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Braving the Beer League, Rec Hockey

Braving the Beer League- Other Intricacies of Skating

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!

Kid Sports Magazine let me use this image. How nice of them!

So skating is pretty amazing. There’s something exhilarating about moving faster than you could ever possibly run but still doing it as a result of your legs working. It means something personally just because of how hard it is for me to run based on my bad knee and back. So here I am with this new found fun way to work out, no pain, no monotony (stop me if you’ve heard this before) I’m never going to a gym again!

This is what I think of while I’m skating. Moving while skating to be specific. It does dawn on me at some point that I haven’t the slightest idea how to stop. Good thing these boards are here! THUD

Slowing down is simple enough if there’s enough space but I’m really not sure how to do it naturally. Inertia, distance, time, you’ve done the math I’m sure! I spent most of my first time skating stopping with this applied inertia and the occasional THUD although I was quite pleased that I did not actually fall. Not falling on the first try seems almost certainly like a good thing, and quite different from my first times skiing and snowboarding. This second time around, I decide I need to experiment a bit more. I think back to when I played football and think of how we got better at things: drills. I need to invent a drill!

I go to another free skate and spend some time dodging children and oblivious teenagers (this is starting to get annoying). I think back to a few different options for stopping. In skiing you just had to turn your blades inward. I French fry/pizza my way down the ice for a bit before concluding that this really isn’t the way to go. Rollerblades just had a big break on the back of them and we clearly are lacking those, so going back on my heels won’t work. Chemmy of Pension Plan Puppets once recommended to me “Hop a little and dig your skates into the ice as you land”. There’s a self-preservation instinct of mine that is screaming, “Being airborne on skates is a bad idea!”. I’ll have to learn to shut that out, but more on that later.

I eventually come to rotating my right foot so that my heel moves away from my body. Eventually I can dig my heel in and make a little bit of snow. This seems to be working. I try this while going a little too fast and I do end up falling. It doesn’t hurt too much, so at least there’s that. I soon develop my own drill, skating between the eight faceoff dots and trying to stop at each one as though I’m getting ready to take a faceoff, and skating to the next. Repeat until mastered!

Turning seems to have come to me much easier. This seems to be accomplished by shifting weight onto the foot of the direction I want to turn. A slight rotation of my skates seems to get a wider curve going. This is helpful for skating around the net at the end of the rink. I’m sure I’m developing bad habits along the way without even knowing it, if I can prevent developing the habit of skating through the crease I’m sure that’ll be helpful too. For right now, 180 degree turns or skating backwards is out of the question. I tried to skate backwards but I didn’t even know where to start. Being at a standstill for a couple minutes made me decide to move on. Crossing over is also somewhat terrifying. Balance on one foot was never really my thing.

At this point, I’m lacking a ‘hockey stride’ or looking like a I know what I’m doing when I skate. I have the forward momentum, but not a lot of it. The short strides can get me to build up speed eventually but it is sort of terrifying. Probably the piece of advice I hear the most from other skaters is “Don’t be afraid to fall.” Like I said, this seems to be against the whole self-preservation thing. I know it’s something I have to work past and hopefully it comes with time. Although I have seemed to master the cartoonish ‘running in place before falling’ routine as well as a number of wild arm swings to maintain balance.

I know a lot of this is just trying to find what works for me though, and a lot of this will change when I’m on the ice with gear. These public free skates won’t let you out on the ice with full gear, strictly skates and nothing else. Not even a stick! I ‘m sure it’s a safety thing; We don’t want some wild blogger trying to get his feet under him to accidently hit someone in the face while trying to balance but really, not even a stick? Man, I really need to buy my full set of gear!

On a side note, is there any better sound that skates scrapping across ice like that? I digress.

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Other Braving the Beer League Posts


Stick Acquisition

Skate Acquisition

Forward Momentum

Ain’t Nuttin’ to It, EA Sports Made Me Do It

How to Not Feel 40 Years Older


About J Evans

Currently studying for my Bachelor's in Biology at Virginia Wesleyan College. U.S. Navy vet, hockey adorer. I hope to someday visit every NHL arena, and I've got five knocked out so far!


15 thoughts on “Braving the Beer League- Other Intricacies of Skating

  1. One suggestion to improve your skating – try focusing on bending your knees more and more with each passing session. Ideally, you should look like you’re sitting on the toilet while blazing around the rink…

    Posted by Dirk Hoag (@Forechecker) | September 20, 2012, 12:37 pm
  2. Hey, I’m also starting up beer league hockey, playing officially for the first time ever (I played pond hockey as a kid in Canada… 25 years ago, never with anything but skates and a stick). It’s all been pretty overwhelming—buying skates, all the gear, etc.—so it’s nice to read about someone else’s brave entrance into the world of rec hockey.

    Continued good luck!

    Posted by Jonny Diamond | September 21, 2012, 10:08 am
  3. As someone who has taught a lot of people how to skate, the first piece of advice I would give you is that you should have gone with your first instinct for stopping. Stopping in hockey skates and skis is very similar; they both have edges. The key is trying to dig the inside edges into the ice as hard as you can. The idea of jumping first is to try and get you into that mind set and find the balance point on those inner edges. I don’t recommend it, but I know others who do. The problem with your heel stop is that it makes you become off balance to stop. It’s nice you stopped, but how are you going to get going again? It wastes too much of your momentum.

    Also, as Dirk said above, Bend your KNEES! It is the most common problem I see with new adult skaters; they try to do everything standing up. Turn your feet, bend you knees, and try to dig your inside edges into the ice.

    Another piece of advice for public skates: wear long sleeves. This way you can put your elbow pads on, but no one knows you are wearing them, then when you fall, lead with your elbows. It will teach you not to fall and stick out your hand, which will lead to a broken wrist (several adult players end up doing this). Its not just falling, but knowing how to fall. I’ve seen too many adults stiffen up when they fall or go into the boards and the force has to go somewhere and that somewhere is generally their (now broken) bones. As you can tell, I’ve taught several adult clinics.

    Posted by Clayton | September 21, 2012, 1:19 pm
  4. Hey – I’m a beer league veteran. I was too poor to play anything but road hockey as a kid, and didn’t learn to skate until my 20s. I don’t know if you can access it where you live but I got a lot of help from hockey school. There used to be Joe McMeekan, who’s motto was skate both ways, pass both ways, shoot both ways. The real idea was to just run drill after drill after drill forcing you to do what wasn’t comfortable. It’s tough, but its a good habit. You’ll probably find you have a strong side for stopping – force yourself to stop the opposite way until both sides are equal. Apply that to everything and you’ll see more progress. Good luck!

    Posted by Rob Chipman | December 24, 2012, 2:20 am


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