Saturday, 28 November 2009


Instead of writing about recovering and how frustrating it is, I thought that I would rather write about routines and what gets me going on game days.

I’ve worked out a quite a good routine that I follow. You hear people talk about superstitions and stuff that if they don’t do they don’t perform as well. I don’t think I’m superstitious, but I do have the things that I like to do to get in to the right frame of mind. I don’t think that if I put on my left or right skate first and feel uncomfortable if I do one or the other.

During game days I let myself wake up naturally. No alarms, no nothing. Just get out of bed when I normally would, which is before 0930 for some reason. If an away game, I normally wake up by the alarm so I have enough time to wake up my body and get enough food and fluids on board, because you never know how much time you’ve got at the away rink. Normally after I’ve woken up I do a light stretch and maybe a few push ups or some leg quickness work. Nothing to o strenuous though.

I try to keep myself active through the day but not tire myself out too much. I try to keep my mind off the game for most of the day, to avoid getting nervous or over think things too much. I tend to do things around the house (despite what the wife might say, I do). One thing that I want to avoid doing as much as possible is any chores that would involve leaving the house, like going to town or to a bank or do any shopping. I get wound up at shopping centres or the mall and that just throws everything out the window.

Typically, about three hours before face off, I eat and normally have something pasta based. Once I’ve eaten, I tend to take a half an hour nap or just have a lay down and watch something totally moronic on TV. Scrubs or Two and a Half Men do quite well.

Then it’s time to pack the stuff, make sure that my sticks are taped before heading out to the rink. I make sure I’ve got water on me, and some Lucozade (non fizzy) on me to help me replace any fluid loss during warm up.

Once at the rink, I unpack most my stuff so it’s laid out on my regular seat in the changing room and I change into my pre-ice warm up and get my iPod going. My play list consists of songs that resonate well with me. Mainly with tracks from Hatebreed. For some reason, during the years that I’ve followed that band I find that their songs give me additional strength and really get me going. One song that I listen to before hitting the ice is contradictory to the rest of the play list. The last track I listen to is Coldplay’s Fix You.

My pre-ice warm up is normally with our goalie Pekka, which is a run around the rink and do some running up and down the stairs. It’s a good way to get to the game and chew some shit in my own language and crack a few jokes. After that it’s stretching and get into the changing room and get dressed. It’s all wise cracks and jokes until the coach has his talk with us. After that while the other guys are still chatting away, I try to concentrate and just run through things in my mind and visualise what it’s like playing with my line mates and feel the adrenaline pump up.

Then all that remains is hitting the ice, fully pumped up and ready to give everything for my team to come away with two points.

Monday, 23 November 2009

A Blessing In Disguise

It has been a while since the blog was updated, but I figured that now is as good a time as any. There have been a few things out of my control that have limited the updates on this blog of late.

The two main things are that I had an appendectomy three weeks ago and we’ve moved to our new (own) house and as such I am without Internet. The obvious thing that I’ll be writing about today, is the appendectomy and the recovery from it.

About three weeks ago on a Sunday I started to experience severe stomach pains, which landed me on the operating table. Though the operation itself was pain free, it still put a stop to my training and fitness.

The overall loss during the operation: 3KG of muscle, which in my frame is A LOT!
I had worked hard to push my mass up and I thought I was standing pretty on a healthy 90KG. OK, the BMI still said I was over weight, but given that my body fat percentage is within healthy limits, I’d say that it was a good weight to be on and build up from.

But now I have taken a couple of steps back and I’m facing a challenge to re-gain the lost muscle and start making headway into improving my strength and physique for the up and coming season.

I have just finished my first week back on the weights and full contact training on the ice. What I can say for both is that it has been total murder. The weights that I deemed easy have been more and more difficult to lift and my confidence on the boards is gone, along with any jump and speed.

It was to be expected though. And I did prepare myself mentally for it as well, but I didn’t know to expect such a drastic experience. I suppose my mind was at the stage where I expected that I could pick up from where I left off, but I’m now climbing a small up hill to get back into the swing of things.

I was ready to curse the process, but remembered what a good friend of mine is going through and is struggling with. My buddy Nick broke his leg a year a go and is only just getting back to rehabilitation. He’s struggled with it as well and I hope that I gave him some sound advise on getting back to it and the need to work hard to get back to doing things he loves. If he didn’t he’d lose all but the memories of him doing those things. It is difficult to get back on the saddle after a long time off from any sport or hobby.

I remember when I first went to the gym and started lifting weights after the operation. It was difficult to get anything done, motivation was gone, but at the same time I knew that if I did not do the work, my goals would not be realised.

So how do you approach training after an operation, no matter how big or small it is? I have taken the view that it is a blessing in disguise. The way I see it, the operation gave me a break from training, which I wouldn’t have taken otherwise. Where yes it was boring to stay at home and not do anything, it gave me a chance to recharge my batteries, mentally if not physically. Though it has been tough to get back to the routine and pushing the weight I was used to, I’m now able to start working on apparent areas of weakness in my body and make myself stronger that way. After the first session and the incredible frustration I felt, I am now able to approach training with the same passion as I did over a year ago. At the end of the week (Sunday 22nd November), I felt happy about the progress I made, which is something I hadn’t felt in a while.

I know guys who have gotten back to playing their respective sports and everything after long times off from serious injuries or illnesses, where some have had to have several operations or organ transplants. Recovery is not an easy road to travel when you’re desperate to get back to it, but please treat it as an opportunity as opposed to a chore. If you’re able to approach it with an open mind, you will be able to reap those benefits you did to when you first started.

To me it has been a great experience to learn about myself and re-discover progress. Even if the progress is getting myself back to the old levels, it is still something I have not experienced in a while and as such I can approach training and the game with the passion that I did a long while ago.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

'hard' or HARD

As I sit here recovering from an appendectomy, I thought it would be a good idea to reflect on training and what separates the training of the pros from the joes. I’d like to think that I train quite hard and I’m trying to find ways to keep myself fit and active during the time I need to recoup from having doctors cut things in my abdomen. If it is any conciliation my stomach does feel like I’ve done a million sit ups. Too bad the feeling doesn’t quite represent the end result of doing said amount of sit ups.

As you know I am a player with dreams of grandeur whilst I want to enjoy what I do. Undoubtedly throughout this blog I have talked about the importance of training and the dedication I put into it, but is what I’m doing good enough to make me any better?

A player in my situation is often faced with responsibilities that far exceed hockey. There’s putting food on the table, taking care of the bills (though my wife does that), not forgetting about work. When you combine this you see that your days and weeks follow a certain pattern. Your days are spent at work and your evenings are, sometimes painstakingly, spent at the gym, jogging or cycling.

As an ‘individual athlete’ the responsibility is discipline, first and foremost. The difference between the ‘individual’ and the ‘pro’ is that as a pro it is infinitely easier to keep up with your training as you spend your time in a team environment where everything is set for you. The coaches and trainers think through all the exercises for you, areas to work on and blows the whistle to add pace and push you at times when YOU don’t quite feel like it. The ‘individual’ has to think about the areas of the body that he uses, the exercises he should do and motivate himself when the tank is empty or the threshold is too big.

For the player working, the best support they can get, if they can afford it, is personal trainer. Truthfully, where I have the utmost respect for personal trainers, they cannot offer the same amount of motivation or specialist knowledge to the ‘individual’ athlete as the personal trainers working in the professional team environment.

When a player trains, despite the background, the aim is to train hard. For the aspiring player like me I can say that I train hard, but am I training HARD or ‘hard’. For the player like myself, when the opportunity might finally present itself, the reality is that the hard training of the pro’s is HARD and all you have done is trained ‘hard’. This is a good indication of the level you need to push yourself to excel and ‘make it’. Though the challenge is, there still isn’t anyone blowing the whistle or help you over the edge.

For those who make it, the first off season might provide an epiphany that this summer I need to train harder.

What I am getting at is that despite training hard and spending every free moment at the gym, the fact is that sometimes life throws a curveball at you and you need to prioritise. An ‘individual’ has to sacrifice things but with the work that he/she puts in will develop them as players as well as people.

I believe that dedication to a sport is a great way of learning about responsibilities, passion and priorities. It encourages ambition that will eventually filter into every aspect of your life. When you set yourself a goal that a mediocrity is not good enough in sports other things will follow the same pattern, whether it is career or social goals.

Hard work will always pay off and hard work is always rewarded.

I just wish I could resume my ‘hard’ work push myself to train HARD.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

No more half measures

What a way to dust of the cobwebs. I’ve officially started to train for the next season and here’s what I’ve done so far. I started my training with an 8 mile run on Saturday , followed by a gym work out on Sunday. What has been interesting is that I’ve started my training earlier than I did last year, but perfection takes time doesn’t it?

During the off-season, I took some time off from the rigours of the training and review and reflect on what I had achieved during the season and summed the positives and negatives from the past year. It is funny that I spend ten months training and playing and resting for about two months. But it is something that I enjoy, so it is not a major sacrifice or a burden to bear. What I find most beneficial going into the off ice and individual training for this season is that I am not starting from square one.

Sure my fitness levels dropped off during the two months I spent relaxing. I didn’t sit flat on my ass, but I wasn’t training as intensely as I was and to be honest I needed that break or otherwise the threshold for starting again would’ve been too great. But now where I’m at the stage where I’m having fun going into the gym and I know what I need to do. The thing is I don’t want to reach the same level as I was at last season, but I want to push myself above and beyond the level that I was at.

What about early goals for myself and the team? As opposed to last season where I droned on about the chance of making to the playoffs, I’m now looking forward to a season where we can compete and come to the rink week after week and have some fun. I think that is a good early goal to set.

The team has a newish look. We’ve lost a few of the core players we’ve come to depend on but I hope that we can find some new line match ups in the roster that will help us deliver some offensive firepower.

But this is it. There is no room for half measures and time for talking is done. Now it is all about rigorous training and discipline.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Dedication Personified

17th of November 1994, I remember watching the daily sports news cast as I had come accustomed to. It was exciting time to watch Finnish Ice Hockey due to the NHL lock out and many of the games brightest home grown stars were playing on home ice again. You had Kurri, Tikkanen, Selanne with the few ‘import’ players from Geoff Sanderson, Michael Nylander and Theo Fleury.

I remember when Fleury scored the game winning goal for Tappara, he skated down the ice throwing his kit on the ice and sliding down it. I remember thinking to myself ‘who is this guy? He’s insane.’ The guy was immense, despite his small stature. A true example of little guy big.

Despite his awesome NHL career being plagued by personal problems, Fleury had something about him. His passion was something that was admired, his fearlessness was unbelievable. In a game where everyone was almost twice his size, he did not give in. To him even if you were Zdeno Chara size player, to him you were fair game.
Now as I’ve been following Fleury’s stellar come-back attempt I’ve never been as motivated by any success story than this. It is truly inspirational as it is not only a great hockey story, but an awesome life story. Theo turned his life around and at 41, six years away from the game he was able to come back and put up respectable numbers in the exhibition games.

I’ve been truly impressed with Fleury, not for only turning his life around but for the dedication and the heart he has shown to the game. He is a true example of an athlete who has gained redemption and has proved to himself that, given the chance, he can play. I’d tell the NHL to stop looking for a recipient for the Bill Masterton trophy this season as the winner has been found already, before the first regular season game has been played. Surely Theo’s achievement is a true testament to what the trophy stands for and what exemplifies the true hockey spirit.

I recently read an article about Fleury’s time in the Finnish leagues in 1994. His approach to the game was truly humble. This was during the time when Finnish ‘professional’ players still had day jobs to go to and were paid miniscule amounts for playing. Theo got accustomed to his team quickly and was immediately respected by his teammates for his approach to the game and his off ice personality. What’s more and I think more importantly, Theo was loved by the fans and the fans loved him. It has been one of the outstanding qualities of his career, no matter where he has played or whatever his personal problems were, the fans always loved him.

Additionally the article mentioned an occasion where Theo took leadership in the changing room from the word go, by telling the team that the logo on their chest was what they played for and they represented their town and were to make their fans proud. Profound words from a newcomer, but a man with years of experience under his belt Lord Stanley’s ring on his finger.

So what does that Theo’s story has to do with me and why am I jumping on the praise Theo bandwagon? Theo has inspired me to the point that I now have the motivation to go back to the gym and start going through the pains of training and push myself and realize my dreams and write my own ‘come-back’ story. This is one of those stories that truly shows people that if you have a dream and you work for it, good things can happen.

Theo has now retired a Calgary Flame after showing the grit and heart he had when he first exploded to the league. Theo I thank you for the dedication you have shown and the inspiration you have instilled to thousands like me wishing to chase their dreams. I wish you all the best for the future.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Coming back

It has now been nearly a month since the season finished and since then I’ve had a break from updating the blog, to focus on other things than hockey and rigorous training. Needless to say that I haven’t just sat on my back side with a pack of chips (or crisps as the Brittons call them) in hand, but I’ve been doing other things that have taken my mind off the game for a while and tried to keep myself in some sort of shape, so I don’t have to start an uphill climb in a few weeks time. Well to be honest it will be an uphill climb but atleast it won’t be as steep as it was last year.

There have been interesting things happening and a real buzz going on with things related to hockey that have, quite frankly given me more of a boost for next season. There has been things going on that have made me realise that some of my dreams and aspirations are not as lofty as I first thought. It will be definitely an interesting period to get myself into shape for the up and coming season again and I’m starting to hit the gym with a vengeance in a weeks time to start the training properly.

There have been things that I learnt from last season and things that I know I can, and have to do better and more effectively to start making a difference. I think I found my motivation again when I was staring at a slogan at the gym that stated that “Endurance wasn’t built in a day.” I think this statement is very true for myself and serves as a good reminder of the hard work hockey players will need to carry out off the ice, as well as on it.

Even though the season didn’t go the way any of us really hoped for, I think that there were lessons there that we all can learn from. On a more positive note we didn’t come at the bottom of the table and we never have done in the past few years. I think one of the more positive things to come out of our recent AGM (apart from a raging hangover) was that guys seemed pretty committed to get to the playoffs and with new faces and old faces coming back in, we seem to have a good enough team to challenge for a playoff spot next year. My own personal goal is always to get to the playoffs and bring back something more than taste of bittersweet disappointment, but to achieve that, it needs a whole teams’ support.

Speaking of the AGM, I managed to (somehow) scoop up the team top point scorer, despite failing expectations I’d set myself and having a pretty much an off season by my own standards. Though having said that, statistically yes my season was bad, but in light of other things that I did, I think I played the best hockey I’ve done in a long while. I was able to agitate and I wasn’t shying away from board play, or at least not as much as I used to. The other award I picked up was the Players Player of the year award, which I’m grateful for and would like to thank all my team mates who voted me for the award. It’s a great honour to get that level of distinction from the people you spend a lot of time of the year with. Knowing my temper and the type of person I am in competitive situations, I can be a bit of a dick to be honest, but I appreciate the guys for giving me their votes.

Though if I’m completely honest I would much rather exchange both trophies for a trophy being presented to the team at the end of the playoffs. That would be better than winning any amount of individual awards, or then winning the awards at the end of a season where we’ve scooped the championship.

I will start documenting my way back to the land of the gym and all things hockey related soon enough. But for now: Bring on the pain!

Monday, 3 August 2009

Project complete, or is it?

10 months has passed since I started writing this blog, which means that I’ve spent 10 months training and fighting through the season. Fighting is quite an appropriate word to use about the season, as I simply fought against personal issues, frustration and to get to the play offs. Needless to say, we didn’t get to the play offs and just avoided finishing at the bottom of the table.

So what did this project of mine leave me with? A day after, I have a bad taste in my mouth about it and feel like all the effort I put in on a individual level was for nothing. I trained religiously, prepared for every game and wanted to succeed, but it was all for nothing in the end. I think we managed to win a grand total of 3 games, and one of those was given to us after the league awarded it to us, so winning two games by merit isn’t something that I’m overly excited about. I suppose now I know what the New York Islanders feel like. I could carry out an analysis that went wrong this season, but that might upset people who read this blog, specially my team mates and I don’t think that voicing those opinions here would be the right way of doing things. All I will say is that the team didn’t gel together well enough and we didn’t play as a team. Effectively I think we suffered from the ‘Me disease’ the whole season.

What is more frustrating is that we were going to turn the boat around. We made a play off appearance a few years ago, but now that doesn’t seem like it will be possible, though we have the breadth and the depth in the team to go deep in the play offs. Then again, these are points that I will raise at our AGM once it will be held.

What I said at the start was that the season is an emotional rollercoaster and it was definitely filled with some highs and accompanied by some serious low’s as well. Too bad the lows out weigh the highs at this point, but we must look at them from a learning perspective and move on from there. I have been frustrated more than I have been happy this season and that has ultimately hampered my performance and perhaps even put a few of my team mates off from working with me, but it is just my nature and the type of competitor I am. I still retain the same flame for the game as I did when I was younger. I still want to learn more and play above my abilities and have my chance to shine and I think on a few occasions I did shine, whether it was on the score sheet or just doing things little things like finishing my checks and working the way my coach and lines mates want to. While also knowing myself that I have got off the ice with a few bruises to prove that I have put everything I had on the line for the good of the team, whether it made me angry or hate the game for a moment.
As the season is now wrapped up, I’d like to extend a thank you to all those people who had a part to play in it and with this blog. I also want to thank my closest friends and family for always being there, giving me the advice I needed and for the encouragement. Your help has been invaluable to me this season and has helped me reach some of my goals I had set and described throughout this blog. I won’t go into favouritism and list everyone here, but the people I refer to surely know who they are.
Also a big thanks goes to those people who I know and don’t know for their inspiration. If it wasn’t for the stories I heard or people that I met who have overcome injuries or other adversities would I have realised that my problems aren’t so big that I should throw it all away. These stories gave me perspective and the drive to go further with my sport. Most recently I heard from my wife’s friend. I’ve met this guy a few times but had no idea of the challenges he’s faced in the recent years. By not giving up, he is now running the London Marathon in 2010 and if you can dig deep you can donate to his cause at:

So what now? Well I’m going to take some time off from updating this blog, most likely I will be back in October when I start training again, perhaps sooner. Now I am taking some time to relax and recoup after the season and treat my knee (yes it flared up again midway through the season), my hip and my shoulder. I know my mom would probably say ‘stop playing’ but I just love the game too much to stay away from it. Now it’s time for me to enjoy the summer, or what’s left of it and maybe spend some time seeing friends I’ve ignored throughout the training process and the season.

Again, thanks for all of those who have read these lunatic ravings of a mad man. I will see you in a few months time.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Firing Blanks

How can one turn a team around? How can a single person affect 35 guys? More importantly, how do you make 35 guys care. This weekend must've been the lowest point in a few years that I've played. With the playoffs looming, I would've imagined that players would've come out fighting for a win. How wrong was I? It should've been evident when I walked through the door of the dressing room and faced a team that was lethargic and just about ready to give up.

Our coach did a great job coaching the team, spoke all the right words between periods, but the team simply does not respond. What is more dissapointing is that guys can sit in the changing room and smile and laugh after being thorouglhy beaten. No one said anything. Maybe I should've, but I was seething with anger, to the point that I am put off hockey, for the first time in many years. Where I have sacrificed time and effort off the ice and sacrifice every waking moment thinking about the game, I feel that I am short changed by the rest of the guys. Well not all of them, but by a majority of them.

What was most comforting after the game was when I talked to my dad. As ever I let him get an earful (poor guy) of the woeful performances of the team and he said: "You have to understand that Hockey is not as big of a thing to most guys as it is to you." Another one offering some insight and concelation was my wife. She told me that I show dedication and the commitment is commendable and how it is not instilled in most kids, which reflects to some of the guys on the team.

I have been on a losing end before but it is not fun. I want to win games and help the team in doing so, but right now I am not too sure whether it is worth my time.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Stuck in a rut

Scraping the bottom of a barrel isn’t easy at the best of times. Recently however, I have found myself asking the same questions that I was last season at the same time, though this time for entirely different reasons.

When I first started writing this blog, I said I loved the emotional rollercoaster that hockey is. Right now on an individual level and team level, we must be at the bottom of a steep fall and struggling to get momentum to climb up the hill. Since I got back from holiday and I managed to skate with the professionals for a few weeks, the team has struggled with games. After coming back from holiday we have played three games and won only one of those. Well technically two, but that was only after the game was over and there was an in-eligible player involved with the other team.

Though we have come away with four points out of potential six, it is still frustrating. The reason for my frustration stems from a couple of things, but the first one is on a team level. I have dedicated a lot of my own free time to this sport and committed to as many games as possible, only to travel to distant cities on my own expense to have a short bench against a team of four lines. Where the constant argument could be that we play hockey because we love it and it is fun, but the truth is there is nothing fun in being at the receiving end of a 16-4 loss, or 11-1 loss. There is nothing to love in playing games like that and it is really difficult to keep yourself motivated through games like this.

After these two bitter losses, I have seriously started to question, yet again, whether this is worth my time and efforts. My goal is always to win games, but for some reason there seems to be an air of lethargy that hangs over the team when it comes to games, specially away games. I know some guys have valid reasons why they can’t do all of the games. Hell I’ve missed two already, though they were at home.

Though I am pissing and moaning about the lack of commitment from certain individuals on the team I am still going to give it my all till the end of the season. We have two points separating us from the a play-off spot.

The other reason which is causing me much grief at the moment is on a play level. I was on a leisurely stroll with my wife and our good friend yesterday and stumbled across a bunch of guys playing soccer. What struck me at their game of kick ball was that I identified similarities between they way we play and the game of soccer. When we got thrashed at Chelmsford over the weekend, I noticed that we are, as a team, trying to be too cute with the puck and score highlight reel goals. When I saw these guys playing soccer, they were doing exactly the same thing. “Hey, look guys, I’ve got an open place to shoot! Oh wait, I’ll just do some gay ass move and try to pass it! Oh No! My pass was intercepted and now they’re rushing our net!”

Hockey is a team game yes, but a true goal scorer is selfish and ruthless. A goal scorer will take shots when possible without thinking about pass opportunities or a highlight reel goal. Where we did score one goal off a pretty play over the weekend, the other team scored 16 from purely shooting. Our keeper did a fantastic job at it, despite letting 16 goals past him, but if the other team got off 79 shots in the whole game, that speaks volumes on the amount of saves he had to make during the game. 100% of the shots you don’t take don’t go in!

Which leads me to my final concern, which is an individual one. I’ve played five games this season and come away with the stats of 0+4. It isn’t too bad, but I am worried as it is not reflective of my style of play. At the moment I can’t seem to buy a goal if I wanted to. I’ve had chances and a load of good ones but somehow the goalies seem to rob me off the shots and dekes I carry out. Where I did have a Saku Koivu esque mentality of a play maker and a set up man for this season, I am still a goal scorer at heart. I need to get the goal monkey off my back or otherwise it will be there daunting me for a long time. It is starting to get frustrating not finishing the chances I have, where I know that a year ago, or two years ago I would’ve buried 70% of the chances that I’ve had. Hell the goal could be the size of a football goal and I still wouldn’t get the puck in the net.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Working on a dream

“Now the card’s I’ve drawn, it’s a rough hand darlin’” Signs Bruce Springsteen in Working on a Dream. I’ve been a fan of Bruce Springsteen for as long as I can remember. I think the first memory of me falling in love with his music was when my dad borrowed the Born To Run LP from my uncle. I can remember how tracks like Dancing in the Dark and Born to Run left an ever lasting impression on me.

However, time has passed since then and I’ve grown but for some reason whenever ‘the Boss’ releases a new album I find that I have to check it out. The latest offering has left an even more profound impact on me. As I’m writing this, I am listening to the track, ‘Working on a Dream’. What I relate to in this post is that I have can identify with the lyrics. “Working on a dream, though sometimes it feels so far away, Working on a dream and I know it’ll be mine someday”.

That lyric pretty much summarises why I started this blog and time and time again, I feel the need to go back and go over some of the same issues as I have done here. I started working on my dream in October 2008 and it is now June 2009. Given that we are over half way into the year I thought that I should do a check on whether I have achieved what I set out to do and where I’ve got to so far.

So, at the start I set out to work hard to get back from a knee injury that had me questioning whether I wanted to play hockey anymore. Well this is where I am at the moment: I have been able to train without any pain in my leg and I have gained much of my confidence that I had. Strides and skating no longer hurts. What I find most encouraging is the muscle mass I’ve built in my legs. I am constantly able to push more weight and have gotten noticeably stronger on my skates.

The only thing that I am slightly worried about is that my leg still wears out quite quick. The lactic acid build and the tightening of the muscles in my quadriceps are something that I am still working on. But when you’re playing 45 second shifts it doesn’t really get in the way that much. Just means I have to play scrimmages at a shorter shift than normal.

I also set out to score 30 points this season: Well I am slightly behind on that. Given that the cup lost 2 teams and effectively cutting the season shorter by 4 games. I’ve still managed to keep up my pace of scoring a point per game and my main mindset so far has been to work as a set up man and I think I’ve been successful at it. Because my confidence on my skates and the additional strength, I now have the confidence of taking that extra second to look, rather than haphazardly throwing the puck to a direction I think a player might be at.

I think I was about 2 months into my off season training when few of my friends started saying I should play for the Bison. At first I took it as a joke, but the more I thought about it, the more I started to want it. Though I was shy to admit it at first, the more I talked about it, the more I started to dream. As soon as I took that dream seriously, the dream took me seriously. I think it is when I realised that Rome was not built in a day that it was not going to be an easy road to get there, but like I said at the start of the blog, if you aim high, you will succeed.

So where I am at regards to attaining that goal? I’ve been training with the Bison now for two weeks and I have loved every agonising minute of it. I am finding that I push myself and find new extremes I can play at. I find that I do things better at this pace and I’m more driven. The passion and competitive flame that I loved about the game burns higher everytime I’ve been out there. Like Dallaglio after his first England appearance in Rugby: I know what I want and I want more of it.

The team’s roster is full for this year, but I am hopeful. To myself, I have proved that I can play at that level and not be too out of my depth. It has instilled more courage and passion in me to work hard to get there. Though I love playing for my current team, there is something that is missing, whether it is something in terms of chemistry or the guys not wearing their heart on the sleeve openly. Maybe it is that we play the game only for fun and don’t take things seriously enough and it drags us down from our potential.

So I am still working on a dream, and I know it will be mine one day...

Friday, 19 June 2009

Not afraid to fail

With my last post I was talking about how the team was not doing too great and was failing to live up to its potential. However, it only just dawned on me that this is all part of a very valuable learning process. A team can’t be successful unless you have failures along the way. Failures are what make you stronger and make you want the important wins even more.

I don’t think that people like Lawrence Dallaglio would’ve been so successful in their sport, if they didn’t have failures along their careers that would’ve helped them to get motivated to pursue the glory that they yearned for. Also with the current Stanley Cup champions, Pitspurgh Penguins, if the team wouldn’t have failed in last year’s finals against Detroit.

Our failures and meltdowns are all part of an unruly and frustrating learning curve we must go through in-order to find a level of success.

Not being afraid to fail is also useful when it comes to personal and individual development. My fear of failing and not achieving my goals has driven me on this path where I share my thoughts freely with people who stumble across this blog, as well as the goals that I’ve set for myself. Achieving these goals might have seemed far fetched to some people, but during the time that I have been updating this blog and continually striving for better physique and strength. The fear of failing at pursuing my dream has driven me to be nearly obsessive and at times, an absolute nightmare to live with.

However, I came one step closer to fulfilling my dream last night as I had the opportunity to skate with the Basingstoke Bison, a team that I have been secretly wanting to play for a long time for now. Ever since my stag party in Finland, I made myself a promise that I would be looking to play at the highest possible level.

Where I haven’t been guaranteed a roster spot, I am using this as an opportunity to atleast (hopefully) to leave some sort of a mark on the team and start creating a name for myself. With this opportunity I need to make the most of it, go hell for leather each time I’m out there. Maybe if this opportunity doesn’t materialise in a roster spot, it will help me to really work towards this dream and let me identify areas where I need to improve upon.

The dream is alive, and for the longest while, so am I..

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

On the Brink

It has been a while since the last update and there has been a lot that has gone on, both personally and within the team. The delay in the update is due to a much needed holiday, which helped me to recharge and re-focus. For the better part of two months, you might have noticed that there has been a lack of updates on this blog, which is mainly down to some issues that I will discuss in this, rather lengthy, post.

Part of this blog has been me talking about the mental struggles for hockey players and being mentally ready to play. However for a while now I have been fighting off depression, which has greatly affected the way that I approach the game. I had my goals set at the start of the season, which I am still working towards, but when you are questioning everything in your life, you will realise that a small bout of negativity can amount to an ugly ball of self-loathing and doubt. The confidence that I built up, disappeared, in what seemed like an overnight occurrence. I can admit that the few games that I have played I have not been as effective or mentally sharp to compete at the explosive edge that is required from competitive players.

While I was struggling with issues that weren’t hockey related, it ultimately affected my performance on the ice and more importantly extinguished the flame that I had for competition and that was my driving force in the game. However, I’m happy to say that the holiday gave me the sufficient time to reflect and refocus on things that I feel are important in life and that require a change in-order for me to be truly happy and effective both on the ice and off it in the office environment.

One of the greatest challenges for guys at this level of play is to manage the hockey, fitness, family and work. I think that 90% of the guys would rather put all their energies into hockey, though unfortunately we need to put food on the table and pay the bills, which hockey unfortunately doesn’t do for us. I would love to do nothing more than spend my days getting into shape and work towards bettering myself as a player, but I have other responsibilities that I must fit hockey around. I still train actively on and off the ice, which I am proud of, but when you are bummed down by other issues the joy of training disappears and you are left forcing yourself to move.

With my renewed focus and drive I feel that I’ve turned a corner that will help me renew that focus and the competitive drive that I have yarned for.

While I was away the team played two games, one was a close 3-0 loss, the other a 10-6 loss. After the 3-0 loss there was a flurry of emails being sent around by a disgruntled player who felt that he hadn’t been given the ice time he deserved. Though I can understand his frustration as I have been in the same position myself, I must defend my team captain’s decision to run the bench the way he did.

In a close game where you are playing for the win of the game, teams need to cut the bench short inorder to give the players that are known for converting a chance to capitalise on the situations and help the teams. Hockey is a team sport and there is no room for individual ambitions going ahead of those of the team. Weaker players must understand that sometimes these decisions are necessary. Take the NHL for example; every guy on the team wants to play just as much as the next one, but the truth is that the guys playing 4th line need to give up their ice time in tight games inorder for the team to win.

Where we are playing rec hockey, we still play to win and on an individual level I don’t enjoy travelling around the country and get thrashed every weekend. The team comes first in a competitive cup and players wishing to place their own individual desires ahead of those of the team’s better take a good hard look in the mirror and perhaps think of hanging up the skates, as harsh as it sounds.

The problem I have with rec hockey is that we need players of all abilities to come forwards and play, which puts us in a disadvantage against teams like Cardiff or Swindon who have strong rosters and are able to field strong players game in, game out.

The two losses and the internal meltdown of the team means that we are now playing on the brink, if we are to play in the playoffs in August. We need a miracle to turn things around and we need to stay motivated throughout the end of the season. Hopefully, with the exception of holidays, we will have a strong team to put out there every game. My sincerest hope is that guys put their own pleasures of getting drunk before a game night aside and dedicate themselves to the end of the season. It is what we need now and we need to play strong hockey in training to make sure that we are able to carry that momentum in trainings to our tough away game schedule we have coming up. I am a firm believer that with confidence and dedication we will be able to take the games to the teams we are facing and improve our position in the standings. I for one don’t want to end up last.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009


And so the season rolls on. What began as a positive outlook for the team, quickly took a turn for the worst and crumbled in front of our eyes. We hosted the last years’ champions and where we were able to match them for two periods, we let it slide in the end and paid a heavy price for it.

Losing 4-11 pretty much tells you the story of the game, at least if we were to go by the third period. For the first two we were two goals behind, which wasn’t a big hole to be in and something that we were confident we would climb out of. But then the third period came round and it was all lost.

I’m not going to start separating the different factors that lead to the loss, but all I will say is that our defensive zone coverage needs to be better and we all need to bring our A game if we want to be playing in Swindon in August. The team is definitely capable of doing it, but it is just that every guy in the team needs to realise how good we really are and sort out a few priorities.

In essence we deserved to lose the game. I could argue that the score line might’ve not been what it was in the end, should we have played better, but it is all in the past. We need to learn from this as a team and move forwards.

Deserving is something that I’ve come to appreciate during my time in the rec circles and even in the higher leagues I’ve played in. We turn up and train and we deserve to play. We use a points system to track who has been in trainings, though there is a loop hole that some are exploiting. Deserving to play doesn’t mean that you turn up once in three weeks, play a game and get a few extra points to over take guys in the rankings. Deserving means that you don’t go out the night before a game and get totally wasted. There are other guys on the team waiting to play and lets face it. A hung-over player is something that doesn’t help the team at all.

Deserving to win, means that you play your heart out every shift you are on the ice. Where I personally went wrong in the last game was that, well to put it frankly, I played like a fucking queen. If it was an individual sport, I would’ve deserved to lose because of my lack of legs and speed I discussed in the last game. I didn’t get in the right frame of mind, though spending three hours with your bank manager discussing your finances prior to a game is not the best way to prepare.

What else went wrong on a personal level then? I felt uncomfortable out there. I didn’t find the balance between comfort and discomfort where I would’ve been fully alert and aware of my surroundings, but instead I was not engaging and initiating the plays at the level that I know I can play. I think the last shift of the game showed what I was capable of, a hard offence, a shot and a hard back check and then clear the zone and off. Though where I did find some solace was that I was finding my team mates on the ice. I came away with two assists from the game, so I definitely have something to be happy about. Otherwise, the team deserved to lose and me personally I deserved this self exploration of what went wrong. I know that by doing this we and me as an individual, will be better.

Little Guy Big

When you look at athletes, the one standout feature is size. Professional athletes are tall and muscular, which leaves every average Joe desiring for the same physique. Hockey is a sport where size is key. Players have gotten faster and stronger so the taller you are the better off you will be fending for yourself. Zdeno Chara is a prime example of this. Standing at over two meters on skates, Chara currently holds the record for the hardest shot in the league.

But where does that leave the 5’8” guys? Well many times they are ignored, take the Red Wings’ Brian Rafalski for example. I had the pleasure of meeting Brian when he was playing his first season in Finland for my team, HPK. I was 14 at the time and I was already the same height as he was. Granted I haven’t really grown much since those days, except maybe outwards with my gut and back with my butt. Rafalski is a prime example of ‘little guy big’. Last night against Chicago, Rafalski stepped up his game and scored an important equalising goal. He can be a physical force and boy can he shoot the puck. What is funny that the NHL wrote Rafalski off as he was too small and apparently couldn’t shoot. After three odd years in Europe, a Finnish championship in his pocket, the New Jersey Devils picked him up. He now has three Stanley Cup’s to his name, which really shows that you can achieve greatness if you keep at it.

Another really exciting guy to watch is Chicago’s Patrick Kane. Official stats say that he measures in at 179cm, but the guy looks tiny and there surely the stats office has added a cm or two to his stats. Kane is a prime example of a great player. He is skilled and plays hard. He has still a few years till we can see what he is really capable of, but he is definitely one to watch over the coming years.

Then there is my all time favourite: Saku Koivu. What can you say of a guy that is 5’10” and is one of the fiercest competitors in the NHL? Where his season ended up in disappointment, it was great to see the way he fought in the toughest areas of the ice (in the slot) with the biggest guy in the league (Zdeno Chara). Though Koivu might not be as chipper as he was back in his younger years, he is still one of the most competitive and unrelenting players in the league.

So why should I pay attention to these little big guys? Well because I am one of those guys who isn’t overtly tall. It is unlikely that I’ll grow from the 5’9”, but it is something I can use to my advantage. Where the bigger guys will use their size and weight to throw me around a bit, I can use my speed to get by them. I am not saying that I am like a punching bag for these guys as I can definitely stand my own ground in the corners and the slot. Like my idol, Teemu Selanne, my game relies on speed and Koivu’s unrelenting competitiveness. I think that by adopting this little guy big mentality, I have been able to get more out of my game than before. But I am happy that I have discovered it now, when I’m still young and have countless number of years to give to the game in me.

In trainings I need to focus on working on what I am good at and the areas where I need to improve. By working on these aspects, I will be able to lift myself to new heights and see the work that I’ve done off the ice, pay its dividends.

Monday, 18 May 2009


Earlier in this blog I wrote about believing and having seen an inspirational video on believing and perseverance yesterday, I thought it was an apt topic to re-visit. Since my last post I have taken on the belief theme as far as to have it written on each of my sticks. Though it at first drew the ire of some of my teammates, the believing has nothing to do with god or other religious themes. Believing to me means that you are able to do what you set your mind and excel in it. Believe that you will succeed and believe that each dog will have its day.

The video I watched yesterday was of Vladimir Konstantinov. To those who don’t know Konstantinov or his story, here is a quick recap. He was one of the toughest D men in the game and I still remember him planting a monster of a hit on Colorado Avalanche’s Claude Lemieux in the 1996 Conference finals. When Detroit Red Wings won its first Stanley cup after a drought, tragedy hit Knostantinov. Him and his teammate along with a team masseuse were involved in a car accident, leaving Konstantinov seriously injured.

Konstantinov suffered brain damage in the injury, lost all mobility in his legs and the ability to speak, rendering his professional career over. As homage to him, the Red Wings still to this date have a locker set up for Konstantinov with the words Believe etched on a plaque. Where Vlad is a constant visitor to the Wings’ locker room, he is treated with respect by his teammates from that Stanley Cup winning team and the new members of the team. He sits in his locker while the guys get ready and is still effectively a member of the team, despite not being able to suit up.

What makes his story incredible is that he has worked relentlessly to gain a degree of independence and the ability to walk, even if with assistance. I think he has really exemplified the toughness and perseverance hockey players demonstrate whether it is in a game situation or when faced with adversity. His relentless work ethic is something to be admired at and he is in every sense of the word a winner. He beat all the odds and where he might not ever skate again (I won’t rule it out after seeing the video), he has definitely won more than just the Stanley Cup. To me, despite my despise of the Red Wings, Konstantinov is the ultimate winner and his team has shown the degree of respect that can only be admired. It shows that in a sport as competitive and harsh as hockey, you do not forget your own.

So how does Konstantinov’s story relate to my own preparation and aspirations as a hockey player? I can only draw inspiration from his ordeal and how he continues to overcome, but it shows that hard work does pay off. I mentioned a young Swedish player here by the name of Fabian Brustrom, who rose from obscurity to an NHL pro. Where the NHL ship has long sailed past me, I still believe that I have what it takes to step it up to a higher level. Just like Konstantinov and Brustrom, if I work hard enough, even this dog will have its day. When I speak to professional players, the best advice they have given to me has been that if you keep working hard, you will have your chance.

But what if the hard work doesn’t pay off with the result I hoped for? I have the sport that I love and I am able to play it. The hardwork that I put in has ultimately made me a better player, but most importantly, I believe that it has taught me valuable lessons in life. Things don’t come easy and the more I practiced the better I got and the better I felt. These past 7 months I have been on this trail have been some of the best of my life and I have learnt so much of myself and the lengths I can push myself to.

Where the above might sound like I have given up on my dream, it is far from reality as I am still striving for that goal. I am just fortunate to be inspired by stories like that of Konstantinov and Brustrom. By working hard I have proved to myself that I can play at the same level, if not better, when I played the Dutch first division (equivelant to English Premier League for you British readers).

Sunday, 3 May 2009

No guts, No glory

Hockey is an intense collision sport, where inevitably injuries and high impact contact is bound to happen. It is something that we, as players, come to expect game in and game out. I suppose that the old adage of no guts, no glory is more apt to hockey than any other sport.

The funny thing is that unless you are caught in a funny angle (or from behind) that hits really hurt. Sure there are times when players my size (5ft8 and 182lbs) are out hustled in the corners and more likely to be crushed, but it is part of the game. You take the hit and you carry on. There is no reason to retaliate to hits, you know you are going to get your own back later on.

So how does guts and glory relate to rec hockey and my team the Cougars? Well, the answer is simple: We need to play every game like it is our last of the season to make sure we get to the play offs. Our whole season is about playing at our peak and taking a physical approach to every game. Where our first game of the season showed a stout defenssive effort, we still need to tighten up to avoid more of the 'oh crap' moments. Guys need to start laying their bodies on the line for the good of the team and I mean blocking shots and start dealing with the grit instead of taking stupid penalties.

When I analyse my own play I can pat myself on the back as I felt that I played an OK game, if not a good game. Sure I didn't register points in the game, but you necessarily don't judge a good game by how many notches you have next to your name on the score sheet. I felt quite comfortable on my skates and had decent speed. I'm still recovering from a few muscle spasms that will inevitably slow me down. Maybe the demonstration of my guts and glory was when I was hit from behind, which sent me head first into the boards. I've often said to guys that I've coached that head injuries are not something to play with, but I was able to play through the haze and wasn't afraid.

I feel that after I get rid of the niggling muscle injuries I will be able to push myself even more and make more of a difference on the ice. What I realised is that the team needs an example and some one to follow. I'm not saying that I will start talking it up in the locker room, but I need to demonstrate my commitment to winning on the ice. That means skating with the puck, making good plays and taking shots on target. In our own end I need to start laying my body down and absorb a few shots and really start hitting people. I found that with my line from yesterday what really worked was that we talked on the bench and encouraged ourselves even more, which lead to great pressure being applied in the offensive zone and only rarely were we scrambling for the puck in our zone.

All in all I am pleased with the perfomance and if we maintain this mentaility, then we have a good chance of extending our summer all the way to August. But for that to happen, we all need more guts to achieve that glory.

Thursday, 23 April 2009


I’ve talked a lot about commitment, dreams and other things that I think make a successful player and how I integrate these things into my daily training, whether it is strength, cardio or mental. But hockey is not an individual sport. It takes 15 guys to suit up for a game and take to the ice, but that does not guarantee you a win. People often forget that the two things you need to take to the ice with all the skills you have are passion and belief.

You can never win a game or a championship unless you have a team that believes in themselves and has the passion to fight for every opportunity and for every loose puck. Belief doesn’t necessarily mean believing in a higher power, but it is believing in your team and your teammates. Herb Brooks said that All-star teams fail because they rely on the individuals’ talent, which I have become a great believer of. A weaker team can stage upsets when they believe in themselves.

Miracles in sport are not uncommon. Everyone remembers the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid when a bunch of College kids took down the Soviet hockey team, possibly one of the greatest teams and dynasties ever to exist in the sport. 1995 Finland wins the World Championship, without icing any NHL players and after being regarded as an underdog in the whole competition. I remember when the team made it to the final, no-one believed that they would win. No-one except the team themselves and that is what makes a winning team. Those are just a few examples, though I could list a number of others from the NHL, perhaps the most notable example of a team believing in themselves was the Rangers when they won their last Stanley Cup against the Vancouver Cannucks.

Personally I have witnessed what believing can do. The most notable example is from 2006 when we won the national championships with the Spitfires. We had decent team, by no means the best team, but a decent one. What kept us together when we faced bigger and stronger teams was that we believed that we could win as long as we focussed on our game and played to our strengths. We had a great coach who made sure each of us believed that we could skate away with the title at the end of the day. And we did. He kept us all calm and collected when we had guys whimpering and thinking that we couldn’t play a team that was physically bigger than us. I remember a London team we faced had a load of Slovakian players playing for them all notably bigger than us. We had guys scared that we would be out-hustled by the bigger players, but what our coach told us was that ‘Look, they’re big and slow and rely on big shooters. We are fast, smooth passing team. We can beat these guys!”

That is the type of believing that is required for a team to pull together and win. On the flipside of this, I remember playing for a few teams who always, during the first intermission said: “Good first period guys, keep it going. Remember that our second period is always our weakest one!” That automatically reflects on the team’s confidence and the belief it has in itself and amongst its ranks. Needless to say, because of the way we were forced to think about the game our second periods were our weakest and it cost us alot of games. Once we understood that we just needed to stick to our guns and BELIEVE that our second periods could be just as good, if not better, as the first we went on to win a significant number of games and being crowned Champions once more.

It’s funny what an affect a few words can have on the success of a team. Few wrong words here or there, repeated many times over can have a damaging effect on a teams’ performance. Teams who come out the gate believing in themselves for every training session and game will be the one who will go far, even if on paper they look weaker.

I believe that if the dedication I have put in to the game will warrant success. I believe that the team who has the most heart and belief in themselves that will go far in the season. Most of all I believe in my own abilities and my passion that I will make a difference every shift. I believe that if I have a strong season, I will have a shot at making it.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Dream the dream

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past week, you would have by now heard about Susan Boyle. Susan has literally dropped jaws to the floor around the world. Susan came from obscurity and sang her way to our hearts. Literally. What makes Susan so exceptional is that the minute she walked on the stage, people wrote her off. I know that in show business appearances count for something, but talent is all the more important.

So how does a 46 year old singer from Scotland have anything to do with sport? Well she doesn’t really, but her story does. Where I am not one for reality TV, talent shows, or hype, I have to admit that there is something awe inspiring about Susan Boyle that everyone of us can relate to, whether it is her talent, her decision to go for it, or the song she sang (I dreamt a dream from Les Miserables).

Where my last post was about commitment and the overall theme of the blog, the underlying story with Susan is something that inspires me. She probably has been waiting for a chance to come her way to see whether she had what it takes and she does.

My motivation is to find out whether I have what it takes. I think that I have few of the elements that it takes to play the game at the sharpest edge and where I am not the complete package, I have to play to my strengths, which are passion, mental toughness, speed and dedication to mention but a few. There was an interesting conversation I had with a hockey enthusiast playing at the same level as me, which was quite interesting and I forgot to mention in the last post.

We were talking about the levels of play where we have played in the past and this guy has the package to go far, but he said he didn’t want to commit to the long seasons of tough hockey. It is ultimately tough to manage work and hockey at the same time. I remember back in the late 80’s early 90’s when a few of the professional players in my hometown team were working second jobs to keep themselves afloat financially. That is dedication and commitment. I was faced with the question would I do it if I had the chance? The easy answer: Yes. I would be willing to sacrifice just about everything for that chance.

Like the above example of Ms. Boyle, I just need that one shot to see whether or not what I perceive to be good, is really good enough. It is the dream that I dream and life is yet to kill it. This up and coming season will prove whether there is a chance for me.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Commit and dedicate

Commitment is something some of us are afraid of. Whether it is a relationship, work or sport we are required to commit our time and efforts into this element and make it work for us, rather than the other way around. Commitment is what makes champions and winners out of us and the time we have dedicated to our goals will have been rewarded.

In sports, specially a fast paced contact sport like hockey, commitment and dedication are the keys to success. It takes a lot of commitment to be successful and even though some of us may never achieve the stellar levels of Alex Ovechkin, Martin St. Louis et al. it is commitment that makes us thrive and succeed in our own plateau of competition and it pushes us forwards to higher levels of competition.

I came across a comment a hockey dad told his son on the internet a few days back and I think that if I ever have kids and they pick up any sport (preferably hockey) and want to make it as a pro, I would tell them to model themselves after and follow the best players in the team and commit to their sport 100%. To live it and breathe it.. Truth is that 90% of the guys in junior levels will never make it as a pro because they see it as a bit of fun and don’t necessarily have the mental toughness and commitment levels required to make it to the top flight in sport.

Commitment in sports is something that takes time and can put a severe strains on your family and friendships. I remember when I played in the Dutch first division that during the long and arduous season, all the weekends and the daily activities were modelled around my schedule. There were foods my mom would make to ensure that I would take on the appropriate amount of carbs and proteins. My parents were committed to both mine and my brother’s hobbies. My brother had acting and whenever he was in rehearsals we would arrange our family diaries according to his comings and goings. That is the type of commitment required from your parents at an early age. I was blessed, even though I didn’t make it as an NHL pro, that I had parents who were committed to catering for my desire for hockey. It was a big ask on the family and meant that my dad would spend considerable time on the road with me as the team didn’t have a bus to get us to our games.

Commitment from an athlete means constantly thinking about plays and how you can improve yourself. It is putting in the hours at the gym during the post season, pre season and in season periods. It is working back from an injury and making yourself believe that you can do it and that you are the best that there can be. It is making sure that things are OK at home and that your relationships with your partner and kids are in good order. At this level, we spend a lot of time away from home during the summer and the commitment to both our sport and our families is put to the test. It takes a lot but most of the guys turn up week after week to trainings and spend their weekends away from home on back to back road games. As Don Cherry would say; “It takes guts!”

Commitment to me is working my ass off on the ice and at the gym. I want to make sure that I have good wheels, good shot and good eyes for the game. For me that is my commitment. I want to be the fittest person on the team and make a difference every shift and I have to commit to the goals and to the work that will make it happen. Where I would like to be able to dangle like Robbie Schremp on Youtube, I have made a conscious decision to ignore the flashier plays that guys practice at trainings, but rather work on the skills that I listed above. It is unlikely that I’ll have a chance to pull a move that would involve me shooting from between my legs, and if I did that in a game situation, my coach would most likely have my head on a silver plate.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Spring is in the air

There is a saying that says: ‘spring is the best time for a hockey player’. The playoffs are here, various European leagues have wrapped up their seasons and the champions are celebrating and those lucky (or unlucky enough) will have to cut the party short due to a call up to the National team for the World Championships.

Spring really is the best time for hockey players and for fans. There is enough action going on both sides of the pond and it is the most exhilarating time before the dust finally settles from a 9 month battle and the best of the best have been found and champions are crowned and those fortunate enough will ascend to immortality by achieving something as simple as a trophy, but it is yet so coveted that people would probably be willing to sell their souls for it. I think hockey is one of the only sports where you have a chance to become a true icon. The season is more gruelling and demanding than any other sport, which makes it interesting to follow.

Spring, it is indeed the best time to be a fan and a player. The spring sun has come out and rather than laze in the garden, the sun really has energised me further. The gruelling and often depressing training during winter time has been successful in the sense that I managed to stay relatively healthy except for the latest minor set back, but I have been able to use the injury to better myself as a player and as a person.

The games are about to begin and I can’t think of a better way to spend a summers day than to play hockey. Sure it feels awkward to be playing a winter sport in the summer, but never the less. It is the time of the year that you really wish that would never end. It is almost like a summer camp or a pro-longed hockey road trip. A chance for a bunch of guys to talk crap for a few hours and go home and display a few bruises here and there.

Spring is also known as the time for love, if you are the romantic type and believe in the image Disney and others try to sell us. So in a way spring is a time of love for hockey players as well. For the competitions I mentioned above taking place and the fact that the game that I love is really getting started.

Love is a powerful feeling and it is essentially something that we as human beings live off of. We love our wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, kids, pets and so on, so you can really say that love is the single most powerful feelings a human being can experience. Hockey is a game of love. If you don’t love the game you will grow hating it and you will not be able to play it or watch it with full intent. If you do not have love for the game you will not be able to succeed or achieve success in the game. Despite hockey being an aggressive, fast paced collision sport and despite the rivalries between teams and individual players, all of us share one thing in common; Our love for the game.

Like any loving relationship, there will be bumps along the way, where you will question whether you truly love the game or you will have times when you feel at an utter loss with the sport and question why you are doing it. But for true love, it will always prevail.

Hockey players, no matter how tough they are, or what level of professional play they are at will almost always say that they love the game and love playing. We all share that same love that we had as kids playing on out door rinks and then developing it further.

That child like love for the game and being part of something is something every player can feel proud of. I doubt that if there were players out there who didn’t love the sport, or at least like it, they would still carry on playing.
So what will I take with me to the up and coming season then. Without sounding like a new age hippie the one thing I will carry with me through out the season is my love for the game. But love isn’t enough to succeed or carry me and my team along this season. We need to take things like pride, passion, aggression, identity, grit, determination and contentiousness into every training session and game and act like those training sessions or games would be the last ones we could ever experience, before the world ends.

That’s why hockey is a game that will make you a better person and will make you more susceptible to accept others and will help you succeed in life. All because of the one core element of love.

Saturday, 11 April 2009


Injuries are an unfortunate, but an everyday element of being a hockey player. Whether it is on ice hits or working out at the gym, players have come to expect that they will be injured at some stages of their career. Some more often than others.

What most people don’t realize that injuries are actually hidden opportunities. To recover from an injury, you require a certain element of problem solving skills and mental toughness. It is also an opportunity to rest yourself and get back to the game fresh compared to your team mates. It is also an opportunity for you to carry out mental rehearsals on your mind to visualise things that you do well and visualise the plays.

As you might have guessed when you started to read this, I am currently injured. I have a tear in one of my muscles in my hip and as a consequential result of that, I have managed to bugger up the ligaments that join the hip to the leg. Needless to say it is a tad bit painful. But for some reason, where in the past I have been disheartened by injuries and gotten back way too soon, I have managed to maintain a positive attitude towards this one. I have decided that I will use this injury, rather than let it use me. This way I believe that I will be a better player and a better person. Specially as the injury happened before our season started, so I am confident that I wont be losing any games.

What I have established is that by resting the injury will get better, though things like sitting hurts and sudden movements, such as muscle jerks hurt during sleep, the injury has gotten better already. It is not good enough to skate on just yet, but it will heal soon and in good time so that I can rehab myself and regain some of the strength that I am bound to lose during the healing process.

When I spoke to my parents about the injury their initial reaction was, well parent like. They wanted me to give up the sport, but then again, that is what they have said in the past as well on every injury that I’ve sustained. I am only using this as an example of the types of thoughts I can’t let take over my mind. This is letting the injury use me. I have all the confidence that I will be back from this injury, stronger, as a better player and most importantly a better person.

I have to tip my hat in admiration to one of my friends who is currently battling an injury, more severe than mine. He has been sidelined with a broken leg and the spirit he has shown is something that I can only aspire to. In many ways his attitude has been inspirational and convinced me that I will be able to bounce back by keeping a positive focus on things while i let the hip heal to a standard where I can start skating again.

Monday, 6 April 2009

One final look back/ Forwards Now...

With the season around the corner, I felt that it was apt to cast one last look back into the past to leave it truly behind. From this point forward, those things that have happened are put to rest and will be used as lessons for better playing, for better living. Though I will not write about the seasons gone, I will be using them as a resource to better myself as a player.

When I have been reflecting on the past two seasons I realise that I have had a number of factors that have made me a better player and a number of factors that inadvertently affected my performance. Rewind back to 2006. From the outset I had set a goal to win the national championships with the Spitfires, a dream that came to fruition from the end of that season in June I headed straight into the Summer Cup 2006. Before the Spitfires national title, I had played over 30 games in the regular season and I was looking at another 14 with the Cougars.

With the national title behind me I had set my sights onto the Cougars’ season, which proved to be successful in terms of team success and personal success. Bar the injury that I sustained, it was a great season on all fronts that just lacked the crowning moment of skating away with a medal. This was late August when I finished the season. From there I went into try outs with an ED1 team and made it to the roster, whilst already starting to train with the Spitfires. Though my ED1 plans didn’t pan out because of ITC issues, I was happy that I had proven to myself that I was good enough to play at that level.

So onto the Spitfires season 2007-2008 another 12 games from August to June that clashed severely with my Summer Cup 2007-2008. So managing 14 games of ice with the Inline took its toll. Not to mention getting married in the Summer of 2008, so there was a lot going on. My knee injury came back twice as bad due to my ignorance of not wanting to rest it. I played the whole summer period with every stride feeling like I had something stabbing at my knee. I was playing each game under heavy pain killers to try and make the skating as comfortable as possible. I was unable to do any leg exercises and I put on ridiculous amounts of weight because I wasn’t able to train at the same level of intensity as the year before.

So the summer finally came to an end and I was looking forward to a rest. I was mentally quite exhausted from two years of hockey straight. I know that the game is fun and I love the sport (something I will explore at another post), but there is a time when enough is enough and you need to take a breather.

I went into the new season in a new team pretty much at the end of August and where I enjoyed the chemistry with the team and the coaching, I was physically tired and nowhere nearly motivated enough to be fully prepared for the season and the intensity that was required to compete in the rinks. Though I had to give up the game because of money issues, I still think that in some cruel way it was a blessing in disguise. Where I still want to get back into the team, I am in a position where I can’t commit to it financially. Though it has allowed me to focus my energies and set some goals elsewhere. So with this extra time, what have I done with it to make myself better?

I have rested. Since giving up I have dedicated Wednesdays as a day of rest to allow my body to recover from the hammering I put myself through in training and the gym.

What I am getting at is that rest is important. No matter how much you love the sport you need time away from it. Hockey is one of the most demanding sports known to man and if you keep going at it non stop for three years, your body will be tired and your focus isn’t as sharp as it used to be when you were at your peak. Therefore, it is important to find the balance of work and rest in the game to make sure that you are able to recover and respond at the next game. A tired mind and/or a tired body is a dangerous combination and can lead to severe injuries or losing love for the game.

But like said, this is the last look into the past and dwelling on bygones. This is the final wave for goodbye. The direction is onwards and upwards. There’s only a quote that I can use to finish this post and this time I’m citing a Finnish band called The Lighthouse Project: “Forwards Now...”

What do you want?

Do you want to play hockey or do you want to be a hockey player?

A question that will separate the men from the boys and the pros from the ‘Joes’. Too many times when that question is asked, people aren’t able to give a straight or honest answer, or they answer the question to make sure that they give the answer they think is right for the team and not to them selves. If I sat in a changing room with my team, I could possibly point out which guys are there to play hockey and those that are hockey players. Sure, over 90% of the guys would say they were hockey players, but the statement wouldn’t be true to themselves, nor would it model their approach to hockey.

Do I want to be a hockey player or do I want to play hockey?

I can categorically say that I want to be a hockey player. I am willing to do everything that is required of a player on and off the ice. Whether it is sweating it out at the gym four times a week and then do the required on ice training. I have set myself goals that I am working to achieve and I have began using a variety of new techniques to perfect my game. I have found routine and things that make me comfortable. I can go into the corners knowing that I am strong on my feet and I will come out with the puck and still be able to hustle for it and get it on the net.

Hockey is about being confident with yourself. My mantra has been adopted from CCM (as sad as it sounds) when they first brought out their Vector range. I think it personified my identity as a hockey player really well. Now however, that mantra still being my backbone I am expanding my horizons to different elements of being out there.

If you asked what type of player I am from any of my team mates both past and present, I think adjectives like competitive, contentious, hard working, dedicated, loyal, trust worthy might come up. Those are the qualities that I model my self around.

I have recently also been reading a book and one of the exercises in the book was to discover your identity and who you aspire to be. Where it would be easy to listen to the sound of names drop, I can’t say that it would be my own identity. It would be the identity of the pros and wouldn’t truly reflect on my own commitments and how I want to be perceived on the ice. My identity, I suppose to a greater extent is expressed by my tattoo I have on my left deltoid. I have the Finnish coat of arms (or the Lion) which I suppose personifies my fighter’s spirit and the ‘Man can go through the grey stone’ attitude and Sisu I spoke of before in this blog. A lion is the king of the jungle, an elegant, fast and a smart animal that will ferociously defend its own and its territory. I feel that this personifies me really well and it is my identity and what I bring out in me every game, training and the gym.

I’ve often said that the stuff that goes on the ice is the easiest part of hockey for me. If you truly want to be successful and achieve greatness in the sport, you need to be willing to make sacrifices in your own time off the ice. Specially at this level where you are paying to play and invest a great deal of your time to the game. Those of us that take things seriously enough are willing to sacrifice time after work for runs, work outs and other activities that help us with our hockey skills will be the ones better off. Those are the guys who want to be hockey players. The ones who say that they are, but don’t quite fit into the description are not doing themselves any favours and only have a negative impact on the team by their lacklustre lip service words.

These guys want to be hockey players, but lack the willingness to take advice on board and the drive to do the extra bits that are required from each member of the team during the season. After all it is all about winning and not about taking part

Tuesday, 31 March 2009


Throughout this blog I have been discussing my goals and aspirations as a hockey player. Where the last post ultimately dwelled on the some times negative feelings and insecurities that you face in the game, it is important to reflect on your goals that you have set for the season. Thing I realised from yesterday’s post was that it is a tool that I can use. Winners and successful hockey players use everything around them for motivation and success. At the end of the day, I played a strong game with good stride and had a good time playing my position and my role.

I thought that by revisiting and reiterating my goals, I will keep them fresh in my mind, rather than as a lip service thought at the back of my mind. This way my goals will become clear to me and help me find extra motivation to bust my ass for greater success.

When I started this blog, I was very much focussed on trying to get back into shape from a knee injury that had ruined my season before. That goal has now been achieved and I have been able to remain (relatively) healthy and train without any pain in my knees what so ever, so that is one goal that I can tick off from my list straight off the back.

As a team goal, I have set my sights for the playoffs and I hope that everyone else in the team would be working to that same goal. There is a lot of work to be done, but looking at the width and breadth of our roster, we have all the tools to go far. We have had some great players come into making the roster even stronger. I am confident that we will be able to turn tight game to our advantage and that our season will carry on until August.

Individual level I have set the bar high. You can only reach great heights if the sky is your only limit. My personal best has been 13 goals and 5 assists, which equals 18 points during the season. Now that points total has to rise up by an additional 13 points.

Those are just three of my goals. Winning is the most important thing and winning those all important games away is even more important. I know I am faster than most of the defensemen I play against and I can out skate them with ease. But how do you do it? By confidence, by having belief in yourself that you can do it and knowing that you are a great hockey player. That is half the battle. I am sure that my confidence will grow with the new line I am playing on and with the opportunity to move the puck.

These goals are not lip service goals or something I say half heartedly. These are goals that I think about every waking moment of the day. Objectives that are achievable and manageable, that make life worth living for and all those long nights on the rink. 90% of the hard work is done off the ice and I find that often the things that go on the ice is the most easiest part of reaching those goals, but it is still hard work.

To finish I can only describe my mentality by Sisu or by quoting the great Don Cherry: “Remember, it is not the size of the dog in the fight, it is the size of the fight in the dog.”

Monday, 30 March 2009


One thing I have found of great use in my preparation for the season has been Saul L. Miller’s book Hockey Tough. Basically the book goes through sports psychology procedures you can run through in your head. Some of the things he has said in the book have become a part of my inner mantra that now resonates to my life off the rink. I suppose the greatest lesson I have learnt from the book is that a players’ mind is their greatest weapon and their worst enemy.

If harnessed and managed right at all times, players can remain more focussed and are able to energise themselves through repeating simple breathing exercises and visualisation exercises. What I have found of great use is visualising. I now dedicate five minutes of the time before we hit the ice to visualising the plays and other teams and playing with my line. Making good solid passes and taking shots on net.

However, one thing I learnt of my mind over the weekend was that it can be my worst enemy and a greater opponent than any other team ever could be. In a recent game and the heat of the action one of the players took a slap shot, which hit my blade and ricocheted straight into my mouth. I remember the puck hitting me and falling to the ice holding my mouth and trying to feverishly feel whether my teeth were still intact or whether my gumshield was the only thing holding them in. After I realised that there wasn’t any blood dripping from my mouth I skated off to the bench to re-group.

I suppose the expression on my face was comparable to the 1000 yard stare often talked about with war veterans. I was staring blankly into space with my feet and hands shaking from all the adrenaline that had been released into my body. After I had calmed down and gotten back into the game following the old Finnish proverb: Akkia uudestaan ennenkun tulee kammo (transl: Quick, get back into it before you get scared).

What I quickly realised though was that I was not focussed as I was at the start. I was hesitant to go and battle for the puck and I was generally shying away from sticks that were higher off the ice than my knee and I wasn’t driving the net with the same kind of force.

I was utterly lost and I knew it. I had started to squeeze the stick, I was tense and none of the breathing techniques seemed to work on me. I played at maybe 25% of my full efficiency in a tight game. If it wasn’t for a short bench I would’ve asked to be benched, and I’m sure the coach would’ve done the same.

However when we went into the 3rd period a tem mate gave me a good pep talk which really helped. I was playing a lot better in the third despite still being scared. Fear is something that I cannot carry with me to the rink. Despite my parents’ and wife’s concerns for my safety I must accept that these bumps and bruises are part of the game and part of life as a hockey player.

A piece of preparation that I need to work on beside my physical strength is the strength of my mind, so that small bruises such as these don’t hurt me. I’m OK being hit on the boards, that does not phase me, but a minor incident like a puck in the face seems to cripple me. Though I know it was a freak accident and something that I would normally block with my legs, it won’t slow me down. If it had slowed me down, I would’ve cried off from the game.

Besides, isn’t Purple the ‘IN’ colour of the season?

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

... And So We Learn

With April and the season just around the corner, preparation is ramping up. Pre-season training is slowly being turned to in-season programmes and training intensity is higher than before. We are also getting used to the rigours of playing games, which is something that I must admit we’ve all been aching to do since our last game a year ago.

We haven’t played that many games yet, two to be honest, and preparation could be a bit more demanding, in terms of getting the appropriate readiness and read of situations. Our latest effort was against Oxford Bulls, a team that we had always had great success against and I think to a degree we were all looking for a relatively easy night and a high scoring affair as those games of the past had been. We took to the ice realising that there was only one player from the roster we once knew and everyone else were completely new and spoke with a strange central European or North American twang.

We drew the game 5-5 after being two goals up at the final two minutes of the game. What caused the unfortunate turn of events was a few defensive lapses where our goalie was left high and dry. Bit of a shame to such a strong game he played. A player who has just started to play again and hasn’t been on the ice for 4-5 years caused one of the defensive lapses. I spoke to the guy after the game and undoubtedly he was disappointed to have cost his team the win. I was disappointed to have drawn the match, after all I go out there every night to fight for a win.

But what I found interesting when I spoke to the guy, was that I was actually encouraging him, rather than giving him whippings for his mistake. It was quite clear that he was in enough of a distress over his lapse that his team mate adding to it would do him no good.

Mistakes are something we make throughout life and they are made to be learnt from. Just as in my last post about building a solid base fitness and learning from your past mistakes, mistakes are ultimately what make us better as people and as players. The only true concern is that if we make the same mistakes again and again, which would show people around you that you don’t take any notice of your actions or how they affect those around you. This approach has devastating consequences in sports, specially team sports where sometimes the success of a team depends on an individuals’ performance and whether they have learned from past mistakes.

I remember in my youth days I had a coach who would hand pick me as an example of how not to do things. Bit embarrassing to be called upon time and time again, but it was an effective way of learning from my mistakes that I made in training. This ensured that I would carry what I learnt into the games and would not make costly mistakes there.

When we learn from mistakes, whether it is in a game situation, training or at the gym, it makes us stronger individuals and stronger as a team. Sure it is frustrating and like said many times before, hockey is an adrenaline filled sport so tempers do flare up if things don’t always go the way you plan. I don’t want to sound like a new age hippy or a tree hugger, but eventually once you get over the initial reaction go back to the guys and explain why you reacted the way you did and how they can make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Hockey, more than any other sport is about making the right reads and being able to make decisions in a few fractions of a second. Players must have the ability to make a play when a guy is baring down on them and before being laid out on the board. It is about reading and anticipating and taking the hit.

I’ve learnt from my mistakes on the ice and life in general. I think last summer’s experience with HPK revealed my one true mistake that I didn’t learn from on time or pursue hard enough as a kid was a pro hockey career. I am now training hard for making that dream a reality and time will tell, whether I have learnt from that mistake enough to push for that ‘spot in the sun’.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

When Rome Was Built

Our ancestors have taught us a lot. Maybe the most important lesson we could have learned is to learn from their mistakes and not fall foul to the same ones they did once upon a time. If only we were that wise to take heed of the teachings they left us. There is a saying that was used of ancient Rome, which was “Rome was not built in a day”. I am slowly starting to see what they meant by this and what people should learn from those that have passed.

Patience has never really been one of my true virtues. I always lived life with the mentality that I want everything and I want it now and if it wasn’t done 5 minutes ago I would start fretting and worrying things weren’t going my way. Same with hockey; I wanted results and I wanted them instantaneously. I wanted that every shot I took went in to the net, I wanted that every play I made would finally break the opponent’s back and us win the game. It was same with preparation and pre season work out. My mentality used to be that I relied on my speed and skills to carry me through, I soon realised that passion and skill alone aren’t enough.

Whilst I’m approaching the end of the most gruelling pre-season preparation (6 months) I realise that endurance and strength are not built in a day, just like Rome. It takes time to achieve perfection and even then there are flaws. Flaws that you will have to work on to improve. The truth is that the minute you are happy with what you have got, your empire will crumble down. You need to be on the edge and be that little bit uncomfortable to seek consistent improvement, day in day out.

Skill and dedication is what champions are made of. If hockey would be an individual sport I think I would be contending for championships based on the amount of work I put in. However hockey relies on 35 individuals pulling together for any team to win. There are individuals in a team that are stronger and skilled and there are those who require guidance. When I look back on my ‘career’ I realise that I have been an arrogant player. I set everyone high standards, my standards, and if they didn’t play to those standards I would disregard the player. Whether it was that they weren’t as skilled or fast or just plain arrogant, I thought they would not have a place on the team and that they did not serve a purpose. Not a very positive way of thinking from a player that needs to stay focussed and positive through out the season, even when the odds are against you.

Instead of guiding and advising the players my nature and personality flared up and I threw my toys out of the pram on more than one occasion. I’m sure that my former team mates from the Spitfires will have fond memories over my tantrums that they will laugh over pints. What I realise now is that I need to take a positive focus on every shift and focus on the things that my line does well and ignore the negatives. Kind of like managing a TV, if the programme that is on is not to your liking change the channel. I think I’m experienced enough to give some guidance to those who need it and let them tune into my TV and the way I see things on the ice. After all it takes time to build a team and for guys to gel together, remember, Rome was not built in a day, neither are winning hockey teams.

That goes for me as an individual as well. Instead of thinking that I will miss the net with every shot I need to think that every single fucking shot is going to hit the target and is difficult for the goalie to save. Through this thinking the puck will find the net and I will be able to help my team more. I suppose the same attitude and mentality can be applied to all aspects of life. If the channel on your mind’s TV does not please you, change it I.E change your way of thinking.

A good friend of mine has been a great help to me on staying positive and has generally been a source for true inspiration. I think the success that I achieve this season and during the next few are largely due to his positive attitude and for spurring me on when I wanted to give up. Still following the Rome analogy, he has been like the Caesars’ right hand man, but in this case off the ice. I hope I can re-pay him and my wife back one day for being there to guide me and managing my mental TV when all seems lost.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Head game

As the NHL GM’s meet, one of the hot topics in the sport at the moment are fighting and hits to the head. Not too long ago we learnt of a tragic death of Don Sanderson. Don shot from obscurity to being recognized by the hockey world at large. Don died following a fight in December 2008 and his death sent shockwaves through the hockey community.

Where I take grievance in the fact that a young life was lost in a hockey game and to my knowledge he is the first one to do so after Bill Masterton. Sure there have been instances where players have passed away due to heart or other health problems mid game, but not from a physical altercation like a hit, or a fight.

The other hot topic at the moment is hits to the head, which is obviously concerning, given that the rates of concussion went up last season. Hits to the head are concerning because the consequences are life threatening. Where I find these types of injuries and concerning and I have been at a receiving end of a few hits to the head during my time, I have grown to accept it as part of the game.

Hockey is a high intensity contact sport and it requires players to stay alert at all times. Every time you lace up the skates you try and put it at the back of your mind that you might get seriously injured. You put your trust in the fact that you keep alert and you keep your head up and you will skate out relatively unharmed. Sure there will be a few bumps and bruises, but as long as you escape without serious injury you will be fine.

Injuries are something that happen and where they are annoying and undoubtedly painful, you can always heal ligaments, broken bones and muscle sprains, you can never fully heal a brain. Hockey is about being fearless and being brave to go to the corners. Hits hurt momentarily, but they are essentially quite fun and a core strategic part of the game.

I just hope that the NHL doesn’t strip away the essence of hockey in fighting. There is no other sport in the world where aggression and adrenaline are allowed to flow as freely as it is in a hockey game. But at the same time I hope we have all learnt a lesson from Don Sanderson and I wish that his family and friends find peace and that Don’s death is not forgotten.