Archive for the ‘hockey’ Category

The frustration mounts

Posted: August 1, 2014 in fitness, hockey, ice hockey

I haven’t been updating people much on the shoulder operation recovery in the past few months, but that’s mainly because there hasn’t been much to update on. I saw my consultant a week ago and I was allowed to return to weight training, which I felt was great news, and to be fair it is great news. It beats doing just body weight exercises, but the return to the free weight area hasn’t been as straight forward as I had hoped.

 

I posted a picture on Instagram of what I can bench at the moment.  Lifting just the bar is far from ideal at this stage, but I sort of understand it. I have had three months off and not loading the right arm with any weight. What is still more frustrating is that I can’t seem to get the full range of motion into the lifts. I guess those are the anchors that are holding the joint back.

 

It has been fairly frustrating as I haven’t been able to complete some of the exercises thanks to the joint not having full range of motion with a weight load on it, or that the joint is still sore when trying to do something like a power clean or a clean w/jerk.

 

I was never the biggest of guys in the gym, but I’ve gone to the guy in the weights area that is using a 2kg weight to do flyes and deadlifting 20 kg, I’m trying to understand that it is all part of the recovery process. I think the reason why it is so frustrating is because I had expected that I would just waltz right on in and start lifting the amounts that I had been before the operation.

 

Maybe it has only now dawned on me, that the injury that I carried was a rather big deal, if it required this amount of fixing.

 

What I’m now focussing on in physio therapy is to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder, which is fine and I actually quite enjoy it, as I can see some progress. The least enjoyable part of the whole recovery process is the stretches that I have to do.

 

What I’m doing at the moment is laying on my right hand side on a bed/couch with my arm bent in a 90 degree angle. I then need to use either my left hand or a stick to push my right arm down. The pain is excruciating, almost to the point that I almost want to throw up, but it is essential that I do it, or otherwise it will affect life on and off the rink. Permanently. The first few are painful, but after two or three stretches I can get my arm below the line of the mattress. But I’d need to get it to bend good 20 degrees more. In terms of pain, that is the single most painful thing about this whole process, apart from waking up right after the operation.

 

But as the old Finnish proverb goes: “Onwards, said grandma while stuck in the snow.”


The summer is a great time of year. Time for BBQs, hanging out with your family, making a trip back home for a few weeks and then there is the off season. What has been particularly pleasing about the last two summers is that it has been hot, which in turn allows me to do a lot of off season work outside – in the name of resistance chute sprints and plyo ladder work.

What has been a continuing trend from last summer is the number of people that come and talk to me about my chute sprints. It’s a strange concept to people, but at the same time it intrigues them. I generally do the sprints at the park right by my place (hooray for suburbia).

Usually I have to answer the following questions:

What is that?
What are you doing?
What are you training for?

I get these questions from kids and adults alike and sometimes have people standing and watching me do the sprints. No pressure there then. I really do not have a problem in talking to people about the training and they are usually really surprised when I tell them I train for hockey. Their usual reaction is “oh but you just beat people up,” which I try and nervously laugh off. Usually I can get a good conversation going with people about it and the benefits of doing it.

What is surprising to me though is that there are kids and teenagers who play football. I admit I don’t know what level they play to, but I would like to think that this type of training would be something that professionals do as well. It may be an alien concept of training around the area where I live, but it’s a heck of a way to get into shape.

Speed chute sprints have become one of my favorite exercises during the past two off seasons, and even more so now with recovering from the shoulder surgery and all. What’s so appealing in the exercise to me is that in that sprint you literally give everything and continually tell yourself that you can go faster.

But all in all. I think I am the only weirdo in the neighborhood as most other people go to the park to play football, cricket or frisbee. You should see the looks we get when we break out the Finnish game Molkky. It’s good to be a bit weird though. Always push the boundaries with your training, whilst keeping your own goals in mind, regardless of how many eyeballs are looking at you and looking at you all confused.


The brand:

The Winnwell brand is a bit of a new one to us, having not really seen much of the equipment in the European hockey stores or featured much in trade shows. In the NHL, Winnwell is perhaps more known for its gloves than other visible equipment. It does manufacture shoulder pads, sticks and shin pads.

Having done a bit of research into the company, they have been around the game since forever it seems. Winnwell has a strong pedigree in manufacturing protective equipment that has been built with the pros in mind and to pro-spec. Further research shows that some of the games’ greats have worn Winnwell equipment so the brand certainly has the pedigree behind it. However, Winnwell might not have the marketing budget of some of the other big brands, but does that hinder the quality of equipment? That’s what we are going to find out.

The equipment features:

Side profile of the Winnwell Pro-Stock Elbow Pads

Side profile of the Winnwell Pro-Stock Elbow Pads

What we have been testing is the Winnwell Pro Stock elbow pads. The elbow pads, the company says, have been built to the specifications and demands of the professional player. When you look at the gear out of the box (or bag in this instance), the elbow pads definitely have an ‘old-school’ feel to them and a look and profile that is akin to the days of the good old Jofa protective. In fact if you Google Jofa 9144 Pro Stock Elbow pads, you’ll see a striking resemblance between the two.

Where most elbow pads have gone towards a more low profile look, Winnwell has provided a protective that calls back to the good old days of hockey. The shoulder cups are actually quite deep in comparison to many other elbow pads in the market. This design ensures good strong fit for the pads. However, it can be a bit of a shock depending on what you are used to wearing. If you have been wearing some of the lower profile elbow pads, the first time you wear the Winnwell product you’ll feel a bit out of sorts to begin with, but even towards the end of our first session with these pads they felt really comfortable towards the end.

The elbow pads come with Winnwell’s clean hockey technology which is designed to keep its equipment smelling fresh. After 2 months of use on the pads, there is hardly any “hockey” scent on the elbow pads.

Breaking in and fit:

Breaking the elbow pads in was a bit of a strange experience. Out of the bag the elbow pads do feel a bit stiff, which is to be expected with any new piece of equipment. On first use the pads felt extremely comfortable, but for the first 20-30 minutes of training the elbow pads felt a bit stiff which did affect shooting and puck handling a little bit. This trend lasts probably about 3-4 training sessions before you are fully accustomed to the elbow pad. But like said above, towards the end of each of the first few sessions the pads actually feel really comfortable and you hardly notice you are wearing new pads.

Sticky material on the wrist guard helps keep the pad in place

Sticky material on the wrist guard helps keep the pad in place

As mentioned the elbow cups are a bit deeper than other elbow pads, which can take a bit longer to get used to. However, what the deeper cup has resulted in is comfort and great fit. The elbow pads come with a sticky liner on the wrist that has been designed to keep the pad in place against the compression layer. Having used both T-shirt and compression long sleeve, the elbow pads do stay in place, which is a rare feat in elbow pads. Often during a game you have to fix and alter the position of your elbow pads, but the Winnwell Pro-Stock does actually stay in place relatively well.

However, the only criticism that there is to the Winnwell Pro-Stock elbow pads is that the Velcro attachment areas could be a bit bigger to ensure a tighter fit. Despite wearing the right size, there is still a little bit of slack on the bicep area of the elbow pad.

Value for money

What the Winnwell Pro-Stock elbow pad scores big on is value for money. The elbow pad provides protection that is equal to the top of the range CCM, Reebok, Bauer or Warrior gear, but at a fraction of the cost. The graphical design isn’t something that will set the world on fire, but then again the elbow pads are under your jersey, so it doesn’t matter what they look like. The main point is that they protect your elbows and bicep.

For £45 for elbow pads you cannot go wrong. Do not let the relatively low price tag of Winnwell’s equipment fool you. It does not mean that the product is bad quality or that there’s something wrong with it, far from it. We think that this piece of equipment is where price and quality meet. You are not paying over the odds for a top of the range elbow pad and it will not leave you hanging dry. The elbow pads do not rely on any gimmicks and we have been positively surprised by them.

Durability:

winnwell3As mentioned above, the Winnwell Pro-Stock elbow pad will not break the bank, but one thing that people will question is that whether a sub £50 elbow pad will actually last or if it is going to fall to pieces after a few months use. We have had these elbow pads for almost five months in active use, but during the time there have been no faults with the equipment. The straps are still where they’re supposed to be, the elastic straps have not lost any elasticity (though this will happen over time on any piece of protective).

Despite taking a few falls and purposefully elbowing plexi glass at the rink, there are no signs that the cover of the protective cup has worn.

Conclusion:

Once the elbow pads have been fully broken in, they perform really well and equally to other top of the range elbow pads. The Winnwell Pro-Stock elbow pads hark back to the era of the good Jofa equipment. The pads are relatively lightweight compared to others. In comparison, the Winnwell Pro-Stock weighs about the same as CCM U12 elbow pads, so that’s not too bad.

We’d recommend the elbow pads for both league players, as well as recreational players who are looking for good quality protection but don’t want to spend too much money. That’s not to say that this is a beer league level pad, far from it. It can cope with the demands of the professionals, but for those that want top of the range protection, why pay over the odds.

 

Pros:

  • Great value for money
  • Durable
  • Stays in place during play
  • Comfortable
  • Great ‘old school’ feel

Cons:

  • Can take a while longer to break in than others
  • Can feel a bit bulky at first few uses
  • The Velcro strap areas could be a bit longer for tighter fit in places

 

Midnight epiphanies

Posted: June 9, 2013 in fitness, hockey, ice hockey, Sports

As I woke up at 01:00 it wasn’t because of a noise outside or that I was not sleeping well. I woke up as I had an epiphany. I usually get these epiphanies every summer at different stages, but these epiphanies are what I use as my triggers and as the subconscious affirmations towards the game.

Where I have been working on off ice conditioning for over a month now, it has been out of habit and because I generally enjoy exercise and I like to stay in shape and to make sure that I’m ready for next season. But the epiphany is really the spark for everything. It is what re-lights that fire that was first discovered when a hockey player laced up the skates for the first time. That primitive calling of ‘this is MY thing’.

Well, as if I needs any more affirmations for it, but I love this game. I couldn’t imagine a life without the game and everything that comes with it. I even love the lengthy preparation for the season. This epiphany, like I said, happens every summer and usually acts as a trigger to say that my mind and body have rested enough from last season.

The only thing now is that I have an insatiable urge to be back on the ice and I’m itching for the opening face off already. I want to be on that roller coaster ride that takes you to incredible highs and through the lowest of lows. Hockey can be a cruel mistress.

I don’t think I’ll be catching much sleep tonight as I’m going to be pumped from this.

Sweat saves blood

Posted: May 21, 2013 in fitness, hockey, ice hockey, Sports

That was the adage that our drill sergeants and lieutenants were drilling into us in the army during basics. It was probably about 28c and we were in the forest in full gear digging fox holes. “Sweat saves blood! You dig that hole now and during an international hard ammo training you won’t bleed” was one line I that has stuck with me.

At the time when this took place I wanted to take my spade and throw it into the forest along with my rifle and tell the ‘man’ to “stick it”. However all that would’ve gotten me was a trip to retrieve said items and probably would’ve made my basics time hell.

But why am I droning on about the army and what I learnt? Well the motto of ‘sweat saves blood’ is good for the life of a hockey player as well. The off season is a time she. You are meant to sweat and put in countless hours of work on the road and in the gym. Your exercises get weird looks, as there aren’t too many people slamming a medicine ball around are there?

If you look into the laundry basket, it would be full of workout shirts and shorts that literally reek of sweat after you have given every last grain of energy in your body.

Sweat saves blood. The work we put in to training during the summer makes all the difference come opening face off. It can give you that split second edge on the ice, which can mean a goal or avoiding a check that might make you bleed. What is better? Have the bleeding and associated pain with it, or go through a smaller amounts of pain and sweat to avoid that injury?

Off season training is not easy. It shouldn’t be a walk in the park. It’s there for you to push yourself and find extra levels within yourself that will ultimately make you a better player, a better, healthier person.

*excuse any typos. Post written on a not so smart device


18 years ago, 7th of May 1995, a Sunday afternoon and Finland was playing in the World Championships. That Friday before, my teacher at school had asked us to show our hands if we thought Finland was going to win gold. I didn’t raise my hand. I didn’t think that the team was going to do it, given the disappointment of the year before.

On that Sunday afternoon I wasn’t paying the game my full attention. Yes, Finland was in the final, but I thought that Sweden would be the winners of the game. They always beat us in hockey, especially in big games like this.

I remember that I had my friend Hannu over at our place and that we were in my room playing computer games or whatever and went to check on the score a couple of times. It was 0-0. Until we heard my mom and dad roar. Finland had scored. Ville Peltonen had put the puck in the net for the first time. That was it, maybe Finland did have a chance.

We watched the remainder of the game and saw Peltonen score two more goals and Timo Jutila add another. It was set, Finland was going to win the World Championship in ice hockey. A sport that is engrained in so many Finn’s psyche. It was a big deal. It still is a big deal.

The country went into a frenzy, just like it would do 16 years after that Sunday in May 1995. There were parades held up and down the country so that people could greet the heroes. I went to one event in Hameenlinna and saw Timo Jutila and Marko Palo with the trophy. I remember that Marko Palo signed my hockey card I had of him (which I have since lost) and that he was wearing these big Ray-Ban sunglasses to hide his blood shot eyes.

One of the relics that I still have at my parent’s house is a signed team photo of that 1995 team. It’s in a glass frame and I don’t dare fly it over to my place in case it would get damaged in transit.

Since then the saying -95 never forget has become somewhat of a joke amongst Finnish hockey fans. Today will be 18 years since the nation’s expectations were changed and we started to patiently wait for gold year after year, only to come away disappointed, until 2011.

We may only have two World titles to our name, no Olympic gold, no World Cup of Hockey honours, but those two World Championships mean so much to the Finns that it’s almost impossible to describe in words, even if the value of the World Championship event has diluted a little bit, it being an annual tournament and all.


At the Stockholm group of the World Championships, there has been a minor upset brewing in the form of the Swiss hockey team. The Stockholm group of the World Championships was touted to be the tougher of the two groups as it featured talent packed teams, such as Sweden, Canada and Czech Republic. No one could have guessed that the Swiss that are stealing the limelight.

In the opening game of the tournament, the Swiss handed a 3-2 loss to the hosts Sweden and then carried on the run of upsets by beating Canada in the penalty shoot out and then convincingly seeing off the Czech team by 5-2.

The team is comprised of players who play in the Swiss National League. The only NHL name that might be familiar to people is Nashville Predators’ defence man Roman Josi or New York Islander’s prospect Nino Niedereitter. The other recognisable name in the Swiss roster to most hockey fans is goalie Martin Gerber, who won the Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006.

The Swiss have so far faced and won the toughest countries in its group  – and barring a complete disaster – should be progressing into the second stage of the competition as a team that should not be taken lightly. In the past few years it has been the Swiss who have taken the biggest strides in terms of developing their standard of players and their results at the World Championships stage and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Swiss were in medal contention this year.

The team is getting steady scoring from all lines and in goal, Gerber has been strong, posting a 1.92 GAA and 92.31 Save percentage in three starts. Perhaps if the Swiss keep going the way they have been, we might see them in the medal games this year. Though it would take a lot to see them in the final, the Swiss could be on the way to building its own Cinderella story for this year’s World Championships.

 

To get the best deals on hockey equipment, please visit Nekoti Hockey by clicking the image above. When registering your account use virtanen as your agent password to get 20% off on all purchases

To get the best deals on hockey equipment, please visit Nekoti Hockey by clicking the image above. When registering your account use virtanen as your agent password to get 20% off on all purchases


Specifications:

Model: Sher-Wood Nexon 12

Curve: PP20 (Drury), 0.5 depth, 6.5 lie, heel curve. Rounded toe (left handed)

Flex: 85

Grip surface

Where to buy: http://www.nekoti.co.uk/index.php?tracking=5125ecce37331  (see link at bottom of review for discount)

Price: from £224.58, $229, €199

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The competition for the top range stick is really raging in the hockey equipment business. CCM has its RBZ, Easton is investing in its MAKO range, Warrior has its Covert range. When we’ve been looking at the market, there is one manufacturer who hasn’t perhaps had the recognition it deserves. That’s why we are looking at the Sher-Wood Nexon 12 stick (N12). The Sher-Wood N12 is the top of the range stick in Sher-Wood’s Nexon range, which runs parallel to its True Touch range.

When looking at the product sheet for the N12, the stick is loaded with features, which we will look at later. One of the key features here is that the stick is actually a true one piece. The shaft runs all the way down to the heel of the blade. In some sticks the blade is joined to the shaft. By doing this Sher-Wood has removed some weight from the end of the stick, and has made it easier to load. This design also removes some 15-20grams of weight from the stick (according to Sher-Wood).

Features:

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The Nexon 12 offers a true one-piece construction

The N12 features – as mentioned above – a true one piece construction, combined with a 3K carbon weave which gives the stick durability and increases the loading of the stick, making it easier for you to get a shot off. The 3K carbon weave can also be found in the blade.

The stick also features strategically positioned carbon fibre from top to bottom to maximise energy return and end-to-end stability to improve the accuracy and power for your shot. The N12 also has concaved side walls which have been designed for perfect fit for the hand and has been designed with stick control in mind.

In the blade, Sher-Wood have used a light high-density foam core and have re-inforced this with 3K carbon weave, to dampen the shocks seen in hockey and improve the feel and stiffness of the sick.

 

The stick is available in black and silver (as pictured), or in black and light blue.

Feel

To be honest, when we unwrapped the N12, we were pleasantly surprised by it. It had the same, if not better feel to it than some of the other leading sticks out there. The stick we had been using more in the past was a CCM CL and the transition from the CL to the Sher-Wood N12 was seamless. The stick fits incredibly well to the hand.

It is super lightweight as well and does not lose to the big three stick manufacturers out there. However, one of the most impressive features of this stick is its balance and its feel for the puck. When you first start stick handling with the N12 you will be surprised at how well the stick feeds to your hands. If you read our review of the Sher-Wood T70 stick a while back, take the T70 and multiply the feel by about a 100. I’m not saying that the T70 is a bad stick, but the N12 is a whole different animal.

In the modern hockey stick market the biggest draw for sticks are in the weight. The N12 is extremely light weight and is therefore great for stick handling and eases the loading process of the stick. In fact the Nexon range is incredibly light throughout. The N6 feels lighter than most competitive sticks in the same price range.

Performance

The stick’s performance is has really surprised us. Personally for me, slapshot has always been a forte in the arsenal and with the N12 I often feel that I have not connected with the puck properly, but even with that, the shot is still like a bullet. What this means in terms of game play is that the windup for the slapshot isn’t a drawn out process and you are able to release your shot quicker.

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Close up shot of the impact point of a puck and a slash. Stick is still intact and has not lost any integrity in the shaft.

In fact at the start of using the stick, one of the things we were afraid to do at first was to take a big slapshot. The N12 is so light that you’re afraid to lean into your shots and use the full torque of the shaft in the fears that you’ll snap it. Let me put that fear to rest for you. The stick is durable and will be able to cope with heavy shots just as well as, if not better, than its competitors. In fact a great testament of the stick’s durability is in the fact that in game situations the our sick took a heavy slapshot onto the shaft and then later on it was victim of a vicious slash and yet there has not been any effect on the stick’s performance or integrity. The only thing that was “damaged” was the livery on the shaft.

For wrist shots the stick is similarly easy and quick to load and the shaft delivers good levels of punch to the shot. We have been using a stick with the DR curve, which is a heel curve stick with a 6.5 lie. What we noticed is that it is easy to go top shelf with the stick and providing that you take a look at where you are shooting, chances are that the puck will go there.

As a centre the stick is taking quite a beating in face off situations and we’re happy to report that it is only the livery that is slightly chipped on the livery front, which is to be expected, but the main thing is that there are no chunks or chips on the shaft meaning that the stick is durable.

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The N12 not only offers good levels of balance and performance

The Nexon 12 is highly responsive to everything. It almost has the same feel as a high quality wooden stick. Not from the weight point of view, but that it feeds extremely well to your hands and you really do feel where the puck is at all times, which is one of the essentials for a top of the range stick.

Overall, when we have spoken to other players who use the Nexon 12, the feedback has been positive. Players seem to love the responsiveness of the stick and how easy it is to load for a shot.

Conclusion:

I guess that it is no secret that I have been a fan of CCM for a long time, but the Sher-Wood N12 stick has really won me over. Sher-Wood has engineered a stick that is right up there with all the other top line sticks in terms of weight, performance and even offers some more features when compared to others. What makes the N12 an even more attractive offering is that the N12 usually retails at lower prices than the RBZ, MAKO, Covert DT1, so if you are looking for a top of the range stick that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, the Sher-Wood N12 is definitely one for you.

Pros:

* Incredibly lightweight

* Good price point for a top of the range stick

* Durability

* Feeds well to your hands, constant feel of the puck

* Easy to load for shots

Cons:

* Got a small crack on blade when another player stepped on it (did not affect performance)

That’s it, seriously, I can’t find anything to fault the stick with, which speaks volumes about its performance.

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If you want to purchase the Sher-Wood Nexon 12 stick and receive up-to 20% discount, please visit the Nekoti store. When registering an account enter virtanen (all lowercase) as your agent password and you will receive up-to 20% discount on all purchases, including the N12

113 Days – NHL Lockout over

Posted: January 6, 2013 in hockey, ice hockey, Sports
Tags: , ,

This morning the NHL an nhlpa have reached a tentative agreement on the CBA, bringing the NHL lockout to an end. There’s still paperwork to be signed.

The sides agreed on salary cap at $63.4million and player contract lengths of 7 and 8 years respectively. The CBA is 10yrs in length with opt out at 8 years, so that will give you an idea of when to next go through this silliness.

So ends 113 days of stupid and the NHL now has a mammoth task ahead of itself of not only dropping the puck, but to deploy a PR and marketing campaign that would fix the damage to the brand.

Word is, first games will be played on 19th Jan and season is going to last 48 games.

Te CBA needs to be ratified by players and owners alike.


As the lockout is on its 88th day at the moment. After the dramatic collapse of the last talks the fans across the globe have grown increasingly apathetic and tired of the lockout. I know I have been critical of the NHL and its approach to the negotiations. As I’m writing this, the two parties are meeting at a secret location (I’m told it is the same hotel in New Jersey that they have been using) and are trying to bring an end to this silly lockout. But in light of the dramatic conclusion of the talks, what have the fans been doing since then? Many have voiced their displeasure through Twitter and Facebook. Despite the unified disappointment from the fans side, to both the lockout and the way the talks have been going, it is safe to say that the fans do care about the game and the league.

There has been fan initiatives, like the Youtube video from Janne Makkonen at the start of the lockout, which has generated over a million views already. The great emotive video drew the attention of the players and hockey fans alike.

Most recently there have been groups created on Facebook like Stop The NHL Lockout, where people have been venting their frustrations and sharing news of the lockout. More recently though groups like NHLNFA, which is aiming to set up a fans’ union and claims that this is the only way to have NHL and NHLPA to listen to the fans. However good the intentions of the NHLNFA are, I can’t help but wonder how or why the NHL and NHLPA should listen to a Fans’ union in anything that has to do with the game.  The site says that its goal is to get to “1 million members and they (NHL and NHLPA) will have choice (sic) but to listen to us. IT’s not fair the fans don’t have a vote that counts at any of the meetings, not only with strikes or lockout but for anything NHL related.” It’s a lofty goal and personally I can’t see the NHL or NHLPA ever agreeing to let a fans union to have decision making power in what essentially is a business. The NHL can surely listen to fans in how to make the product better, but to actually allow them a vote? Can’t see that happening.

The group that I have become a fan of and think that they have a great idea is the Just Drop It group. The idea behind Just Drop It is that for every game the NHL takes away after the 21st of December, fans boycott the league for the equivalent number of games after the lockout comes to an end. The idea goes for attending games at rinks, watching games on TV or buying any NHL apparel. In my personal opinion this is a great movement from the fans who clearly love hockey, but have grown tired of the way the past 18 years and three lockouts have gone down. The group was only established on the 4th of December but has already surpassed 11,000 likes on Facebook. After a slick Youtube video from the group, it has also had serious global mainstream media pick up on the movement and has ultimately done it some good. The video has already been seen by over 38,000 people.

If enough people will do as the pledge says, it would send a clear message to the league that the fans will not tolerate the behaviour that has happened in the past 88 days.

So please, go check out the Facebook page, checkout the video and start spreading the pledge and stick to it. We all want hockey back, I think that’s clear, but at the same time, we don’t want to be taken for another silly ride like this.

 

Click on the image below for great deals on ice hockey equipment: