Hi! This is a series about my journey into the world of men’s league/rec league hockey in southeastern Virginia. Having never played before at the age of 24 I decided I wanted to, and thought I’d share my thoughts along the journey. Is it great? Am I an idiot? Have tips? Feel free to let me know!
I made the decision I was going to give this whole ‘hockey’ thing a try. Getting gear was going to be the first step but I wasn’t entirely sure where to begin. While there was no shortage of sports goods stores in the area, there was a deficit of hockey gear. Ice hockey isn’t exactly a thing in southeastern Virginia but the constantly shift of military population allow for a large number of out-of-towners to make it a sustainable business for a limited few. I began researching how to get the equipment I would need.
Much as there’s only one rink in the area to play and skate, there’s only one franchise to buy hockey equipment. Two Play It Again Sportslocations are known as the only place in the whole seven-cities area to buy hockey equipment. Luckily they sell used equipment as well, so if I decide this isn’t for me it won’t be a total loss. I adore the idea of being athletic again and playing sports but I think it’d be foolish to dive in with both feet and buy everything. I left class that morning with two objectives- skates and a stick.
My family was in town visiting to I picked up my fifteen year-old brother and made the trip out to Virginia Beach. We walked into the store and I found my way to the hockey section, which took up a surprising 40% of the store. I glance over pads, helmets, goaltending equipment and the like. In a relatively hockey-less state like Virginia this seems like a small miracle. After drooling over all the things I’ve never seen before I refocus on my objective. I’m going to have to figure out if I can skate before I can decide if I can/want to play hockey. And it would be cool to have a stick, if nothing else to goof off around the house. Plus I should get used to the balance of skating with a stick, I figure.
We walk up to a rack of sticks and it hits me- I know absolutely nothing about any of this. I look at the various sizes, colors and types. I compensate for this distinct lack of knowledge by spitting hockey history at my younger brother. I tell him the tale of how I understand curved stick blades came to be (a stick got stuck in a door and the Blackhawks decided to use it despite the deformity and it caught on). I also explain to him the casual misconception of the slapshot(you don’t aim for the puck, you aim for the ice and bend it… by all means correct me if I’m wrong on either of these). I don’t know what size stick I need, nor the type, nor the blade. I hear old-timers go on about the beauty of wooden sticks all the time, and financially a composite would be ridiculous. I won’t pay that much for something that would break easier and I presume most rec-league players would do the same.
“Can I help you?”
I turn around to see a pretty blonde girl who I would later find out is the manager. If you want a real challenge you can try, I think to myself. I explain to her what I’m looking for and she agrees to help. We start with the sticks. In my venerable, knowledge-less state I’m worried about being taken advantage of but I need all the help I can get at this point.
“What kind of stick are you looking for?”
“I really don’t know, I’ve never played before. I’d like a stick with minimal curve so I can get used to it. Also, I definitely want a wood stick, no composites.”
“Well most places don’t carry composites so you don’t have to worry about that but we do have alloy sticks.”
Great, what the hell is an alloy? I think to myself. My brother hands me a stick.
“See I can tell this is wood just by looking at it, something like this would be nice, simple.”
“Are you going to play goalie?”
“Ok, because that’s a goalie stick.”
“That would explain why it says Broduer on it.”
I had known there were sticks manufactured with players’ curves but I had no idea they varied this much. Kovalchuk, Datsuyk, Crosby, Ovechkin, Iginla. They’re all over the place, and I have no idea which one to go with or what the difference will be like on one’s performance. Again, I just want a simple baseline and I’ll play around with it from there. I fully expect that my first stick will not be my last stick.
“Something like this, a Coffey, is going to have a wicked curve.”
They still use Paul Coffey’s curve? Also, she said wicked, heh. No one from Virginia says that. I like this place.
“If you want less of a curve you could go with something like this, a Bobby Ryan.”
“A good American boy!” I tell my brother in my best Don Cherry voice.
I decide on the Bobby Ryan, partially because it isn’t an enormous curve. Partially because of the color. It’s natural wood, I feel like I know what I’m getting. Crosby, Datsuyk, Ovechkin sticks are all painted different colors and feel a little lighter. I don’t know what an alloy stick is but I’m sure I don’t want one. I need simplicity, I’ll learn the complex things later. I don’t know if I’ll launch pucks at my washing machine but in all honesty, if I’m going to be playing I need to worry about a lot of other things before I worry about shooting. The prospect of learning stick handling, puck clearing and passing is overwhelming enough, I don’t even want to think about different blade curves. Plus this wood colored Sherwood Bobby Ryan is 30 bucks, so there’s the financial aspect to it as well.
“Ok, now lets get you some skates”
A subject I would prove to be even more clueless about.
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