Gay Hockey Diary: Playoff Time

I finally started learning how to actually play hockey in the Madison Gay Hockey Association. I’ll chronicle my journey in my Gay Hockey Diary, a semi-regular feature here. See the previous posts here.

I now know why hockey players golf in the summer. I really don’t know what to do with myself now that hockey is over. Sundays now feel a little empty without MGHA games to keep be busy. So I might start golfing more, just to fulfill the cliche.

But I couldn’t be happier with the way our season ended, as the No. 6 seeded Green Gay Puckers stormed all the way to finish the tournament in 5th place!

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Round 1: Green Gay Puckers vs. Boo-teal-licous

The teal team holds a special place in my heart, as they were the first team I scored against. Granted, I don’t really think it was even my goal, but the ref saw a guy with a beard smack the puck in the net, so I got the goal.

We lit up the Boo-teal-licious goalie for 6 goals in our first game against them, but he came back with a vengeance in the playoffs. The Puckers carried the play throughout the entire game, but we just couldn’t score.

My center, Kevin, hit several posts, and Andrew, Teal’s goalie, stood on his head to make some incredible saves. He even had our bench applauding a few of his saves, he was that good.

But we found ourselves in a hole after giving up two quick goals in the second period. Then, one of our players got knocked down behind the net with three minutes left, and the ref raised his arm.

I thought for sure we were getting a power play. But no, our right wing was sent to the box for checking.

So we stacked our penalty kill with all our best players, and instead of playing defense, we just attacked. The anger from the wrongful penalty spurred some of the best play I’ve ever seen from our team’s veterans and they finally hit the back of the net with two minutes left on a shorthanded goal.

Once the penalty ended, we pulled our goalie and swarmed into the offensive zone. I fed a pass to Kevin with about 6 seconds left on the clock. He let a shot rip that sailed past Andrew in the crease.

He hit the post, and the game was over. The Green Gay Puckers were sent to the loser’s bracket.

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Round 2: Green Gay Puckers vs. Puck a L’orange

The orange team has had our number this year. They beat us in both games we played, and their goalie, Ryan, has simply tortured us. He even subbed in for absent goalies in weeks we weren’t even playing the orange team. He’s probably the best goalie in the league, and he’s become a good friend.  It seemed like we were playing against him every week—and he kept beating us. I had so many great chances against him, but I couldn’t bury it.

Since the orange team finished the regular season in second place, I assumed we wouldn’t have to worry about Ryan in the playoffs. But, the Team Formerly Known As Purple Reign somehow knocked off Puck a L’orange in the first round—which sent us on another collision course with the brick wall that was Ryan.

Once again, the Green Gay Puckers came out flying. We’ve become a great puck-possession team. The first five minutes saw more of the same, however, as all of our great chances bounced around in the crease before Ryan smothered the puck.

Then, finally, we got the monkey off our back thanks to Kevin who managed to bury a shot from the slot. We scored again a few minutes later, and we realized that we just might have a chance.

But the orange team came right back with two goals of their own in the second period.

Then, with the second period winding down, my line hopped over the boards and I went right to my favorite spot on the ice.

My friend now calls it the “Tony spot”—it’s about three feet to the right of the crease. I’ve learned that defenders only really try to push me out of the way if I’m right in front of the crease, so I now stand just to the right of it, and people seem to not notice me. Maybe it’s because I’m short.

But anyway, Kevin got the puck into the crease, and Ryan missed it on his covering attempt from the left side. It squired right to my stick and I took a swing. Out of nowhere, an Orange defender came in and blocked my shot with his skate.

“Of course,” I thought.

But I took one more whack at it, and the puck slipped behind the defender and into the net. That one felt good, and I thought it might hold up as the game-winner. But, we gave up a goal early in the third period. Then, with about 5 minutes remaining, I helped cause more havoc in the crease and my linemate Ben swooped in and buried a fourth goal to give us the win.

We don’t get too competitive in the MGHA, but that win felt good. It was the most jovial locker room I’ve ever seen from the Green Gay Puckers. We all came in expecting a loss, which would mean we would be battling to avoid a last-place finish in Round 3, but instead, we found ourselves fighting for 5th place.

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Round 3: Green Gay Puckers vs. Blue Bayou

I really enjoyed playing for the Green Gay Puckers, but if there was one team that exemplified everything good about the MGHA, it was Blue Bayou.

Frankly, Blue Bayou was awful. They wound up with a lot of first-year players who had never played hockey before, including a goalie. They never won a game until February, and only a few times did they even give opponents a scare.

But Blue Bayou was the most fun and most encouraging team on the ice. It was truly a pleasure to watch them play and to play against them.

What they lacked in talent, they made up for in personalities. Some of my best friends wound up on the Blue team, and they are all bright, cheerful and even loud people.

They would frequently start chants on the bench. Whenever their players made even the most mundane plays, they would all stand up and cheer. You could just tell that they all were very good friends off the ice, and they supported each other more than any other team on the ice.

Many a Blue Bayou player told me, “we may not win, but we have the most fun,” and there’s really no denying that.

I don’t even really remember much about the game, even though it was our last game. The Green Gay Puckers won and earned 5th place, but I just remember having a blast in that game. Both teams got great chances, both teams were yelling and supporting each other, and everyone was simply enjoying themselves.

It was the perfect way to end my first season in the MGHA. This league doesn’t care about anyone’s sexuality, race, gender or age. Hell, we barely care about skill level. If you don’t know how to play, we’ll teach you. I learned so much this year about hockey, but the biggest thing I’ll remember is just how much fun I had.

So here’s to a great season in the MGHA. I can’t wait until next year.

The Summer: Tournament Time

While I’m sad that the MGHA is over for the year, I’ll have plenty of gay hockey to keep me occupied over the summer. First is the MGHA Classic April 26-27 in Madison. We’re inviting players from all over the country to come play.

And I’ll be playing in New York City gay league’s Chelsea Challenge over Memorial Day weekend, which just so happens to coincide with Fleet Week.

So stay tuned for some offseason updates in my Gay Hockey Diary.

If you have any questions about the MGHA or life in general, feel free to email me.

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