When it comes to instructional videos on hockey, Judge Ryan Keefer can play the crap out of anyone. He's got the cheat codes to prove it.
Want to learn the methods of a player who just helped lead his team to a number one seed in the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs? Come on, don't walk away, you know you want to.
As of this writing, it's nice to see my local team the Washington Capitals get back to the playoffs with an amazing run, and the lovely Mrs. Keefer has gotten swept up by it in the process. Since New Year's Day, we've caught 4 games live and watched the rest on TV, or at least one of us has. She's put a deposit down on season tickets which, in turn, has put us in the enviable position of watching the playoffs live and in color (red, in this case), which for me will be my first playoff games live in awhile, since the team stunk the joint up for the last several years. And what did we do for our anniversary? Got front row tickets to a game and took a day off work to watch practice downtown. Those of you who are married to a sports fan of the female persuasion, you know how lucky you are.
It's also a bit of a challenge, because I don't want to temper any of her emotions or expectations and to be fair, this is a new team with a new record, but having the perspective that I have I do what I can to keep it in check. What makes this funny is that she actually wanted to see this Alex Kovalev two-disc documentary and instructional DVD a little more than I did at first. I mean, as a longtime hockey fan, my recollections of Alex Kovalev were of the underachieving Russian Alexei Kovalev, who played in more of a second fiddle sniper position for the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins for years, since joining the NHL in 1991.
But like other Russians who joined the league around that time and are still active in the league (current Capital Sergei Fedorov being among them), the question becomes less of what you have to get to the league, and more about what it takes to stay there. Kovalev has quietly produced consistent twenty to thirty goal scoring seasons, and finished the 2007-08 campaign with the Montreal Canadiens (his third team in his career) leading the team with 35 goals, his most since 2001-02, and 84 points, his most since 2000-01. His talent has been steady through the years, regardless of whether he played in New York, Pittsburgh or now in Montreal. Mr. Kovalev, any "flash in the pan" reference I made under my breath or in full voice in your direction through the years was in error. Please accept my apologies.
Having said that, with all of my misgivings and apologies, for NHL stars and instructional videos, Kovalev wouldn't have been at the top of my list for players, or even Russian players, but he's certainly been around the NHL track for awhile, so it gives him credence. Looking at the two-disc set, disc one focuses on drills and exercises the aspiring player can use to his advantage, while disc two is a documentary on Kovalev's life and career, with sales of this disc benefitting the Children's Gift of Life Foundation for children with heart disease.
Disc one starts with hockey and training drills and exercises, filmed with high definition cameras focused on Kovalev. The drills focus on puck handling and control, shooting and skating, and employing parts of all of these in game situations. During the "Hockey" section, an icon with the letter "E" is played, to show you the exercise equivalent for what's being done on the ice (an "H" is shown during the "Exercise" section). All of this allows you to switch back and forth between the training material and the ice material as you see fit. There's also an angle button to watch both sets of drills and exercises from several different perspectives, both on the ice and the "gym," so to speak. And while the material is worthwhile, Kovalev doesn't offer too much of a huge explanation as to the benefits of the drills, and the drills themselves aren't too varied and cumulatively aren't very long. I hit the Play All function for both sections, and both sections run about 35-40 minutes in length each. So it was an underwhelming piece.
Thankfully, there's a Disc Two, and looking at the material there, things kick off with a minute-long look at the Gift of Life Foundation starts off, with Kovalev's thoughts on the foundation, what they do and what they've accomplished to this point. From there, a making-of look at the training portion of the disc is next. Watching Kovalev off-camera yucking it up with the crew and exercising to an occasional stumble in front of the cameras is cute, even if it's not all that compelling. A documentary on Kovalev titled "Mr. Kovi" is next, and follows Kovalev's career. The piece is "filmed in Russia," as the case says on the back, and it does sound like it's narrated by someone who is coming from freshly translated Russian subtitles and performing a vocal track, and the interviews conducted with him are done in his native tongue also. There's also quite a bit of footage of him growing up, even it is shown behind a sepia lens, and all of it appears to be state-produced and slightly unique in its content and delivery. In fact, some of the Russian propaganda, er, civic pride, still remains in the narration and the interviewer's questions, which is interesting to see. Kovalev's present day experience with the Canadiens is also given time and exposure too, and at the end of the day it's a better feature than I was expecting. The trailer completes the set, though there's a couple of tangible materials found outside the discs themselves, starting with a passcode to the premium content found on Kovalev's website (read: videos and stills), and a poster of sorts that shows the exercises that are on Disc One.
So is this worth it for the aspiring hockey player in your family? Well, if you're looking to learn the basics of playing hockey, you're not going to find it here, as My Training Methods is designed more for the novice or advanced player. The interactive functions are a plus, but if someone makes a tape that was similar in feel and covered things from the ground up, it would be well-received. Recommended for the growing youth player in your fold.
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