just like the adult beginners I see so often. But unlike the adults, they were going as fast as they could–legs and arms flying.

I think the biggest difference is self-consciousness. As adults, we’re very well aware of how we look, and we get wrapped up in “doing it right” or “looking cool” — both of which include a fear or at least wariness of failure, and sometimes trying to look like we’re succeeding without effort (while of course we’re obsessing about whatever it is: taking a shot, skating through traffic or anything else).

I think the kids–not only not CARING, but beyond that: completely unaware of how they look–were therefore more likely to be successful. They just kept trying and trying after a “failure.” It was almost like they didn’t know they had “failed.”

And maybe they hadn’t. If learning hockey means trying things, and if trying things means not always succeeding the first time, then no, they weren’t failing.

We have a lot to learn from the kiddos. “Being good at hockey” doesn’t mean “trying to look like you’re good at hockey” — it means pushing the comfort zone, falling down, trying something new and building from that. Instead of trying to LOOK experienced, the kids were skating hard, taking risks and GETTING experience.

Bring the fans

by barbaragarn

So… Mom and Dad are in town for Thanksgiving, hmm?

Like so many other traditions, this Friday is the one where we usually see the most fans in the stands. People bring (doubting) siblings and parents to prove that yes, we ARE playing hockey.

I’ve seen some other fans in the stands on other occasions–sometimes watching a neophyte, sometimes just along for the ride.

Have you ever invited someone to watch your hockey game? Pick-up or league? And how did it go? Were the watchers proud or did they chuckle a little?

I will be watching for your mom and dad in the stands this Friday!!!


by barbaragarn

The JMS rules–and common sense for all pickup games–dictate no slapshots through traffic.

I want people to improve their hockey skills and mastering the flashy slapshot–hallmark of the hockey player–is certainly one of those. For all that it’s not incredibly effective (especially at our level!), it’s a coveted skill and probably the one thing most beginners want to learn.

But it seems people first learn the logistics of a slapshot, and then–later–learn the more important lesson: when to deploy it. It’s kind of like teens and sex; just because someone understands the mechanics of a thing doesn’t mean they should be doing it.

Knowing when to deploy a slapshot takes wisdom. You can learn the steps to do it easily enough, with good instruction and repetition. But knowing to take a look before you fire your that mighty slapper is the harder skill, and the more important one.

In the split seconds you’re deciding whether or not to throw a slapshot at the net, LOOK UP.
Are there people between you and the net?
If there are, don’t shoot.

The different levels will respond to potential slapshots in different ways.
In level 2, where people are just learning them (and usually firing slappers when they shouldn’t), some skaters don’t yet know to clear out of the way. The slapshots are less powerful, but also less targeted.
In level 3, I think most skaters know to move, and the shots are a little more controlled.
And in level 4, the experienced players are accustomed to seeing slapshots–some near the line of fire won’t clear, but instead go into defensive lockdown, with legs together, arms in and gloves protecting delicate bits.

And, okay: in level 4 and level 5, the shooters can usually be pretty targeted; if there are people in the vicinity (again, a nebulous and situational determination), these experienced shooters can aim to avoid them. And they’re usually successful. Note usually; it still doesn’t hurt to be safe and get out of the way. And, of course, for the shooter: it still means you should THINK FIRST if people are around, and SHOOT CAREFULLY!

If you find yourself facing a slapshot, the best decision is to get out of the way–while facing the shot (there’s a reason you have more protection on your FRONT than your backside!). That huge black bruise on the back of your leg is a mark of shame that says I was looking the wrong way… And of course, moving out of the shot path lets your goalie–who IS used to getting pucks fired at her or him–handle it.

If you can’t more–or you really, really trust your gear–then go into defensive lockdown: bring in all your appendages, protect the soft parts and tuck your chin. I’ve also seen fools dive in front of slappers. Jeepers, this isn’t the NHL with great physical therapists standing on the bench, waiting to patch you up! This is pick-up; let the goalie have the shot.

And from what I’ve heard from my goalie pals, they LOVE slapshots. I remember one goalie smugly noting that few moves are telegraphed more than a slapshot. “It gives me plenty of time to get in position,” he gloated. A fun shot for us skaters, but probably not the best one. How many slapshots have YOU seen end successfully in a goal? Better to be in position and watching for the right opportunity than take the time to set up the cannon.

So… should you do a slapshot? Well, it’s fun. It feels powerful. It feels like a real hockey player. Will it score? Probably not. Maybe someone can get a rebound? More likely the goalie will see it coming and freeze it for the other team’s control.

But can you do it safely? If there are people in the way, don’t shoot. If you’re in level 2 or level 3 and people are NEAR your line of fire, don’t shoot. In level 4 and 5–be careful, of course, but targeted, controlled slapshots are part of the game for an experienced hockey player. For those still learning–be careful and as always, err on the side of safety. Think about it: you know you don’t want to hurt anyone, even accidentally.

Like everything else, evaluate the situation and use your brain. Don’t fire into a crowd, and if you see a slapper coming, get out of the way.