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Culture » Get Out

Puck, Yeah

Keep those winter skills sharp—even in lousy summer weather—with drop-in hockey.



When the weather outside is frightful, drop-in hockey can be delightful. Plus, there’s plenty of it. But why should you care?

To start, where else can you pay $6, get on a team and play a fast-action game regardless of your ability level? Next, where else can you get such an intensive and efficient workout; one that uses every muscle, works your aerobic and anerobic systems, and sharpens skills like hand-eye coordination, athletic strategy and quickness—all without any commitment other than showing up?

Mike Dykman, a Murray fireman, says, “I play two or three times a week just for the physical fitness. It’s a great workout. My 8-year-old daughter plays, and she enjoys it.”

53-year-old Dykman uses the game to stay in the superior shape required for firefighters. “Hockey is great for strength, agility and any kind of cross-training. It’s not a sport of goons. Drop-in is ‘no check,’ it’s really more of a gentleman’s sport, and great fun.”

There are dozens of games to choose from at rinks from Ogden to Provo, including Salt Lake County Ice Center, West Valley Accord Ice Center, Salt Lake City Sports Complex, Utah Olympic Oval and the recently refurbished Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center. Games are scheduled nearly around the clock, some starting as early as 5:30 a.m., others as late as 10:15 p.m. You can always find a game to match your personal time availability.

Get gear like pads (shoulder, elbow, shinguards), shorts, gloves, stick, jersey and helmet cheaply from secondhand sports stores and rent rink skates before deciding if you like the game enough to purchase hockey skates.

If you decide to get into the game, here are tips from three semi-pros who are regulars at the County Ice Center’s afternoon games. Chase McDonald, 18—a Triple-A player whose ultimate goal is to get a college scholarship and then go pro—says, “The No. 1 tip is to keep your head up. Don’t look down at the ice while you skate. If you want to learn to skate better, most rinks offer hockey skating lessons; it’s worth taking some classes so you can enjoy playing more.”

Matt McNamee, 20, plays junior hockey in Canada and hopes to make it onto the U.S. national team. He advises, “It won’t be easy the first time, but keep practicing. Keep your back straight, but stay low—what hockey coaches call ‘the toilet position.’ For a slap shot, you actually hit a little behind the puck; whack it as hard as you can.”

Erik Soderlund, 18, is a recent California transplant who plays on the same Triple A team as McDonald. He says, “Always keep the puck between the middle to the heel of your blade when you’re stick handling. Don’t hold the blade straight up, tilt it to ‘protect’ the puck. Try to keep the stick close in to your body; it’s easier to control that way than if you’re all stretched out.”

Hockey sticks are fairly inexpensive. A stick should be cut to your size, which is chin high if you’re wearing skates, nose high if you’re not. Some players dispense with shoulder and elbow pads for less active games (usually the “Huff and Puff” games for those over 30).

Drop-ins are casual affairs. Goalies may or may not show up. There may be 40 players, or only three or four. Players may change teams in the middle of a game. There’s no face-off and, of course, no checking. You’ll see more fights in a club.

Dykman points out a big advantage of drop-in games: “Beginners and experts can be on the ice at the same time. They can play together and really have fun.”

To find out when games are held, call any local ice rink, and press “0” when the voicemail greeting comes on.