Russian Circles or Russian Roulette?

Russian Circles or Russian Roulette?

It’s weird now that the playoffs are starting in the NHL and I know that I can halfway go out on the ice and attempt to play hockey.  Not that I am NHL material, nor am I minor league hockey material, but I know the basics enough to know what it is that some of these guys are going through.

When I was a kid seeing these guys being interviewed looking at their lockers I’d see their gloves in a certain spot with a jersey hanging and some pads here and skates there.  It all looked so alien to me.  How does that all come together to form that bad ass warrior that I see on the ice?  I’ve put it all together now.

I’ve put the jock on, the shin guards, the socks, the pants, skates, elbow pads, shoulders, jersey, helmet, gloves and grabbed my stick on the way to the ice.  Seems like a simple process?  The reality is that after a while it starts to become a second nature.  You start to embrace your equipment like it’s part of you.  It’s crazy to say I love my hockey pants but those things fit me well and I feel comfortable skating down the ice.  When I fall on my butt, which happens a lot, they keep me from feeling it.  But all of my equipment works together.  I never saw hockey players as being that bundled up kid from A Christmas Story, you know – Ralphie’s brother, but that’s what they are.  You put all that stuff on, learn to skate around with it on, learn to fall with it on, learn to get up with it on then learn how to play the game with it on.  It’s pretty damn amazing.  The little kids who figure this out at an early age have the Magna Carta and just don’t realize it.  Well, at least I realize it.  Cheers British Empire!

A friend at the rink asked me if I watch the NHL differently now that I play hockey.  That’s an oxymoron.  Me-play hockey.  Ha!  But I do look at it completely differently.  The guys are still fast don’t get me wrong.  They are blazingly fast.  But I look at where they are going to go.  I see their angles.  I look for what they want to do with the puck.  I look for passing lanes.  I look for the little things.  A guy stuck his stick out just enough to deflect a shot.  A guy is hugging the crease just enough to distract the goalie.  The way that they skate verses the way I skate.  All the positioning. Watching their feet move instead of the puck.  Seeing the play before it happens, I find myself doing that when I step on the ice.  I’m trying to think ahead.  I’m not always successful.  But I think that happens in every sport.

In fact the other night I was watching and I was looking at the face-off dots by the goalie.  You know those two giant circles by the red line?  I never knew what they were for.  I know the center dot is where the face-off is depending on where the puck was frozen or went out of play.  But the circles are to tell the teams where to line up on the face-off.  However, there is apparently another reason that they exist, an even more important reason – Russian Circles.  If you don’t know what Russian Circles are please watch this.  Yup, skate your butt around the circles as fast as you can.  The Russian National hockey team used to do that to work on speed and balance.  They are no dummies.  It also makes you into a well conditioned athlete as well.  I think you could also call it Russian Roulette- see who will puke first.

Now that I have learned to play the game, my idols seem so much closer to me.  I feel like I am starting to understand what they went through.  I can’t imagine waking my ass up at 5 a.m. to go to a rink to do Russian Circles.  Or getting up and doing power skating drills up and down the ice.  But then again if I had a group of teammates as good as the guys at the rink that I go to – you can bet I’d be there!  Those guys are great!