Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


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Cross Check Clothing has been producing Hockey inspired lifestyle apparel since 2012. Here’s a pic of me at the gym in one of their sleeveless tops

In a new series of posts, we will explore how people make a living out of hockey, not as players, but through various different ways. The saying goes that “hockey gives you a lot”, but how does that extend to those that are not players or work for a team. The aim of the series is to explore the impact hockey has had on people on a personal level and how it has helped them shape a business and a career on the edges of the game.

 

The first look at how Hockey has enabled a business is to look at Cross Check Clothing, a UK based hockey inspired lifestyle apparel brand, set up in 2012. Since inception, Cross Check has garnered a steady following and a loyal fan base from the UK hockey scene as well as abroad.

 

But how did the brand’s owner and creator Pete Weeks get into hockey and what made him start his own apparel company? A company that “does it for the kicks”, as Pete himself puts it, but at the same time churns out quality apparel and contributes to the visibility of hockey on the streets.

 

“I had an early introduction to hockey through family and I picked it up again when my step-son was five years old. He had developed an obsession with the NHL video games and we decided to take him to a game to see what he made of the sport in real life.”

 

Those who have followed Cross Check Clothing from its early days, will know that from those early days of taking his step son to games, it has become a regular occurrence to Pete and his family.

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So if hockey served as a way to spend time with family, where did the inspiration for hockey apparel come from? As Pete explains, he saw a niche in the market “I was shopping for hockey wear for my step-son and found that other than a few uninspiring North American brands, or NHL team wear, there was little in terms of what acknowledged hockey in the UK. After the initial idea I sat on it for a few months and decided to take the plunge.”

 

It might be safe to say that setting up a company to serve a niche in a niche sport is a risk, but was it a daunting experience? “I knew a fair bit about setting up businesses and how to go about getting stock and growing the name, it was a case of putting it all in place,” Pete explains. “I wasn’t nervous about the start-up, I was excited about the launch and cracking the whip on the design team and suppliers to get the stock in.”

 

“The first time I really started to panic was after a few weeks. We’d only had an order for about £3 and I started to wonder if we’d sell anything,” Pete explains. “Thankfully, we made some good friends early on who are still big parts of the brand and helped push us forward”.

 

 

But where does the inspiration come from. Pete says that Cross Check Clothing has similar aspirations as Vans and Quicksilver, brands that used to be rooted in skateboarding and surfing respectively, but have in the course of time appealed to a much, much wider audience. Is Cross Check looking to get to a similar level as these brands? “The merchandise we put out is lifestyle wear, so we aim for designs that we see anyone wearing,” Pete explains.

 

But what attracts people to the game? For Pete, the story is familiar to many who come to hockey games. “I think it’s the atmosphere at games, especially after a series of big hits, or a fight,” he explains. “I love the way momentum can shift in a game so quickly when players step up and it means you always have something to cheer for, even if the score of the game isn’t going your way.”

 

Additionally, the physicality and the demands of the game get a lot of respect from Pete. “When you see players throwing themselves in front of pucks and getting smashed into the boards night in, night out, it takes a lot and I have a huge amount of respect for that,”

 

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A sampling of the Cross Check Clothing shirt collection

From working with Cross Check Clothing for the past two seasons, one of the things that appealed to the undersigned was the way the brand operates. It is very down to earth and personable. Everything the company does has a personal touch to it, whether it is the signed card with every delivery or their presence in social media. That is also true in the interactions. You know you are dealing with real people who really care deeply about what they do and the community within the game.

 

“Thankfully we’ve always been supported on everything we’ve done, which has allowed us to work on better products and much wider range. Every penny we make is re-invested back into the company to keep regular and better products coming out.” Pete explains the philosophy of the company.

 

But what of the future? Five years in to the journey of the brand, a fair share of ups and downs, but it is still going strong. What is the future for the company? “Be the headline sponsor of the NHL,” Pete says, laughingly. “To be honest we want to continue to grow with the friends we’ve made. Maybe in the future we will look to take the brand a bit further a field and meet some new exciting people in the process.”

 

 

So, that’s a story of a growing lifestyle brand that has its roots in the game of hockey in a nutshell. The journey Cross Check Clothing has been on has been quite extraordinary in the sense that they have continued to evolve and improve in what is a niche market, reaching people beyond hockey. The genuine attitude of the company towards their products is paramount to its success and the people in the UK hockey community certainly have embraced the brand. 

 

Their story is bound to continue for years to come.  

 Visit the Cross Check Clothing store at: https://shop.crosscheckclothing.co.uk/ 


Today is two years ago since we won the double (league and playoff) titles. What started off as a torrid season and not having won a single game to December, we had a great second half of the year, where we won 11 straight games on our way to the double.

 

It is difficult to put into words what the title felt like at the time when it happened. It had been a personal goal to win it for a number of years, and in the moment when the final buzzer went, the feeling was simply indescribable. However, as strange as it may sound saying it now, in the mixture of jubilation, there was a feeling of emptiness. Having set upon a path to step up from rec-hockey to play in a league again, the single aim was that I want to win a championship. After achieving it, it was weird feeling to have and it took a few weeks to process.

 

What made the title special was that I got to share it with a great bunch of guys. There were several team-mates that I had shared a journey with, from being the punching bags of the league and losing all but one game, to going to win the title. It was a special moment to be able to share. However, what made the title even more special was that we achieved it without a home rink to play out of. We came close the season before finishing 3rd in the league with only two points separating us from the title.

 

I remember the first leg more clearly, but the second one is a bit hazy, mainly because the events of the game were overridden by the realisation that we had finally done it. I remember there was something like 7 seconds left on the clock when there was a face off in our zone, but once the puck was cleared I was hugging Adi on the bench and after that… it was helmet, gloves and stick in the air and get into mobbing Dibble in the net.

 

Not everyone gets to experience it in hockey, or sports, but it was special. Sure it wasn’t the Stanley Cup or anything, but for me, it was a big deal. And I believe it was a big deal to the fans of the team as well.

 

Last season, we weren’t able to defend the title and didn’t make the play-offs and this season just gone, we made it to the semi-finals. Looking back on photos from that day, just re-affirms to me that I still want to win and it is still the reason why I suit up.

A tribute to Hayley Wickenheiser

Posted: January 16, 2017 in Uncategorized

Hayley Wickenheiser announced her retirement from hockey a few days ago and while it is ‘easy’ to admire all of her achievements on the ice, be it in the form of medals, championships, goals, or points, her importance to hockey in general goes far beyond the numbers.

 

Wickenheiser first came to my attention in 2003 as she signed a professional contract to play in the Finnish Division Two. Even before her debut in Finland, Wickenheiser had put up an impressive run of titles from World Championships and Olympic games (four world championship titles and an Olympic Gold from 2002 and silver from 1998). Obviously, with her playing came massive media attention and her every move and stride was covered to great detail in the Finnish press, which gave me, albeit living in the Netherlands at the time, a chance to follow her progress.

 

Wickenheiser was highly touted during the 1998 Winter Olympics where Women’s hockey made its debut and not wishing to take anything away from the game, it really put women’s hockey on the map. I remember that in school the ’98 Nagano Olympics drew such a following, particularly in hockey that on many occasions teachers would just put the games on, whether it was the men or women playing.

 

What makes Wickenheiser’s career extraordinary is that she remained a part of the Canadian team from age 15 (1994) all the way to her retirement. It speaks volumes of Wickenheiser’s talent and leadership, considering how the game has evolved. In fact, such was her talent that Bobby Clarke, team Canada’s GM at the Nagano Olympic games invited Wickenheiser to participate at the Flyers rookie camp in 1998 and 1999, a feat only a handful of players have achieved since.

 

Wickenheiser’s accolades include being named on The Hockey News’ Top-100 influential people in hockey in 2011, but again, her determination and drive should place on a list of top-100 athletes world wide. Her achievements can often be over-looked, but what she has achieved and persevered is truly astonishing and worthy of the recognition.

 

For me, Wickenheiser and her achievements go beyond hockey. She serves as an inspiration to always better yourself and challenge yourself to do more. Her time playing in the men’s leagues shows the commitment needed. Her tenure at the Finnish leagues were not merely a PR stunt, but a legitimate pursuit to compete at a higher level and against (perceived) tougher opponents. Yes, there were the worries of whether she would be able to compete in the more physical men’s game, but Wickenheiser put up 4 points in 12 appearances for HC Salamat at the Suomi-Sarja level and further 7 points in 11 play-off appearances the same year.

Part of her hockey legacy will be that of a pioneer that has placed an ever increasing focus on the women’s game. Whether it was watching Olympics in the UK, Finland or the Netherlands, all the broadcasters always highlighted the importance of Wickenheiser to the Canadian national team, but also to hockey in general.

 

If Nagano Olympics were the international show-case for women’s hockey, it was Wickenheiser who legitimised it, if the women’s game ever needed legitimising. She was the first female player, whose name you could throw into a conversation and people would know about her and her achievements. I do not wish to sound sexist, but Wickenheiser and her drive did the same for women’s hockey that Gretzky did to hockey and the NHL on an international level. Both names are synonymous to hockey and deservedly so. Hayley Wickenheiser’s legacy in hockey will be immortalised by her achievements, but also for serving as an inspiration for generations of both women and men in hockey.

Bauer/PSG Bankruptcy

Posted: November 7, 2016 in Uncategorized

Performance Sports Group (PSG), the parent company to brands such as Bauer and Easton has filed for bankruptcy. In the wake of the news, there were some on social media that were hoping for cheaper equipment and those with legitimate concerns if the brands would disappear. One thing is for certain. The Bauer brand is highly unlikely to disappear.  It is still one of the most recognised and widely used hockey brands out there and the brand alone is worth a lot of money. Whether it will result in cheap equipment… that is unlikely. More on that later.

I tried to express my thoughts on Twitter on the matter, but 140 characters makes that incredibly difficult. Firstly, PSG has filed for Chapter 11 protection in US, which prevents any of its creditors moving in on its assets (i.e. the brands) and it has already received an offer from its main investor to the tune of $575 million. If any other investor wants to join in on the party, their offer would have to match or exceed the offer put in by Fairfax Financial.

Whilst that puts a slightly more positive spin on the news, it is not all clear sailing. PSG said it will be re-structuring and what that usually means in business terms is consolidation of businesses. This is pure speculation, but it wouldn’t be surprising if other brands in the firms’ operation were molded into one (see what Reebok and CCM did recently with their equipment businesses), so in hockey for example we could see household names disappear. Don’t forget that PSG produces equipment for lacrosse and baseball for example, so they’ll need to look at the different brands at their disposal.

In terms of what this potentially means to Bauer is that the current three equipment lines could be trimmed down to one, or two at most. In the restructuring realm, it is not feasible to necessarily keep all three lines with associated R&D and production costs going. So what we could expect is that we will see technologies applied exclusively to some lines to be transferred across to future product line/lines. This applies to goalie equipment as well, where Bauer also has three product lines.

 

So what about that free and cheap equipment then? Not likely. Bauer’s parent is protected by Chapter 11, so its creditors can’t move in and start a fire sale on its assets. Bauer’s troubles aren’t the same as a sporting retailer going bankrupt. In a case of a retailer going bankrupt, they need to get rid of their stocks and usually the best way to do it, is to sell everything. Cheap. Bauer and other brands owned by PSG, will have sold stock to the retailers and the retailers then need to sell that and still turn a profit, or make margin on what they’ve paid Bauer. So PSG’s financial woes are unlikely to result in any flash sales of equipment. The latest when we could expect the price to come down is when Bauer and the other PSG brands start pushing the 2017 lines, which by and large should remain unaffected. The real ramifications of the financial trouble and its impact could be seen for 2018 product lines.

 

This is based on the fact that Bauer has already held its dealer day and unveiled its next years’ lines to its dealers who will have filled in estimates on stocks they would like. If PSG is able to keep its suppliers (the manufacturers and the supply chain for materials) happy, production of the new lines should be well underway already. Like said, if there’s any trouble, it’s not going to be seen until 2018 and beyond.

 

In a lot of ways what I see happening with Bauer right now is what happened with CCM a few years ago. Though before going any further, CCM benefitted hugely from Reebok buying the company in 2004. CCM had since then focused on developing its Vector line of skates and continued to put its efforts behind this single line of equipment (while Reebok was developing the likes of the K line, Ribcore, etc). The Vector line then eventually evolved into U+, which then evolved to RBZ to JetSpeed, until last year when CCM introduced the legendary TACKS line. Then in 2016, Reebok and CCM brought the hockey equipment business under one brand, transferring all of Reebok’s lines to carry the CCM name, with Reebok focussing on the performance clothing side of hockey. CCM now has the TACKS, JetSpeed and Ribcore skate lines, Quicklite and TACKS protective line and Ribcore, RBZ and TACKS lines of sticks.

So, in short, while the news from Bauer hasn’t been the best, it’s highly unlikely that the Bauer aficionados out there will have to stock up on their Bauer equipment as the brand is going to be around. However, what remains un-certain is whether Bauer will be able to carry all of its product lines. Chances are that things will go on with minimal change, though you could expect some areas be trimmed down


true1When TRUE first let us test the original A6.0 and A5.2 sticks it was a revelation of what hockey sticks could and should be like. This was then followed by the X-Core 9, which we still view as one of – if not THE – best sticks on the market. TRUE has given us the A6.0 SBP to try and we’ve been finding out if it is the old A6.0 with a cherry on top or a complete overhaul.

The A6.0SBP does not come with TRUE’s X-Core technology but features other technologies in the blade that have been designed to make your shot harder. To benchmark this stick we’ve gone back to our original TRUE A6.0 review (a stick that was donated to a fan after winning the league) and Warrior Covert QRL. We benchmarked the QRL against the X-Core and found that the two sticks were pretty much on par with each other. Can TRUE pull one out of the bag and out-do the QRL?

In terms of TRUE’s tree-chart of sticks, the A series is aimed for providing Strength, Balance and Power (SBP) making it a shooter’s stick (think Bauer’s X1) and the X-Core series is aimed to provide accuracy, control and feel, with TRUE billing it as the playmaker’s stick.

Design:

In comparison to the Original A6.0 stick, the A6.0SBP is a flashier stick and has more design elements to it. It staystrue3 true to TRUE’s brand of using almost neon blue and grey design, which helps it stand out from the crowd. Like we mentioned in the Warrior QRL review, TRUE has always been more about performance than about the bling factor of a white stick with a fancy blade decal.

As with all design related things, the beauty really is in the eye of the beholder, but we really like the design of the A6.0SBP and would go as far as to say that it’s a handsome stick when you put it up against some of the others. You get a great combination of decals as well as the cool element of seeing the carbon fibre twill.

Feel:

When first holding the stick out of wrappers, it feels lightweight. The A6.0SBP is the same weight as its predecessor and ranks right up there with the Warrior, with both weighing in at around 400grams. Comparing the SBP to the original A6.0 it feels like the balance of the stick has been improved. The original A6.0 was a well balanced stick, but on the A6.0SBP the feeling of balance is better.

The lightweight construction of the stick makes it easy to use and stick handle, much like the Warrior QRL. However, in TRUE’s case we felt that we can get a bit more feedback from the blade and that the blade is more rigid than on the Warrior. This is thanks to the BRT blade on the stick (more on that later). Also the shaft of the stick feels that it gives you more.

This is in part thanks to TRUE’s SmartPly technology, the stick is well balanced and durable. The durability aspect is always key point to consider for any hockey player, but with the TRUE stick we’ve found that despite taking a few rather vicious hacks and slashes of the shaft it does last. However, as a disclaimer, it is always worth noting that virtually all sticks do break at some point. TRUE has done a great job in terms of producing a stick that goes that extra mile in terms of durability in a jungle of sticks waving at it.  

Shooting:

true2What we have found interesting in the TRUE A6.0SBP is TRUE’s Smartflex. The Smartflex technology allows for stiffness distribution from any shooting position. It feels almost like similar type of technology that CCM successfully used in its RBZ sticks and we really love it. The Smartflex is one of the real highlights of the A6.0SBP stick as it offers you almost a customised flex from the shaft.

In terms of shots, we were surprised at the ease of getting a decent shot off. Much like with the QRL that we tested, the TRUE A6.0SBP doesn’t need huge efforts to load for a quick wrister or snap shot. Thanks to the lightweight of the stick, you can get a better, quicker swing on your slapshots and much thanks to the flex of the shaft, they carry some immense power behind them.

In non-game situations and no goalie in net, it is easy to pick the top corners with this stick. In fact, what we found is that the shot almost automatically goes into that sweet-spot just where the cross bar starts to bend to the post. Sometimes even with hardly any load in behind the shot, it still amazes us just how much velocity you can get behind the shot with the A6.0 SBP.

Blade:

The blade on the original A6.0 was already amazing, but with the A6.0SBP, TRUE has made it 50% stronger than the A6.0. The blade features a Braided Rib Technology, which in essence means that the stick has seamless braided tubes running through the blade, making it stiffer. We have been using the stick now for good four to five months and the blade is still as stiff and responsive as it was the day we pulled it out of the wrappers.

In that respect TRUE has kept things the same and to this date, it is the only stick that feels newer for longer. For example, an X-Core 9 we used throughout last season still has the same performance as when first used, despite the several scuffs sustained in game play.

When we first reviewed the A6.0, we likened it to the Sher-Wood Rekker EK15, but in many respects TRUE has moved the game on from there. The A6.0SBP has maintained the great feel throughout our test period and is definitely one of the best sticks on the market in this regard. In game play and training the does provide you with the new stick feel – in terms of pop – for a long time. When you connect with a puck the shot has good velocity with it.

Conclusion:

The True A6.0SBP is not a mere minor improvement on an existing range of sticks. What TRUE has done is completely overhauled the popular stick and has made it even better and put more into it that delivers performance. When we originally reviewed the A6.0 we said that TRUE would be a name to watch and in the space of a few short years, we are more than confident in saying that TRUE has gone from a new comer to a company that produces perhaps the best sticks on the market.

So how does it compare against the Warrior QRL? Again this is a really close call, but we would say that the TRUE stick has the upper hand due to a few elements, mainly due to the BRT blade and the way the stick performs on the ice. The other elements that swing the vote TRUE’s way is the Smartflext technology and the price of the TRUE stick gives you slightly more that the QRL with not as much money.

In terms of overall performance, the A6.0 SBP is probably the best stick we’ve tested to-date. And that’s saying something as we absolutely love the X-Core, but the A6.0SBP has a slight edge over the X-Core. If other stick manufacturers weren’t worried about TRUE before, they better be now.

If anything negative has to be said about the stick (It’s grip coated by the way) it is the grip coating feels almost a bit too rubbery. It does give you good grip but to us, it’s almost too much grip.

While TRUE may not yet have as many NHL players using their sticks as CCM or Bauer, but the numbers are steadily growing (see Mitch Marner of the Maple Leafs recently picking up a TRUE twig). More and more players however, are discovering TRUE, which is good news for the company and the stick market, which risked being saturated by a few major players and faced lack of any real innovation. TRUE has been able to innovate with all of its stick launches and continues to produce the best sticks on the market.

Pros:
· Superb blade structure

· Great feel on the shaft and puck

· Shooting made easy

· Right price-quality point.

· Not a minor improvement over original A series, but a complete overhaul
Cons:
· Grip coating feels rubbery

 

Review: Warrior QRL Stick

Posted: October 31, 2016 in Uncategorized

qrl1We recently had a chance to test the new Warrior Covert QRL stick. The QRL is the new flagship for Warrior and is quickly becoming a favorite among many high scoring NHL players. For this review we have only used the stick off ice and done some extensive shooting with it and some stick handling work, so whilst we got a good enough feel for the stick, we have not tried it in game situations.

In terms of the look of the stick, Warrior has always had a knack for designing sticks that standout. The QRL is not an exception and you can make it out from the stick rack, even though it relies on a relatively simple carbon/neon blue and orange decal. What we like about the stick is that it’s less about bling like some other sticks and more about performance. As always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and we are fans of minimalistic stick design as long as the stick performs. Ultimately though, something has to draw you to the stick so, Warrior have done a good job here to make sure that the stick does stand out from the crowd.

The stick that we tested was 85 Flex with W03 blade pattern, which is similar to the P19 on CCM or TC2.5 on TRUE hockey sticks. Overall, the Warrior blade patterns do cater for most tastes and every player should be able to find a curve to their liking.

What you will first notice with this stick when you pick it up from the rack is that it is lightweight. The weight is just qrl3north of 400grams, which is on par with lightness of most modern top of the line sticks. This means that the stick is easy to stickhandle with and you can get a good feel from the blade. For some reason, the feeling we got when stick handling with the QRL was one of confidence. The blade feels stiff and the puck is not bobbling off of the blade but you have good control of it at all times. Also, as a player who doesn’t have the smoothest of hands, the QRL does make it feel like your hands are in fact a lot softer.

Where the stick comes to its own is when shooting with it. The first shot we took was top shelf and you get a really crisp clean ‘pop’ from the stick. It is a bit surprising as with some other sticks that we’ve tested from the likes of Sher-Wood and CCM/Reebok, it usually takes a while to get the stick to ‘soften’ up to get the consistency of shooting. When comparing it to our current favorite stick, the TRUE X-core 9, the QRL is a worthy challenger when it comes to shots.

We still feel that the X-Core gives you more in terms of shot and velocity when you get everything behind it, but the Warrior is not far off. The two sticks are incredibly closely matched here. During the time that we tested the QRL, we felt that the release is a little bit quicker than on the X-Core 9, but it has to be said that we didn’t have the opportunity to test the two sticks head to head.

qrl2Wristers and snapshots are easy to take and feel crisper and harder than on other sticks and we would say that the QRL is ahead of the X-Core 9 here. However, when it comes to slapshots the TRUE and Warrior sticks are on par. The shots feel really heavy and you get a sense of a hard shot with relative ease. You don’t have to put too much torque through the shaft of the QRLand the puck will take off like a rocket. As far as shooting pucks with it, it does leave a smile on your face.

In terms of durability, the QRL has all the signs of being a durable stick and Warrior as a brand is generally quite durable. However, we can’t say how well it holds up in game situations as we had very limited time testing the stick. What would be interesting to learn in  a long term review would be to see how long the blade and the shaft maintain their crispness.

So, Warrior have developed a great stick, but with that stick comes a relatively hefty price tag of $270/€239/£177, which is a lot of money to shell on a stick. However, you do get incredible performance for that money. The thing with Warrior Covert QRL is that there are sticks out on the market that do provide similar, if not slightly better performance in certain areas for not as much money. However, if you are serious about your hockey and it is performance that you want out of your sticks, then we would recommend looking at the Covert QRL from Warrior.

We can only list a few cons for the stick, purely based on the fact that we had limited time to test the stick. We are hoping that Warrior would give us one for long term testing and in our preferred flex so that we can give it an accurate and an in-depth appraisal. 

Pros:
· Lightweight

· Good balance

· Kick and flex

· Good feel for puck
Cons:
· Price

· In some areas other sticks ahead


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In case you missed the Twitter and Instagram announcement, I have re-signed for the Bristol Pitbulls for the 2016-17 campaign and will also continue as an ambassador for Cross Check Clothing. The decision to re-sign with the Pitbulls was an easy one and it is still part of my grand plan that I told my coach when I first signed after successful try-outs seven years ago. I have set myself a goal to be more of an impact player for this season and really make a difference every time I’m on the ice. 

And for the partnership with Cross Check Clothing? I consider myself fortunate to be working with them. The guys are really humble and down to earth and live and breathe the game. The clothing that they are producing is appealing not only to players, but to fans alike. For me, I want to help expose the brand to more people and show that the apparel line belongs both in the changing room and in the stands. Plus it’s hella comfortable to wear and you may have seen on Instagram that I love wearing Cross Check gear to the gym too. I’m a huge believer in people that execute their vision and I really, truly want to help that brand grow. I don’t want to be the guy that just begs for sponsorship and then vanishes into thin air. Whatever influence I have, I want it to help Cross Check Clothing grow.

To say it has been a busy off-season would be a gross understatement. It has been manic and completely non-stop. reeniahororeeniaAs I said on the blog post about the season review, I had a difficult last season and it ended in disappointment, with not qualifying for the play-offs and being eliminated in the semi-finals of the Cup competition. That combined with the fact that I battled a rather persistent back problem for the whole season, made me question whether hockey was still on the cards for me.

The back problem wasn’t the only one that made me question whether I could rise to the challenge of another season. 2013-14 season I played through with a torn labrum and ruptured bicep tendon, which I was repaired in the off-season of 2014, 2014-15 season was amazing with winning the conference championship and play-off championship, but I battled with mental health issues that year, which knocked my confidence and I started the season not being able to play too well due to not having any strength and a limited range of motion in my right arm. 2015-2016 season was what it was due to the back.  Last season I played 17 games, out of which I was 100% for five games. That’s three seasons that have been more or less ruined by injuries and my hope is that I will stay healthy for a full season.

Last time I didn’t have any injuries or issues to deal with was 2011-2012 season, when, in light of stats, I had one of my most productive seasons offensively.

lisaareeniahoroFor those five games where I was completely pain free, I felt that I was playing probably the best hockey of my career and would’ve probably been able to do some good things for the team. But when you’re playing with an injury where you can’t feel parts of your left leg properly and every stride feels like you have broken your ankle, it’s difficult to perform.

However, after thinking about it for about a week after the Cup semi-final loss, I still have what it takes and I’m happy to be back playing for the team I’ve represented for the past six years and will be returning for for my seventh season. I realised early on that despite all the trials and tribulations I have undergone, I had the passion for the game and I was still willing to put in the work off the ice in-order to play.

One thing I was constantly asked by family and friends was, why put yourself through that again. Aren’t you afraid travelessentialsthat you’ll hurt yourself again. This is something that is really difficult to explain in words. The best I can do is to say that it is a fire inside me that tells me to keep pushing. I guess in every hockey players’ life there comes a time when the flame still burns but something tells you that it is time. For me the flame is there and at no point was the voice telling me that it’s time to call it quits strong enough. My life is incredibly busy, and I just could not imagine a life without hockey season in it.

I got back to work early on conditioning and have been working out to a program that has worked quite well the last two years. The only thing that I have changed in the regimen is the weight I’m lifting and I’ve added more explosive training to it. Without going into too many fitness nuances over it, I’ve also done a lot of HIIT workouts to really focus on anaerobic performance. Hockey is a game where you need to go flat out for 45 seconds max everytime you are out there. From all the conditioning work I’ve done, I’m more confident than ever. I’ve never felt this strong or good in myself (which also helps with the ongoing mental health issues), so the only thing left to do now is to get out on the ice.

hockeybase1One of the other areas of my game that I’ve worked on is shooting. Over the last few weeks I spent a lot of time at Hockey Base in Finland literally just working on my shots. As with fitness training, the more repetitions you do, the better you get, so I invested a grand total of €20 on a stick while I was out there and got shooting. The hardest shot with that cheap stick was clocked at 105km/h (65mph). I would go as far as to say that it would’ve been at the 80mph range if I had my TRUE stick. As a result of all the shooting work I did, I got blisters on both my hands which shows how much time I’ve dedicated to shooting. Ideally, I would like to dedicate more time to shooting and I have all the necessary equipment at home, but time is the issue.keppikasittelya

As I posted on Instagram in June, my wife and I welcomed our daughter and with my 3-year old son wanting more time with daddy, my time to work on shooting is limited at home. I mean I guess I could do it once the kids have gone to bed, but I would hazard a guess, that I would be rather un-popular with our neighbours.

The other thing I’ve worked on at the summer has been stickhandling. This is an area that I will continue to work on throughout the season. I’ve got hands as soft as concrete, so I’m no Connor McDavid but as with everything, by practicing it will get better.

I am determined and confident going into the season. My main goal is to help the team succeed and win games. What I want is to win a championship again. While I have battled injuries and found the flame to carry on playing, I am no spring chicken anymore and would like to add another title onto the mantel piece.