05 November 2008

Memories of Mens Leagues (Or: Ow)

I didn't get the name of the truck that hit me last night, but judging from the "oh, sorry, Lori!" I heard right after my elbow, and right before my helmet, crashed to the ice, I'm guessing that truck's name was Josh. (Josh, you goon! :-)

I actually hit the ice so hard that it didn't occur to me at first that it *had* to be Josh, since he was the only person on the other team who knew my name. I know my helmet was on crooked when I got up, and that I had a headache before I even made it to the bench. My teammates say I sounded like I was drunk when they asked if I was OK. I got it together after a few minutes of neck stretches and deep breathing, though, and correctly identified the order in which Jerry, Eric, and I were supposed to rotate. (Jerry moved up from D to join us at Left Wing so that I didn't have to skate as much after the fall.)

Today my neck and head, and especially my elbow, are sore, but I seem to have suffered no lasting effects. I'm reminded, however, of how often I used to get injuries like this when playing in mens/coed leagues. Although the womens league I play in now can be very physical—no checking doesn't mean no contact—I'm much less likely to suffer near-concussions, slapshot bruises, and tailbone injuries. This probably partly because the women I play against are much smaller than the men (even Meghan, who's 6'1", only weighs about 145 or 150, and the top weight in the league is probably around 170), partly because we're a bit slower (even a collision at top speed is more funny than painful), and partly because we're a bit less aggressive on the whole.

If it makes me less tough to admit this, I don't much care. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I never thought I'd enjoy playing womens hockey, but my experience with the Freeze has been stellar. I'm happy to have the extra ice time with the men, and I like the challenge of keeping up with faster and more aggressive players, but I wouldn't trade the coached practices and camaraderie of my womens team for the cheaper league fees of the Mt. Laurel mens league or any other. I've come to appreciate not just ice time, but time spent learning how to play the game.

I don't always execute properly—there's often a big gap between knowing what you're supposed to do and actually doing it—but I do like knowing that I and my teammates are on the same page. I like knowing what's going to happen when I pass back to the D on the faceoff, or get to the front of the net, or stay on my point. I like playing with the same line each week and knowing what my linemates' capabilities and tendencies are. I like knowing I can count on them to be where they're supposed to be, and that they can count on me.

These pluses aren't unique to womens leagues; Gang Green (the team I played with for one season in San Jose), for example, had occasional practices, regular lines, and regular discussions about what to do in different situations so that everyone had the same expectations. My Freeze team's just taken what was great about Gang Green and brought it to a new level.

What I hope to do is to be able to translate my Freeze experience to the ad-hoc style of the mens leagues. That is, rather than relying on knowledge of certain plays or expectations based on experience playing together, I hope to improve my individual skills such that I can react to whatever situation unfolds on the ice. It may be a while before I get there (and hopefully I won't be old and creaky when I do), but that's the goal. In the short run, I intend to enjoy my time with the Freeze, and attempt to survive my time with the men.

Posted by Lori at 04:49 PM | Link to This Entry

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