David Kimmel is counting the days. The La Salle senior is eagerly anticipating next Friday, January 29 when he and his Explorer teammates will open the Atlantic Prep Athletic Conference season against Holy Ghost Prep.
Kimmel, who is primarily a center, has been practicing and playing occasional games with his club team. But the Covid-19 pandemic has kept the APAC teams off the ice for much of the last month-and-a-half, save for occasional practices.
“It’s definitely been very different,” Kimmel said. “We haven’t been able to get into school all that often; we’re in a hybrid mode, like every other day, so we’ve relied on technology to communicate and choose to kind of keep our hopes up about when we’re hoping to be able to start the season.
“And when we’re at the rink itself, it’s very different. Having to get dressed all separated, not having that locker room camaraderie that every hockey player enjoys. So, it’s definitely been very different this year. We had to get dressed six feet apart and we weren’t able to bond in the locker room like we have been in previous years.”
While he hasn’t seen a lot of game action this season, Kimmel is taking advantage of the practice time he’s getting with his club team.
“Our practice schedule has been virtually unchanged,” he said, “so I’ve been able to keep my stamina up, working hard to stay in shape for when (La Salle games begin). Just being on the ice at least three times a week has really helped me to keep in the flow of hockey and avoid any minor setbacks that could start at the beginning of the season.”
Kimmel, who is primarily a center, has also watched a lot of hockey, specifically the recent World Junior Championships; he watched virtually every game the United States played and a lot of Team Canada as well. For someone as committed to hockey as Kimmel, the tournament was a learning experience.
“I think it’s amazing that the players are just a couple years older than (high-school players),” he said. “They look like they could complete with the best of NHL players. Watching them is definitely a really big advantage to my game.
Kimmel enjoys studying players who play his position. “I like to kind of focus on one player that would match my position out there on the ice,” he said, “and just notice everything that he does well. Also, having the overhead perspective, I can see some of the things that maybe he could have done better and then try to envision my own self on the ice and think what I would do in that scenario.”
When he’s watching televised hockey, Kimmel views the game differently than a casual fan would because of his on-ice experience. “I would say most people that don’t have a hockey mind would focus on the scoring plays,” he said. “I’m just taking note of key passes that kind of start plays and generate scoring chances, and also defensive positioning and shot blocking, especially in the final seconds of the U.S.-Finland game (in the World Junior semifinals); a couple US players laid out their bodies on the line and that’s nothing I think a normal hockey fan would notice.
“And then also there just so many skillful plays that largely go unnoticed, like (plays) in the corners and ways to get the puck on net. People who haven’t really played hockey wouldn’t understand how difficult it is.”
Seeing some of the plays world-class junior players are capable of making got Kimmel thinking about what he could add to his own game. “You just get a lot of creative ideas from what they’re doing, he said.” So, I definitely like to take note of the special things that I see out there.”