When last we left, our hero (me) was trying to figure out this crazy thing called hockey. I've been watching quite a bit of hockey since then, mostly of the high school variety, but it has helped me in a few ways.
Here are some updates:
-I now understand what cross-checking is.
-I have also learned what boarding is.
-I now think I understand what forechecking and backchecking are, but I'm not sure that I always recognize them.
So, I think I'm making some progress. Yay me.
What I've found interesting is that even though I don't know that much about hockey, I still find myself formulating an opinion about the play on the ice, or what the team I'm cheering for should be doing. I'm not sure if this is because I am a typical know-it-all blogger, or because as someone who watching A LOT of sports you tend to pick up on tendencies even when you don't know the game that well.
In any case, while watching the Gophers play Notre Dame and North Dakota, a few things came to mind that I thought I'd share here. Again, please keep in mind I'm no hockey guy. Jeffrick is the hockey guy around here.
There's been a huge issue this year on Friday night's for the Gophers. It's like they become a completely different team between Friday night and Saturday night. I'm not well versed enough in the game to know specifically what they are doing well on Saturday's that they aren't doing on Friday's, but it just seems to me that they come out slow and flat on Friday nights.
I have a couple of theories on that which other people probably picked up on a long time ago.
First, just about anytime the Gophers play they are going to be the favorite, the Goliath if you will. It's like in baseball, no matter who you are, you want to beat the Yankees. So the team they are playing against has spent an entire week pumping themselves up to play one of the most storied hockey programs in the country, and that means that Friday night they come out with guns a-blazin'. They bring everything they have, every effort they can muster, to beat the big guys.
Second, and this is the one I really want to talk about, is coaching. Now again, I don't know hockey very well, but to me if you have a week of practice, a week to prepare, and you come out flat and uninspired, that's about coaching. You've got an entire week for your team to get healthy, an entire week "rest," and an entire week to learn about your opponent and get your squad fired up to play on Friday night in some of the best atmosphere's that sports has to offer. Shouldn't you be able to light a fire under your team in that amount of time, or at least maybe in a pre-game speech?
There are good practice coaches, and there are good in-game coaches, and the coaches that are the best at what they do are pretty effective at both. The Gopher hockey team seems to need the bright lights and hitting of Friday night to get pumped up to play, but by then it's often too late. Thankfully for the most part they've been able to carry whatever fire they acquire on Friday nights into Saturday night.
Lastly, is there anything more exciting in hockey than a short-handed goal? I think a short-handed goal gets me more fired up than anything. I was watching a high school game last week and one guy on the team I was watching scored TWO short-handed goals in the span of 22 seconds. It was unbelievable. Really fired me up, you guys.