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‘Why does it hurt to breathe?’ - My flirtation with senior hockey

Hockey Puck - Thinkstock
Hockey Puck - Thinkstock - Thinkstock

The drill unfolding in front of me forces players to move at a quick pace.

It requires players to make a series of touch bases before breaking in for a shot on the goal.

Even paying attention, one can get lost in the blur of bodies flying around.

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It is my second time on the ice with the Royals and I find myself watching the drill instead of when it’s my turn a couple of times.

When I do figure it out, the passing and receiving is working out all right but making the tight turns on my blades requires work.

With this in mind, I’m pretty positive I’ve forgotten how to make tight turns in both directions and I know I’d be a suspect backwards skater.

Things are looking up though.

The puck seems easier to control, I’m not feeling as much as a fish out of water as I was the first go around and I’m trying to get as much air in my lungs as humanly possible.

That real fear of public embarrassment has subsided slightly. I’ve never been one to put myself out there for one reason or another and this has helped with that anxiety a little.

The number of people who attended the practices surprised me. While a half-dozen or more people isn’t a bunch, I think it was still more than I expected to see an open tryout featuring players like, well, me.

I knew Corner Brook was a hockey city, but I never expected to see fans watching an open tryout.

I guess I should have figured it though. In my days covering the Conception Bay North CeeBees, there were always a couple of fans who went to practices in hopes of getting the inside scoop on players for the upcoming season.

Senior hockey is a vital cog in any town that houses a team. I think I finally figured that out.

Among the people covering games, you know it is important, but I don’t think you understand just how important it is to people. I think this experience gave me the perspective I needed.

Now, back to me torturing myself. There was a short scrimmage at the end of the final two practices I attended (I laced up three of a possible seven open skates).

All I had in head for these was to get pucks, forecheck and create traffic in front. You know, all the cliché stuff you hear every night on any NHL broadcast.

I was just lucky enough to touch the puck a few times. There are some real good players there.

Smooth skaters, slick puck handlers and generally, they can all shoot the puck hard. I’m out of my league, but that's OK.

I never expected anything to happen from this. It was more about giving something new a try and see what happened.

A long away from any form of organized game doesn’t bode well for anyone stepping into a senior league practice and it's showing

In my own zone, I’m late to the boards on a breakout, I miss my point man a couple of times and things are not looking good.

Once I managed to intercept a pass at centre, but quickly forgot it was full contact and barely managed to get my head up before getting my bell rung.

Regardless, it has been an enjoyable experience coming out to these things.

I didn’t know much about the calibre of hockey player out here. I do now and they’re pretty good.

Make sure you support the league.

— Nicholas Mercer is the online editor with The Western Star. He lives in Corner Brook and can be reached at nmercer@thewesternstar.com.

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