Ice Hockey – The Tournament: Part One

I had been sitting beside my red, one-way, rotary phone in my secret library, thinking about what my enemies would plot next, when I heard it  – “brrring – brrring.”  I quickly clicked send on my email, confirming that I would indeed accept the bet to work a superhero theme into my next Gymineer introduction. I answered the phone:

“Caped Crus – err… Jamie here.”

“Hey Jamie, It’s Mike, looks like were down a guy for our hockey tourney this weekend, want to play?”

“Is this a trap? Is that you Joker?”

“Nope, just a hockey tournament.”

“Is Sean Walsh playing for any of the opposing teams?”

“I don’t know, maybe. Do you want to play?”

“Sounds like you could use my help. I’ll be there.”

You see Reader, I often dance around this world pointing out how fun sports can be, how we should put away our video games and go find something better to do. Whether you’re a world class gymnast, a tiny baby who still hasn’t figured out you can control your limbs, or a 95 year-old prison inmate – there is a way for you to get out there and move your body. Sports represent one of the most entertaining ways to do that.

However, sometimes sports aren’t about fun, or even fitness for that matter. Sometimes they act as a replacement for the battlefield, our modern society’s way of saying “Listen, shooting each other is a bad idea, how about you try to hit this ball over that fence there instead. Whoever does it the most can eat this baby cow.”  Hockey has always been fun for me, but it’s also a point of pride. When you play something long enough, you’d like to be able to show that you’re improving. I like to think I’ve improved significantly since I was three.

Hockey was my original game, my athletic alpha, the Abraham of my sporting disciplines. I was on skates while my age was still measured in months (well, fourteen), I played in a league when I was three (cue the forever indebted shout-out to Paul Longo for assisting on my first bury), and with the exception of three or four years, I played straight through high school.

That all stopped when I went to university – track coaches frown heavily upon damaged body parts unless you can prove it was from running too hard or eating too properly. Even then they don’t like it.

Since calling it a career in the track world, I’ve found inspiration in the likes of Theo Fleury, Charles Barkley, and Claude Lemieux. But much like those hard nosed veterans, I’ve come to learn that extended time away from the game makes it hard for any general manager to believe they can trust you with a roster spot. Thinking of Lemieux and Jordan makes me feel bad.

Saturday morning was our first game. That meant there’d be no partying Friday night, I had something to prove. I went out to the Batmobile to start visualizing every possible scenario of every shift.

They all floated through my mind in vivid colour, time slowed down: cycles, saucer passes, stretch passes, defensive zone coverages, anticipated toe drags, clock management, peripheral vision training to recognize both home and away colours – I saw it all.

I could hear Alfred’s voice in my head, quizzing me:

“Focus Jamie. Imagine the play… you’re in front of their net, just off the left post. The puck is in the right corner, you step back away from the defender. The puck careens off the goalie, you jump to the rebound and…”  Immediately I answer out loud “Fake high glove side and fire it low blocker for a goal!”

“Good boy. Quickly now, you’ve hopped over the boards on a bad change on the fly – immediately you’re back-checking and you’re the second man back on a  2-on-1, it’s a right hand shot carrying the puck down the left side, you…” I cut Alfred’s voice off and answer: “steal the puck, turn around, skate, fake high glove side and fire it low blocker for a goal!”

“Exactly,” my brain says in Alfred’s voice. “I think you’re ready.”

To be continued…