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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My Taste in Sports - Welcome to Now

In the early part of 2004 I started to get a group of guys together to play soccer. We planned to join an established summer mens league at the Cownie complex. We created a name and logo and came up with uniform color choices. Our name was Two Rivers Tigers, in honor of the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers and named after my childhood team. We chose orange for our primary jersey and a selection of colors for our alternate jerseys - blue, sky, black & white striped - depending on which brand we would go with. Things were heading in the right direction and we had eight guys confirmed, just seven short of our goal and three short of a full field.

Unfortunately what appeared to be appendicitis hit me that March. Long story short - I had surgery, it took longer than expected, and the doctor could not find the inflamed appendix he saw on the CT scan. About a week after the surgery the wound got infected. This resulted in three and half months of recovery and healing that kept me out of work. While I was able to finish my final two classes and graduate from Grand View, playing soccer was not an option. Without me running things, the group disbanded and the team died.

I tried to get an indoor team together that fall with the hope of building an outdoor squad from that. Unfortunately nobody was interested. That particular outdoor league ceased to exist the following summer, leaving only the Over-the-Hill League, which most of the team was not qualified for, and the Latino League, which nobody wanted to participate in. My soccer team aspirations were put on indefinite hold.
Luckily I found renewed interest in ice hockey. I had picked up a better pair of ice skates sometime in 2004 and had gone skating with my wife. After becoming familiar with the Metro Ice Sports Facility in 2005, I found their pickup hockey schedule and managed to make a few lunch hockey sessions on days that I had off from work. I had also enrolled in a Master's Degree program at Drake University that fall and by the spring of 2006 I had stopped working to focus on school. The side affect of this was more time for pickup hockey. I started playing breakfast or lunch hockey every other week through the fall semester that year.

When my student teaching started in 2007, my schedule filled up and once again hockey stopped. It was during that summer when Matt at Cup O' Kryptonite started including tidbits about Cup's D League hockey team in his weekly emails. Joe at Alien Hockey ran the C and D Leagues. I was already familiar with Joe and his store; I purchased some Bauer Vapor XXX gloves from him the year before to replace my decrepit Nikes. He knew that I had some experience because I had been in the store so he was hesitant on putting me in the D league, especially on Cup.

After explaining that I had not played hockey regularly since 1999, and that my ice hockey experience was minimal - combined with being out of shape - he agreed to let me start in the D League rather than going straight to C. Unfortunately I could not play for Cup because their roster was full. Instead I joined a team full of league newcomers called "Miller's Team" after the senior member of the squad.
Within a couple of weeks, one of the players offered to sponsor the team. We soon had maroon jerseys (Coyotes blanks) and were known as "B & B." We got along great and had fun on the ice. Our players were pretty decent, some were even great. Having switched to center, I had a high face off win percentage and soon mastered the art of the break away. I led the team in scoring. Unfortunately we just could not quite pull it together; we only had one win all season.
Towards the end of the season, I started what I like to refer to as my free agent discussions. Since my original intention was to join Matt on his Cup team (league champions by the way), I was eager to do so for the summer league. I spoke with senior members of B & B to seek permission to transfer - not because of our record, but because I wanted to play with my friends. They agreed and I was eager for the summer season. Unfortunately, new management had taken over MISF and subsequently, our league. The quality of the league, ice, and facility went downhill rapidly. I vowed to boycott MISF from that point forward.
Last fall, the newly rechristened Chops presented Joe with an interesting offer: he could invite players to purchase a partial season ticket package and participate in a C League at Wells Fargo Arena. Since I love watching hockey and attended many Stars games despite their crappy affiliation, name, and play, I was excited. The Ducks affiliation was promising and the Chops name, while not great, was definitely an improvement. This opportunity allowed me the best of both worlds; I got to have season tickets to the Chops and play hockey in the state's premier facility. It was a fun time, but ultimately lacked in games. Consequently, I gained something like 10 pounds last winter - most of what I lost the previous year.

Since I knew that the Chops league was limited I sought potential indoor soccer players. I knew that I was not the only guy that was fed up with MISF. A few people were interested, but once again my soccer plans fell through. That is when I started some soul searching.

My first exposure to lacrosse was in American Pie. When Oz mentioned being a professional lacrosse player, I laughed because the sport was virtually nonexistent (or so I thought) in 1999. As far as I knew, only a couple of schools had lacrosse programs, there was no pro league, and it belonged to rich kids in the northeast. How wrong I was. High schools in Minnesota, Chicago, and St. Louis had lacrosse programs, as did Iowa (est. 1977) and ISU. There was even a professional league- the National Lacrosse League.

Still, I thought nothing of lacrosse until well after Major League Lacrosse debuted in 2001. Once I found out that somebody had thrown money down for a professional league, I decided to check the sport out. I started following MLL in 2003 or so after seeing a couple of games on satellite TV (I had access to every channel). I also started watching NCAA lax around the same time. I was not a die hard fan, but lax was something I would watch when it was on. It was growing on me, but I figured it was still pretty much an east coast sport with Denver being an island.

As the years wore on and I switched to Mediacom (my free satellite was gone), I started to follow lax more and more. Hopkins quickly emerged as my favorite team based on the play of Kyle Harrison and then Paul Rabil (plus the fact that they do not compete in any other D1 sports). The Long Island Lizards had already established themselves as my MLL pick. Kicking off in 2005, the Minnesota Swarm supplanted the Colorado Mammoth as my NLL team, but I was just getting into lax and had not really devoted myself to the Mammoth. The Swarm really came onto my radar because many of their inaugural season games were televised during the NHL lockout.

When my indoor soccer flans fell apart (again) last fall, I decided it was time to do something just for the fun of it. I had gained a lot of interest in lacrosse after watching the college game and both versions of the pro game. I figured that if nothing else, tossing a lacrosse ball back and forth would be a fun way to spend time at family gatherings. When I talked to my wife about it, she agreed that ordering a couple of sticks was a fun idea and she thought my idea of trying to get something started sounded worthwhile. So I started this blog as "Central Iowa Lacrosse." I figured I would mostly get a few adult hockey players to come try it out at best. Neither of us thought that lax would take off as much or as quickly as it did.
By now you know that I hooked up with the Waukee/Valley club and that the team evolved into Valley Tigers Lacrosse Club. You know that I became an assistant coach with Valley and that we finished 12-1 overall last spring. You know that the Central Iowa Lacrosse Association has its own site now. You know the Summer Open Lacrosse League has seen new players on a regular basis and is still going strong on Thursdays (5:30 pm) and Saturdays (11:30 am). You probably know that we will start the Open Box Lacrosse League on Thursday nights (7-9:00) beginning in November at the Soccer House. It is quite possible that you have heard rumors of us getting local certified to ref Valley's games which will allow us to host more games in the metro.

I have steadily improved as a laxer and am excited for Valley's fall tournaments. I am greatly looking forward to the box league, which will be my first effort running an organized sports league. I have taken many ques from Joe's hockey leagues and Brandon at the Soccer House has been helpful as well. So far things are going smoothly as we plan the league.

I am also entering another full season of hockey. Once again Joe came through for us and has arranged an invitational C league at Buccaneer Arena. Once again I am joining Matt's Cup O' Kryptonite team (although our name may be slightly changed due to dual sponsorship). I am exciting at the prospect of playing hockey on Wednesdays and lax on Thursdays. Hopefully I will be able to get a few more guys onto the lax field before it is all said and done.

Thanks for joining me on this journey through my past. By now you know that I love hockey above every other sport, but lax and soccer are not far behind. Football is alright and I could really care less about baseball and basketball (although I do enjoy seeing both live). My posts will be more sporadic for the next few weeks as I have started training for a new position at work and my free time will be more limited. I will post when I can; hopefully I will get something up after my first hockey game.

Tribe 7