Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Day After ...

Boston, early morning

The more years I tack onto the ol' personal odometer, the more concerned I am about what surprises await me "the day after" any athletic endeavor, especially hockey. I'm usually OK right after a skate, when weary muscles are still warm and the beer is cold and cheap. It's the next morning that's a problem, when all my joints and muscles have had a chance to calcify, and the numbing effects of last night's beverages have worn off. My lovely bride, Lauri, likes to joke that the terms "Over 50" and "hockey goaltender" should be mutually exclusive. I'm beginning to think she's got a point.

I've played goalie in hockey since I was 12, and during most of my adult life (except for a brief, five-year hiatus when I thought I would mold myself into the second coming of Larry Bird. It didn't happen). Even at 51, I still play between three and four times a week, barring injury (and that's no small caveat). It's not getting any easier ... every little twinge or tweak can lead to a more serious injury if not properly diagnosed and treated. My flexibility - a strong suit during my youth - has gone AWOL. Oftentimes, I find myself mimicking the geriatrics from the classic TV ad: "Help! I've fallen, and I can't get up!" Just a few weeks ago, I actually strained my lower back simply tying my skates ... how embarrassing is that? To make matters worse, I still had to play the game (that's the downside to being the goalie; a warm body in net is better than none at all), which sent my backside into full-on spasms. Took me a week to get over that unfortunate episode. Recovery, I've found, is another thing (in addition to reflexes) that slows down demonstrably during your second half-century.

Today, I got out of bed thanking my lucky stars. I don't feel all that bad, despite playing in each of the past three days. That's an exceedingly rare occurrence, but one I hope to make a habit. My brother Chris, during a recent trip to Lake Placid, showed me a bunch of great stretching exercises, and I'm trying to incorporate those into my day. Lauri keeps threatening to sign me up for a local "Stiff Guys Yoga," which always prompts some juvenile comment from yours truly. But I ought to listen to my wife. She's a superb occupational therapist who works with an older clientele, and she's always telling me that the key to health in later years can be summed up in four words: "Flexible mind, flexible body." For starters, I'm getting to work on the latter. I just hope nothing comes apart!


The Gifted Hosers

Boston, cool & breezy

Well, Kevin Williams and the Gifted Hosers used me big time! I feel so dirty, so cheap (all right, it's not the first time, but it still stings!). Seems they did a bunch of these "knock off" raps - see previous post - for just about every team in this year's Stanley Cup playoffs (and, particularly galling, is that the Carolina Hurricane version has Scott "Punk Ass" Walker popping in a rebound to win in OT, just like the actual Game 7!). But, instead of deleting the previous blog (which is still kinda fun) and pouting, I'll just "man up" and let Kevin and the Hosers know that "Losers" is sounding more appropriate than ever! And next time, I'll watch the clip to the bitter end!



Friday, May 15, 2009

Swan song for the Big Bad Bruins

OK, so the 2008-09 Bruins season came to an abrupt and premature end. Time to get over it! After all, we'll always have this cool little rap to remember them by, courtesy of the appropriately named Gifted Losers. For just an instant, I was imagining certain members of the Never B's - Tighty Whitey Tony, John "The Animal" Steel and Brad "Zamboni" Dodge in particular - trying to dance to this, but the images were just too disturbing! Enjoy, amigos!

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming ...

Boston, overcast & gloomy ...

It's a sad, sad day here in Bruins Country. For the 37th consecutive year (and not since Richard Milhouse Nixon was roaming the halls of the White house), there will be no Stanley Cup hoisted in Beantown. Last night, the Big Bad B's, the East's Number 1 seed, took the pipe against a hungrier Carolina Hurricanes team that flat-out wanted the win more. Hockey never gets any better than a Game 7, especially one that goes into sudden-death overtime, but there was this unmistakable vibe that the 'Canes were going for the win, while the Bruins were just hoping to win. But it was still a great game, and as a hockey fan first and foremost, I have to admit I enjoyed it. Sure, I would have loved seeing David Krejci bury that chance from the low slot early in OT, but the 'Canes superb young netminder Cam Ward once again foiled the bid, and broke the collective heart of Bruins Nation. The only aspect of this game that truly upset me was knowing that it was none other than Scott "Cheap Shot" Walker that potted the winner. That, my friends, was painful to see. Ironically, I honestly believe it was the NHL's idiotic decision to rescind the automatic game suspension against Walker for his sucker punch of Aaron Ward in Game 5 that got the Bruins fired up to win Game 6 in Raleigh. Sadly, that same fire was missing Thursday night at the TD Banknorth Garden.

As a result, I've got to suck up my pride and ship a six-pack of finely aged Ipswich Ale to a good friend in Greensboro, NC, to pay off a little wager (get this: my buddy Brian Cook, who I will henceforth refer to as Nostradamus, not only predicted that the 'Canes would win the series, but also foresaw that they would take Game 7 in overtime, by a score of 3-2! That's a mighty powerful crystal ball! Or maybe it was the moonshine talking!). And, once again, B's fans are left feeling an awful lot like those long-suffering pre-2004 Red Sox fans, having to resign themselves to watching other teams from other cities battle it out for Lord Stanley's Cup, while we must "wait until next year." Here's hoping the 'Canes run the table (while Walker breaks a leg stepping off the team bus!). More on the "Curse of Jeremy Jacobs" coming later ...


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pantless in Placid

OK, that's not exactly true, as our stalwart left wing Tony Davenport did in fact remember to bring his hockey pants to our recent "adult" hockey tournament (given our behavior, the term "adult" applies only in the loosest of definitions).

But anyone who readily admits to the world that he forgot that essential piece of hockey gear during one late-night trip to the rink (check out RinkRatRants) deserves full props. Likewise, our other left wing, Robyn Nixon, deserves credit for managing to keep her pants on, despite the best efforts of a couple of Quebecois Fabio impersonators from a romance cover model convention that happened to descend on Lake Placid at the exact same time as our tournament.

I'd like to offer more detail, but am forbidden by the ironclad "What happens in Placid, stays in Placid" ground rules! Too bad, too, 'cause the stories would be a lot more entertaining ... !

Old-timers and one-timers

Nestled in the serrated Adirondacks of upstate New York, the resort town of Lake Placid would be the original "Land that Time Forgot" if it weren't for a single hockey game held on Feb. 22, 1980. The famed "Miracle on Ice" was the seminal sports moment of the 20th century, the ultimate upset, when a gang of fuzzy-faced college kids managed to knock off the mighty Soviet hockey team, 4-3, on their way to winning the gold medal in the 1980 Winter Games.

Today, it's almost impossible to imagine this place hosting a full-scale Olympics. With it's Tyrolean-themed motels and quaint downtown shops and funky restaurants and bars, Lake Placid appears to be stuck in a time warp (heck, the speed skating oval isn't ensconced in some arena ... it's plunked smack-dab in front on the high school, right along main street). If only our team of old-timers - the Never B's - could turn back the clock so easily.

We entered a Canadian Hockey Enterprises tournament earlier this month, with the hopes of erasing memories of a rather dismal performance last spring. In '08, a few members of our squad were clearly more focused on the extra-curricular activities in Placid, and we got throttled in three straight games. I played goal, and vowed to return only if I could play defense this time around. When my brother Chris signed on to play, it was a lock.

This year, however, the Never B's suffered from a timing problem; namely, we opted for a weekend that the CHE tacked on to accommodate an overflow of teams, and they simply didn't get the anticipated numbers. The average age of our squad was about 46, but given the low turnout, we somehow got stuck in the Over-35 Lefty Wilson Division. Truth be told, we also had a skill problem (or lack thereof).

Translation? Three straight butt-kickings at the hands of younger, faster, more talented teams (did I mention they were younger? Much younger?). Poor Rollie Briere, our brave-but-beleaguered netminder, could have sued us for non-support, as we got shelled, 7-0, 6-0, 6-0. We hit a couple of posts, which was a moral victory of sorts, but could never get the damn puck in the net (this despite an opposing goalie in our final game who had been drinking all afternoon!).

Still, I'll wager no one had more fun than the Never B's. Just being in that rink, with all those ghosts and Al Michaels's voice haunting the rafters, is a phenomenal experience. And one of the really cool things about these tournaments in general, and our squad in particular, is that most of the folks aren't suffering from any illusions of grandeur. We know our limitations on the ice, but we're not going to let those limit the fun we have off the ice. The sight of Scott "Spam Me" Handelman quivering at the onslaught of a thousand overweight Midwestern women with Jesus in their hearts is seared into my memory, as is "Lavender Laura" Ward defending herself against charges that she was responsible for Mark "Moonroof" Knobloch's rain-soaked gear (and car).

We had a blast, and no one got hurt (with the possible exception of Rollie's psyche). Plus, I had a chance to design our stylish sky-blue sweaters (or "gay" jerseys, as John "Psycho" Steel likes to call them), unveiling a new This Old Jock hockey-themed logo (below). The team name, however, will always remain the Never B's ("never were, never will be"), captained by Tony "The Pantless Wonder" Davenport and Brad "CSI Toronto" Dodge.

And we'll be back in Placid, powder blue jerseys and all! I'm sure our opponents are shaking in their skates!

By the way, you can find my brother Chris in the above photo, back row, third from the left. I'm in the same row, third from the right. I'm not allowed to identify any other players per the aforementioned Placid/Vegas Rule, except for "Sniper Bait" Steel on the far right!


The rules of engagement

Boston, bright and sunny ...

Greetings! Welcome to This Old Jock, my new-fangled blog and a clearinghouse for all things regarding the aging athlete (as my wife Lauri likes to say, "I don't have to worry about Brion's second childhood until he's finished with his first!"). Essentially, I hope to build a community, where athletes of all stripes, regardless of age and ability, can share words of wisdom and humorous anecdotes about their endeavors. Please bear with me while I get up to speed on the technology front (I'm the proverbial "old dog" trying to learn new tricks, I'm afraid). But, much like playing the games, it's all about getting in the arena, so I'm diving in and hope to get a better handle on things along the way.

It's mid-May, 2009, and I'm working on a few stories regarding the inaugural BUMPS Challenge (Bike Up the Mountain Points Series) here in New England. The Challenge is a pretty intriguing project, combining nine classic cycling hill-climb races in four different states, including the granddaddy of them all – the Mount Washington Auto Road Hillclimb in New Hampshire – as well as the Equinox in southern Vermont and Whiteface in New York. The timing couldn't be better, as the assignments are forcing me to acknowledge the fact that my annual date with The Rockpile (our preferred sobriquet for Mount Washington) is only three months away, and I've been on the bike exactly three times this spring. My hockey addiction routinely gets in the way of my cycling regimen, and this year has been no different. However, after struggling mightily on the Auto Road in 2008, I'm determined to give a better showing this year (as it is, my daughters refused to join me, since I apparently "take forever to get up the mountain," according to my straight-talking youngest, Brynne).

Coincidentally, the accompanying photo was snapped near the finish line atop Mount Washington, during the 2006 race. It's one of my favorites, if only because I just happen to be passing a racer clad in yellow (Brynne thinks I'm dropping Lance Armstrong!). Talk about serendipity, not to mention photographic sleight of hand! In reality, it was a painful experience, as my lower back went into spasm shortly after the road tilted up (which, if you're familiar with Mount Washington, is almost immediately). I didn't learn my lesson two years later (the 2007 event was cancelled due to severe weather), when I again arrived at the start line woefully out of shape. And The Rockpile doesn't suffer fools kindly. For the next two hours and 15 minutes, I lugged my carcass up the serpentine, 7.6-mile road at a glacial pace, gamely trying to turn over the pedals while trying to keep from going off the deep end. Sunshine at the base had given away to blustery winds above treeline, and the hail started with just under a mile to go. I finished, barely, and nearly keeled over trying to get off my bike, suffering from hypothermia and muscle cramps.

This year, I swear, will be different. After all, hope springs eternal, which is the only reason I can imagine that anyone would keep signing up for these things. So I'm heading out for a spin, to see if I can loosen up my legs. Twelve weeks and counting! Please feel free to join in the ride; the more voices, the richer the dialogue!