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Canadian hockey

June 23rd, 2011

The pleasant surprise in the email far outweighed the initial disappointment.

I had emailed a guy named Adam from Couchsurfing.org in an attempt to find a place to stay in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  He wrote back: “Unfortunately we are renovating our rooms and are sleeping on the couch/living room right now,” so the couch was unavailable.  That was a bit of a let down.  However, he continued: “So, instead I’ve got a great offer. How would you like to play a real game tomorrow night? My team’s goalie just msg’d me that he can’t make it.”

Would I like to play hockey in a real game as a sub goalie?  Of course!

The little catch was that I was in Winnipeg at the time, and Saskatoon was a 9-hour drive away.  On top of that, I still had a drop-in game to play late that night.  It would be a busy 24 hours.

My Winnipeg shinny session got done around 12:30 a.m., and I finally got to sleep around 2:30 a.m.  The alarm clock’s clamor came at 8:00 a.m., and I was on the road by 9:30.

How to dry hockey gear in a dumpy (aka cheap) motel

Nine hours of driving later, including a time change and a major detour to avoid the flooded Trans-Canada Highway, I arrived in Saskatoon.

Nine hours of this...

...and sometimes this (better large)

Two hours to spare before ice time.

I was to sub-goalie for “The Eh Team”.   (What a great name!)  It was composed of an enthusiastic group of 20-somethings playing in the ASHL, the local adult rec hockey league.  Sadly, enthusiasm had not translated to much success during the season, and the team went into Wednesday night with a record of 1-8.

Before the game, the story of my trip was greeted with surprise and excitement.  ”I wish I could do that,” somebody said, to which another lamented, “I wish my wife would let me do that.”

I felt good on the ice in spite of the short previous night and the long day of driving.  I think that the Winnipeg pick-up game helped, since it gave me an opportunity to calibrate to a slightly faster game than I was used to.  D2-level in the Saskatoon ASHL seemed about the same skill level as C2-level in the Minneapolis AHA (my league last winter).

Things went well.  That’s not to say that it didn’t get a bit hairy at times: I was making virtually all of my first saves, but I got burned by a couple of shots off rebounds and front-of-the-net scrambles.  Still, whether it was the clarity of instinct that comes from mental exhaustion, the large bolus of coffee I had downed, or my freshly sharpened skates, I made enough saves to not lose the game.  (Or at least that’s what I like to tell myself.  Really though, it was the rest of the team’s offensive and defensive talents that saved the day.)

That’s right: we won!  The team’s record improved to 2-8, which was cause for much celebration.  It helped that a beer cart came around to the dressing room selling refreshments, which was something that I had never seen while playing in the States. (Oh, Canada.)

The Eh team

Team photo to celebrate the win, eh?

My first game as a sub goalie in Canada was great fun.

  1. Dad
    June 23rd, 2011 at 14:18 | #1

    Hey Jeff! That looks like a lot of fun. Congrats on the win! And, thanks for the post even though it was a long day for you. Take care, Love Dad.

  2. June 23rd, 2011 at 19:57 | #2

    Nice work man.

  3. Adam
    June 23rd, 2011 at 21:09 | #3

    Hey, this is a great write up and picture! You’re giving us waaaay too much credit though ahaha! Best of luck in Calgary and beyond.

  4. Matthew Kato
    June 23rd, 2011 at 23:11 | #4

    Sounds like the trip is off to a great start. Congrats! It’s not the first time you’ve gotten your team the win.

  5. Matthew Kato
    June 23rd, 2011 at 23:13 | #5

    BTW, I feel bad for whomever checked into that room the next night.

  6. mom
    June 24th, 2011 at 10:32 | #6

    Jeff, I’m actually doing this..I love your blog!

  7. June 25th, 2011 at 00:35 | #7

    Congrats on the win and a successful start of the trip!

  8. A.J.
    June 25th, 2011 at 19:44 | #8

    Hey Jeff, I saw your blog thanks to r/hockey on reddit! Just wanted to tell you if you need to find a rink in Indiana (sometimes a tough locale to find a place to find some ice let alone mind a net) you need to look for the rink in Dyer, Indiana. It’s right next to Chicago, Illinois. So you can kill 2 birds with 1 fairly logical geographical stone. And you’re welcome to crach at my house. I’ve got a bed for you, a plaace for your goalie gear to be laid out to dry and the like. It’d be my pleasure to help you along the way!

  9. Jeff
    June 25th, 2011 at 21:40 | #9

    Thanks everybody!

    @A.J. — Thanks for the offer! The current plan routes me through central Indiana, but that could certainly change. Ice arenas are scarce around Indianapolis, so a trek north could be useful. Let’s stay in touch. I’m assuming the email address you used when posting the comment will work? Thanks!

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