So … long time since my last post.  Personal issues have kept me mostly off the ice and I won’t get into too many details except to say that if your marriage counselor ever recommends this book:

Accept that life as you know it is over, then find yourself some good Prozac and a great lawyer.

With that going on, money was tight over the summer and any skating fees went for the boy-child, not me – which is as it should be when you’re a parent.

Over the last few months, T got on his first team, got his first assist, and his team won the league championship.  Three teams in the league, but still.

He’s improved a lot since starting.  He’s still the slowest one out there, but ever time he listens to me or his coach and takes our direction, he improves a little bit.  His skating’s gotten much better.  The one thing he needs to work on most is to gain the confidence to be more aggressive.  Both his coach and I have told him to challenge the other players more – even if they get by him, he’ll be able to disrupt their play.

So his first season’s over and one of the local rinks is running a special … for $100 he gets a month of their youth programs.  Five nights a week – 3-on-3, pond hockey and skate & shoot.  A good deal just for the ice time.

But enough about him and back to me.

A couple weeks ago I took him to skate and shoot and fell hard for the first time.  I was in the middle of trying something very complicated which requires a great deal of skill: skating in a circle.

Yes, I was practicing cross-overs around the center face-off circle and busted my ass.

Actually, it was my head that I busted.  I was trying to lean more in my turns, something I don’t do properly.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough speed for the amount of leaning that I did … or something.  Anyway, my feet not only slid out from under me, they completely left the ice, winding up, near as I can tell, at about waist level before I plummeted to the ice completely horizontal.  At least that’s what it felt like.

The momentum of my fall didn’t let me keep my head up and the side of my helmet hit the ice with a rather impressive crack.  My first thought was:

Good helmet … barely felt that.

My second thought was:

Why does my jaw feel like somebody just drop-kicked me in the face?

Then my inner-retardspoke up:

Duh-oh! Didn’t need a mouth guard yet … just doing skate-and-shoot right?  Dumb ass!

So, yeah, jaw hurt for a week and a half.  Ow.

Now when I sign T up for his month of skating, the guy mentions that on Mondays they do the kids’ 3-on-3 on the main rink, then let them have extra time on the studio rink while the adult clinic’s on.  So I ask him how good a skater I’ll have to be before I can reasonably sign up for that. 

He tells me that’s not a problem, they’ve had people who good barely stand up on the ice.

Hah! I think to myself.  I can stand up.  I stand up good.  Mostly.

So tonight I signed up for it.  What the hell.

In the locker room beforehand, I get a little boost of confidence.  I was expecting this to be all young guys – teens and twenties – but the four suiting up with me are all around my age and one of them’s only been coming for three weeks. 

Out on the ice I’m a little confused about what to do – everyone’s skating around doing their own thing, so it’s looking like a skate-and-shoot, not a clinic.  I was expecting an instructor to start things off first-thing, but apparently there’s quite a bit of warm-up time included.

During the warm-up, the coach stops me and asks me to skate across the rink for him, which I do.  First advice: keep my arms in closer (apparently I had my elbows way far out from my body) and I’m holding the stick too far down when I handle the puck.

I feel a big difference in my skating and puck handling with both these things, so that’s worth the price of admission all by itself.

Next up is skating drill.  Now, I’ve never had a clinic before or taken a lesson, so this is all new to me. 

First off is goal-line to goal-line, push with the left foot only and glide on the right.  I can do this one pretty good, I think.  Same with the second and third: same with right foot, then both feet, respectively.

Next is goal-to-goal as fast as we can, and this one just kills me. I’m the slowest one out there, but not by too much – I mean I get there last, but I’m close enough to touch the next slowest, so that makes me feel okay about it. What’s really bad, though, is that I’ve been on a couch for the last ten years, with little or no exercise, so my endurance sucks.  Bad.  We do this four times and by the time we’re done I’m drained and ready for the thirty-second break he gives us.

I take more than thirty seconds.

In fact, I sit out the first rep of the next drill, because I don’t want to puke on his ice.  Clearly this is a problem and I need to do some serious cardio.  I knew this already, intellectually, but having to leave the ice while a bunch of other guys your age keep going drives it home quite pointedly.  The new apartment has a gym and I need to be there every morning.

I make it back on the ice for the second rep of this drill: around the circles, left-crossovers, right-crossovers … one circle to another.  I’m a little tentative about this one and don’t do as well as I think I should.  Might be because my inner-retardis saying things like:

Didn’t buy that mouth-guard yet, did you?  Here it comes! Going down again and it’s gonna hurt! Dumb ass!

I make it through without falling, but I can do this better and I’m disappointed in myself.  The only reason I don’t have a mouthguard already is because money’s tight right now, so I really need to get one before the next time.

Next drill is down to the far blue-line and form two lines – if that was all that was involved, I’d be pretty good at it.  But, no, there’s more.

We’re going to skate in pairs (I feel bad for the guy paired with me), dump the puck into the zone, pick it up again, then skate to the other zone and take a shot on the goal.  Obviously passing as we go and appropriately to each pairs skill-level.

First time through my guy dumps it in around the boards and I head over to get it.  I know I’m not going to be able to take it up the ice well, so I pass to him – a bad pass, he’s not where I thought he’d be at all.  We head up the ice and I cross the blue line where he passes to me on the left side. 

Now my shot is weak.  Way weak, so I don’t even bother, I just pass back to him as he’s coming across the blue line and let him take the shot.  I have no idea if he got it in, because I’m too busy trying to turn before I hit the boards.

Second time through this drill, I start with the puck, so I dump it in and immediately turn for the other end.  I’m too slow yet to do anything else.  He yells, “Boards!” and this is the first time I’ve ever heard this on the ice, but I understand it and take his pass off the left-side boards short of the zone. 

I skate the puck into the zone and make a back-hand pass to him at the blue line.  Again, I have no idea what happened with the shot, because I fell after the pass.  But I do know that it was a pretty decent pass, at least as far as direction goes – power could have been better, I think, but it was there for him.

I sit out the next rep of this drill because I’m out of gas again.  And my legs are really weak, so I call it a night. I know enough to realize that if I try to push myself, I’m probably going to fall badly enough to hurt myself if I keep going, even though it’s even more embarrassing to leave the ice.

But I talk to the coach afterward and ask him what, aside from finding a treadmill, I should do – basically whether I should keep taking the lessons or if I suck too bad for them to do any good.  He says he’s seen suck and I don’t, which is encouraging. 

Obviously I need to work on my endurance, because right now I have the endurance of a little girl (which I retract, because I’ve seen the little girls who play hockey and they could all kick my ass), but my skating’s good enough to stay in the lessons.  So I’ll be back next week.

But right now I’m starting to ache from tonight, so I’m going to bed.