Category Archives: equipment

The Morning After…In Summer

Hockey equipment smells bad on a bitter cold January day after being left in the trunk after last night’s game.  There’s no point of comparison for the same left in the trunk (and then left to sit in there in the sun the next day) after Thursday night shinny in the summertime.   Thanks heaven’s for garage’s as a staging area for hockey laundry.

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The last two pairs of gloves I’ve owned must have been made of some magic materials that my gloves prior to that never were.  I bought my current pair about two years ago and they are wonderful.  Not sure the brand.  The ones prior, a set of Missions were equally good gloves and the leather in the palms was as soft they day I put them down as they day I bought them.  The stitching gave up bad on the one glove and a couple of holes had developed that didn’t warrant re-palming.  I had played with them for probably seven or eight years so they didn’t owe me anything.

However, prior to those pairs, gloves weren’t as….nice.  I can remember the palms getting so hard you had to have a long warm-up prior to the game just to work your gloves in, never mind trying to get your own body revved up to play.   When they got holes in them, as they invariably did, the edges of the leather were brutal.  I don’t miss gloves like that.

Speaking of old school gloves, (or as that famous TV commercial from a few years back used to call old equipment “throw back” equipment), remember how far up the arm gloves used to come?  The short cuff glove is a relatively new thing and while I didn’t like it at first because of the lack of wrist protection, it has made puck handling nicer and when you’re playing in a relatively benign oldtimer league like I do, this is a nice benefit.

When I was younger, gloves were one of those pieces of equipment that were cool.   All sleek and padded, they were just different than shin pads and elbow pads and sweaters.  Perhaps it’s because they were worn on the outside.  No, gloves and skates were to a hockey player what chrome exhaust and mags were to car guys.  Warrior stuff – arg! – which is funny when you consider they are the first thing removed when a scrap develops.

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The Blowtorch and It’s Place in the Game

George Orwell opined that serious sport “is war minus the shooting”.   Given that, you have to love and respect any sport that requires the use of a blowtorch in a non-weapon sense.  Now those of you who aren’t schooled in the game may need to loose the hounds of your imagination to conjure up just how the handyman’s flamethrower fits into hockey.  Even some of you who are pretty familiar with the game might be scratching your head a bit on this one.

However, make no mistake about it, the blowtorch belongs and is sometimes a key element of a good game even being able to start.  You see, for those of my generation (and that is to say a generation where there wasn’t quite as much parental oversight as there is today), fire was as much an avenue of entertainment as are video games and iphones today.

Yes, it was a simpler time when I grew up than it is today.  In the absence of themed birthday parties held at venues staffed by strangers who you pay to “do a craft” with your kids, I had parents that were just hip enough to allow me to have some buddies over after school on my birthday.  We’d play driveway hockey and then have a chocolate cake made with quarters, nickels and dimes that had been thrown into cake batter.  You had to be a bit careful not to swallow a coin but if you did, the risk of choking and dying was muted by the fact that families were generally larger back then and losing one kid in such an accident, while painful, did make more room for everyone else left behind.  Good times.

But what does this have to do with fire you ask?  Well, I simply needed to set the stage properly because it makes sense that any generation that grew up with metallic hazards in their birthday cakes when they were just wee laddies would be a generation that learned early how to flood their own rinks.  I don’t remember my mom ever flooding our rink.  (Nor do I remember my wife ever flooding the next generation’s rink in our backyard…but I digress again).

Anyway, for those of you who have ever flooded a backyard rink, one of the banes of your existence was inevitably that the hose faucet outside the house would freeze after each flood.  Now I know many of you will pronounce me a rube for not simply having something a little more elaborate to allow the hose to be run from the inside of the house, perhaps through a modified basement window, or from an upstairs bathroom through a sister’s bedroom window.  Good ideas both, but in my case, at my parents house and our current abode, we have always simply dragged the hose out of the basement, attached it to the outside tap and then turned it on, hoping like hell water would run.

And in a good winter, one where it’s actually code enough to make a rink, it just so happens that the tap generally is frozen and water would in fact, not run.  I’m not sure how old I was when my dad taught me how to use the blowtorch.  We moved into that house when I was nine so I think it was pretty shortly thereafter.  Open the valve, light the match…no wait, turn the tip away from your body, light the match and “whoomphhhh!” you have fire enough to cut through any ice-clogged tap in no time.

This was pretty fail-safe, even for a young kid, so long as you kept enough focus on where the flame was hitting the pipe.  At my parent’s joint, there was tintest under the siding so you had to be a bit careful not to warm that up too much, and if you did, “just throw some snow on it if it starts to glow” or some words to this effect were the advice I got.  Our current house is brick so no worries there, although I do remember having the paint on the extended pipe lighting up there for a few minutes one winter a few years back.

Once the torch had unclogged the frozen tap, the water would come gushing out (make sure to get the blow torch out of the way first, which required quick reflexes and good hands) and you’d had have to close the tap temporarily, attach the hose and then open ‘er up again.  Then you’re free to have at it with the hand-held Zamboni.

The other use for a blow torch was of course something a little less dangerous since it didn’t really risk burning one’s house down just to get a fresh layer of ice on your backyard paradise.  No, the other use was to heat up your stick blade just enough to allow you to bend a bit more curve into it.  I honestly don’t know if you can even do this with the newer composite sticks since I suspect they are made of some nuclear alloy that might implode with such treatment, threatening local humanity and that night’s game.

So next time you see some piece of mean-spirited military equipment, temper your fear and anger with the knowledge that it may someday come to a more peaceful use.  Perhaps those new F-35’s the Feds are thinking of buying could carpet bomb a Walmart parking lot with water and make a rink in seconds flat.  Night vision goggles would be awesome for those players who play on outdoor rinks in parks where there are no lights.

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Filed under dads, equipment, Folklore, Parents, rinks

Good Timing

Getting very low on clear tape.  I’m estimating I’ve got about 3 weeks worth left.  Perfect timing as Santa never misses delivering one of those 10-pack roles he supplies Costco with.

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Your Shoulder Pads Are Old When…

…the varnish on them is all yellowed and the plastic caps crack when you lean up against a wall near the bench before the game starts.   Actually, come to think of it, I doubt it’s varnish on the plastic caps but whatever it is, when it turns really yellow like mine have, it still points to equipment that’s pretty old.  These suckers date back to my high school years (my maroon pants of Peterborough Pete’s vintage lasted until about 4 years ago) and are probably on their farewell tour this season.

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A Lost Edge

Is there a worse feeling than having to play a game with a really bad wheel, an edge so totally gone that you have to turn one way all night?  You’d feel like those poor sailors on the Bismark’s final voyage.

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Tape Balls (…no, not that kind)

Did you ever make a tape ball? I’m not sure if the tape ball is a sporting artifact unique to hockey but I cannot think of any others that could actually produce such a thing. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, hockey players wrap tape around their shins and sometimes ankles to keep all the lower gear in place.  Some guys use a lot of this.  It used to be that white tape was the primary source for this (it certainly was for my tape ball) but in later years, the clear plastic stuff became the mainstay and still is.  After the game, you strip the tape off and throw it away – or you wrap into a ball.  Once the ball is created, you simply keep wrapping your old tape around the outside of the ball after every game or practice.

I had a tape ball when I was a kid.  Not sure when I started it but I’m guessing it was around Pee-Wee.   We won a house-league championship in there somewhere and I had everyone on the team sign it at the end of that season.  However, when the next season rolled around, I just taped over those signatures and kept going.  So much for the nostalgia of a band of house-league brothers.

I kept building it through my remaining house-league and high school years but these suckers get pretty heavy after awhile.  I think mine was about six inches in diameter when I stopped adding to it and I’m guessing was 5-10 pounds, big enough that I could feel the extra weight in my bag weighing heavily on my shoulder.  Given that we used to have to walk 10-15 minutes to the rink at University for intramural games, I suspect this is the point in time where I started leaving it out of my bag.

Once left out of the bag, it was the beginning of the end for the tape ball because left behind, it quits growing and then one has to ask “what’s the point of having one?”  (Although I guess one could ask that question about a tape ball at any time theoretically couldn’t they?)

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Filed under equipment, House League

Can Pucks Be Eaten?

The golden retriever in this hockey player’s family has proven that yes they can.  A couple of years back, I was out in the garage and noticed that the old bucket of pucks had been moved from a higher shelf to a lower one where our Golden had access to it.

The bucket didn’t look as full as I thought it should so I headed for the backyard where he hangs out and sure enough, there were several pucks in a “chewed” state.   Some were almost half gone.  Now to be fair, golden’s sometimes just chew and don’t swallow what they are chewing but I didn’t see a whole lot of puck shavings around the scene of the crime.

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Filed under Dogs, equipment

Stumping Google

Do you remember those weird floor hockey sticks they have used to have at schools back in the 70’s?  You know the ones if you are old enough – round shaft, and a weird hooked-shaped blade?  We use to use a little, hollow orange plastic puck with them.  It was a weird thing trying to learn how to shoot with these suckers.

Here’s the thing – I tried finding a picture of these on google to link to and came up with nothing.  Nothing!  In an age where google always returns at least one thing that nails what you’re looking for, it came up with nothing on this front.  Miracles never cease.

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On the 401?

While driving on the 401 earlier today, in stop and go traffic (as is usually the case when crossing the top of Toronto on a long weekend), I spotted a single shinpad laying on the outside shoulder.  I quickly asked my son, who was travelling with me, to snap a picture of it with his blackberry but he wasn’t that quick, so this will have to live on in fish-story form – true but unsubstantiated.

How does this happen?  It’s like seeing a single shoe out there; not uncommon but weird.   Did it fall out of a hockey bag from an open trunk?  Not likely.  Did it fall out of a bag strapped to a room?  More likely.  Domestic dispute?

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Filed under equipment, Road Trips