Blackburn Falcons – Vs Widnes Wildcats (Preseason Match 2)

This time we were on home ice. Our ice is wider so we had the advantage of space. Generally there is more players in home games than away games.
This meant that they had a smaller bench and i also meant that I fully expected to have less time on the ice as more of the players could make this. I didn’t mind, i had expected to ride the bench for well even the full season.
As Period One started we came out strong again. Playing our game, our strategy. We got an early goal. Now one of the line 3 defencemen couldn’t make it, so the coach had options, rotate from lines 2 and 1, or play me on line 3.
For the first shift he took option 1, in the first 10 minutes we were 4 – 0 up.
So I got put on line 3. I hit a guy, bounced off and fell over. Then I stopped the puck, slipped and fell over. I came off genuinely thinking he would not be playing me again. But I was wrong. He sent me out again, I remained on line 3 for the rest of the match. Not only that, I had gotten rind of my stumbblings in those first 2 min. After that I was cool on the puck, made some great simple plays. I broke out well, fought for the puck and skated well. I had someone try to start a fight with me, but I held my own and didn’t take a penalty. I kept a good pace with the players and never let any obvious goals through.
The team itself was calm throughout, no going for the big hits like last time, we didn’t get distracted. 
They had a really great player with fast hands and great legs. He did flash through once, but in general he was contained well. 3 goals slipped past but we led with 8 goals and remained in the lead and in control the entire game.
At the end of the game all the played came up to me and spoke my hand and genuinely congratulated me on how well I played. I was so pleased with my performance and the approval I got from my team mate. I really appreciated them telling me how well I had done. I felt like part of the team in its entirety. Because of how I played and how I was treated at the end I will always remember this match as the one where it all came together for me.

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Blackburn Falcons – Vs Widnes Wildcats (Preseason Match 1)

My Debut

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.
1st Period
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.
Period 2
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.
Period 3
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.
  

Week 7 – The Week I joined the Team

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.