After the close of every league season at the local hockey rink, they hold an Iron Man Tournament.
I always feel like I need to qualify this one to my friends who run. This is not like an Iron Man Triathalon where you run/bike/swim 140+ miles (despite the fact that no zombies are chasing you). Nor is it an I-must-train-for-ten-years-to-do-this-and-not-die-in-the-process kind of deal.
It's also not an I'm-a-super-genius-with-personality-issues-and-I-built-my-own-robot-super-suit kind of deal, though that would be cool too.
So what a hockey Iron Man is, or at least what it is at our rink, is a series of 10-minute games where game play does not stop for any reason. You get one goalie and four skaters. No face-offs, no time-outs, no player substitutions. The puck never stops and neither do you. Not until the 10 minute buzzer sounds and you scramble over the wall, panting and wheezing and clutching your water bottle like a security blanket.
Ten minutes probably doesn't sound like that long. Try it. It's really that long. You play four games over the course of about two hours, and then if you're in the top four teams, you play some more. Halfway through the second game you start to wonder if they're running the clock in the wrong direction just to mess with you and by the end of the third you start to wonder if you might pass out or if you'll throw up first. (Nobody does either--like I said, this is doable by normal people, no superheroes required--but it feels like you will.)
While I was sitting on the bench with my team last night waiting for people who were less loopy with exhaustion than us to work out the math of who advances to the next round, we debated which outcome would be "winning" at this point. We knew we were just on the edge of qualifying, and getting into the semi-finals would be awesome. Permission to stop skating now and go home to have a beer and shower would have also had its good points.
We advanced, by the narrowest of margins. Our semi-final was against the top-slotted team, made up of four guys who regularly play on the team that just won the league championship last week. If anyone ever bothered to place bets on old people playing roller hockey, the smart bet would not have been our team. We finished 0-0 and won by 1 point in a shoot-out. (Thanks, Mike.)
In the generous four-minute break before the final, when the refs threw out some pucks for us to pass around and warm up with, my teammates and I looked at one that landed in our midst and just blinked at it like it was a foreign unidentifiable object. It was at this point nearly 10 pm and we'd been at this since 6.
The final game was against five folks from the team that took second place in the season championship. That team has become a bit of a nemesis for us, if you can genuinely like hanging out with a nemesis when they're not wiping the floor with you. And on this night? We finished 0-0, and again won by 1 point in shoot-out. (Thanks again, Mike.)
It was awesome good fun. I totally have a hockey hangover today and everything hurts, but totally worth it.
Incidentally, if you're in the Woodland, California area and you're thinking, "Hey, hockey sounds like fun; I should try that," then I'd like to point you toward NorCal Indoor Sports Center. They have classes, they have a beginner pick-up game once a week, and they have generally nice folk hanging about hitting things with big sticks who are super welcoming to newbies like me who had never even watched a hockey game on TV before I walked in there. You're right, it's fun, you should try it.