NOTE: Mark Erickson is this week's guest blogger on the "CAHL Experience,", and is a Monday night E-league player with the Bdubs Hockey Club. You can follow Mark on Twitter @RedditCBJ, or check out his blog at HashtagCBJ.com.
Sunday night, between 5-6 p.m., everyone gets that feeling.
It's that quasi-sadness when the realization sets in that your weekend is coming to an end. It’ll soon be time for bed and when you wake up, it’s another five straight days of work or school.
Mondays suck. Unless, that is, you happen to play E-League hockey in the Chiller Adult Hockey League (CAHL).
CAHL E-League (or beginner league) hockey plays every Monday night at one of the Chiller locations. Since I started playing ice hockey in April, Mondays have gone from a day of dread to a day of anxious anticipation.
All it took was my inability to shake the "hockey bug" following the 2010-11 Blue Jackets season for me to seek out ways to learn to play the game.
Sometime, around noon, I take my first look at the CAHL’s homepage for players, chillerstats.com, and start researching our opponent. Chillerstats.com is a great tool for players that includes live scores, standings, statistics and schedules.
Afterwards I’ll hop over to our team’s private Facebook group and start writing a ‘scouting report’ breaking down our opponent’s recent games, top scorers, goalie stats and suggestions on how to best handle the match-up. After roll call has been taken for who is going to be at the game, our captain provides the night’s line combinations.
As we get closer to the end of the season, the conversation veers towards playoff tiebreaker scenarios. The discussion usually continues throughout the afternoon and always seems to make Monday go just a little bit quicker.
After the work day ends it’s either time to head home or straight to the rink, depending on what time the puck drops. The local high schools recently started their practices and games so our start times have gone from around 8 p.m. in the summer to 10 p.m. this fall.
I try to get to the rink about 45 minutes before puck drop to make sure I have time to dress and relax a bit (those nerves have been building all day, after all). It’s also fun to check out the game going on before your game starts. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and there’s a B-league game going on. B-league is the highest level you can go in the CAHL and it’s nice to see some high level, entertaining hockey. If it’s not a B league game then it’s usually an early E-league game, so you get a chance to scout future opponents.
Once the Zamboni is done and the doors are shut, it suddenly becomes all about not falling when you take that first step out onto the ice. Warm-ups usually go by in the blink of an eye and before you know it the puck has dropped and it’s "game on."
E-league games are interesting because there’s such a wide range of talent levels. On one hand you have the people still figuring out how to skate with a stick in their hands, and on the other, you’ve got the people that are right on the border (or slightly over) of being ready to make the jump to D-league.
In one game you could have a guy completely miss on an empty net with no one within 10 feet and another guy fire a puck top shelf while being tripped and having both feet off the ground. Because it’s a beginner’s league you’ve always got to keep your head up -- you never know when that guy who can’t stop is about to come crashing into you.
In the five months I’ve been playing in the CAHL, I’ve already had so many memorable moments, both good and bad. I’ve experienced making the physical and/or mental mistake that leads to the goal that costs your team the game, but also had the joy scoring my first playoff goal and also making a play on a loose puck to setup the tying goal in the league championship game.
My experience has been aided by the fact that I got grouped up with the greatest group of teammates and an awesome and crazy fan base that comes out to watch us play the lowest level of hockey in Columbus.
Our run to the league championship game last season (squeaked into the playoffs as an eighth seed and then knocked off the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds before losing in the championship) is one of those memories I’ll never forget.