Mekkar had no concept at this time nor the realization that all the best athletes in the world have or need coaches to give them structure. Even if one fights it at the time, those mentors sometimes push and help drive athletes in all sports to their limits and beyond. It is amazing how far the human body can endure past what an individual thinks they can do. Special Forces soldiers and elite athletes understand this through experiencing it directly.
During the suspension hockey training continued as usual but participation in the games themselves were not allowed. Mekkar felt that the games were the fun part and the whole reason for physical rigors and hardships of the development process. After the suspension was over Mekkar was driven and desired badly to get into a game and dish out his own hammer of affliction upon the opposition to catch up for lost time.
He was ready if the opposition for the next matchup wants to harass his netminder. Mainly because there is an unwritten rule that a player, definitely defensemen, must always protect your goalie. That is, defend them versus all misconduct, contact, or any abuse under all circumstances. Even though that is partially different to Mekkar’s belief that if goalies’ come out of their crease, in the front of the net; they should be fair game and body checked like any other player on the ice. Mekkar felt that netminders deserve protection only in their net area and crease, so they can do their job and concentrate on stopping the puck instead. He does not support the rules that make all goalies untouchable anywhere on the ice and thinks that is wrong.
On one of Mekkar’s dark morning runs during those early days in his newly adopted home city, he often thought back to the small skating rink set up or the frozen lakes back home in the village. Part of the reason was the training as of late had been particularly and physical grueling. He felt like he needed a small break for body recovery and regeneration of the muscles. Since Mekkar knew that would not happen he would let his mind wander instead at times to distract him from the body exertion and pain he was experiencing.
Mekkar remembered back that this move was supposed to be beneficial in the long run. He also realized that his village had no real developmental ice hockey leagues or top notch instruction for the youngsters there. Mainly because there were just not enough kids to form a true youth league for any sport.
Until this relocation Mekkar had been travelling back and forth from his home area to the city where he now lives. But the more permanent move was required on his part if he desired to further his athletic skills for his chosen occupation, or so he hoped at least for the short term and maybe beyond.
There was better access to improved full time coaching, as well as, improved training structure and methods in the city. Mekkar understood that just relying of self directed discipline and ability increase could have many peaks and valleys. It would be like a roller coaster and could wane at times plus hinder development. Also, he realized that pond and lake hockey could only take him so far.
Plus, Mekkar also recognized that if he did well enough here in this location, this could be just the first step to a higher level in the future. That in turn could result in playing hockey on one of the well known squads in the larger cities down south. Mekkar also became aware of his need for further adaptation of himself and his lifestyle.
He had to get used to a fairly more mobile existence on a different level. Mekkar described it as living out of a suitcase or being on the road on an increasingly more frequent basis with longer travel trips and included further destinations away from his base of operations. Mekkar decided then to treat it similarly to a reindeer trek because that was the only comparison he could make at the time. Previous exposure to that type environment would also make it easier for his own mental stability and focus for the tasks at hand. Either way, Mekkar would always try to make each of the trips as fun as possible and fresh since continuous travel can get redundant and boring at times.
The one thing was that none of his new teammates, except for Lasse, was able to comprehend the internal battle and cultural transition required of Mekkar. This would be to a greater degree when Mekkar migrated to a much larger city later on and involved a longer adjustment period.
Lasse also had witnessed one of Mekkar’s most embarrassing moments. This occurred in that small village rink back home during a two day hockey camp. It was quite a while ago now, remembered Mekkar. The mini camp, training session was put on by a couple of the better known pro players who grew up in this region of the country. Those players now were members on elite teams in the big city far to the south. This was their first ever visiting Mekkar’s village area. Mekkar figured they were passing the time here by conducting this teaching session for outdoor recreation and relaxation purposes.
Mekkar perceived that his village seemed to swell to almost double the inhabitants when the tourists really rolled in during the peak season. Maybe he was off on the actual numbers of this but the images still resonated in his mind. Especially, when he included both village populations and visitors from both sides of the river, which by the way also served as a division of the border between nations.
On the first day of the mini camp, there was one instance where the kids were being shown on the proper methods of how to execute various face offs and drills to win draws. Even though Mekkar had more of a defensive mindset when they would play hockey on the lake, positions were not really assigned yet.
Well, during the camp everyone was still encouraged to develop all kinds of different skills. Mekkar got to show off his excellent ability in regards to face offs against bigger, stronger, more experienced and offensively gifted opponents. Mekkar was so effective in the circle for drops of the puck due to such a low center of gravity.
He seemed to be able to get lower than others which results in greater leverage to win face offs. Mekkar felt that an orangutan could do this if trained properly, why not him? He had read that those primates also had a very low center of gravity and at the same time have exceptional strength without the muscular arms.
However, Mekkar had developed some bad on ice habits and one of the session leaders tried to instruct and break him out of some of those negative traits. It is easier to get rid of them while he was still young he was told. One of those poor aspects of Mekkar’s hockey play was the tendency to watch the puck all the way to contact with the blade. Another one was watching his feet to keep control while feeling the vulcanized rubber disk on his stick. The hope was that Mekkar would learn to keep his head up at all times instead.
It was pointed out to him that not learning this lesson now could result in injury later on at a higher level. To come through the neutral zone with his head down, against better opposition, could make Mekkar subject to getting knocked out or wind up on his butt more often. Plus, the fact that watching the puck at his feet would greatly reduce his awareness of the play and opportunities to set up teammates around him.
The camp coach put a small board around Mekkar’s neck that was held by a leather strap around the back of the neck. The board would protrude out forward quite a bit from under his chin. That consideration was that he would not have the need to look down at his feet anymore, since he was unable to see them. It was hoped that after seeing an ugly piece of wood and away from his own feet that Mekkar would kick the bad habit. If only all habits were this easy to break! The strategy was beginning to work too until the next round of draws at the face off dots. When Mekkar got into his crouch and spread his legs wide while slightly bending his knees to get real low. He then leaned forward to take the draw. Just then the very outward end of the board still attached to his neck got stuck to the ice. It seemed to bond like glue as he was still leaning forward. He was unable to pull himself back upright again.
He even pleaded for help from some of the other camp participants but they just laughed at him. They thought it was funny especially Lasse. Mekkar shot back a sharp response, “Screw you guys!” while still in that awkward position. He was hoping to get the attention of one of the people running the two day affair. He was eventually successful and after a short time the coach helped him up and out of the circle. Mekkar was now glad that he also removed that attached board around his throat.
Mekkar did get admonished at the same time while being helped to his feet to keep his head up or the board would be reattached. From then on, Mekkar did his best to follow
the instruction and whispered under his breath, “Forget that board, I will break it!” The other kids continued to let him have it and gave him grief for awhile after that incident.
After much time had elapsed towards the end of this morning jaunt Lasse once again reminded him of that episode and gave him grief about it.. Lasse mentioned on their run together about Mekkar being stuck to the ice in the middle of the face off dot back home when they were much younger. Mekkar felt that he was fortunate that none of his other teammates had seen that incident. However, Mekkar’s best friend never seemed to let Mekkar completely off the hook regarding that moment in time.
As anticipated, Mekkar’s car had arrived a few days after he first did in the small city. Like any kid owning his vehicle, he took it out for a spin. Not long afterward, He did some stupid stuff with his car: speeding, spin outs, doing donuts around the shopping carts in the partially frozen over supermarket parking lot. Mekkar felt that doing stuff like this worked to get the need for speed and wacky stuff out of his system much quicker in the long term view. Mekkar was of the opinion that if he didn’t get some of the crazy stuff out of the way and out of his system early, it might linger and become more dangerous activities in the future. Remember, he was still a teenager after all.
Even though Mekkar owned the vehicle and drove it exclusively, he was technically too young to lawfully drive by himself and have a driver’s license. They normally weren’t issued until an individual had passed the tests and was at least eighteen years of age. The cost was around five hundred dollars. Everything related to the car and rented apartment was all in his parents names due to his young age. It would be smart of him to avoid getting too crazy and lose all of the privileges and new toys he had recently gained.
Fortunately, the cops never stopped Mekkar while he was driving the whole time he lived in the town. Partially because Mekkar advanced up the ranks to finally reach the A team level. Plus, Mekkar was not stupid and he would give a few of the public servants around town free hockey tickets and souvenirs. His hope was that they would overlook minor infractions such as public intoxication, drinking while underage, and driving without a license. Hey, it worked thought Mekkar, so no harm done.
This giveaway strategy on the part of Mekkar also would help him gain special entrance into other exclusive locales, dance clubs, etc. This was done by supplying the bouncers and door people with tickets and free sports schwag. Mekkar thought that it worked even better than he had planned and was way more effective in the larger cities down south.
This was also the period where Mekkar began to broaden his horizons and participate in other sports. That is to provide some balance to his life as his mama referred to it.
At the beginning of his hockey progression, it all was simpler. There was an atmosphere of encouraging increased creativity and self conceptualization to figure things out on the ice on your own. However, advancing to better teams and up the hockey ladder meant more structure and much harder training methods. Mekkar had to embrace the fact that he had to improve even quicker than before because he would face better competition and more talented opposing players.
Mekkar already had an idea of his own limitations and hockey skill set, thus he attempted to structure his game accordingly. Before practice though was the place for him to do some experimentation and to tryout new things on the ice.
The system is different in Mekkar’s area of the world in that there are fewer games and more preparatory work on skills. Practice time, even at lower levels and in juniors, has a lot more dedicated to it than in North American hockey leagues. The emphasis for Mekkar’s coaches and instructors was to develop better rounded players. So, they could be more adaptable to handle a wide variety of on ice situations. There is an unspoken understanding that nothing always goes completely as planned, so be better prepared for some unexpected things to happen.
Also, the idea is to not want to burn out a kid on a particular sport by pushing them too hard, too early. Other cultural factors also play a part in that Mekkar, like his peers, didn’t want to stand out from the group or team too much. He felt that this lack of individuality infected and applied to everyone because of their upbringing. Even the stars were affected by this malaise. The idea is to prevent all the current success to let it all go to one’s head and get cocky. The additional problem is that this attitude includes a whole array of negative aspects for that individual and potentially their team. Mekkar knew, along with all players, that this sport still required a team effort. The caveat is that each member always has to do their share so they all can achieve success - With the understanding that no one person can do it all by themselves.
This way of thinking is the complete opposite of athletes in other parts of the globe. This self-centeredness is totally contrary to the cultural and sports environment where Mekkar grew up. Mekkar feels that in other places are infected by the disease of me, myself, and I. This is a result of the encouragement by society of majorly advanced individualism which he thinks is consummated in narcissism.
Mekkar accepted the fact that a defensive defenseman is not flashy enough to make a person stand out like a bass guitarist in a band. The offensive big time goal scorers seemed to get all the credit to Mekkar and he compared it to the lead vocalist of a band. Mekkar just did his job, one that would go pretty much unnoticed by everyone except his team, coaching staff, and the opposition. Of course, if Mekkar didn’t get his tasks done effectively the ramifications would definitely cost his squad victories.