One of the great things about the Christmas season is spending time with family and friends. It’s a cliche, but it’s true. Squeezing in a game or two of hockey with old buddies fits nicely into this category.
For those of us lucky enough to have kids who play the game as well, Christmas sometimes gives us a chance to don the blades and play with them. I had that chance this past week with my son, who invited me out late one night for a game of shinny on an open-air neighbourhood rink with his buddies.
There were some other blokes playing as well on a rink that was too small to hold all of us so we split into two shifts of about four or five to each side. There was even a goalie there with full equipment who had just finished taking it all off just as we got there, and seeing that a new game was forming, he threw it all back on and went back to the cage. We had nets at both ends, and the ice was a mess after having been skated on all day but it didn’t stop us.
What a grand night. I didn’t play long, perhaps a half hour. I chirped the young bucks and chatted with some of the strangers who by the end of the game were like old friends. Then I went home and flopped on the couch and fell asleep. Life truly does not get any better than this. What a blast.
I wonder if baseball players in sandlot games have ever made up teams by throwing their gloves in a big pile and then randomly separated them into two piles? Football? Hmmm…wouldn’t work there given the lack of a common piece of equipment (assuming helmets aren’t regularly worn for pickup games). Hoops? Nope, not there either. Soccer? Nada.
In hockey though, it is a time-honoured technique to throw all the sticks of those wanting to join a game into a big pile and then split this into two piles. This was never a completely arbitrary approach because there were times when the stick-separator was quite aware that the heavily taped Koho 201 was owned by a ringer or his best buddy, or that the beat up toothpick was the weapon of choice of the skinny, slightly-crazed kid who was always better to have on your team, than to be playing against.
However, it did have the benefit of transparency. It was tough to rig such a vote because everyone at the dance was basically standing there watching the proceedings to see where their stick landed. If the separator tried to put all the mylec super blades and short shafted sticks on one side, and all the rest on the other, there would be hell to pay for this was stacking one team, pure and simple.
However, this was, and still is, a truly great way to builds team in a hurry. I remember many days at outdoor rinks on cold winter days or nights where we used this approach. I remember doing it several times over the course of a few hours because inevitably, players would come and go during the course of a pickup game and teams would get unbalanced. When things got way out of wack, the hockey players’ collective conscience would kick in, and all the sticks would end up in a pile again for the process to repeat itself.
Filed under shinny, sticks
Strangely, Friday has always been a day without much hockey in my life. House leagues tended not to schedule much on Friday nights, although for a few years my son’s team used to have the odd practice in the late evening hours when the kids were older. High school hockey likewise didn’t schedule things on Fridays unless we were away on tournaments. I never played in any Friday night pickup leagues, although it is a night where a few of my buddies have played for years.
I’ve played hockey for years on Thursday nights (every year since living in KW in fact) and so it seems Friday is a day of rest, sort of a religious holiday for the game in my life.
But wait….there is Bart’s Friday afternoon University pickup game at 3:30 for a glorious 1.5 hours that I sometimes sneak out of work to get to. Great hockey, a great way to finish off the week even if it is a bit hard to get to, timing-wise. I only wish I could make it more often. Who needs a day of rest anyway?
At the Queen’s homecoming weekend this year, Commerce ’87 and MBA ’87 made early noises about playing a game against each other on Sunday morning at 8:00 am. Each side managed to accumulate 8 skaters and since the Commerce side had 2 goalies willing to play, the MBA’s lack of a tender was no problem.
However, as the weekend planning progressed these past few months, some brilliant business minds on the Commerce side began to piece together that after two late nights out, a Sunday morning hockey game really didn’t sound very fun at all. And so, the great challenge match never happened.
Here’s to 2017, when the 30th anniversary class reunion may happen, and to the second chance at this game.
Summer hockey ends tonite. Winter hockey started last Friday. That’s good scheduling as gaps of time with no hockey are a drag.
It’s rarely a good thing to be on the bench at the buzzer signaling the end of game or ice time. There have been times where I was thankful for it but these instances have been few and far between. One of these exceptions includes those games where it was so chippy that you just knew there was a pretty good chance of a war erupting in the last shift. While I know lots of guys relished this, it was never my thing. Another exception is those games where we were already getting our doors blown off by the other side so bad (ie. losing 7-0 would qualify) that the thought of going out for more punishment made the bench option seem quite solid in comparison
As a rule though, you always want to be playing. As the game winds down, we all want that one, last shift. One more chance to score, to help hold on to a lead, a little more fun before the official end. My winter league is civil and so are my regular pickup games so there’s no chippy stuff to worry about like there was when I was younger. I have always loved almost every shift and would rather end things on the ice than sitting down.
The absolute worst however, is when you finish on the bench in a shinny game when you are fresh and ready to go one more time. You sit (or sometimes stand, with that being the body-english of the hopeful-for-one-more-shift) praying for that holy-grail, daily double of hockey life – a few extra minutes from the rink attendant and teammates on the ice who are willing to demonstrate as much nobility as a hockey player can and come off the ice before the buzzer so that those on the bench can have one more shift.
Today was the first week of fall-winter Friday afternoon hockey at Albert. Very hot day for hockey indeed. Lots of skating and since this was an hour and a half, we were all quite happy to see it end at 4:50.