HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
November 13, 2006

It’s time for a change in seasons

By Matt Kane

It’s time to switch gears.

The volleyballs, tennis balls, soccer balls, footballs full-bodied swimsuits and running shorts are now packed away and put in their respective fall sports storage closets, clearing the athletic wardrobes for the winter season, and the pucks, basketballs, singlets and Speedos that come with it.

For the multi-sport athletes, who are coming off fall seasons, the transition to winter sports, especially the conditioning, should come a little easier considering those people shouldn’t have gotten too out of shape since their previous seasons ended.

I wish that were the case for myself.

I played football, and we usually went deep into the playoffs, so you would think I would have been in pretty good shape when hockey practice started.

Not quite.

As a backup, my football practices near the end of the season consisted of little more than holding dummies for the starters to hit for two hours.

My game-day playing time was on the front line of the kick return, which, for a team that scored a lot more touchdowns than it gave up, meant I might not see the center of the field more than once per game.

When I was in football, I conditioned with the big boys, meaning we always had one less lap or a few more seconds to complete a drill.

Hockey practice was a lot different than football. In hockey, everybody on the team was involved in the same conditioning drills, meaning I (the lead foot on the team) had to skate with the Baryshnikovs that made up our top line.

I wasn’t and never will be one of the faster and better-conditioned players on any team, and it’s funny how the love of a sport will make an athlete do things they hate.

Like skating “killers,” otherwise known as “champions,” or “lines.” I mean, how many times can a guy skate to the blue line and back and than to the red line and back, and so on?

The Mainstreeters (my school’s nickname) hockey team always started and ended practices with champions, and I always remember my coach’s speech when we were all sprawled out along the boards after the first series of conditioning drills.

“I know this sucks,” he would say, then continued on with why it was necessary.

I also remember the absence of a vital part of the game of hockey during the first couple days of practice — pucks.

When there were no pucks on the ice, that meant the only thing to do was skate.
And that’s what we did, at some obscure hour of the day, usually, because we had to rent refrigerated indoor ice in neighboring towns for much of November.

Looking back, we actually had it easier than most teams during my first couple years of high school. Our team was still in Junior Gold then, and we practiced and played outdoors on a sheet of ice that must have been about one-third smaller than most today. Meaning each of our killers during my freshman and sophomore years wasn’t nearly as long as they were during my junior and senior seasons, when we moved into our indoor arena.

Then again, maybe that’s why we did twice as many.

I don’t know if it is a coincidence or what, but on the day I wrote this column, I started contemplating buying a new pair of hockey skates.

With all the different brands and prices, this decision is not as easy as I had hoped.

I do know one thing, though, when I buy a pair of skates, I’m not leaving the store without a puck.


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