Alright, here’s the latest and greatest:
Once my three-game contract with Pensacola expired, I was happy to learn that I had earned a standard player contract. This doesn’t offer much more stability or anything (again, none of our contracts do), but I am making significantly more money than I did on my tryout contract, and shows that I’ve been a good enough goalie and teammate to stick around in the eyes of the coach and management.
I also saw my first game action as an Ice Flyer on Saturday night, although it certainly wasn’t expected.
Saturday night was one of those games that demonstrates why the SPHL is often jokingly referred to as the Southern Penal Hockey League. The game included 114 penalty minutes, 3 fights (including a goalie fight- more on that later), 7 misconduct penalties, a spearing penalty, a guy taken off on a stretcher, 3 ejections, and multiple blood samples splattering the ice of the Pensacola Bay Center.
It started out as a tight game, but early in the second period there was a massive line brawl that led to a Huntsville player leaving the ice on a stretcher. From then on, after every whistle there were extracurriculars. Guys were face-washing, sticking each other, and letting the fists fly every chance they got.
Things reached another boiling point when about halfway through the second period, the Huntsville goalie speared one of our players crashing the net. He received a double minor for the spear, and that stoppage of play also happened to be a media timeout. During media timeouts, the goaltenders go to their benches. In the second period, their respective benches are on the opposite ends of the ice, resulting in the goalies skating by one another to get to their benches/back to their nets. My goalie partner Matt Zenzola decided to take things into his own hands and confront the Huntsville goalie, Tyler Steel, at center ice. We had a goalie fight on our hands (watch it here).
It was a good scrap, but I don’t think Steel knew Zenzola was actually left-handed, despite playing goalie right-handed. Zenzola also probably had about 2-3 inches and 20-30 pounds on Steel, but Steel hung pretty tough as both goalies landed a couple shots before Zenzola finally overpowered Steel and brought him down. I was impressed, and the crowd was going absolutely bananas.
This also meant that both parties were ejected from the game, and I was heading into the game ice cold. I hopped the bench, went to retrieve my helmet and stick, and took my place in the net, my first action in an Ice Flyers uniform.
I played well, stopping 14 of 15 (including several big saves), playing the puck well, and giving our team a chance to win. Unfortunately, we were unable to complete the comeback and lost 4-2 with an empty netter.
Off the Ice
Over the last couple weeks I’ve had some great experiences away from the rink! Last week we visited Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, and brought all of the stuffed animals donated at our Teddy Bear Toss the weekend prior. It was a humbling experience to visit with children going through infinitely tougher times than I ever have, all while keeping a positive attitude and having fun. We played board games, joked around, and visited with families for a few hours. It was great to make a few kids smile and make their stay a little brighter.
The same week I also volunteered at the Waterfront Mission with a few teammates where we helped prepare and serve dinner to those in need. Again, another humbling experience that was rewarding. Many of those we served expressed a ton of gratitude, and I realized how lucky I really am to be living the life I’m living.
Other activities in Pensacola have included shark fishing, hanging out at the beach, checking out local restaurants and coffee shops, and even going on a couple dates. I also caught a free Chris Janson country concert.
Frankly, I’m falling in love with this town. It’s big enough that there are lots of things to do. It has a fun night life (shhhhh) and great restaurants. It also has phenomenal weather and pristine beaches. In addition, I love that it’s a pretty laid back town. Everyone is friendly, and it has a relaxed atmosphere that suits me. I was chatting with the owner of a local coffee shop the other day, and she told me that since she moved to Pensacola from Ohio, she could never dream of living anywhere else. She told me she believes that Pensacola is a place where people find their destiny. I’m not sure about all of that, but I can easily see how people have a special place in their hearts for this city. It’s certainly carved out a place in mine.
With another goalie on our team coming back from the IR this week, my status is uncertain as ever. We will have three goalies, and one of them will have to go. Stay tuned…
Heard Around the Rink
“Let’s put it this way, we got a lot of great guys on this team, but we got a lot of baaaaaad boys.”
“No, the dollar sign goes after the number. You don’t say dollars twenty, you say twenty dollars.”
“Yeah, [the enforcer on the other team] hooked up with my aunt.”
- It’s amazing how fast you forge close friendships with teammates. This is my favorite part about playing hockey. It’s been just 3 weeks and I already feel part of another family. I wouldn’t trade anything for coming to the rink everyday, giving each other shit, and going to war with these guys. So grateful.
- No state income tax in FL = More craft beer money
- If you haven’t already, read this piece by John Scott. Awesome.
Beer of the Week
Jai Alai- Cigar City Brewing (Tampa, FL)
Great local beer, definitely give it a go if you’re in the Gulf Coast area!