So you’re a Caps fan. You’ve followed the team ever since Ovi scored ‘The Goal’ forever. You’ve watched every game, know a ton about hockey and can talk about the powerplay and why Jeff Schultz sucks all day long. You go to Kettler for Caps' morning skates and many of the players are scared of you know you. You’ve gone skating a few times and other 4 year-old skaters only made you look kinda bad. After seasons of being a fan, you get the itch: you finally decide to give this wonderful game of hockey a shot.
Fortunately, we're here to help. There are several things you need to know about learning to play this game as an adult that watching a Caps game won’t teach you.
You'll probably look like this if you're learning to skate
- You will not step onto the ice and start moving like a pro. Did you know that Gretzky could skate before he could walk? Well, you’re not Gretzky. You’re going to look like a newborn calf with vertigo when you start. Just go ahead and fall... you're going to look like the abominable snowman when you're done anyway.
- What’s the difference between well-used rental skates and a pair of 1986 Nike Hi-tops? The Nikes probably have more ankle support. If you’re serious about playing hockey, get a well-fitting, supportive pair of skates. Without them, Matt Hendricks would end up in traction with those shootout moves he pulls.
- Can you stand on one leg in your bare feet for more than 10 seconds at a time? You’d be surprised how many people over the age of thirty can’t, yet think they’ll be able to fly all over the ice their first time out. Skating is essentially doing one-foot stands while gliding forward, so work on your basic balance on and off the ice. Eventually you’ll graduate to Alex Semin’s ‘one foot stand while toe-dragging into a wristshot’. (Ok, no you won’t.)
- Mouthguards aren’t for your teeth. You’ll realize this when you’re laying on your back, staring at the ceiling during the ‘learning to stop’ part of lessons after the back of your helmet had gone ‘THWAK!’ on the ice. It’s for your brain. Wear it. And watch out for Dave Steckel...
- Damn it, wear a mask. Unlike the professionals, we all have to get up and go to work the next day. While it’s fun to explain stitches to your co-workers, this isn't Fight Club. Just put some steel over your grill and play it safe. Besides, most of us can’t pull off that ‘Quintin Laing wired-shut jaw’ look.
- As a beginner, you’ll notice that a 6’x4’ net looks huge until you try to put a puck into it. Add a goalie and the task becomes ‘catching flies with chopsticks’ hard. Alex Ovechkin has never caught a fly with chopsticks, so forgive him for missing the net high all the time.
- Slapshots are evil. When you can barely skate there is no idea worse than trying to lean into one. Even Jeff Schultz only takes half-slapshots. It takes great balance to take a slapshot well and at this point you’ll probably miss the puck and hilariously fall on your face. You know what, never mind… go ahead and try one. I’ll get my Flip…
- You know how when the pros hit the boards and they shake a ton? When you try, they won’t budge and it will feel like getting hit with that giant hand in Jackass 3D. Aside from the fact that hitting is illegal in 99% of the adult leagues in the area, you’ll probably hurt yourself if you try. Ovi hits. You don’t.
- You’ll be surprised how quickly everything seems to move out on the ice. Pucks will fly past you before you can react and you'll feel like your skating in sand. Now maybe you’ll lay off Mike Green. (Ok, probably not…)
If you are really interested, go to Hockey North America (HNA). they have a beginning school that teaches the basics and helps beginning teams form. http://www.hna.com/leagues/custom_page.cfm?leagueID=0&clientID=2296&pageID=570 I learned how to skate and play goal at age 39 with never having skated before beginning school.