Besides being the dedicated gamethread opener for Fear the Fin, I am also the first line right winger for USC's women's club hockey team. Last weekend, we traveled to Vancouver for a three day tournament. While this has nothing to do with the playoffs, we'd thought it be neat to show the women's side of things, as well as the hockey madness in Vancouver. Enjoy!
There is nothing like playing in a weekend hockey tournament. Teams come from all over – local, a few hours away, sometimes even from a different country. The skill levels vary widely, as do the sizes of the teams. Teams play multiple games in a day, a necessity due to the short length of the tournament. You’re tired, thirsty, and your legs are burning from skating as hard and as fast as you can. In the days after the tournament, a flight of stairs seems like Everest. You have large bruises and pulled muscles in places that you didn’t even know existed. It’s the greatest feeling in the world.
Over last weekend, the
Wice, as it is known among the players, has traditionally been a small team. Established in 2001, the team has had fewer than 10 players in each of its seasons until this year – still more than any other women’s college team in
This year, the interest in Wice exploded. The team now has 22 players, most of whom have never played hockey before. For women’s hockey – especially for club hockey or even rec league hockey – that’s an extremely large team. The referees, linesmen, and even opposing teams were often in disbelief at how large our team was, and that all but one of the players were undergrad. With all the new players, Wice is like an expansion team in the
Every season, Wice travels to a hockey tournament to end the season. Last season, it was
Our first game was at , after a long day of travel that involved flying into Seattle and then driving to Vancouver (when you’re checking 20 bags of hockey gear in at the airport and then having to put them in rental cars, you tend to have to start travelling earlier than normal). We managed a 2-1 win off of a strong performance by our goalie, Katy Ricci, and two goals by our captain.
Alas, that would be our first and last win of the tournament. The next day, we lost our first game 8-1 – which was actually the best performance a team had against that team, as they had won their other two games 9-0 – and our second game 4-1 against a team that had won their previous game 11-0. Losing, in a word, sucks. I ended up being a -2, and there’s no worse feeling than being out on the ice and not being able to prevent the other team from scoring a goal. Missing a pass, being checked, being slew-footed by your own teammate, whiffing on a shot right in the slot – nothing feels as bad as seeing that puck slip behind your goalie, especially if it was on a shot by the person you’re supposed to be defending.
Likewise, there’s no better feeling than seeing a teammate score a goal, especially their first goal (jury is out on scoring a goal yourself, because I have yet to actually do that). One of our wingers – who had just joined the team this semester – stole the puck high in the offensive zone after everyone else had given up on it, and got off a shot on goal. Five hole and in. It was her first goal, and you could see her smile all the way across the rink. She was jumping up and down on the ice like a little kid. We were still losing something awful, but that didn’t matter in that moment.
We ended up placing third in our division despite a .333 record, as the two teams we lost to were the two best teams, playing each other in the championship game. While it would have been nice to get more than one win, the experience of playing in a hockey tournament is invaluable. I learned more about hockey in that 24 hour span than I had in a long time. I learned that intercepting or even blocking passes is a hell of a lot harder than it looks. I learned that players hop over the boards instead of going through the doors because the doors are so damn hard to open. I learned that the refs and linesmen are actually nice guys who like to chat with the players during games. I learned that getting questionable pizza before a game is a bad decision. I learned that the long change is a hell of a lot harder to make than the normal change. Most of all, I learned that just because women’s hockey doesn’t allow contact doesn’t mean that you won’t get hit.
Not only was traveling to
Within the first five minutes of driving across the US-Canadian border, we spotted a Canucks car flag. Having been in Los Angeles – the home of the Lakers car flag infestation – a mere six hours earlier, it was a bit of a shock to see car flags NOT sporting the signature purple and gold of the Lakers. As we drove closer and closer to the city limits of
One Vancouverite I talked to equated Canucks hockey fever with that of
Saturday night, the team went out to dinner in Gastown to celebrate the end of the season (as I learned from a placemat at "the original Old Spaghetti Factory in