Welcome back and thanks for taking the time to read. It is always a pleasure to write my blog, but this week it has been especially enjoyable because of the content. This is a BIG blog so be warned and don't go into reading it lightly, but equally make sure you read it. It is crammed full of stories and hopefully a gripping report on the biggest week in the UK Ball Hockey Calendar. Take your time to read it, comment and share with your friends.
Status UpdateThis week I am mostly tired and forgetful. It has been a busy week of work as we are undergoing an accreditation process so I have been putting in some longer hours to get stuff done whilst its quiet. Not only that, but as the NHL playoffs continue to enthral me I have been unable to get to sleep at an acceptable hour. I am definitely looking forward to some upcoming leave when I will be able to get some sleep and relax my tired and aching muscles.
Haggy's HolsThis week I finally got around to applying for my visa waiver so that my entry to USA would be smoother. I have to say that it had slipped my mind for a while and I was very happy to find that the process has been streamlined in comparison to other visa traditional processes. Ordinarily my understanding of visas is that you have to make a written application and then wait weeks whilst it is processed and your passport is updated. For this reason I was fearful that I may have left it a bit late and this would lead to impending panic stations, but reassured by recent travellers I logged on to a website to apply for my visa.
Let the countdown begin! There is still one stage left of our West Coast tour to tell you about - San Francisco. That can wait though because like they say good things come to those who wait. Before all that I have one final trip to make to Seville that I will tell you about next week and then real preparations will commence.
Food Glorious FoodGiven that I am tired this week it was a nice coincidence that one of my favourite websites www.bbcgoodfood.com was running an article about how food can help you sleep better and reduce stress. Obviously I had a read of the article (found here) and it actually turns out that I do a lot of this stuff already. Maybe I just need to be strict and make myself go to bed at a reasonable hour. If you are having sleeping issues consider a change in your diet.
Based on what I read I would like to share with you the recipe for Zingy Chicken Stir-Fry because it looks tasty. It is literally a stir fry, but click here for the ingredients list.
Haggy's Hockey CornerIt has been the biggest hockey week of the year and I have a fair few stories to regale this week filled with real highs and some difficult times. I wouldn't say lows because they really aren't negative, but instead something that could have produced a slightly better outcome. Read on and I hope you catch my drift.
Comets collect the trophy with a final victory
Quick acknowledgement - the pictures of the Comets game and trophy come courtesy of Paul Lynch. Check out his 365 blog because he creates some stunning images.
After sealing the title as champions last week against Northumbria Sharks the North East Dekstars Comets were back in action this week. The team took to the court to face off against a fellow Dekstars team - the Supernovas. You would think that being a fellow Dekstars team and just a week out from the big national tournament this game may be a docile affair. It was not. Instead this game would turn out to be one of the hardest fought of the season and was interspersed with some aggressive play, sometimes overly so.
Dekstars 1 come a very close second
Sunday saw the entire Dekstars club take 3 teams to the season finale national tournament. I was honoured to be asked to captain the first team in the absence of our broken toed captain Becky Farren (get well soon Bec). It added a bit of additional pressure to the tournament, but it was a level of pressure I actually enjoy having and it drives me on to give more and really try to lead by example. That and it gives me the permission to be more vocal too!
The format of the tournament would be a group of sorts with the 3 other competing teams before a semi-final and a final. We would avoid the semi-final if we topped the group so there was added importance to winning every game in the group stage. Forgive me for not remembering the ins and outs of games, but it was a long day!
Game two would be a different story against a team who were possibly the favourites just ahead of us Dekstars, Nottingham Wolves 1. A team filled with talent and pace and playing a forechecking style very similar to our own it would be a game decided by who could control the neutral zone the best. Unfortunately that accolade went to Wolves who dominated from start to end. We had a few good chances on goal, but the pace and precision of Wolves' passing saw us collapse deep in front of our net and encourage them to attack. It was only some sterling work in goal from Darren Elliott that kept the score to a respectable 1-0 loss.
For some reason the video won't show, but here is a link - vs. Shaw video
Ahead of the final I sat and had a think about the Wolves breakout and how we could combat it. We had a few small chats beforehand. I am not going to say what about because there will come a time when we play them again, but put it this way I noticed one system they play. It seemed to work because the game was much more even than our first meeting earlier in the day. Chances were limited as both team nullified the others' attacks but both goaltender was called upon to make important saves. At one stage I hit the bar and would later be told by the opposing goalie that had it been on target it would have gone in because he was unsighted. That makes what happened next all the more unbearable. The game would end 0-0 and owing to time constraints would go straight to penalty shots. It takes a brave man to step forward and take a shot in this type of game and confidence is key. Even though I had a great day I was not confident as I tend to overthink one-on-one scenarios and end up missing, so looked and hoped for others to be braver than I. Luckily there were some brave enough to step forward: Arto Polus, Terry Simons and James Dixon. It was a tense affair as is to be expected, but luck was not on our side as we lost narrowly 2-1. Even though we lost I need to give a big shout out to our penalty takers. It takes guts and courage to do what you did so regardless of the result be proud in your mental fortitude and you will forever have my admiration.
Again here is another link to a video - Penalty video
Before I leave off from the nationals I want to give a shout out to the Dekstars 2 and 3 teams. Both teams gave excellent performances all day and hopefully learnt a lot about themselves and their team mates. From my perspective they played some excellent hockey and deserved to go deeper into the tournament than narrowly missing out at the group stage. I was lucky enough to bench coach Team 2 during their tournament and every player gave their all and impressed me in the passion and drive to achieve. There are elements of the team that Team 1 would do well to learn from and hopefully we can continue to give them something to aspire to and even one day usurp us! It was a great day for everyone involved in the club and a big thanks goes to Darren, Alison, Ali and Becky for organising the day and being so amazing!
Have You Heard What Haggy's Heard?
Story of the week - I am not usually a fan of celebrity because unfortunately too many people are given this status despite being talentless. I mean programs like Geordie Shore and The Valleys symbolise just how dire things have become. Today though I want to praise Angelina Jolie for using her status to raise awareness in world issues. She has worked on behalf of the UN previously but today she is raising awareness in breast cancer through her own tribulations and a double mastectomy. In what must be a difficult personal time she is creating a media focus and discussion around the topic. If it can increase screening then hopefully people can make informed decisions before they are forced to take action. For once someone acting as a proper role model - click here for full story
Quote of the week - This week is less so a quote but more of a comment I saw on Facebook. It doesn't need much introduction, but it really gets you thinking why the world's superpowers couldn't just agree to get along for once and instead make a real positive difference to future generations.
Song of the week - This week's song of the week goes to Naughty Boy with the new track LaLaLa featuring Sam Smith. It's a catchy track for sure but it is song of the week on the back of the innovative video. I am loving the South American Wizard of Oz references in the oddly endearing story of a runaway and the people he meets on his journey. Check it out, it's cool. Another video link fail sorry so please click here
Film of the week - I love a dystopia and tonight I saw a trailer for a film that may just feed my just satisfy that craving. The Purge starring Ethan Hawke is about a society where once a year all crime goes. An interesting concept indeed an if not worth going to the cinema to watch it is a definite addition to my rental list.
Thanks for persisting and I hope you enjoyed this week's bumper edition. See you next week!