Chelsea Challenge 2011 was this past weekend and my participation marked my tenth time to play in the annual New York City Gay Hockey Association tournament. This was also my third year playing with the Hartford Whalers in the recreational division. Needless to say it was a great weekend.

Hartford played all three of it’s first round games on Saturday, which made for a very intense day. We started with the NY Wizards at noon and that game ended in a 0-0 tie, leaving us with 4 tournament points and tied in second place with Toronto on top of the Rec B division and Chicago at the bottom. The second game started up around 3:30 against Chicago. This was a fast moving, crazy paced game and we lost 6-1 and didn’t get any tourney points, dropping us to the bottom of the pack in Rec B. Things didn’t get much better at 7:15 as we took on Toronto. This game was very physical and both sides ended up with a misconduct penalty after a fight (some might even call it a brawl because it was kind of crazy there for a bit). Here we lost 4-2 and picked up two points. Those points didn’t help us get out of the bottom of the pack, meaning we would face Toronto in the semi-finals Sunday morning.

For the first three games, I played defense with Tyler. It was one of the best instant-D partnerships I’ve ever had. We didn’t even know each other before we started, although we do play on opposing teams at Sky Rink. We fell in step very quickly covering for each other, changing up sides on the fly when needed, being where we needed to be. It was a solid partnership and across those three games where we had 10 goals against us, we were only on the ice for one. Not a bad statistic. I thought the team played well too for 15 guys who don’t play together on a regular basis. Many of the Whalers have played together these three years, we had a some new people this year and few of us are on the same teams during our regular playing.

For Sunday’s game the idea was to learn from Saturday and do our best to get to the finals. We were down two players–one guy got suspended in the Toronto game and the another had scheduling issues. With two missing, we had to shuffle the lines. I move to centering a line with Adam and Lief as my wings–it was a Tigers reunion and we had a great time with it. The Whalers led this game going into the third period (it was either 4-1 or 4-2). It was looking like we might get the Disney-style miracle we were looking for to get into the finals. However, Toronto stepped up their game and we had a combination of not playing with the cohesion of the first two periods and taking some stupid penalties (these were just us getting frustrated as opposed to a smart penalty to keep someone from scoring from in front of our net). We ended up losing 6-4.

It was awesome playing with Adam and Lief. Our line scored one and was on ice for one goal against, which I do partly blame myself for. I had a couple chances to get the puck away from Toronto but I didn’t get it done.

Despite the ups and downs of the weekend, it was an great experience being with the Whalers again (thanks, Gregg!). I hope to be a part of the team again in 2012.

A true highlight of the Challenge was watching the Daywalkers play in the developmental division. I had many friends on that team from the teams I play on. It was awesome watching Mike get the shootout winning goal in the semi-final game. They went on to win the gold medal in the division in a hard fought game against the Vampires (yes, there’s a True Blood theme here… the other two teams were the Werewolves and Shapeshifters) and it was fun to watch that after losing earlier on Sunday morning.