Only half the rec hockey team shows up? You’d be surprised at what you can do with smart, short bench hockey.
By Wayne Shuster
As much as we all live to play hockey—some of us a little more than others—life sometimes gets in the way. You’re not feeling well enough to play; you’ve got to stay with the kids that night; maybe it’s a work commitment you can’t get out of. Or maybe your wife (or husband) has other plans for you.
If you’re one of the proud and the few who can actually make it to the game, just because half your team decided not to show up doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel and forfeit. By playing smart short bench hockey, you and your team stand a very good chance of holding your own, if not winning the game outright.
Stay hydrated, my friends Proper hydration is key, especially if you know you’ll be shorthanded for the game. Be sure to consume water prior to ice time and throughout the game.
Conserve energy Stay in position as much as possible. Be sure to stick to quick shifts to keep the legs fresh. Keep one player high for the long pass, the rest should hang back to tighten up the neutral zone.
Player rotation With anything less than 9 players on the roster, setting up lines is a joke. You’ll be assuming any number of positions during the game, jumping onto the ice to replace the player who staggers back to the bench.
Best defense You’ve no doubt heard the expression “the best offense is a good defense.” In this case, this couldn’t be truer. If you’re on D, stay with your man. Block shots whenever feasible. And don’t take any dumb penalties.
Behave yourself! We know it can get frustrating to have to defend against a team that that doesn’t let up while you’re down a few goals. Even if you feel you could use the brief rest period that a two-minute penalty provides, the last thing your team needs is to be down a player at a critical time like this.
The dreaded empty net Probably the worst-case scenario of the short bench. If your captain has combed through his/her list of substitute goalies or pleaded with any who may be playing in the games before your own and comes up empty handed, don’t head to the parking lot just yet. There’s always someone on the team who’s willing to stand in front of the net, sans the proper goalie equipment, for the sake of the team. Be forewarned: your opponents will likely not hold back, winding up and taking hard shots just to psych out the poor skater who volunteered to play goalie for the game. And short bench hockey demands good defense.
Most of all, don’t give up hope. Short bench hockey forces you to think and play smart. I’ve been in situations where I’ve played some of my best hockey with a light roster.
Wayne Shuster is from the Boston area. He once coached a Squirts team.