BLOG: Is Hockey Hard? | Pro Hockey News (2022)

BLOG: Is Hockey Hard? | Pro Hockey News (1)BILLINGHAM UK – Four days on and I am only just able to move freely. No I haven’t had an operation or participated in “leg day”. In actual fact I made the unwise decision to attend Cleveland Comets’ training session on Saturday, 9th March, at the ripe old age of 30.

Now I have been skating since I was about eight years old on and off, more off since the age of 16, but I haven’t done any form of hockey training since I was eight or nine.

At the age of eight, I did attend junior training for a few months before focussing on football. My involvement in hockey since has been that of fan, statistician, blogger and loud-mouthed commentator for Billingham Stars TV, all from the comfy vantage point of the stands or commentary box.

Roll on 20 plus years and I got this crazy idea to give it a go. Not only that to record it with a helmet cam and write about it! I can honestly say I thought it would be hard but I still didn’t realise just how hard it would actually be.

BLOG: Is Hockey Hard? | Pro Hockey News (2)

First task was to get some kit. I have my own boots and a couple of Washington Capitals jerseys, which were the first items I could check off my list. I then put out a call for help.

My mate Billy said he had a few bits I could borrow, so I picked them up only to find that they were XXL and made me look like a kid finding his dad’s gear for the first time!

Luckily for me, unluckily for my brother who trains with the Comets, he messaged me on the morning to say he was ill so I could use his gear. We are roughly the same size so I went with this option.

I then collected the camera from Billingham Stars TV and was all set. I decided, so as not to make a complete fool of myself right from the get go, to check the order of putting kit on as I could not for the life of me remember.

With that checked off the list via a YouTube video I headed to the Forum nice and early, got the camera attached to my brothers helmet (with a cage not a visor, unfortunately making life very difficult later on), and started kitting up.

Started with the jock and sweats, so far so good, then socks and skates. Leg pads came next followed by rolling socks down and taping them in place. I then, as the video showed me, attempted to put the shorts on only to find that the shorts were too narrow to get my boots through.

Damn! Now I have to look like a complete noob in front of these guys who are pretty much ready to head out for a warm up and remove the tape, socks and leg pads to get to my boot laces to take them off to put the shorts on. In essence I had just wasted near as makes no difference 10 minutes.

With everyone else heading out to warm up I started the process again and this time managed to get my gear on and the camera recording just in time to step onto the ice and straight into the first drill without a warm up.

Having not controlled a puck on ice since the 90s I would have really liked that little bit of time to see if I had any muscle memory before going into a drill.

As it was coach Pav ran a couple of straight forward attacking zone drills including a couple of passes and a one-on-one with a goalie where I discovered I could not for the life of me get the puck off the ice. I tried and I tried and I am going to blame my brother’s stick with its extreme lack of curve. Yes I am a bad workman, so I will blame my tools.

A change of drill saw us weaving along the blue line before heading up ice and into the zone for a lengthier breakaway. I had a couple of decent (at least in my head they were decent) attempts at this and clearly got a bit cocky.

On my third go I decided that rather than shoot a forehand I would try forehand backhand and go for the five-hole. The attempt wasn’t bad, although it was pretty easily stopped by the nettie.

What was bad however was when we started a three man drill with a ‘D’ man and two forwards (I chose forward as it meant less skating backwards). I managed to partner myself with my mate Ryan who took it easy on me and chose to carry the puck in as he plays for the Comets’ ‘A’ team.

The first couple of runs the ‘D’ man played the pass so Ryan took the shot, phew. On the third run through however he managed to get a pass over to me and I tried to tip it in at the back stick on my backhand. It just slid off the side of the goal which wasn’t too bad.

What was bad however was that I had built up enough speed and focused so hard on the shot, that I didn’t notice the boards getting ever nearer and took a decent bump into them. I did manage to stay on my feet, but felt a right idiot when Pav said “maybe we need to work on stopping”.

Some more similar two-on-one drills saw me realise how tough it really is to combine skating, puck control and vision at any speed, even the slower pace of the session as it was for beginners. This saw me take two falls attempting to control a pass that was slightly behind me as I found I couldn’t think quickly enough to change my foot position to accommodate the pass.

This is the point, just before we started a scrimmage, is where the cage I mentioned earlier became an issue for me. I started noticing that I was getting sweat running straight into my right eye and stinging constantly.

Because of the cage I couldn’t do anything about it until I was on the bench so I was attempting to at least somewhat keep up with these guys and not be a total liability with one eye! Seriously bro, get a half visor.

When it came to my first shift I decided my best bet, given my limited skating ability, was to get to the front of the net and try and be an obstacle or peel back into the slot if I could. This way I could let the others do the hard work.

I managed to get into a good position in the slot, but on two occasions the pass to me was blocked. For a first shift it wasn’t too bad as we kept them in their zone for a decent amount of time and I went back to the bench happy with how it had gone.

Shift two however I clearly forgot myself and wound up cycling below the goal line and the pass came to me. Naturally I fell over, although from the floor I did manage to recover and get a pass off from my knees so all wasn’t lost.

A few shifts later I found myself in front again with another regular Comet Chris Lutz marking me, giving me a couple little shots that I am sure would have been far harder in an actual game and with his stick planted between my legs to stop me going anywhere. Little things you don’t appreciate from the stands.

Eventually though we lost possession and I chased the puck in front of the opposition bench. An opponent collected it and turned without looking and, based purely on not being able to stop, I hit him, sorry. But we kept playing and my accidental hit actually freed the puck which I collected and threw into the slot for a scoring chance.

That was as good as it got for me before the session ended. I had a mini debrief with Pav afterwards where he said I had a good understanding of where to be and got myself into the right positions. My problem is putting everything together at the same time.

Pav and everyone on the session were fantastic to me and have invited me back. The session was excellently ran with simple to understand drills and with the complete support of everyone there who made it a cracking experience.

I have the utmost admiration for anyone who can play this most complex of sports at any level. It is fast, and believe me you have no idea how fast until you are actually on the ice, highly skilled and physically demanding. And all of these things are why I love this game – maybe more so from the comfort of the commentary booth.

Keep an eye on Billingham Stars TV on YouTube as, providing the footage is useable, they will be posting my helmet cam footage at some point in the not too distant future.

If you are interested in having a go, ask at your local rink for the details of your local Rec team.

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