Sunday, September 23, 2007

Summer Stick Time and Autumnal Equinox

Ah, the autumnal equinox. At 5:51 this morning, the precursor to leaf-peeping and the harbinger of hockey arrived. The weather is warm, though; so before we focus on foliage or banter about the Bruins, let’s reminisce about summer because fall means no more Stick Time for me.

I’ll miss my weekend sessions at Concord Valley Sports, Hall Gill’s home ice as a youth, not only for the extra opportunity to exercise but also for the surprises.

A week after the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, I asked a smooth-skating kid with superb stickhandling skills if I could chase him around, work on my foot speed. He agreed. He skated to center ice, turned around and then drove toward me as I defended my zone. I backed up, real quick-like, until I almost collided with my would-be goaltender. We repeated this drill several times, and sure, he got the better of me; he dangled the puck in front of me only to dipsy-doodle around me. But, I stopped him on one occasion.

“What round were you drafted in?” I asked him, half-serious, in the locker room.

Max Gratchev had been drafted by the New York Islanders in the fourth round. I didn’t see him the rest of the summer, and by now he has probably returned to Rimouski, QC to play junior hockey for the Oceanic.

Bill Batchelder wasn’t drafted by an NHL team but he did play for the University of New Hampshire. In preparation for the annual UNH Reunion game in August, Batchelder skated a little more stiffly on Valley Sports Rink Two than when he played for UNH, but his unbounded enthusiasm for the game is apparent in Concord, MA. In Durham, NH with sixty or so other Wildcat alumnae, Andy Brickley doesn’t remember how Billy played. But the former Bruin told me he was impressed with alumni like Bill, who played for UNH on an outdoor rink and whose collective passion sparked the construction of Snively Arena and then Whittemore Center, where the likes of Brick and Mark Mowers, respectively would shine.

UNH graduate Chris Howell didn’t play college hockey, and the AMHL’s original “Donut Boy” didn’t participate at Stick Time—but several other AMHLers made guest appearances at Concord Valley Sports this summer. Avalanche teammate Dave Krinsky, Wednesday warrior Ed “the Teal Baron” Maron and “Penguin Pat” Obrien: I enjoyed skating with them all.

And at my last session, Hal Gill appeared. Not really. But a tall blonde-haired fellow wearing a Bruins jersey made his first visit to Valley Sports Arena. Matt doesn’t have a future in the NHL, but is a regular contributor to the boards at Hockey’s Future.

I hope to see him, my fellow AMHLers, Bill Batchelder—and maybe even Max or Mowers next summer.
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