Notes from the Pond, Jan 30-2006
Spent the weekend in Huntsville with about a thousand other hockey boys and girls from around the world, vying for the Pond Hockey Championship. Okay our team fell kind of short of the prize, but it was a great experience nonetheless. Here's how we spent our weekend
Friday, Jan 27th
We arrive, and check in. Very efficient, I'm amazed. The boys and I got through both the hotel reception line and the Pond Hockey admin line in about fifteen minutes. It's a good start
Our townhouse at Deerhurst is 3 bedrooms, full kitchen, jacuzzi and a spectacular view of the lake. We change into our gear and get down to Sunset Bay pronto only to find out the games are delayed by about half an hour due to the opening ceremonies.
Game 1 vs. The No Stars
Finally, we're on the ice. Our first opponents are the "No Stars" One of the two "No Stars" in the program. They say it's a random draw, but I can't help thinking that the programmers are being a little ironic with who they pick as our opponents.
Still without a fifth player, we work on "pacing ourselves" through this one. Rotating one man back into the defensive position to give us a break.
Our game falls apart quickly. They are better and younger. Their passes just seem to connect more than ours. They have figured out how to move the puck on the lake surface.
We try any number of things - short passes, long passes, leaving one man back. And just going to the net. Nothing seems to work. We wind up losing by 7 goals.
Game 2 vs. The No Stars BDCF 7:30pm
We are fifteen minutes early. Good thing, without proper lighting it's a challenge to see your skates, let alone tie them up.
The other team (the other No Star team in the program) is a "no show" and the official on hand declares it a win in in our favour. I thank the pond gods. With the lighting so bad it would have been difficult to see the puck, let alone avoid on-ice collisions.
It will be our only win of the weekend and now the only thing left to debate is what it'll be worth. The official tells us they plan to base it on average scores. We're just happy with the win. We head back to the townhouse for dinner and beers. And oh yeah, strategy talk
Saturday, Jan 28th
It's a great sunrise with the promise of a beautiful day. Our main concern is whether or not it will stay cold enough. If the ice melts it could make for some pretty ugly play.
And now Steve C., our fifth player arrives and we are overjoyed.
Now we'll show them our stuff.
Game 3 vs. West Chester
Another young team, but we can't keep using that excuse. Sometimes the puck just doesn't bounce your way.
It's good to have Steve in the snowbank waiting to relieve you. The line change becomes a popular feature of our strategy.
West Chester walks away with the victory. This time the margin is six. We've improved our differential by exactly one goal.
We are left to contemplate the mysteries of the pond. What is the secret to success? Is it skill, speed, age, or just pure talent. Most guys we see are using one man goaltending, or at least one guy back behind the line. We decide to try that in our next game
Game 4 vs. The Cowbell Project 11:15 am
The team that I feared the most comes exactly as advertised. Former players from the University of Western Ontario, they all appear to be in the twenty- five to thirty year old age range.
But its really not that scary. It's the moments before the game that sum up the spirit of the event. We talk to our opponents and decide upon the ground rules. I even warm up by firing the puck back and forth with a player from their side. It's a pleasant experience- there is no posturing, no gruniting. Just a bunch of guys out to enjoy hockey in the great outdoors.
We try a variation on the goaltending we have witnessed in our other games, and wind up getting called for it, getting charged a goal. Is it worth it to blame the ref? The officiating so far has been low key, allowing the teams for the most part to set their own rules. I wonder if the refereee is a UWO alumni.
At the end of the half hour they have beaten us by nine goals, but at least they were nice about it. It barely felt like three.
We take our time on the way back to the room -enjoying the great weather and talking to the various participants from both sides. The mood is good, with no complaints.
We run into Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo and talk briefly. His team is trying to play all five games in today: a significant challenge in anyone's books . We talk about strategy. They have just played a team that employed "the diamond" - one guy up, two guys in the middle, and one guy back. They are going to try and use it in their next game. We wish them luck, and decide to employ the diamond in our final game. (cont.)