Once upon a time Widnes and Blackburn were the same team. This was the team I left. Then they split and began to get more professional and started to draft players in from the professional, minors and foriegn pools. Despite most of the original players moving on, there is still a fierce rivalry between the two teams.
What better a match then to have my debut.
I was surprised at two things during this, my first match at this level. People were warning me that the pace is quicker and as such I have tried to bring my pace up to this level. Also I realise that this is a checking league, but level of checking was the surprise. How hard and how often these guys check left me open mouthed on the bench. I have always loved checking, I have no problem dishing out the hits, taking the big hits, but this was at a whole new level. I was glad that had the opportunity to watch first before we got started so I could get ready. It served as a reminder that although I had made the team I still had a long way to go.
The second surprise came from how much I was welcomed within the team. In the team talk, it was mentioned that I had my debut, in the end talk I was hailed as having a successful debut. No one got frustrated when I was put on instead of them, and I was actively encouraged on the bench. The best way to bond with a team is on the bench, when everyone is actively and enthusiastically pursuing the same goal.
We took the lead early on. We played our game, we bested their pace, and we concentrated on the breakouts and strategy we practiced. We scored 4 goals in the first 10 minutes. We checked hard and kept them out. But then they started to check back and made a few nightly plays. We were determined to fight back.
They had this period. We got pulled out of position trying to go for the big hits. There was a lot of penalties. It did mean our special plays lines got tested and for the most part they held up. One of their played slashed at the bench with two hands, every player o the bench wore a visor except one, me. Luckily for him it his me square in the face, anyone else and it would be a hospital visit. 2 goals to them and 1 to us.
We regained our form and finished it home for the last period. Scoring a further 3 goals to their 1.
Final Score: 8 – 3 Falcons Win.
I played about 6 min ice time, which for a debut was more than I expected, and when I was on I played well.
Finally their is a player who hasn’t washed his underpants fro 16 years. He wears them for training, matches the lot and the rest of the time they live in his hockey back. It is tradition that newest members of the team are initiated by having the garments wrapped around their face and rubbed unceremoniously. This time I was the lucky victim. I had made it. I had debuted.