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.