Patrick Kane, and 5 hassles of being the best player in a summer shinny game

At some point in the past few days, Patrick Kane felt like getting a little ice time, and joined some buddies for a game of shinny in Buffalo.

Patrick Kane. Shinny. That was never going to be fair.

He put up 10 points (five goals) in the team’s 13-5 victory, while teammate and ECHL player Vinny Scarsella tallied nine of his own (seven goals).

The reality, of course, is that both men could’ve done a lot more damage had they felt like being complete, total jerks, but they knew better. That game wasn’t for them, and it wouldn’t have been fun for anyone else had they decided to play keepaway. So they were tasked with keeping their foot off the gas while still trying to keep the game from being a total waste of time for themselves.

Once upon a time I was a pro hockey player, and I too used to join friends for a game of shinny or two in the summer. And I can tell you - “knowing better” doesn’t mean it isn’t hard as hell to walk the fine line of personality management.

You see, “recreational” sports are tough, because they’re supposed to be “recreational,” but some people are more competitive than others. I’ve been yelled at for trying too hard and ruining the game, I’ve been yelled at for not trying hard enough when our team needs goals, and I’ve been yelled at for a dozen things in between. Hell, my Dad, who played in the NHL, stopped playing when he got slashed in the back because someone felt like taking a crack at a guy for a good story later over pints.

It can be endless. Quit passing when you have an open net (just trying to be nice). High, hard shots on the goalie are unnecessary (that’s just...how I shoot). Backcheck, dammit (no). You get the point.

Below are a few of the inconveniences of being the best player in a bad shinny game.

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You always have to look pass

The last thing you want is to wade into a game you can dominate (already a perceived jerk move) AND be a puck hog, easily dancing around defenders. You’re looking to make sure your teammates are having fun and are happy to have you around, even when that means making the obviously wrong choice in offensive situations.

You have to find the pretty play

What’s the point, otherwise? What, you’re going to drive the net and bang in a rebound? Blow the doors off some defender who’s played three times this year? We scored! I boosted my stat line! ...Not so much.

You want to be in on the goal worth talking about after in the pub with your buddies. “Man, if we had only been linemates in minor hockey, we’d have killed it then too. Our coach was an idiot.” That’s the good stuff.

You need to score at least one or two

You’ve gotta find that balance. I mean, you’re a bit competitive still, you don’t wanna get skunked.

You have to find moments to work in some exercise

The original idea involved getting on the ice for a sweat and handling a puck. As much as you could get through the day without taking a real stride and sweating, you’d like to pump the legs a bit. The only time that’s truly acceptable? Chasing someone on a breakaway. You should still let them get the shot (also tough to make yourself do), but it’s a good time to go for a solid rip.

You can’t be the guy taking long shifts

Most people playing shinny aren’t in great shape, that’s just life. They don’t do squats, lunges, plyometrics and sprints every day - they go to work like most people. At shinny pace, and with the efficiency of your stride, you could easily play all 60 minutes. So when you see a teammate panic and give away the puck, it’s kind of annoying. You only get so much time on the ice, and you don’t want to be the dude who aggressively goes and gets the puck back, so now one of your few shifts has been eaten up standing around waiting for a turnover. And just like that, you have to make the polite change. What a hassle.

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The ultimate goal in these situations is to get to the dressing room with both teams happy, and a few fun goals to BS about in your back pocket. That’s easier said than done. It’s simple enough to take care of just your own team and yourself, but “recreational” hockey can get serious if you don’t worry about the other team too.

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Patrick Kane, and 5 hassles of being the best player in a summer shinny game
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