ashton-remaxHere we are, in the early days of 2017. While a lot are glad that 2016 has ridden of us and its gloomy end, the new year dawns and hopefully with that prosperity, joy, and positive memories. I, for one, should start with an apology for not getting that last article in before the year ended as I quivered in a time ago. The holidays can take your mind off of things you set out to do and it happened to me. With signing a lease for new digs (in late May!) amongst the highlights of the break, it’s only fitting that I go into the penalty box for two minutes for lack of following through. Maybe the team should as well as we have seen, perhaps? Hmm…

Fire & Ice – Naughty or Nice?

The end of the year wasn’t the best for our fine friends that done the gold helmets, sweaters, and other gear we love to wear on and off the ice. For whatever reason, it seemed like the team has been going one step forward and then at least two steps back – if not more. While November was hotter than biscuits coming out of an oven for a holiday supper, December seemed to have colder wind chills than the characters in The Christmas Story had to endure while shooting the movie.


Nashville Predators Public Team Practice at Ford Ice Center – 01/02/2017

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Predators and what the city and fans have done for the team. What hasn’t been pleasant as of late is to follow the team that seems to get things fixed one night only to commit the errors they wronged the next game and beyond. At least the end was swell when young Saros netting his first NHL shutout against the Blue. True, the close of 2016 had numerous opportunities for the team to make some progress in the Western Conference and hold tight to that final playoff spot going into the new year. Sadly, they are not well on the outside looking in and it will take a second half like last year for them to maybe squeak in by the skin of their teeth. West Coast trip, anyone? Again?!

To accompany that, one of the newest members to the team seemed to have a roller coaster himself. P.K. Subban delighted us with his generosity and support for the community commanding a horse-drawn carriage round town making Christmas brighter for youngsters in our area. Unfortunately, a recent bout of injuries also has caused just as much concern for the community because, we can all hope, it’s nothing serious and he’ll be back in a flash. One thing is certain from what I have seen and observed. He won’t be down for long and when he’s back, he’ll be better, stronger, and faster and a menace on the ice. You better get out of his way because he will be on a roll.

What’s On MY Mind?

Though I don’t get asked this question a lot, some of my closest friends that have known me for years before I even got behind the wheel of an automobile are wondering what is on my mind. Recently, it is this: hockey, hockey, and more hockey. Within the last sixteen months or so, a sport which I watched casually has quickly turned into a lifestyle that is all in their own to now a chance to play it and appreciate all the more. The countdown is on until I debut on the ice and for those that are local or want to ‘come on down!’ to the Ford Ice Center, I’d be happy to see y’all in the stands when I begin playing in February.

So the topic of conversation for this go arounds’ discussion of hockey is what one would need to do to prepare to play. Whether you’re 9 years old or 99, there are several things that should be done every time you prepare for a tilt in the barn. Basically, it can be summarized in six S’s as seen below:

  • Stretch – prior to playing, you need to stretch to get those muscles that may have been tighter than a rubber band holding a car trunk

    Kevin Fiala and Juuse Saros hanging out on the ice near the conclusion of practice.

    down while flying down the highway. That way you’re nimble and fancy-free while roaming the ice.

  • Squirting – don’t forget to bring a towel and water bottle (with a straw if you so care) so that you can see where you’re going and not need wiper blades on your visor like I do during a game.
  • Skate – naturally this is the next thing that you do after stretching depending on how much time is left in warm-ups prior to the game. A couple of mini laps on your side of the ice is best if able to.
  • Stance – one of the biggest challenges I have personally is keeping the hockey stance position with and without a stick. I will admit I have lower back issues and a curved back. This is one of the opportunities that I will work on as I begin to play soon. Keeping the hockey stance and looking up and now down will ensure you don’t run into players (or your goalie!) and you can see where the puck is moving on the ice.
  • Sportsmanship – whether you win or lose, it’s always good to be supportive of the other teams’ efforts. Handshakes, casual chatter, and even a beverage after the game is always appreciated. Don’t forget your team too or you may have to pick up the tab for the next team luncheon/supper.
  • Stretch (again) – After that intense workout, don’t forget to stretch again or you’ll have legs like gummy snakes dragging your body into work/school the next day. Like any exercise regimen, you always need a cool-down period.

Now, I recently completed my second (of at least four) hockey classes prior to playing in league and these were some of the many things that I got out of the session – both on the ice and off the ice. I have more tidbits to come but it would take entirely too long to share all in one sitting. Is there more? You bet – just wait until the next groove around the boards (or at least in the next section for some of it, haha).

Personal Progress On Ice

Some of the same studio audience mentioned above as well as new faces and upcoming team members have asked how I am coming along with learning the sport. Basically, I can sum it up into a couple of critical points. First, I’m definitely not the fastest skater on the ice and I don’t want to be yet. Slow and steady wins the race – well maybe not in hockey but give me some time. Secondly, I’m not falling down as much but when I do, it isn’t as painful but more entertaining. Thirdly, I am getting better with handling the stick with a puck and that’s where I hope to improve over time. Finally, I am absolutely enjoying myself. Along with skating class starting on 1/7 for eight Saturday mornings, more hockey classes and open skating with gear on will help me prepare more as February comes around.


Panoramic of the Ford Ice Center’s North Rink from atop the bleachers.

Honorable Horn Blasts To Start The New Year

While there are a lot of players on the team that deserve toots of the horn, I wanted to shift focus a little bit this time around to people that are behind the scenes that deserve it too. The first honking goes to Sean Henry as he was named the Tennessean’s Nashville Sports Person of the Year for 2016. A lot may not know all of the things he does for the community let alone for the Predators. I encourage you to read the article on their website to get more info on what he has done and continues to do for the area.

One other toot of the horn goes to the staff of the Ford Ice Center. They have been nothing but awesome for the short time I have been a patron of their services, concessions, and experience. They truly deserve a lot of credit because they have been a big help and are happy to support my growth into playing hockey. Not only that, the concession stand staff does a great job providing cool treats and hot eats. Thank you.

Where Does The Puck Spin To Next Time?

The next issue of the series will be the tenth one?! Who knew I would make it that far? Well, playoff hockey in the D-league will be upon us as well as Shea Weber coming back to Nashville for the first time in who knows how long as a friend and foe (on the ice). With time ticking down, how will my experience in a skating class go and will I be able to go backwards and maybe do a hockey stop without crashing into something? These and other fun tidbits will be on store when the tenth article comes out soon which I hope to entertain y’all more. Wheeeeeeeee (as I crash into the boards again)!!!