It’s the middle of the summer, which either means you’re a hardcore adult league hockey player hitting the ice in between heat waves or you’re having visions of the fall when you’re back at the rink.
As such, let’s pause for a moment of levity and recognition – identifying 10 stereotypical adult hockey players. This could be you. This could be someone you know. If it hits close to home, you can decide whether to laugh or cry (and please note that the generic use of “guy” in all of these does not preclude female adult players from being just as guilty).
Forgot-the-Beer Guy: If a postgame cold one is part of your team’s routine, chances are you rotate beer-buying duties throughout the group. And chances are, you have someone who “conveniently” forgets when it’s his turn to bring it (but never forgets to drink it when a teammate brings it). This is the game misconduct of teammate penalties. Do not be this person.
Let’s-Skip-the-Game-and-Drink Guy: Again, if we accept that having a beer or two after the game is part of the ritual, don’t let us forget that there is often someone a little too eager to get to the postgame on every team. A lot of players like a little beer with their hockey, but don’t make it vice-versa. Postgame is not the main event.
I-Could-Have-Been-in-the-NHL Guy: You’ve likely encountered a player or two (or 20) in your adult league days who can’t wait to tell you about the huge season he had in squirts or how he schooled (imaginary player X) when he was 13 and should be making the big bucks in the NHL now. These guys are still probably trying just a little too hard to rekindle past glories. If their go-to breakaway move is a shot-for-shot remake of the key scene in Youngblood, you’ll be able to identify this person easily.
Obsessed-with-Equipment Guy: Gear is fun. Equipment keeps getting better, lighter, all of those things. But at a certain point, most of us realize this is for fun – and that the basic equipment that promotes safety and quality is good enough. But you can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars compensating for a lack of skill. And that’s what obsessed-with-equipment guy does.
Playing-a-Level-Too-Low Guy: One of the keys to good adult hockey experiences is matching players of reasonably similar skill levels. If you’re sandbagging in a league in which the vast majority of players can’t match your skill, just so you can rack up a bunch of goals and feel good about yourself, maybe consider not doing that.
Stick-to-the-Routine Guy: Did you or one of your teammates have a pregame ritual back in peewees that never failed? Maybe a certain stick tap sequence, a secret handshake or even just the order you put your equipment on? We’re happy for you. That’s cute. And ultimately, a little routine isn’t really hurting anyone. Just don’t fall to pieces if the order gets interrupted. You’re an adult now.
Goalie-Who-Thinks-He’s-a-Skater Guy: It’s hard enough to find qualified goalies who want to play in an adult league. When you find a good one, you want to keep him in the net. But former goalies are curious creatures and they get notions that they might make good forwards.
Over-Celebrating Guy: When it’s 8-2 with three minutes left in the game and you score a goal, there might not be a need to jump into the boards (in an empty arena), point your stick like it’s a rifle, go canoeing or any other such celebrations. It’s great to put the biscuit in the basket. Go ahead and raise those arms and be happy. But if you’re going to hoist a plastic cup instead of the Stanley Cup postgame, maybe ease up a little on the dramatic celly.
Forgot-My-Tape Guy: In 2015, hockey tape is available in a variety of wonderful colors and can be bought online or in a store quite easily for just a few bucks. It might as well be the most luxurious and hard-to-find item in the world, though, if you’re forgot-my-tape guy. Can I borrow some of yours? Of course you can. I’m an adult with foresight and a five-dollar bill.
Wants-to-Fight Guy: Our last character is quite possibly our least character. Very few adult hockey players like having wants-to-fight-guy in their league – particularly when this stereotypical player overlaps with “overly intense” guy. It’s a game. Get some exercise. Be competitive, but have fun. There’s just no need to be a goon.
If you think you’re in pretty good shape – or even if you know you’re not – it’s possible to step into, say, a touch football game or a casual softball game without completely embarrassing yourself or winding up on the couch for a week with myriad pulled muscles.
But if you want an honest assessment of your current fitness level, try jumping into a hockey game. You will get a splash of cold water – or better yet, ice shavings – on your face.
While it’s true that many adult hockey league players are perhaps primarily motivated by the camaraderie and enjoyment of the sport, the fitness benefit cannot be overlooked, says Kevin Universal, a member of USA Hockey’s Adult Hockey Council and the president of the Carolina Amateur Hockey Association.
Once you start, you don’t want to stop. But once you stop, you’ll feel it once you start again.
The beauty of hockey
A shift in hockey combines the controlled dash of a 400-meter race with the urgency of an even shorter race.
“There are perishable skills – the combination of having the short, sprinter-type lung capacity, then getting back for a quick rest and sprint up the ice over and over,” Universal said. “That’s challenging for a lot of people."
That’s why it’s important to keep playing, even if it’s just once a week. If you fall out of that routine, you will feel it.
“I think we have at least a handful of guys on my team who travel a lot and don’t have time to work out except for hockey,” Universal said. “That’s their one or two days of exercise a week, and it’s so beneficial. Aside from just hanging out and having fun, joking around with the guys, they’ll use that as a primary means of exercise.”
Other workouts don’t measure up
Unless you like to race the person next to you on the treadmill or try to beat yesterday’s distance on the bike or elliptical, there isn’t much true competition in gym exercises. That doesn’t mean you aren’t working, but you aren’t working the same way you are when you truly compete.
“Being a part of the game and having something on the line, it makes you dig a little deeper and makes you get into it more and get more benefit,” Universal said. “When you’re not doing that and just out recreationally exercising and trying to burn calories, you don’t get the benefit. I have friends that run or lift weights, but if they aren’t getting that type of hockey workout consistently, they feel it after games and you see it in their play.”
Universal notes a recent example to emphasize his point: a guy who had played on one of his teams a decade ago before moving away has just returned and started back in hockey a few weeks ago.
“He had regularly exercised at the gym, but he was so gassed the first four or five games,” Universal added. “He’s finally getting his legs back. It’s funny. He regularly works out, lifts weights competitively. It’s not the same when you have to go out and sprint.”
Never too late to start
That said, don’t let the conditioning learning curve associated with hockey be a deterrent. If you used to play and are trying to get back into it, it’s never too late. Same goes for adults who have never played before.
Universal falls into that latter category. He says he grew up playing street hockey, but he never played in an organized league on the ice until he was 34. He picked it up after his kids took up the sport and he “got the itch” when some other newbies convinced him to try a beginners camp.
“I regularly run into people as adults and I encourage them to pick up the game,” Universal said. “You don’t have to have grown up with it. You just have to have the desire, and you can have some fun out there and get fit.”
Now 48, Universal can’t imagine life without the sport in so many ways – with fitness being primary among them.
“I feel the difference. I feel the lung capacity and I’m able to work harder in other areas,” Universal said. “This past weekend I did a hike with a 1,700-foot elevation drop over 1.3 miles. That’s like doing 170 flights of stairs. My legs aren’t sore, and I attribute that so much to skating. I’ve tried lacrosse, football, track, swimming, baseball, and this is definitely by far the most beneficial workout.”