By Charlene Bidula
Originally published on the Women's Hockey Life website here.
Scoring on an assist by Tie Domi… assisting on another goal by Gary Roberts. These sound like some of the many plays of an NHL player, yet they are now a chapter of the life of 2013 Mario Lemieux Fantasy Hockey Camper, Jackie Soo.
The Mario Lemieux Fantasy Hockey Camp is a yearly event that, according to their website, was established to raise funds for the cancer research projects of the Mario Lemieux Foundation, and to create the best fantasy hockey camp in the world, by bringing in Hall of Fame and All-Pro celebrity guests who are not only huge names in the world of hockey, but are engaging personalities willing to create a team atmosphere which provides campers with an NHL experience unlike any other. All proceeds benefit the Mario Lemieux Foundation, as well as Austin’s Playroom Project. Proceeds from this year’s event also helped fund the Mario Lemieux Center for Blood Cancers at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. This years Camp was held January 5-9 in Pittsburgh.
Jackie Soo was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and grew up as a Calgary Flames fan. She’s been ice skating all of her life and has been playing hockey for the past 15 years in many places around the world including Hong Kong where she played against teams from Australia, Japan and China and also represented at the World Ice Hockey 5’s in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Soo has also played in Taiwan, Calgary, Vancouver, Denver and Seattle - where she currently resides.
So, how did Soo become a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, and what made her want to participate in the Mario Lemieux Fantasy Hockey Camp?
“Growing up in Calgary, I was a Flames fan. They’re now my second favorite team. I became a Pens fan as I started to follow some of the Canadian superstar players like Crosby and Fleury, who are both my favorite Pens players. I like the Pens too because of how the organization is managed and what they do in the community, much to do with the legacy of Lemieux,” she said. “I put the Camp on my life wishlist. Being a big Pens fan, I knew I couldn’t go wrong coming to Camp: to be able to play in the arena where my favorite team roams, to play with some great names in the history of Pens hockey and of course, I’ve always looked to Lemieux as a role model. He is truly an inspirational person.”
It was a long wait for Soo from the day she put her name on the Camp waiting list at the end of 2011, till she took the ice at the Camp last January.
“Having planned so far ahead was good as it gave me plenty of time to think, prepare, and know that this was something I really wanted. I had the Camp brochure sitting at work in my drawer. Every day I saw it. It was motivation. I later put up the Mario Lemieux Foundation logo on my desk where I could always see it. It gave me incentive to focus on my vision,” she said.
On August 31 of last year, Soo had ankle surgery and four days later, as she was laid up on the couch recovering, she received an email from the Mario Lemieux Foundation that she was off the waiting list and made it into the Camp. It gave her extra incentive to heal up fast.
January came fast, and Soo made her first trip to Pittsburgh for the Camp. She checked in and received her “goodie bag” of hockey equipment and Penguins apparel which included Penguins hockey socks, gloves, helmet, pant shell, hoodie, compression shirts, t-shirt, track jacket, winter hat, cap, Reebok shower sandals, various small Penguins bags, and a Mario Lemieux Fantasy Hockey Camp branded gear bag to hold everything. Many of the campers were chatting in the lobby after receiving their gear, but Soo, being one of only two women in the Camp, felt a little shy and decided not to join them. However, that all changed later on at the dinner and player signing at the Lexus Club at Consol Energy Center.
“The organizers, especially the women, made me feel welcome and immediately introduced me to the other female Camper & to Brianne McLaughlin, the 2010 Team USA goaltender, who was on hand to provide guidance at Camp,” she said.
Later on that night, Soo officially signed a player contract with Mario Lemieux.
“It just made everything so real…seeing Mario there in person, in front of me! I shook his hand, he introduced himself (like he needed to!). We sat down at a table and made small talk. He asked where I was from and said, ‘So you play hockey?’” she said.
After Soo signed the contract, she received two Penguins custom jerseys, one home and one away, with her name and number (88) on them. Her photo was taken in front of a Camp backdrop with Lemieux and herself holding one of the jerseys. Then the celebrity coaches were introduced and teams were announced. There were a total of 16 former NHL players at the Camp including Pierre Larouche, Bryan Trottier, Eddie Johnston, Randy Hillier, and Clark Gillies as coaches, and Lemieux, Paul Coffey, Gary Roberts, Tie Domi, Theo Fleury, Michel Goulet, Mark Recchi, Rick Tocchet, Jay Caufield, and Bill Guerin as players. Soo made it on Pierre Larouche’s team and her teammates included Gary Roberts, Tie Domi and Lemieux (who played with each team at least once).
On the first day of Camp, Soo experienced more of what it’s like to be an NHL player. Even sharing the lockerooms with NHL players was quite an experience for her.
“It was a real thrill stepping into our locker room for the first time, seeing all our gear laid out, personalized jerseys…WOW!” she said. “The locker room was always a place of entertainment: hearing the wisecracks from Roberts and Domi going at each other (they had been teammates in Toronto and you could tell they knew each other well). Roberts was telling us we hadn’t seen the most of it…imagine being with Domi everyday!”
Some of the games at the Camp were played at Consol Energy Center, while others were played outdoors on the Penguins Pond, across the river from downtown Pittsburgh. Soo found this to be the perfect setting to play hockey.
“Playing outdoors brought me back to childhood memories and skating outdoors. Definitely one of the positive, treasured memories of Camp. At one point, the Pond filled up with high school boys who had a game after us and it was a thrill playing in front of a larger audience,” she said.
When not on the ice, Soo and other Campers got to know some of the NHLers during the evening activities.
“In getting to know them, all the players were so down to earth, normal people. They were encouraged to hang out with us - we all stayed at the same hotel and had the same evening and off-ice agenda. This totally added to the overall Camp experience,” she said. “I got to know Theo Fleury well. I had a nice, long chat with him one night. It definitely was a thrill to meet him—I had watched him play as a kid, my Dad used to take us to meet him, get his autograph when he played with the Flames…and here I am chatting away with him. He’s been through a lot in life and is such an inspiration. He’s a very nice guy, approachable and we have a lot in common. It was a thrill to be on the ice with him too! I also found some of the older players very inspirational. For example, hearing Eddie Johnston talk about the old days and what it was like when they drafted Lemieux. ‘I knew he was something,’ he said.”
Soo participated in two practice sessions and five games as a right winger during the Camp. Her team went 2-3 in those games, and she had two goals and two assists. One of the assists was on a goal by Gary Roberts and one of her goals was assisted by Tie Domi.
“I was following behind Tie Domi as he was skating in with the puck. I was telling myself to get ready. He might leave it for me. And he did. Right at the door step in front of the goalie. I took a swing and it trickled in. Tie skated over and gave me a huge hug. I couldn’t breathe! I heard Gary Roberts had a similar experience once when Domi tried to lift him up,” she said. “I was honored when Eddie Johnston was standing at our bench’s exit to the locker room after one of my games where I scored a goal. He was waiting to tell me, jokingly, that he wanted to negotiate a trade for me to join his team, in exchange for Lemieux. He tried to work on Coach Larouche all night for the trade, without much success. One of the games afterwards, Johnston yelled from his team’s bench telling me to slow down out there. He’s such a nice man, a real legend and I was thrilled to meet him—to know that he’s won three Stanley Cups and has experienced some key moments in hockey history. “
Soo had a lot of great experiences during the Camp, but knowing that it supported a great cause was also important to her. She helps out charities through hockey too.
“I’m currently the chief organizer of the women's teams and one of the women’s team captains for the 2013 Hockey Challenge benefitting the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Western Washington and Alaska. Last year, we raised over $16,000 for the House. Though all the 15 years, our teams have raised a total of $4.2 million for the House. I’ve also done work for the NHL’s Hockey Fights Cancer and so participating in the Mario Lemieux Fantasy Hockey Camp and knowing it also supported a cause was a natural thing for me to do,” she said.
If you’re interested in trying to get into the Camp in the future, Soo says it’s a chance of a lifetime.
“The Camp was definitely a life experience—and life hasn’t been the same since. I’m still on cloud nine. I actually dreaded coming back to Seattle and moreover, back to my own league games. I really got spoiled in Pittsburgh with a trainer handling my gear, pre-game meals, transportation…and being centered by Lemieux and linemates with Roberts,“ she said.
Though she learned many things at Camp, one important aspect stood out the most.
“You don’t throw your jersey on the floor in the locker room at any time,” she said. “Show your team respect and the jersey as you would a flag. Never let it touch the ground. Be proud you’re part of the team.”
If you are interested in learning more about the Mario Lemieux Fantasy Hockey Camp, visit www.mariolemieux.org/events/mario-lemieux-fantasy-hockey-camp/.
To support Jackie Soo, who is playing in the Hockey Challenge benefiting the Ronald McDonald House Charities on Feb. 23rd at the ShoWare Center in Kent, WA, visit www.active.com/donate/hockeychallenge2013/jackiesoo.
Me at center ice.
Sara Petyk, PghWHR cofounder and frustrated defenseman
I attended the Penguins Adult Clinic held at the Consol Energy Center on September 27 and 28, 2012—and I had a blast! I can't imagine that there's anything better than stepping onto an NHL rink and knowing you get two whole days of playing there. Add to that the fact that it was only my second time ever in the arena and I was in heaven!
The clinic was scheduled over two evenings, with a one hour and twenty minute skills and drills session followed by a one hour scrimmage. The ladies were given the Penguins Elite (amateur travel team) locker room and the men were given the much larger visitors room. No hard feelings on this end, this was the nicest locker room I've ever changed in—it even had carpet! Plus, we got to use the Penguins runway and walk past their locker rooms and mural every time we went on the ice. We also used their bench:) Let me tell you, that Jumbotron is right over your head when you're on the ice; no wonder those guys are always looking up and watching the replays. It's like having your own TV!
As great as the surroundings of the clinic were (thank you NHL lockout), the real reason I attended was to learn some tips and skills from ex-pros. Our "coaches" included Bryan Trottier, Phil Borque, and Troy Loney. Growing up in Pittsburgh and watching the Pens in the early '90s, there was an extra thrill about being able to skate with players from those extraordinary years.
Closest I'll be to stepping foot in Suite 66.
The drills we run both nights were focused on basic but necessary skills in a small space—one-timers on the goalie, taking passes and shooting, dekeing, etc. (I did feel bad for the goalies, all 10 of them! They saw a TON of shots) I wish I could recall all the drills they set up, but they really were helpful. The scrimmage time was a great place to put into practice what we learned. As an added bonus, on the second night of scrimmaging Troy Loney was "coaching" my team and he actually would pull us aside during the game or on the bench to go over a few individual plays. I cannot say how helpful that is; to have someone point out in that exact moment what actually happened and how you might have made a better choice. The directive both nights was to have fun, try your best, but also to listen to their tips and even if it felt awkward or you thought it wasn't your style, give their tips a shot and see if it works. I think that's a great sentiment always. I was also impressed with how they said in both drills and scrimmage, always shot to score. That kind of focus is no doubt what makes them professionals and me...well, me:)
But getting to the point of this post, I want to pass along some of the better "insider" tips I learned, in case they help out someone else. For those of us that learn hockey as adults, we almost never get the opportunity to actually be coached, so I grab tips where ever I can find them! I should also add that most of this is from my perspective as a defenseman. (Disclaimer-what follows is my interpretation of the pro's tips; any changes, misinterpretations, and general BS you read below is entirely mine.)
Trying to close the gap.
THE GAP. My enemy:(
I've been struggling a lot lately with figuring out how to hold a good gap and not just present a good imitation of a pylon on the ice. So basics first: keep the other guy about a stick length away from you at all times. That's a good gap.
Here's the pro tip: Stay Up With The Guy. So as opposed to what I always do which is back up and up and then watch the guy go straight around me (not a great idea), Troy emphasized staying up when the play is in the offensive zone and not getting stuck too far back. If you are already up there, you can maintain a better gap, maybe do something through the neutral zone, and overall make more of an impact on the play. I've put this into practice in a couple games now and can say that I've felt much better about my positioning and play.
Added pro tip: let's say you keep getting smoked by a super fast winger on the other team. When you're up at the line and see them starting to on their horse to carry the puck for an end-to-end breakaway, get the F' in there! Don't let him get the wheels going. Get the puck, get the man, just get something so at least the puck is off his stick. This is not meant to be your default play, this is only for the times you're up against that one chick in the league who can go from 0 to 60 in 0.2 seconds and smokes absolutely everyone. That's when you pull out all the stops...and maybe take an interference call.
Drills at Pens Adult Clinic.
MOVE THE GUY OUT OF THE CORNER
So this is along the lines of another classic beginner tip: skate with the puck to where people AREN'T. What?...Oooohhh!!!!! I'm am not blessed with athletic prowess, so basic stuff like this I actually need to be taught, it doesn't come naturally:)
So here's the tip for defensemen dealing with the puck carrier in your zone in the corner or on the mid-wall: Skate At An Angle. This means come at the guy on a slight angle or loop out a bit. The idea is to push them up or down the boards. This way at least you have a sense of where the puck is going and where the pass is or isn't. This is as opposed to my current modus operandi: skate straight at the sucker:) Apparently this just means the puck carrier will shoot it straight through you legs to pass right to her center and/or right on goal. (Oh yeah...you know...that DOES happen to me a lot.)
A SMART DUMP
I happen to play in certain games where my forwards, gods bless them, happen to sometimes skate right up to the other blue line and stop. Flat. In a line. This makes break-ins just a tad difficult. So I asked what should I, as a defenseman, if I get the puck at my blue line/neutral zone area and there's a.) no one moving to pass it to, and b.) all my forwards are sitting flat on the blue line. On the occasions when this happens, my pro coaches (who I'm sure have never had this occur in their games) suggested one thing: SMART DUMP.
Send that puck up into the offensive zone, but DON'T just throw it around the boards, behind the net, for the other D-guy/goalie to go get. (Oh!) Instead, try sending it off the far corner to shoot back up to my (hopefully) forward-skating winger or try sending a soft dump to the mid-wall to just sit there. Again, the hope is my forward can get there and make a reasonable effort to get possession and maybe a scoring chance. Given the leagues I play in (hello Lower D) this sounds like a fantastic tip to me. I'll let you know how this goes:)
Amy doing a great job at center.
LOST MY CENTER
Occasionally I will be in a situation where my center has not come back to help us in the defensive zone. It's a tough job being center, I know. All those faceoffs; all that skating up and back; remember all the places you're supposed to be, etc. So those times when I don't have a center what sometimes also happens is that I and my D-partner get a little discombobulated. So here's one scenario that Troy helped me straighten out.
If you're in your zone with no center helping and your d-partner goes to the corner to pressure the puck carrier, you'll probably also have an opposing player sitting in front of the net and another one somewhere behind you. The best thing to do is to get close to guy behind you if he's at the back post (which he should be) and make sure you feel him back there. Don't let him cruise around. When the puck comes out of the corner (your d-partner didn't get it) you want to prevent the pass to the center and the guy on your back. You DO NOT leave your post and go after the puck. This leaves the guy behind you WIDE open for a shot or rebound. Basically you're playing a 2-on-1 between the guy in front of the net and the guy behind you. The guy with the puck coming out of the corner may get a shot off, and the goalie just has to deal with it. What you don't want is that pass to get through and make your goalie move for a shot from either a.) the dude setting up house at center, or b.) that sneaky weasel bastard behind you waiting for the easy tip in. Watch for that guy! (Too harsh? Possibly. But that guy gets me every time!:(
BEHIND THE NET
This came from a fellow player who is an experienced D and is great about giving out tips. When the puck carrier sets up behind your net in your zone, as the defenseman you want to prevent that pass coming straight out to the center for the quick bang in. Right? So his tip was to set your skates together, at an angle, AWAY from the net so if the pass does come you're basically deflecting it off to the wall. Even better is to line up both skates and your stick blade in one long, unbroken line to prevent the pass. Similar to the "guy in the corner" tip, skating straight on at the puck carrier apparently only means she'll pass it straight through your legs. Doh!
"Coach Loney" watching the scrimmage.
This is super, super basic and I still don't get it right. But Troy pointed this out to me on the ice and it's always good to repeat. If you want to get yourself open as an outlet for your D-partner, you need to be BEHIND them...and to the side...and some distance away. This is, of course, not to say you want to be 10 feet back and on the opposite wall, but if you want to be a good outlet get into a slightly back and away position so you have space to receive it and do something. Always watch for that steal across the center though! (It always looks so open and inviting!!)
DON'T DO TOO MUCH
Finally, this was a tip repeated for several of us, both defense and offense. Sometimes you just try to do too much. Don't. If you're trying to skate around three guys, break in, and score the goal, you're probably trying to do too much. If you're the last guy back and you don't see a safe outlet, don't try to skate around. Just get it up the boards. If you don't see a great play, at least make a SMART play. Get the puck up, get it out of the zone, get it across the line.
But don't, for the love of god, pass it through the center for a steal and breakaway by the other team who then scores the game-winning goal. DOH! (It just looked so inviting, though:)
I am approaching my one-year anniversary. Last January, 2011, was the first time I played ice hockey. I fell in love. A year later, I thought it might be fun to revisit my impressions as a middle-aged woman playing ice hockey....here ya go. -Val
Originally written February 9, 2011
It was already snowing when I got to the rink at 9pm. The Old Coach told me that he was going to cancel the class, and we’d do it another night, but we were welcome to stay and skate around for a while. Since I’d been feeling like hell all day and managed to get there under the steam of a fistful of Motrin and several healthy slugs of Robitussin, I figured I might as well stay. What started out as just a skate-around turned into a full-fledged two hours of scrimmage. No one left, except the Old Coach. The other coach let us skate for a bit then whistled us in and told us we were going to just play, like you’d play a pickup game. Pick two teams, and sub ourselves in and out.
Who wants to guess what’s worse than being picked last?
I was captain this week. Me and Nicole. Captains. One of the coaches jerked his thumb over his shoulder and said, “Yup, two girl captains. Go.”
I totally copped out and picked Goose first. Then I picked his brother, because as Goose pointed out, we for sure didn’t want to play against him. Then the Islanders-jersey guy, for the same reason (and I have to say, either he can’t understand English well enough to converse, or he just really dislikes me, because I was getting some seriously disdainful vibes off this guy this week). After that I pretty much took whoever Goose told me to. Let’s face it, Goose picked our team. Nicole picked Artoum before I got to him, but I snagged Billy and Brown Sweatshirt from last week. I felt like I should have picked the girls first, but instead I picked the guys I knew were the best players – why do I get the feeling that guys don’t worry about these niceties when they pick teams? It’s possible I think entirely too much.
When I mentioned to Goose that I knew I had completely copped out, he told me that sometimes one of the best things a captain can do is delegate. He was joking, but he was also right. I am not a leader; I never have been. I am perfectly happy to do my job as best I can and contribute to the team, but I have no desire to be the star. When I am forced into a leadership role, I defer to those who know more than I do. Some of it is fear of failure, but more of it is sheer laziness. To quote my brother, I’m just a foot soldier – and I am more content that way, much less stress.
It was snowing pretty hard, and we kept losing the puck under the snow. Eventually we switched to a hockey ball, which was pretty comical because it moved so much faster than the puck. If someone knocked it out, they’d jump the wall and go dig around in the snow for it, and then we’d pick up where we left off.
I had a decent defensive game but oh my god, could I suck any more on offense? I can’t keep the puck on my stick to save my life; one of the other forwards passed me this soft little drifter, probably just to be nice to me, and I totally bobbled it and got pickpocketed by the other team’s winger. It got so I felt like the other team would see a pass go to me, and they’d descend, knowing I couldn’t hold onto it for love or money. It was downright embarrassing. Also, as the snow came down harder, people started leaving, and I switched onto the other team so the numbers would be even. That engendered a lot of confusion; a couple moments of not knowing which way I was supposed to be heading, and who I was supposed to be defending (I had one guy shout at me, You’re on my team, and I had to shout back, No, I’m not, anymore! Damn baby blue jersey is too noticeable…). It wasn’t just me, though, at that point the teams were so mixed up that we might as well have had a free-for-all on the ice. But I hate feeling that confused. So many of the people I play with seem so confident, like they know exactly where they are supposed to be when and what they’re meant to be doing. I have no way of knowing if they are faking it, if they feel as inferior and doubtful as I do on the inside. One of the other women, who plays at Mt Lebanon, asked me if this was the first time I’d played. When I said yes, she expressed surprise. Either she’s delusional, or my utter lack of regard for my personal well-being and complete unconcern for whole bones is making an impression on someone, at least. But I still feel like I don’t have a clue, and it’s a distinctly unpleasant feeling.
Scott the rink manager Zambonied the rink for us about halfway through, and the ice was better for about 10 minutes, but eventually we had to give up. The snow was just coming down too hard. He had already canceled his pickup game normally scheduled for after our class, and I don’t think he expected us to last as long as we did. I got home at midnight, and I paid for my folly the next day with a resurgence of lovely flu symptoms, but it was worth it.
Because I realized this past week that I am in love. This obsession is the closest thing to being in love I have experienced other than, well, actually being in love.
I can’t stop talking about hockey; I want to talk about it with everyone I see – the waitress at the Eat ‘n’ Park, the lifeguard at the gym, the moms clustered around the school doors at the end of the day. It’s so cool and awesome, I just want to tell everyone. Like when you can’t help dropping your new boyfriend’s name into every conversation like some ridiculous junior high schooler, like when you stay up way too late with the new object of your affection, knowing you’re going to be dead on your feet at work the next day.
I am in love with playing hockey. I am in love with the idea of my playing hockey. I think about it all the time – in the shower, swimming laps, cooking dinner. I finagle and justify spending as much time as possible skating or reading about it or signing up for yet another session: it’s good exercise, it’s late at night so it’s not taking time away from my family and other responsibilities – sad truth is, even if it weren’t, or were, it wouldn’t matter. I am in love.
I went out in the rain to skate backwards in circles for an hour; this is the act of a lunatic, or someone in love, or both. I spent another hour Saturday night skating three feet and skidding to a stop, left, right, left, right. Nothing is boring – it is all for the greater good of playing hockey.
Heaven knows I’ve been in worse relationships.
Learn the fundamentals of the sport and improve your skills.
Many of you have heard that RMU Island Sports Center is discontinuing the Island Storm Women's Learn to Play Hockey Program. No reason was given for this. When we posted about this on our Facebook page, we had a lot of comments asking why and/or how this could happen when the program is always full. Out of this response a friend created a Save Island Storm Facebook page and Valley Hockey has expressed interest in starting their own women's only skills and scrimmage program based on the overwhelming comments on our Facebook page thread. Here is the email Valley Hockey has sent to us and others:
Valley Hockey is looking at a WOMENS ONLY skills and scrimmage class for 6 weeks starting in June, we are seeking out interest in the Valley Hockey Community. WHO IS INTERESTED? please respond to this email so we can get a head count. the cost for the 6 sessions would be determined by how commitments we get.
Be sure to email Valley Hockey if you are interested in their program. Hopefully they will be able to continue the women's only learn to play hockey program!
This list was put together by a fellow hockey lady, Sonia Bynum. Please feel free to add to it in the comments below.
1. You know your way to/from all hockey rinks in the area without having to consult a map.
2. Any conversation with strangers invariably turns to hockey after a maximum of 10 minutes.
3. When it comes to budget, hockey vs. groceries is an acceptable consideration.
4. That hockey locker smell? You can't remember the last time you actually noticed it.
5. When looking for new property, space for a backyard skating rink is a heavy factor. So is a basement fit for shooting practice.
6. After a ten minute dissertation on the finer points of playing hockey, your favorite position, the kind of stick you use and where you get your skates sharpened...you realize the person you're speaking with only asked if you had plans that evening.
7. You have at least one puck-shaped bruise at any given time, and you are proud of it.
8. You can't understand why more restaurants don't serve food at 12:30 a.m. on weekdays.
9. You sneak out of the house at 11 p.m....to go play pickup.
10. You use hockey pucks as coasters. And your living room/basement looks like a locker.
11. No skating or hockey for any number of days causes a detectable and significant increase in the level of crankiness.
12. Before hockey, you thought of yourself as a warm-weather person, but now summer is your least favourite season.
Wannabe DIY-er and frequent HGTV watcher, Sara P.
I'm sure many a hockey lady has the same problem I run into every day: "Where do I put my hockey equipment in a way that both displays my addiction to the sport, but still maintains a clean and orderly home?"
Being the fiscally responsible person that I am (aka "cheap bastard"), I have been reluctant to actually spend money on a hockey tree or other organizers. So when I read some plans for hockey trees that you can make yourself, I thought, why not? At first I thought about going the wood route with a plan like this one. But the amount of cutting was a little too involved for me.
Then I found the plans for an all-PVC hockey tree and that looked much easier to build. So here is my step-by-step process in building my own PVC hockey tree. Total time to build was about 2.5 hours, but that's partly because I had to stop in the middle of it and make dinner for my husband. Note: All of the work was done by myself, alone, with no advice from the husband. "I can, too, do it without injuring myself or breaking anything, so there!"
Step 1. Buy the materials. After owning my house for three years and I have become way too familiar with my Lowe's store. Although a bit uncertain of what some of these materials were, I decided to go ahead and wing it. Most everything was found in one place and, after extensively looking at the same boxes again and again, I was able to find everything on the list. Total cost: $25.
Step 2. Measure the cuts. The most involved part of this whole process is measuring the cuts on the lengths of PVC. The shopping list called for 20 ft. of Schedule 40 PVC pipe, but I actually bought two 10 ft. pieces. Luckily my car was just able to fit the 10 ft. pieces, a single 20 ft. piece would be impossible. Keep this in mind when you go shopping.
I was worried the lengths might not work out since I had two pieces instead of one, but it was fine. Remember the old adage, "measure twice, cut once". Make sure you have all the lengths you'll need before you start cutting.
Step 3. Cutting. I was a bit concerned about this part, since I'm not so good with the hand saw and there may have been some "incidents" in the past. But I wanted to give it a try and it actually was quite easy. I do recommend using a mitre box and saw as the directions suggest, and I also used a clamp to hold the pipe to the box. The PVC was pretty easy to cut through. I can't say I was super exact in cutting along my measurements (maybe off by an 1/8'' sometimes), but apparently close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades...and hockey trees:)
This picture shows all the materials with the two 10 ft. PVC pipes cut down to the necessary lengths. The ends of the lengths were pretty rough once I cut them, so I did "sand" them all quickly with a scotch brite pad to take off the edges.
Step 4. Assembly. I followed the directions and it was clear and easy to assemble. I decided to do a dry fit first, before using the PVC cement, but after I put it together it seemed to hold up ok so I chose not to use the cement at all. I didn't like the idea of the cement smelling up my house, and this way I can continue to make adjustments to the tree as necessary. I also chose not to put on the stick holders, so I actually didn't need any of the larger couplings or the zip ties. I'll probably just return them to the store.
I'm hoping to come up with an attachment to hang my pants from. I also like the "arm" in their picture for hanging up your jerseys. I am super happy with my new hockey tree; it was easy to make and I can now proudly display my equipment without taking up an entire room.
I am approaching my one-year anniversary. Last January, 2011, was the first time I played ice hockey. I fell in love. A year later, I thought it might be fun to revisit my impressions as a middle-aged woman playing ice hockey....here ya go. -Val
The second hockey session was better than the first. Odd, because I was much, MUCH more nervous last night than I was the first session. Possibly - most likely - because I now knew how bad I was. I wasn't harboring shameful, secret delusions that somehow I was going to turn out to be a hockey natural. I've never been a natural at any sport in my life. I was an enthusiastic but lousy gymnast, an enthusiastic but lousy (and blind) basketball player, an enthusiastic and good swimmer, but slow as molasses, and, well, I can't call myself a "runner" with a straight face, I am a "plodder." Eleven-minute miles, my friends - I know people who walk faster than I "run." I am not sure why, in the deep, hidden depths of my twisted brain, I thought for one minute - one second - that I might turn out to be a natural at hockey. The only thing at which I will ever turn out to be a natural, should the opportunity arise, is the peasant work my sturdy body is genetically designed for: digging potatoes and herding cows and churning butter. I am solid and slow and can go forever, like the freaking Energizer bunny - exactly what you want in a farmhand, not so much in an athlete. At any rate, we live in the 21st century and I don't live on a farm and I want to play hockey.
I had done some research and visited the pro shop again, and was now completely and accurately outfitted. Most important for a few reasons were the jock shorts that go under everything. They look like spandex bike shorts, with Velcro patches to use as garters for your socks. They also enabled me to strip down in the locker room without a second thought - well, I had a few second thoughts, but decided I was being ridiculously silly, since I was stripping down to Lycra shorts and a technical running shirt while half the men were wandering around blithely in their tighty whiteys. After I strapped on my shinguards, my new pale blue hockey socks went on top, attached securely to the shorts via their Velcro, and then wrapped with tape. The padded hockey shorts go on top - the shorts pretty much feel like you are wearing an all-encompassing diaper of sorts, but it also helps you feel invincible. I fell on my butt several times last night and barely felt it. (Unfortunately, the shorts also make you think twice about thinking you need to pee.)
My jersey is solid pale blue - my ten-year-old pointed out that I looked like I was wearing Penguins alternate uniforms. Not at all my intention - in fact, the thought that I would want to mortified me, kinda like how I am embarrassed for grown men who wear other grown men's names on their backs - but too late to worry about that now. I was not especially pleased when one of the guys called my jersey and socks "baby blue" but oh well. By the end of the scrimmages, my team was calling me "Blue" so, fine. (No one really knows anyone else's names - I defy you to identify one out of twenty five people when you're all in full hockey gear.)
I felt a lot more comfortable this week - both because I'd gone skating twice last week, and because I felt less fragile all geared-up. Also, people knew me now. I was putting faces to jerseys and recognizing people, and people recognized me, and I realized we were all pretty damn happy to be out on the ice playing hockey. There was a new guy there this week - a tall Indian guy with a red bandanna doubling as his Sikh headwear under his helmet. He unabashedly confessed that he was completely thrilled to be there, and that playing hockey was a long-held dream. It's not like any of us suit up to skate around in the freezing cold at 930 at night because we feel sorta lukewarmish about something, right?
Drills focused on puck-handling and skating skills this week. Despite the fact that I am still the slowest skater, I figured out the basic wrist-turn of proper puck handling pretty easily and the two-on-one drills went much better because of it. (Although when I wryly mentioned that I wish I'd thought to bring my Velcro stick, several people laughed. The puck skittered away from all of us pretty regularly, the slippery little bugger.) I need to work on my backward skating, which I plan to do tonight when I, um, go to the 930 public skating session. Who, me, obsessed?
I know you'll all be relieved to learn that I was not the last person picked this week - take THAT, junior high - I was second to last. But the guy who was last is actually a good skater - in fact, I happen to know he teaches hockey clinics for little kids. So I do think my husband's right and it's much more about who knows who than everyone carefully watching the drills and picking out the best players.
The scrimmaging was So. Freaking. Fun. With all the new padding, I worried a lot less about 1) falling down, and 2) getting hurt. The slow skating hurt me in the defensive zone, but I am definitely already getting better at reading the puck bounces and knowing where I am supposed to be - even if it takes me forever to get there. I contentedly played defense for a few shifts before our de facto captain shouted, "Hey, Blue, play up this time!" and I found myself on right wing, opposite my friend Sonia. I didn't disgrace myself, I can say that. I didn't suddenly turn into Billy Guerin but I managed. I even got my stick on the puck and moved it up a few times. Next shift I happily returned to defense where I promptly - and accidentally - checked someone into the boards.He asked if I was hurt. I snapped at him, No, are YOU? He had three inches and fifty pounds on me, though, so he was fine. [Note: Last night Sara & I discussed how only women playing hockey apologize. This leads me to my mantra: "There's no I'm sorry in hockey!" (Unless there's blood &/or broken bones...)]
It was a great night. On shift breaks I talked to two of the coaches a little - the old one (what? He IS. He's as old as dirt, by the looks of him. Hell, he might be OLDER than dirt. But he can still skate) [Um, yeah. Phil.] and the skinny, mouthy one [yeah, Jason]. Nice guys. Enthusiastic about hockey, knowledgeable as all get out, and thoroughly happy to be running this clinic. Nice.
Now I just need to figure out where in this town one can get a beer after midnight and Monday night hockey will be practically perfect.
I am approaching my one-year anniversary. Last January, 2011, was the first time I played ice hockey. I fell in love. A year later, I thought it might be fun to revisit my impressions as a middle-aged woman playing ice hockey....here ya go... -Val
Stepping out onto the ice in full hockey gear for the first time is an amazing and humbling experience. I felt, even without the cheering hordes the Penguins enjoy, like a freaking gladiator entering the arena to the roars of the bloodthirsty crowd. OK, so I have an over-active imagination...maybe it's the feeling an accomplished actor has stepping onto the stage (I wouldn't know) or a teacher standing before a brand new and eager class (I wouldn't know - I have always been a behind the scenes kind of gal). But whatever it's comparable to, it is amazing.
And that was for a scrimmage in a learn-to-play class - imagine the thrill stepping onto the ice at the Consol Energy Center, knowing you can mix it up with the best of them.
Buying hockey gear alone was an eye-opening experience. You don't realize as a mere spectator all the crap that a player lugs around the ice with her. Gloves, elbow pads, chest protector, jersey, padded shorts, shin guards, hockey socks, skates, mouthguard, helmet with face mask, stick - you are covered pretty much head to toe in padding. I didn't have time to go buy the chest and shoulder pads, or the shorts, so I made do with some UnderArmour running pants, and the only jersey I had was a San Jose Sharks one, and I didn't want to antagonize any Pens fans there - I shouldn't have worried, the guy wearing the Islanders jersey would have drawn them - so I wore a grey polarfleece. I was the only person not entirely and properly outfitted, despite it being an "instructional" class. Oh well, time enough to go shop before the next class. I borrowed Dan's shinguards and my brother's elbow pads and I had my new skates from Christmas, freshly sharpened at the pro shop.I intend to go buy the shorts this weekend; my brother has some shoulder pads in his old hockey bag down in the basement that I can make work. Everyone else had matching jerseys and socks - red, green, striped - I am leaning toward grey myself. Understated and elegant.
Free skate first. I sort of skated around and watched other people until one of the coaches came over and asked if I needed help with anything. First goal - the hockey stop. He showed me how to glide and then dig my blade edge in, to come to that ice-spraying halt inches from the boards.Practice, practice, practice.
And then the whistle blew and we drilled - skating exercises first - crossovers, frontwards and backwards, speed drills, stopping drills. One of the coaches told me to slow down and just concentrate on getting the form right, and the speed would come - that helped a lot. Then they broke out the pucks and we did 2-on-1 drills and shooting skills. It quickly became apparent that I was among the worst skaters. Or maybe I just felt that way. But there were a few instances when one of the guys would very obviously scootch his friend forward to skate with me so he didn't have to. Annoying, but I couldn't really blame them - I know I am not any good. That is why I am taking this class, right?
Then - scrimmage.
The coach selected 6 captains who then selected their teams. Despite the fact that I KNEW I was going to be picked last, it still bugged me a bit. It felt very junior high. I had to remind myself that I had signed up for a hockey skills introductory class, and if the other people were not ok with that, that was their problem, not mine. I was trying really hard, I am an ok skater, and I can only get better, right? After chatting with some of the other people, I felt better. I also realized I was probably a little self-conscious because I wasn't wearing full hockey gear - sometimes you DO want to look like everyone else (I'm talking to you, Mom) - being a tad oversensitive and maybe a little defensive. After that I just tried to relax, hung out with the friendly faces, and played as hard as I could. Turns out I am not an offensive player - not a shock there. But I can be an obstruction just fine, even if the guy bearing down on me at full speed outweighs me by fifty pounds. I feel like my poke check was quite competent, too.
I was one of about half a dozen women - several of the others apparently play on a women's team in Mt Lebo, but one of the women was the one who had told me about the class at the public skating session last Friday. Her name is Sonia, she's been skating for about a year, and she plays a very deliberate and thought-out game. Her every move is focused. There was an older guy decked out in Pens regalia who was very friendly, a sloppy but fast player, and another guy whose name I forget, a grad student at CMU, who was playing because his lab partner (one of the other women) talked him into it. He's a better skater than I am, but had no clear idea about zones and which positions shift where depending on the location of the puck. Together with a skilled, experienced young guy in some Slavic-looking jersey who directed us around the ice like a conductor, only with his hockey stick rather than a baton, we rotated through scrimmages for an hour. We played till about 11:15, when the rain started coming down harder, and other guys arrived for the 11:30 pick up game.
I was tired, pretty happy, and already looking forward to next week. I have plans to take out my husband for dinner Saturday night, and then skating at one of the public sessions, so I can practice my hockey stop and crossovers. Who wants to go see a nice movie when you can be out in 10-degree weather?
I was recently checking out this great magazine online for women's/girls hockey called Ice Magazine. As I was looking at some of the product they sell I saw a listing for a hockey stick designed for women. It's called the Eve Metamorphic Hockey Stick, by TCC for Women. One of the main things about this stick is that the shaft is smaller to fit women's hands better. I would love to try out one of these sticks, but since I recently purchased a new Bauer stick not that long ago (before I knew these existed), I can't get myself to spend the money for yet another stick. If anyone happens to purchase or has one of these, please let us know how they work out. We would love to hear some feedback!
To read more specifics about this stick, click here.
To purchase this stick from Ice Magazine's Ice Store, click here.
Pittsburgh Women's Hockey Resource Blog
Charlene Bidula, Sara Petyk, Cori James and Val Sweeney blog about local women's hockey news, tips, teams and anything else they find helpful to all the women hockey players in Pittsburgh!