Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind, don't matter, and those who matter, don't mind. ~Dr. Seuss
Girls just wanna have fun ~ Cyndi Lauper
Make some fun, happy time ~ Alex Ovechkin

Monday, September 26, 2011

Participate in the Poll

Participate in the poll: How do you feel about the new white netting at Verizon Center? I heard a lot of grumbling tonight about it on my tweet stream. It didn't look so great on the video feed either. How about you? The poll will be up for a couple of days, so let your opinion be heard! Please feel free to add your comments there as well. In case you missed the link in the word "poll", here is another one: (Can you tell I really want your imput!!!)

UPDATE: Via Uncle Ted on Ted's Take today 9/27/11:

Netting Update

We took a closer look at the Verizon Center protective netting today, and it clearly isn’t what we had anticipated. It hinders the fan experience and it is not an asset to our local rights holder, Comcast SportsNet. Therefore, starting with Friday’s preseason game, we will reinstall the black netting that had been used last season. We were attempting to improve the arena and television viewing experience, but we fell short of that mark.

So I guess the poll is no longer necessary. As of this edit the tally was 232 votes with 183 against the white netting (79%) versus 49 votes for (21%). Who knows what impact the poll had, if any, but thanks to everyone who reposted/retweeted the poll and participated!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Goalie Gear

Last week, the Washington Capitals posted a picture on their tumblr blog  of Neuvy's new glove and blocker. This got me curious. What does a goalie do to break in new equipment? So I posed some questions to a few hockey goalies.

Participating in the discussion were:

Jared DeMichiel, our former ECHL South Carolina Stingrays goalie, now playing with the ECHL Elmira Jackals. (Jared recently tweeted that he has been invited to try out with the Boston Bruins, I’m sure we all wish him the best of luck!) On Twitter as @demike3316.

Mark Russo, who besides being a PGA professional, is also a goalie in leagues at both Laurel Ice Gardens and Piney Orchard Ice Arena. Mark also contributed a great article on goalie pads to the NHL Digest blog  which is run by a terrific guy named Tyler McKinna. On Twitter as @markrussopga and @tylermckinna.

Angela Robson, who will be playing in the Steel City Hockey League this year, which is based in Ontario. On Twitter as @goaliegirl.

Jacob Greengas, a paramedic living in Colorado who has been a goalie for 6 years. On Twitter as @MedicGoalie84.

Chris Gannon, who plays pickup hockey. On Twitter as @CapsCup2012.

Tommy Huynh, who played in the AA Men's league at Kettler this past summer. On Twitter as @GLaSnoST9.

My thanks to everyone who participated. Please give them all a follow on Twitter if you aren’t already.

So, what does it take to break in new equipment? I imagined breaking in a goalie glove would be similar to breaking in a baseball mitt. I wasn’t far off, but when it comes to the blocker or lag pads, I hadn’t a clue.

Jared: With my pads the only break in I really do is figure out the sizing for the straps to my legs. My glove probably is the biggest break it period. I like to leave it under a heavy weight, mattress, or couch. I periodically switch the weight on the glove as I leave the glove open and close it too. There's really no break in with the blocker. I just chuck it on and get used to it!

Mark: When a catching glove first arrives, it is generally very stiff and difficult to close, which can be problematic if the puck can't be properly sealed into the glove when caught. Goalies have many different ways to break-in their gloves - bending them back and forth to break down the materials, resting heavy objects on them to work them into that closed position, and tying a softball into the webbing to get it nice and open in there to ensure the puck stays tightly enclosed. There is nothing a goalie won't try to break the glove down, but in the end it takes persistence and use to get it to where it needs to be for game action. I usually will bend it back and forth quite a bit trying to flex it as much as possible, and then I will also rest a heavy object on the glove in a closed position so that it starts to get bent in that direction. After that, it's just constantly working it and using it trying to get it broken in... You really do see a lot of different methods, and it really seems to be what feels best or gives the goalie the most confidence that it is going to be game ready. The pads require the least break-in of any equipment, as they are made with a certain amount of flex already built in by nature should be a bit firm on the outside.

Angela: Thankfully this is something you don’t have to do very often. I’ve been playing for almost 15 years and I still have my first trapper. For my trapper, when I first got it, I wore it every chance I could and continuously opened and closed it. Probably not the best way to do it, but it worked for me. For goalie pads, you want to beat them up, HARD. You can use a baseball bat to beat them (lying on the floor, pad side up) and this is actually a pretty common practice. Obviously don’t do that to the inside part where your leg/knee goes. If you don’t want to do that, you can also put them at the bottom of the stairs so that every time you go up/down the stairs, you have to step on them. Really though, the best way to break in pads is to wear them and play lots of hockey. It takes a looooong time to break them in! It took me several seasons and I play all year round.

Jacob: When it comes to breaking in equipment the only pieces that need any special attention are the catcher, leg pads and skates (full disclosure, I still play in the same used chest protector and breezers I started with, so I've never had to break them in). I break in my leg pads wearing them around the house and playing drop in games in them. For my catcher I wear it and just keep opening and closing it over and over until it loosens up.

Chris: Out of all the equipment gloves are the items that need the most work when getting new goalie gear. What I have always done is loosen the webbing in the mitt. Dumped a glass of water on the glove and fold it inside out. Normally I will sit a desk or something heavy on top of it for 24 hours. Every time I've done this the glove is easy to open and shut the next day. You need to be able to easily hold the glove open as wide as it can go and I have found doing the above helps tremendously. As far as the leg pads go, it's close to the same thing. I will dump some water on them and take the top buckle and latch it to the bottom buckle bend the pads in half. Wetting the pads first makes it easier for them to bend. After they dry I unlatch them and they normally have a nice bend to them. Another thing i have found is that the bend really seems to make the pads more flexible when you butterfly. The blocker's I have never really needed to do anything with.

Tommy: In regards to new leg pads, it's different with each brand. I have a custom set of Reebok Revoke Pro Zone pads, they came already kind of broken in, and I took out the thigh guards that came with them so it's more comfortable when I butterfly. I wear knee pads underneath for protection and I won't go back to wearing thigh guards ever again. After wearing them a few times, the way I keep them broken in is I stack them upside down, so the bottom of the pad is facing up. I leave them like that until I use them next. For my glove, I tie a skate lace around the glove (2 loops) and sometimes  put 2 tennis balls in the mitt so that it stays compact, so when I unwrap it before I get on the ice, it’s easier to close. I'm not really sure how to break in a blocker other than just using it. In terms of Chest Pads, I've heard that you can wear it in the sauna, so the best way to break these in is by wearing it and getting it wet/moist. Then it will start to become more flexible and mold to your body.

Second question for the group: What special preparations, if any, do you do to your equipment prior to a game? (I do think this question needs a follow up in regards to superstitions in the near future, don't you?)

Jared: I like to get my skate's sharpened at 3/8 of an inch, tape/wax the blade of my stick, and lastly I like my glove/blocker dry before every game.

Mark: One of the big pre-game rituals for virtually every goalie is to lay his equipment out for proper inspection. All of it is checked over for any loose straps or broken/worn material, especially in the chest protector where a loose strap can cause an opening and some major pain if a puck gets through to the body. Every goalie knows what it is like to catch that one shot that just comes in awkwardly and seems to miss every piece of equipment and leave you with a nice bruise. So checking everything before the game is always important. In addition, the buckles and straps on the pads always need to be checked as they endure a lot of stress, as well as get easily weathered from the moisture and can come apart. Also, all goalie pads have a "toe bridge" on the bottom of the pads that has two screws; this "toe bridge" rests right on top of the skate and attaches the long skate lace that every goalie uses to run through the bottom of the skates to help secure the pad properly to the top of the foot. These screws constantly come loose through the movement of the goalie in the games, and always need to be checked so that they don't come out on the ice. Maybe last, but not least, are the skates. Goalie skates are much different than player skates as they not only have a protective shell on them, but are much flatter in the blade area; this is for stability and the ability to glide from side to side much more smoothly, as well as push from side to side when down on the ice in the "butterfly" position. But the blades of these skates take a beating as they meet with the metal posts of the goal on a regular basis as the goalie works to keep a tight seal on the post and not let that puck squeeze through. So, attention to the blades and a regular sharpening or use of a sharpening stone is very important.

Angela: No special preparations. But, in order to keep my equipment in good working order, I air it out as much as possible and frequently check all pieces for broken clasps, holes, etc. My pads got a hole in the leather on the inside bottom where the skate goes…I took it to a leather repair guy and he fixed it up for $30.

And finally, is there anything special about the fitting of the equipment; i.e. sizing, weight, helmet specifications, etc., that the average hockey fan wouldn't know but might find interesting?

Jared: Well, my pads are sized specifically to the length of my legs. I believe I wear 35 +2.5 length Reebok Pads. My helmet is fitted to the size of my head. Usually this is the size of one's baseball cap. I think my head is somewhere around 7 and 1/4 so my melon isn't too large! Lastly, I like to have a hand on deciding the paint job on my helmet. I usually do it through Eye Candy Air. They do an unreal job and they are fun to work with!

Mark: It's incredibly important to get the right fitting pad as not only does it need to fit the playing style of the goalie but it also must fit properly for safety. The main point that all goalies look for is the size of the pad; all goalie pads come measured in inches, and a proper measurement will take place by measuring from the top of the foot to the center of the knee. The key to that is the "knee stack"; this is the pad that will be directly under the goalie's knees when he goes down to the ice, and must be lined up perfectly under the knee or an injury can occur. In addition, it makes it much easier to slide from side to side when the knee stack is positioned correctly, as the knee stack is the main contact point with the ice when a goalie is down to make the save. When it comes to equipment, the most glamorous part of the bag is the mask. In terms of fitting, the high end masks are made of Kevlar and can be fitted by doing a plaster mold of the goalie's face, which will then be used to make the inside of the mask so there is a snug fit for protection. But most masks can be bought without having to do the plaster mold and as long as the head size is correct, a goalie can get a good, safe fit.

Angela: DON’T BUY ANYTHING TOO TIGHT. It’s much more preferred to have equipment that is on the loose side, but not huge. You need to be able to move in the net quickly, and being constricted won’t help.The helmet should fit snugly, not tight but not moving when you turn your head from side to side. Don’t ever cut a goalie stick, they are balanced. When buying a chest protector, move around in it; make sure that the tops of your arms and shoulders aren’t exposed to non-padded areas.

Chris: Regarding the stick: You should be able to easily hold in one hand and hold at eye level. If not, the stick is too heavy for you. Make sure you get a stick that is not to heavy and you a comfortable with. I cannot tell you how important this will be for when you need to make some amazing Holtby stick saves. Regarding the leg pads: If you plan on butterfly goaltending, spend a lot of time making sure you are comfortable in the butterfly position in your leg pads. Newer pads are made to butterfly easily but some older pads actually require you to awkwardly wear the pads on the sides of your legs. Before purchasing any legs pads make sure you fully suit up and spend at least an hour playing with them in butterfly.
As you all should know by now, I am a fan of goalies, so I personally enjoyed getting this wealth of knowledge regarding goalie equipment. Sadly, I wasn't able to interview Neuvy himself for this post, but maybe I'll be luckier next time I get a spark of inspiration. Thanks again to everyone who helped educate me!