Most hockey people tend to get caught up on the big numbers. If a guy scores, he had a good game. If he goes pointless, he didn’t. Our performances are viewed by ourselves and others through the prism of our statistics.
However, there are some moments in a hockey game that not everyone will notice, but will make you smile. It’s a fast game, and there are plenty of little, satisfying things that can be used as mental salve when you go stat-less. Well, at least I pulled *that* off. I sort of helped.
Below are five of my faves – feel free to tack your own on in the comments. And yes, they’re mostly dirty plays (not dangerous ones), but whatever, they happen.
1) Pushing a guy off-side.
I thought about writing this column last night when our opponent had a rush – three-on-one, with me back-checking. One of their three had been stretching, and was cutting across the blue, straddling the line waiting to enter the zone. I managed to catch up, push him all of maybe a foot, but right at the perfect time to get the off-side call. I could not have feasibly been more proud of myself (we scored about 30 seconds later). It wasn’t a hard enough shove to earn an interference call, but just enough to get the job done. So fun.
2) Setting a good “oops” pick.
Playing two-on-two down low and trying to get to the net can be a battle, so it’s fun to get “tangled up” with the guy defending your buddy. You generally need to be looking down, perhaps “frantically searching at your feet for the puck,” but you know know full well what you’re doing: cutting off the defenseman trying to stay with your teammate. The other two great pick spots: as stretch guy on the PP, lightly clipping a defender waiting for the on-coming rush (do not knock that d-man down, you will get called – also, you could hurt a guy pretty badly), and on the PP in-zone so somebody can get a clean look from the slot.
3) A well-timed last-second stick lift.
When your opponent doesn’t know you’re there it’s even better. Whether he’s waiting for a pass and about to receive it, or just turning up ice on a loose puck in the d-zone, it’s uber-satisfying to wait until the last second, give a good, hard stick lift, and have solid possession immediately, with the other guy going to wrong way.
4) The butt-end back-check slow down.
Sometimes you’re just getting started on the back-check, and one of their players who’s got their momentum up (or is just plain faster) is about to fly by you. You can’t do it for long, obviously, but if you can catch the guy for a solid second or so with the butt-end of your stick extended out of your top glove hand, you can seriously dampen a guy’s mojo. That’s a leg-burner for that guy. “Full speed ahead! Crap, now I have to get going again.” /retaliation penalty
5) The top-hand poke.
This is a big favourite of mine, mostly because A) I’m in terrible shape and often chasing, and B) most rec hockey refs aren’t aware how much this can mess you up, so they let it go (or don’t notice). When a guy has beat you and is about to shoot – maybe you’re chasing him down on a breakaway, maybe you’re out of position (whatever, you’re behind him) – just push his top hand with the toe of your stick. Not hard, not a spear, just a push right as he’s going to make a play. Suddenly the puck is in their feet, their head is down looking for it, and you’ve bought yourself a few seconds.
Add all these things up, and I probably come off as a dirty hockey player: I assure you, I am not. But hockey’s a fast game, and sometimes you have to do what you have to do make sure the game isn’t easy for your opponent.
So those are my five faves – feel free to add your own below if there’s others worth noting!