Posts Tagged ‘Hockey life’


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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.


 

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I’ve recently seen a huge uptick in twitter and facebook accounts that promote hockey life style. There are legitimate companies out there, like Gongshow, Bardown, Sauce to name but a few, that have made a business out of the hockey life style.

 

Some of these ‘hockey life’ accounts are actually quite funny, but some of them are just downright terrible and sometimes give a totally different view of hockey than what the players actually go through. There are accounts out there that think that hockey is all about parties and wheeling. Yes, that does happen, but players these days are some of the most fine tuned athletes. Given the rules of the team and the intense schedules, partying is not the first thing guys do when they finish a game. Like said, parties happen.

 

As a result of all these accounts I thought that I’d give an insight into what the ‘hockey life’ is all about.

 

As mentioned on the blog before, I have a regular day job that is the main breadwinner for our family. My hockey life revolves around my job, weekly off ice training, on ice training and games. The only time that I have for drinks is to have maybe a beer or two after games and then a few more at the end of season party before I start the off season training.

 

Hockey life to me is this: it means late nights in the car, driving to training and games. It means lonely nights in the gym when you’re working out trying to maintain a decent level of fitness throughout the season. It means getting up early in the morning before work and going for a run. It means sacrifices and accommodating attitude from the family so that the ‘head of the household’ is off most weekends chasing his dream.

 

Hockey life means that hockey doesn’t stop at the last buzzer of the last game of the season. It is a process that takes 12 months. It is far removed from the glamour that sometimes gets associated with the game. But the fact of the matter is, despite every sacrifice that I make, I wouldn’t change it. The locker room is like a sanctuary, where all the days’ worries and troubles wash away. The minute you step over the threshold, you feel like you are with brothers. It is through thick and thin with your teammates. Sometimes tempers flare on the ice and among teammates, but once you are over that it is back to normal.

 

So yes, hockey life isn’t all about wheeling and girls. It’s about hard work and brotherhood with a bunch of guys who come together for a common cause. That is essentially what hockey life is about. 


The air cool and cold. Should be used to it this time of year. Saturdays on the road, couple of hours in the car, prepping your mind to what lays ahead. The 60 minutes, broken into fragments of 45 seconds of explosiveness where everything you have in your body, your legs, is revved up to compete with five others who share a sheet of ice with you, fighting along with you are a group of guys that have come together for the same cause, a cause that has been drilled into our psyche for years upon years.

 

Saturdays, on the road, couple of hours in a car. There might not be fragments of 45 seconds where you explode on the ice against five other players, but with a group of guys, who have grown to be a second family. We get put through our paces in a section of drills that have been designed to improve a teams’ game.

 

Regardless of the scenario, the mentality is the same. We turn up and we leave the world as we know it, on a day-to-day basis, behind. Once we walk into the cool and cold embrace of an ice rink, we know what we are there to do, be it a game or training. It is an escape, an exhilarating ride that pushes your body to its limit.

 

What I love most about the whole hockey life style, which is something that I have grown to appreciate as I’ve become older, is the moment when you first step on to a fresh sheet of ice. It’s in that moment that you truly understand what a great game you are able to be part of, and the special group of people you share that ice with. There’s nothing quite that compares to it. Well I can think of a few things, but this is not that kind of blog.

 

The reason I started to ponder all this was after I spoke to a colleague of mine was whether I could live a life without the game. Where I eventually have to face up to the fact that this body wont hold out forever, I honestly could not see myself living a different life and I hope that I can pass the lifestyle on to the next generation of Virtanen’s when the time is right.

 

60 minutes. Funny, how we sometimes take days to prepare for 60 minutes. The preparation for those 45 second fragments, the concentration required for each shift, each different from the last. The bounces, the missed opportunities, the successes all come together for an entity that creates a wholly unique experience to the fan and the player.

 

Hockey, for the player or the fan, does not end once the final buzzer goes. Fans analyse the game, discuss the chances and the win or loss of their team, while the players gather round for the post game briefing from the coach which depends on the outcome and the way the 60 minutes unfolded.

 

The Saturday night lights finally go out, the players drive home, reliving those segments of 45 seconds and the overall 60 minutes. After all those moments, all you can do is count the minutes, hours, days to the next time you will be stepping onto the fresh sheet of ice and for the Saturday night lights to come on once more. 

 

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