When I first started back at hockey 3 years ago I was unsure about how much my skill level would have diminished over the years I was away. I joined the Varx in the hope of joining in to improve and build my fitness. I was very unsure of myself. But I remember the turning point at the time was when a long time respected Varx player said one simple sentence “…you come on my line with me”. It meant he thought that I was good enough to play as his defence man above all others.
This player and his wife have both played for the Varx for a long time. Since that day they have continued to coach and guide me. When I joined the Falcons he was there to encourage me, he is the one who constantly puts himself against me in scrimmage so that I have someone to battle against and work up to.
Now his wife has a job opportunity over in Texas and will soon be moving over there. They will be sadly missed.
I have only known them for about 3 years though. They have been part of the hockey community for over 12. So this week as a final tribute they have gathered together a team to play against the new Varx players. All the money will go to charity.
The Varx select team is a team of players that they have played with over the years who have become part of their friends and hockey family over the years.
For me it means I get to play hockey where practically every person on the ice is a friend. It was a wonderful experience.
Also because the select team was made up of a lot of the Falcons players it was a good pace to play up to and prove how much I have learned.
Varx played the Falcons in a friendly the year previously and honestly I was out matched and left standing easier than I’d like to admit. This time was a different story.
The first 20 minutes we actually matched their pace and I’m very sure they were unexpectedly on the back foot. We even scored the first goal.
Really these guys were the select team and not the Falcons but the pride we felt after that first period was immense.
Sadly as the game went on, stamina and pace finally overtook us and despite no one actually keeping score, there was a fair gap between the points.
But we regard the two teams as brothers so we were all proud of each other, and we were sad when it ended. I had personally had a brilliant game not letting people through and really getting stuck in. I have shown my worth in that match.
It was a brilliant match that we enjoyed. In the end it was to see too people off who we all had come to respect over the years and whom we will be sad to see go.
Despite this being the beer league a lot of people on the team take there fitness seriously, or, like me, they are fighting age and trying to return to a time when they were at the peak of their physical condition.
It is in this endeavour that the drop a stone in a month challenge started. Two players challenged each other to lose a stone. Whoever lost gained a tenner. Then the banter escalated and the rest of the team were some asked who there money was on. But it didn’t end there the forfeit also fell on the backers and extended further, by the end the losing team had to skate the ice naked and slide across the ice similar to the forfeit in Mystrey Alaska.
Because I picked a side before I realised the forfeit included the group I was stuck. Suddenly we were all doing the challenge.
This worked out in my favour I suddenly had a support network and access to good information about weight loss. However if I didn’t lose a stone in a month then I had a naked skate to perform and I would lose 10 pounds.
Our coach is a qualified doctor and has access to scales and fat calipers. At training we were required to get there early for a weigh in. We all got weighed and had our BMI measured. Currently I weigh 186 Kg with a fat percentage of 30%. Honestly it was a lot better than I expected, I certainly wasn’t the biggest. My fate had been sealed, I was commited.
At Varx training I had took advantage of the slower pace and had been practising my basics. In particular I had been working on the legs and glide, stopping on my wrong side, and my shot. My shot had came on loads since I got my new stick and now I was getting practised with it. However this week I did not hit the net once, the power on the shot was awesome, if I was shooting against a wall at home I would be very impressed, but on the ice the puck sailed wide and or hit glass each time.
In scrimmage however I had some excellent moments, it all came together, getting the puck in the offensive zone, pulling off some dangles, skating hard into positions. All in all after Varx I felt ready, so I on Falcons I wore my circa 2005 Falcons jersey and I brought my signing fee.
On Friday we have our first preseason game against Widnes Wildcats, we went through our strategy and practiced our plays. Everyone was getting fired up and knowing that I was finally signing made it feel so much more like part of the team.
Once the session was over, and I signed the paperwork and I was officially a team member. I was so pleased that all my hard work had paid off, I had achieved my goal.
I realised that now was the beginning, to learn, to play at this level. Despite being on the team i knew I had a lot of bench warming to do, to watch and match my pace to the new level.
I was in the same league as my brother, the fixtures showed that I had 3 months until our teams played each other.
I was a Falcon now.
I would play with passion and pride.
Starting with the match on Friday.