Hockey senior forward Chris Spracklen will once again provide an insiders' look at the Army hockey program. A center from Kennewick, Wash., Spracklen will share his insights, introduce teammates, provide a glimpse into life on the road and much more for the second consecutive season, continuing the long tradition of Army hockey diaries. Click here to read Spracklen's biography.
Friday, Nov. 19
Maybe it’s the smell of the rink. Maybe it’s the way a clean sheet of ice looks. Maybe it’s the feeling of being in a locker room with 28 of your best friends. Maybe it’s the feeling of playing the fastest sport on earth. You get it all – hard hits, speed, fighting, shootouts, finesse, enforcers, grinders, and violence that borders assault charges. I’m sure every athlete has their two cents for why their sport is the best, but here is my plug for why hockey is the greatest sport on earth…
Hockey is a game of finesse, strength, endurance, balance, and speed bottled into one. It is the fastest game on earth. Players switch on and off the ice on the fly. We don’t wait for the play to stop. Each player knows where they need to be and the spot they need to fill on the fly. Every shift is 45 seconds to a minute of sprinting. The play is constantly moving and the flow never stops. Every player on the ice plays offense and defense. Every player must know how to play every position as things change so fast you have to adapt and fill a different position nearly every play.
There are no interruptions or timeouts to decide what the next play is going to be. It’s a heads-up game. You have a split-second to look up, find the open guys, and make the right play. If you stop, you will get run over. If you hesitate, you’ll get stripped of the puck. It’s a game of constant motion and adapting to the changing environment. Every fan gets a full 60 minutes of action -- not 10 minutes of action in a 60-minute game -- a full 60 minutes. But we do give you a break every hour to watch a goofy truck cruise around and magically turn the ice into a clean sheet.
You can never blame the weather because we know exactly what the weather will be every single day….friggin cold. While going at speeds of 25 miles per hour on a surface that is 200 feet by 85 feett that has nine other bodies (not including goalies) moving at full speed, you must navigate your way through the crowd while stickhandling a small, frozen puck, find the open players, and put a two-inch disc on a teammate’s stick. Hand-eye coordination is the key to success. The more you have to look at the puck while stickhandling, the greater your chances increase of being put in the hospital.
You should know that “Look good, feel good, play good” is highly regarded. You may not see it, but any player with bad style is highly “chirped” on the ice. An amateur hour stride, full jersey tuck, face-shield that is too small, or a mug that only a mother could love is never forgotten. We let it be known every time those players step on the ice.
You show me a guy that has never had long hair, grown out a playoff beard, or rocks a fake tooth, and I’ll show you a guy that doesn’t play hockey. Playoff hockey is a total appearance makeover. Nothing better than long-hair and a shaggy beard –shaving is absolutely forbidden in playoff hockey.
Self sacrifice is a crucial part of the game. We actually have the “pills” to put our bodies in front of a frozen rubber disc going 90 miles per hour just to stop it from getting to the net. You even know, as luck would have it, that shot will miss your pads and find the exposed part of your body on the top of your foot, top of your knee, or your wrist, and its gonna hurt – but you do it anyway because blocking that shot could save a goal. In juniors and in the pros this is done without a facemask – one of many reasons hockey players are missing teeth. Not only are stitches and scars welcomed, they are also encouraged. Let’s not beat around the bush here … chicks dig scars.
Let’s be honest, who doesn’t like to see a fight? Anyone can be a tough guy when they know the consequence of their trash talk is the referees breaking it up. What about when you hear the four magical words: “Do you wanna go?” Really ups the ante doesn’t it? And just like that, conflict settled - consequence: 5-minute penalty…what a deal.
Hockey players have their own unique language. Spend any amount of time around a group of hockey players and you’ll be wondering what the heck they are talking about – my roommate complains about it all the time. He thanked me after a recent encounter with a group of Canadians and he was able to fit into the conversation.
Finally, the celebrations- although they are the best you’ll find in any sport, they all finish with a group hug and helmet tap, everyone gets credit for the goal. Every goal is a total team effort.
Oh, I almost forgot…all of this is done while skating on a blade an 1/8 of an inch thick.
Thanks for reading my diary. Hope to see you at the rink for our four-game home stand.
Friday, Oct. 1
Thursday, Oct. 21