Last week we drove out to Oaks, PA (about 30 minutes away, out past King of Prussia) so Al could attend one of the "evaluation skates" for the local Hockey North America league. I just watched, enviously, from the stands, thinking all the while the drills were going on, "I could do that!" (Of course, once the scrimmage started and there was much squishing against the boards and tripping over bluelines—not to mention other fallen players—I was glad to have the belly out of play.)Manu Chao.mpg
Al didn't have his strongest showing ever, which is not surprising given that it's been months since he's been on the ice. He was squarely middle of the pack skillwise, however, and he looked like he was having fun out there. The league director called him over after a couple scrimmage shifts and said, "I've got a team for you," so that was that.
The team is called the Philadelphia Galaxy, and apparently they're at the C1 level, whatever that means. (It's something Al has been agonizing over ad nauseum for the past week, however; he's extremely worried that he'll be placed incorrectly on an Ice Oasis Tuesday night-level team, and that he'll hate it. I think it's unlikely, since it seemed pretty clear to the evaluators last week what level everyone was at.) My only opinion on the matter is that I think he'd be happier on a team where the players know what it means to get open, how to make passes, and how to play position, even if the level was a bit higher. I know I would.
Last Friday night I somehow managed to stay awake (and on my feet!) long enough to drive out to Oaks, PA with Al for his first practice with his new team, the Philadelphia Galaxy, at 10:15pm. He'd been pretty paranoid about being placed in the wrong level and not being able to keep up, but the league officials really did seem to know what they were doing at the evaluation skate a couple weeks ago, and the Galaxy look like a good fit. (They reminded me of the Gang Green squad we played with last summer.) The Galaxy shared the ice time with a team several levels up called the Cobras, I think.
After about 15-20 minutes of warmup, during which the skaters from the Galaxy got their ice legs and practiced their shots, the captain called the team over to the bench and outlined their first team drill: a standard horseshoe. Not very interesting, but it gave everyone a chance to skate, pass and receive passes, and shoot on the goalie. In short, it served as a warmup for the remaining drills, which were more interesting—and more complicated.
I think the next drill involved two skaters going from opposite sides of the horseshoe at one time, taking a pass, passing to each other as they entered the zone, and then hopefully passing once more before taking a shot on goal. After a few runs, a third line, made up of defensemen, was added, with the defenseman passing to one of the wingers, who then skated in on him as before. This drill seemed even more valuable as a learning-about-your-teammates tool than as a learning-the-game tool. I imagine the wingers observed, as I did, which direction people tended to skate, whether they were slow or fast, whether they skated with their heads up, whether they gave any indication that they were ready and waiting for a pass, etc. (I imagine the defensemen noticed these signals, too, as they became more effective at breaking up plays as the drill went on.)