A few months ago, we posted the video of Honda’s ‘Outdoor Rink’ commercial. In it, US hockey legends Mike Richter, Neal Broten, and Pat LaFontaine drive their assorted Hondas to a pond in Minnesota and build a little pond hockey rink for the neighborhood folks to enjoy. Northern Americana at its best.
Today we bring you two more. I’m actually in the market for a new SUV, and in my internet research travels, came upon Honda’s hat-trick of hockey-based commercials. In addition to ‘Outdoor Rink’, Honda produced two other commercials of note, ’5AM Practices” and ‘Reliability’. As someone who remembers getting half-dressed in a pre-dawn living room (and who is looking forward to doing the same with my son very soon), I find these commercials to be very nostalgic and well-done. Kudos to Honda for recognizing this niche market.
(RSS feeders and e-mail listers, this’ll probably be easier if you visit the site.)
I wouldn’t consider myself a hardcore video gamer by any means. The only current-generation system I own is a Nintendo Wii, I’ve never so much as held a controller for the XBOX 360, and I have never once stood in line to make sure I got a game the day it came out. Actually, I’m not sure I’ve ever purchased a non-Madden, non-Tiger game in the same year it came out. But I know hockey, and I know what my wish list would be for a Wii hockey game. And from the ability to play on a backyard rink as a peewee to the inclusion of the hockey stick accessory, it looks like EA nailed it.
I posted this link back in early June to a story about EA Sports’ first entry into the Wii landscape, this fall’s NHL Slapshot. While the text and images in that article alone were enough to make me consider putting in for a week of vacation time immediately following the game’s release, these trailers have me considering making it a month.
Some of these have been around for a bit, but this first one was tweeted by @EASPORTSNHL just over an hour ago. It shows more of what the gameplay will be like for the user, and what kind of movements will be required to rip a backscratcher from the point or to Boychuk a hapless forward at center ice.
The more I watch these, the more I can’t wait for this game to come out. When Blake Wheeler gets knocked off the puck by a 4’6″ kid on a backyard rink, you KNOW you’re dealing with a realistic simulation! Be sure to check back here for my full review shortly after it’s released (or sooner if I can get the folks at EA Sports PR to hook me up with an advanced review copy…*cough*).
The Coolest Hockey Bedroom EVER is a series of posts chronicling the transformation from a boring bedroom to a hockey heaven for my toddler son. You can read about his dresser here. Have an idea for the room? Comment below.
Today’s installment of ‘I have too much time on my hands’ ‘The Coolest Hockey Bedroom EVER’ will cover the creation of a pint-sized hockey locker. Sure, you can buy these retail, but what fun is that? Rinkbuilders need SOMETHING to screw together haphazardly in the warm summer months, so why not address some storage/room awesomeness issues at the same time?
1 – The material list is pretty simplistic. It assumes that you already own things like a drill, screwdrivers, a table saw, and wood glue.
-Particleboard ($20, but see my note below)
-1″ Screws ($3)
-Paint (Free – used leftover indoor paint)
-Name Tag ($20 shipped)
What I’d do differently: I’d upgrade the wood I used. Wood can get a little spendy for some of the higher-end types, and my goal was to keep this project’s costs low. But I could have used an entry-level pine and still come out under $50, and the end result would have been much higher quality. Plus the particleboard can break and fall apart if your screws are too large.
2 – You’ll want to measure the area where you intend to place this locker, which will help you determine the dimensions of your particleboard. I had a little nook in a corner of my son’s room that would allow for a 1′ square locker footprint. The particleboard I purchased was 6′x1′, and I completed this entire project using four pieces.
You’ll build the body of the locker by simply gluing and screwing three full pieces of the 6′x1′ particleboard together. Run a thin bead of wood glue along the joint before joining the pieces, and be sure to drill pilot holes before screwing them together to keep your wood from splitting.
3 – Once you have your frame built and looking like the images above, you can measure out your shelving/seating setup. I did this by taking my extra fourth piece of particleboard and having it cut into four pieces: the top piece, the shelf, the seat, and the front facade along the floor.
What I’d do differently: I’d paint my pieces immediately after cutting, rather than waiting until the whole unit was assembled. It’s much easier to paint the wood pieces when they’re not assembled, as this allows you to work with different colors without having to worry about masking anything or painting in tight spots. My advice is to paint your pieces during step three.
4 – Put it all together. After making sure everything was square, I screwed the top piece on. I then slipped the shelf in, leveled it, drilled four pilot holes, and made it permanent with four screws.
For the seat, I first added the front facade, as that piece not only serves as the bottom front of the unit, but it also acts as the support for the front of the seat. I then took a scrap piece of 1″x2″ of pine, leveled it, and screwed it to the back wall of the locker to support the rear of the seat. Be sure this piece of 1″x2″ is at the same height as the top of your front facade. From there, it’s easy to slide your seating surface in, securing with wood glue and a few more screws.
What I’d do differently: I had initially intended to create a hinged seat (allowing for a ‘cubby’ of sorts underneath), but didn’t have the time or extra material to screw it up. If you choose to go this route, you’ll have to add some seat supports along the side so that the hinge doesn’t get bent the wrong way when your toddler leaps inside of it (and they will) The hinges were about $4.
5 – Now for the finishing touches. By far my favorite feature and what makes this thing really rad is the nametag. After doing a bit of googling one night, I ordered my son’s tag from www.nametagcountry.com. There are surely other sources, but many of the sites I found had volume minimums or higher prices. Once on the site, go to Products > Door Signs > Door Signs and select ‘Black Door Signs’. This provides you with a whole host of color combinations. We went with the Canary Yellow plate with black Arial text. It rules.
And what’s a locker if you can’t hang stuff in it? I opted to use three hooks in my son’s locker. The one in the back is a bit higher than the other two, which are placed lower because he’s only three and I wanted him to be able to reach them easily.
And there you have it! Aside from painting, it probably took me a grand total of two hours to build. My son went absolutely bananas when he came home from school the next day, which was precisely the point.
At the old house, we used to play mini hockey in the living room, where the couch was the bench, the loveseat was the penalty box, and the hardwood was the ice. Now we’ve added a new dimension to our indoor play: after each “buzzer”, we retreat to his bedroom where he sits in his locker, takes off his “skates”, and relaxes for 30 seconds before jumping up and repeating the whole scene. $50 and two hours of work to let my little winger pretend he’s chilling between periods of a close playoff game? Worth it and then some.
The idea for this post was not my own. Rather, aided on a time-killing mission by my Google Reader, I stumbled onto a weekend post on the best pro hockey blog in the world, Yahoo’s Puck Daddy. It asked a simple question, and solicited a response from the everyfan: what is it about a hockey that made you a fan?
For me, there was no defining moment that announced my entry into hockey fandom. Considering that I was born into an old-fashioned French-Canadian hockey family, I suppose an argument could be made that the defining moment was my birth. But my point is that I was a hockey fan before I had the presence of mind to realize I was a hockey fan. As a toddler, I’d stand in front of the television and belt out the national anthem in step with Rene Rancourt. Like many young children, I had my share of imaginary friends, though I’d be willing to bet most kids didn’t hang out with an invisible Pete Peeters. And at parties, my parents got a kick out of calling me over and making me pronounce “Krushelnyski” in front of their friends. I was a hockey kid, through and through. But my upbringing alone did not make me the fan of the game that I am today.
1 – Family
I began playing hockey at the age of four. As the years passed, hockey was a part of my life in every way. At four, it was dad waking me up while it was still dark to drive to JFK for 5:30 games. At eight, it was visiting Rhode Island, Connecticut, or Vermont for weekend tournaments, eating at fun new restaurants and spending hours in hotel pools and game rooms. At twelve, it was the once-in-a-lifetime trip to Anchorage for the National Championships. At the time, I didn’t think much past the games themselves. But looking back, I realize now all of the quality time spent with my family. Those early intro-mite games, it was my dad nudging me awake and gearing me up in the living room. The tournaments? Those were weekends filled with games and friends, but also quality time with my parents and my sister. I can remember being a 13-year-old, playing on a Boston-area travel team, driving hours for one Saturday game. How many teenagers do you think spend entire weekend days with their parents? I did, and though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was damn lucky.
I’m long past those days of travel hockey and hotel video game tournaments. But a funny thing is happening in my life these days: I’m in the exact same place my dad was some 26 years ago. My son, all of three years old, is a carbon copy of the toddler I once was. His favorite toys are his hockey guys, and he plays with them every day. He can execute a between-the-legs drop pass in the living room, and knows the top shelf from the five hole. And while he’s an only child at the moment, he’s had an imaginary brother for at least a year now. His name? Michael Ryder (insert your salary cap joke here). So while my competitive playing days are over, I am eagerly awaiting the dawn of a new career. And while I hope my son succeeds in all he does, I don’t sit around and think about goals and wins and scholarships and contracts. I’m just looking forward to the car rides, post-game pizzas, and tournament weekends. And I hope that someday he too will look back and realize that while the game of hockey provides satisfaction in the moment, it also helps form tremendous familial bonds that transcend the game itself. In my 30 years on Earth, hockey has brought my family together more than anything else.
2 – Playing Outdoors
I can’t quite put my finger on its genesis, but there is an ongoing movement in North America to bring hockey back outside. It seems to have started around 2005, and in five short years, outdoor hockey has grown tremendously. The member count of the Yahoo Backyard Rink group that I belong to grows every month, and there are pond hockey tournaments taking place from December to March in just about every locale whose weather system will support it. Many participants in these events grew up on outdoor rinks. Those players see these backyard rinks and pond hockey tournaments as a way to get back to their roots and revisit their youth. They look back at their growth and development as players and have the local ponds and lakes to thank. But there is a fascinating and overlooked phenomenon that is taking place at the same time. Outdoor hockey, for many players, is serving as a re-introduction to the game. Speaking for myself and most of my friends and cousins, the outdoor game is relatively new to us. I know that for me, aside from a small handful of pond hockey games, I grew up in ice rinks and on organized teams. My parents just didn’t have a flat yard that would lend itself to a backyard rink, and I don’t recall being dropped off at the local pond for a quick game of shinny on any sort of regular basis. Outdoor hockey just wasn’t a topic of conversation, and that suited me just fine. But with this latest surge of outdoor love, I am experiencing this great game in an entirely new way. And with events like the New England Pond Hockey Classic introducing more people like me to the joys of outdoor hockey, my hope is that this growth continues. Because even though playing pond hockey doesn’t conjure up images of my youth for me, playing outside with friends and relatives certainly has an invigorating fountain-of-youth quality to it.
3 – Playing With Pros
I’m convinced that hockey players are among the most accessible professional athletes in the world. And I’m not just talking about autograph sessions or charity events either. I’m talking about how relatively common it is to end up in the same locker room as guys who make their living playing professional hockey. There’s this example (down in the reader section), where locked-out Boston Bruins’ center Adam Oates played a full season with a Worcestor-based men’s league team. Or this story in the Gazette about how NHLers PJ Stock and Felix Potvin take part in a pond hockey tournament in Quebec. And there was Maxim Afinogenov down in Alabama earlier this year. There are dozens of stories like these. When’s the last time Albert Pujols took batting practice at your local field? Do you think LeBron James structures his off-season workouts around the local YMCA pickup game schedule?
But hockey players are different. From the kids at the learn-to-skate programs around the world to the world class players taking part in the Olympics, each one of them shares a similar love for the game. So when it comes time to hang them up, be it for a union lockout or a career, it’s difficult for these players to stay away. And when the fans and contracts and stadiums disappear, what’s left are the blue collar lunchpail leagues, the charity tournaments, and the outdoor events.
I’ve been fortunate to play with several current and past professionals, and it never ceases to amaze me at the tremendous skill levels that these individuals possess, even decades after their last paid game. I’m just a 30-something-washed-up-ex-college player, but in the last year alone, I have: played in a charity tournament with a current LA Kings prospect; played all winter in a men’s league with a former Hobey Baker Award winner and his brother, who played 13 years in Europe; been a defensive partner of an ex-NHLer who played over 530 games for the Devils, Blues, Coyotes, Stars, and Bruins; and taken part in a pond hockey tournament with ex-NHLers who still reside in the Northeast. This kind of stuff just doesn’t happen in other sports, and it’s us lucky blue-collar men’s league guys who benefit from watching these guys on the ice with us week after week. Seeing their tremendous talents on display right in front of your eyes can only make you a better player, and the fact that they are willing to play where there are no contracts or cameras shows the passion and love they have for the game. And both the skills and affinity for this great game are very easy to feed off of.
4 – NHL Playoffs
I understand that hockey is not for everyone. It struggles to compete with the WNBA for TV time, has to fight ice dancing for prime coverage during the Olympics, and is generally regarded by mainstream America as something that slots in between couples badminton and competitive laundry-folding on the importance scale. But to the folks that don’t quite get it, I beg you: watch, nay, ATTEND an NHL playoff game. I’m not sure I would have included this item a year ago. But last spring, I was lucky enough to go to every Bruins home playoff game in what we thought might be a magical season. I had seen enough playoff hockey on TV in my lifetime to make me think that I knew what to expect. But the ambiance, not only in the Garden, but in the subway, the streets, and the restaurants around the Garden, was so ignited that you could feel the energy around you. As game time approached, the hoards of people outside the arena shuffled towards it, heckling those crazy enough to wear opposition sweaters. We funneled into the building’s escalators, as nervous and excited and anxious as the players themselves. Spilling out onto the concourse, the impending explosion of intensity and fury enveloping us. Then walking through the opening to our seats, the sonic boom of excitement and apprehension forming a deafening roar that doesn’t let up for three hours. That is playoff hockey. And that is why I wish there was a way to bottle it and release it to everyone. Because I have yet to meet a single person who has watched a playoff hockey game and not come away wondering why they didn’t watch hockey more often.
5 – The Ice
It’s funny how you can play 20-something years of competitive hockey, and yet look back and still remember something as seemingly mundane as pre-practice ice. But I remember it so vividly that I can smell the cold rink air as I type this. When I was in high school, our school day ended at 2:33 on the button. Practice started at 3:15, but our slot at West Side Arena opened up at 3:00. The rink was relatively close to school, leaving us plenty of time to get ready for our daily skate. For some, this half hour was time to relax, to joke, to unwind from the school day with their buddies in the locker room. But not me. Because nobody rented the time slots in the few hours leading up to our practice time, the ice hadn’t been touched in hours. The hot water laid down by the Zamboni had long frozen, leaving our cold home rink ice a silky smooth white sheet, with not so much a single skate mark in it. Until I made them. There’s something about taking something so innocent and pure and perfect and dancing around on it. After jumping onto the ice I’d glide to the bench and drop off my backup stick, looking back to see the parallel tracks I’d made, with tiny flecks of ice next to them. Then I’d test my edges, making giant C’s in the ice. I’d grab a puck and slide it across the rink, letting it bounce off the boards before scooping it up and racing down the ice with it, chips of ice exploding off my skates with each stride. Within five minutes my teammates would join me, practice would start, and the perfect ice I’d enjoyed would be relegated to a mishmash of cross-overs and hockey stops. And I’d have to look forward to the next afternoon. I made my last pre-practice cuts 12 years ago, but the feeling of the ice under my blades and the echoing of my Sher-Wood in the empty arena have been programmed into my soul.
For a while after college, I was done with hockey. I was tired of playing competitively, I was angry with the Bruins for their miserly ways, and I was willing to walk way from the sport when the lockout begged us to do so. But I’m back in a major way. First it was my hockey-loving son, born in 2006. Then it was the Bruins-Habs Game Six in 2008. Then it was my backyard rink and my introduction to the world according to Jack Falla. Then it was this blog, and the realization that my hockey life had done an incredible job in preparing me for my real life. And as I sit here now, a few short years away from becoming a true hockey dad, I’m realizing how much I owe to this game, how much I love this game, and how much I want to share this game with the world.
Just a bit of Friday morning administrivia. New content coming Monday!
This past weekend was the 2010 Chatter Cup tournament, and if you’re in my social circle, you’re probably sick of me mentioning it. But my drive and motivation for raising money for Easter Seals and its autism program is a direct result of the passion that Mike, Craig, and the rest of the event organizers have for the event. And what an event it was. On the ice, the three-peat was not to be, as our squad was shutout by an insanely hot goaltender and a team of younger legs in the finals. But MUCH more importantly, the event raised an incredible $40,000, besting last year’s total by more than ten grand. Our team raised over $2,000 in one month, with a percentage of that coming directly from this website. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
I had promised a Backyard-Hockey.com t-shirt to one person who donated via this site, but because of the outpouring of donations and the fact that we more than doubled our team goal, each person who donated from this site will be getting a shirt. I will be in touch with each of you in the next week or so.
Backyard-Hockey.com Apparel Store
Did somebody say t-shirts? How about t-shirts, hoodies, long-sleeve tees, and more? That’s the plan for the Backyard-Hockey.com apparel store, which is in the process of being built. It has a target launch date of October 1, 2010. The store will be broken out into two parts: B-H.com logo merchandise, and a kids’ hockey slogan line.
And if you’re like me (a hockey-nuts father of a toddler), it can be frustrating when looking for hockey clothing for your little ones. I’m hoping to fill that void with an original, limited-edition line of clothing for infants and toddlers. Stay tuned for more details.
You may have seen this update last week on our Facebook page, but Backyard-Hockey.com is now on Twitter at @BackyardHockey. The goal with Twitter is not simply to broadcast new blog posts, but rather to more easily connect with readers and to facilitate conversation with other bloggers, industry experts, merchants, and hockey players. Twitter has a unique ability to make accessible people and entities that were previously inaccessible. What does that mean for you? As our ‘follower-ship’ grows, so too will the ability for us to pass on news, events, products, and site links quicker and more often than writing a blog post. Another reason to join? I’m working on some promotions, giveaways, and hockey merchant coupons and deals (see below) that will be solely for our Twitter followers. Join now so you don’t miss out!
While it won’t be a full site redesign, you will begin to see some changes around here in the next few weeks. In an attempt to help grow the site, support its readers, and create valuable hockey relationships, I’m partnering Backyard Hockey up with several online merchants, the first two being HockeyShot.com and Total Hockey.
HockeyShot.com is the “largest online specialty retailer of hockey training equipment in North America,” and their site contains a dizzying array of on- and off-ice training aids, videos, and equipment designed to make you a better hockey player. Check out their site – I did, and then I started my Christmas list. They have some seriously cool and innovative products, and I’m excited to be able to share them with you.
Total Hockey is known in the Chicago and St. Louis area as THE hockey store, but their online presence is no slouch either. Containing the newest and most popular ice hockey, inline hockey, and goalie equipment, TotalHockey.com is a great source for all your gear needs. If you need skates, sticks, helmets, or anything else, I urge you to check out TotalHockey.com first.
You’ll start seeing links to these sites around this page soon. Backyard-Hockey.com will never become one of those sites that barrages you with blinking ads, and I have no intention of quitting my ‘real’ job to turn this into a money-making venture. But my hope is that if you’ve read the content on this site and found it useful, funny, introspective, or simply not awful, and you’re looking to make a hockey-based purchase, you’ll consider purchasing through one of the links on this site. By doing so, you’re supporting the website and allowing us to pursue new and creative ways to grow the Backyard Hockey community. My list of ideas of how to accomplish that gets longer by the day. What makes many of these ideas possible is the monetization of the more popular areas of this site.
Quick request: if you do patronize these merchants, let me know how it went! Shipping time, prices, quality, customer service interaction…I want to know about it all. I want Backyard-Hockey.com to be the best, and I only want to partner with the best. To do that, I need to hear about your experiences.
So that’s all from behind the keyboard. I can’t thank you enough for keeping this site in your regular internet wheelhouse, and I look forward to growing with and for you in the next few months!