January 26, 2004

London Calling

So here I am in London, land of fish and chips, bad teeth, theatre, and above all else, football. I've just closed a show at the Barbican to SRO houses. I've seen Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the London Bridge, the restored Globe Theatre, and countless other British cultural iconic locations. But the most amazing encounter i've had so far was as far from British as you could possibly expect.

I'm at our hotel, asking one of the concierges a question. Another concierge, apparently seeing my 1867 Canada ball cap and hearing my accent, asks me "Oi, are you really from Canada?"

No doubt an odd question, but I indulge him with a "Yes, as far as I know."

"You from Toronto?"

"No, Vancouver."

"Ah. Canucks fan?"

Here was my first pause. "Yes" I answered.

"Is Bertuzzi still playing for them?"

Again a pause. "Yeah, he is," I replied, "he's one of their superstars."

"Ah right. He started out with the Islanders, though, didn't he?"

Some models get paid top dollar for their faces, but the look on mine must have been priceless. Was this not supposed to be the land of Beckham, Owen, and Duff? Yet here I was engaged in puck talk with a pommie. Turns out he's a big Red Wings fan, has been since '93.

Go figure. God Save the Queen, but not early Sunday morning, cause HNIC is live in London. And apparently He's watching...

Posted by at 10:57 AM | Comments (15)

January 25, 2004

Lak shuts out attack

Lak Attack has never had a problem getting goals. Now he's taking them away.

The newfound netminder won his third consecutive game Sunday, 20-7. It's also the third straight time he's held opposing snipers to less than 10 goals, the Sunday Morning Road Hockey equivalent of a shutout.

"It's unprecedented," says Paul One, who's got a three game streak of his own, all of them losses. "We can remember the days of 22-20 overtime games, and now the goals just aren't coming. When we're out there, we're just sorta looking at each other, we're wondering who's the guys who are gonna start lighting it up."

"To let in less than ten goals in this game is an amazing feat," says Beetle Boy, who returned to action Sunday after missing more than a month with a sprained ankle.

"I can't figure out how he can do it," says Rudy, who did manage three goals in a losing effort. "It doesn't seem like there's any way to beat him."

For the first period, there wasn't. With Lak Attack stonewalling opposing scorers, his teammates were able to charge deep into the offensive zone with confidence. Led by Kid's three straight goals, they stormed to a 5-0 lead. They never looked back.

"It's always a boost to know you can afford to roam into their end a little bit," says New Guy. "If your goaltender is playing well, then you know you have to play well."

"I think it was pretty important," says Lak Attack of his side's stellar start. "The teams were pretty competitive and it gave us the boost we needed to continue. It kinda broke their spirit from the very beginning."

"Once you're down 5-0, it's tough to get back into any type of flow to get things going your way," says Paul One, who's only scored once on his netminding nemesis in the last two weeks. "It's always a combination of things; we didn't get a single bounce going our way, and that's what happens when you're not playing well."

"They got those goals, their confidence builds and our's just decreases; you almost lose the game before it's even a few goals old," says Beetle Boy, who didn't help his side's cause when he ripped a cross-crease pass through the legs of his own goalie, Gump. "Once you're down like that, it puts your team in a funk and it's hard to crawl out of that funk."

Especially when the goalie is holding a hot hand. Like the lightning stab Lak Attack made with his trapper as he flopped out of position to rob the Colonel of a sure goal to the open side of the net.

"He's got great reactions," says Rudy. "He's tough to solve. He covers up so much of the net that we can't get around him."

"I don't think you're gonna beat him on a one-on-one shot," says Paul One. "He doesn't seem to give up the garbage goals."

"He's stopping everything right now," says Beetle Boy. "He's positioned perfectly, he's not leaving us anything. If we knew what he was doing right, we might be able to find some weaknesses in him."

But Lak Attack isn't about to give up his secrets. With regular rearguards Lobsterboy and Ottoman still out of the lineup as they recover from laser eye surgeries, he's making the most of his new role, as much as his roll.

"The focus is just to say in net and play the best I can," says the super substitute. "Each time I come in I've been trying to just work on my game and try to focus on the little things I need to improve on. It can go the other way pretty quickly."

Posted by jaysuburb at 05:06 PM | Comments (1)

January 18, 2004

Winning with control

New Guy knew his team would have to control the ball to win Sunday's game. So they won the opening faceoff, then pretty much every one after that, and romped to a 20-7 win.

"On every loose ball, we were going to be there first, we were going to pin them in their end the whole game," says the feisty forward of his side's strategy for success.

"When you control the ball, you control the game," says Wendel. "If you get it right from the faceoff, you can set the tone for the entire game."

Key to that control may have been the Living Legend, who didn't lose a faceoff and scored five goals, his first in two weeks.

"The Living Legend was on fire," says Wendel of his ageing teammate. "It's so rare we see him play like that."

"He was just dominant on the faceoffs," says Bird, who was victimized on the draw a few times. "When you're not winning the faceoffs, you're giving up the ball after each goal."

"When the other team starts with the ball 90-95 percent of the time, it sure said something about our faceoff skills," says the Colonel, whose frustration with his side's inability to wrest control from their spirited opponents caused him to hurl his stick out of the court. "Road hockey is always a control game, and if you start with controlling the ball, it's more likely for good things to happen for your team."

Like fortuitous bounces such as the centering pass that bounced off the foot of Sunday Morning newcomer, Hoss, past a handcuffed Gump.

"Everything was going right for us, we were getting some lucky bounces," says Wendel.

"They had a lot of bounces going their way," says Bird. "Once you start falling behind a bit, you start pressing a bit more, you give up more turnovers and they start to run away with it."

"The ball bounced the same for both teams, but the other team capitalized," says the Colonel, who desperately tried to fire his team out of their funk during a late-game meeting. But their rally lasted only one goal, before it was overwhelmed by three more from their rivals.

"They come together like that, they figure it's all going to go their way," says New Guy. "They get a goal, but then we come back with three more, it just breaks their spirit, there's just nothing left in the tank."

"Today was just one of those days when everything went right," says Wendel.

Posted by jaysuburb at 04:30 PM | Comments (27)

January 11, 2004

Double trouble

Rudy wanted redemption. But all he got was a double dose of frustration.

After losing Sunday's first game, 15-5, the veteran player, making his first goaltending start of the season, tried to put the offensive barrage and his teammates' defensive deficiencies out of mind. But his opponents weren't about to let him forget.

"I really wanted to salvage something," says the lanky netminder, who went on to lose the consolation match, 10-7. "It's really hard to do that against guys like Kid and Elvis, who were really on their game today. They were able to pick corners and make those cross-crease passes."

It was a dismal outcome for a day that had started so well. Seriously outgunned in the first game, Rudy made a number of key saves early to allow his team to claw their way to within a goal at the end of the first period. But that was as close as they got, as Kid and Elvis started to execute their pass plays with impunity, and Nibs found his range from the point.

"All the big guns on their team just started to wear us down," says Wendel, another two-time loser on Sunday. "We hung in tough for as long as we could, but eventually they just broke through. We just got a bit undisciplined and disorganized."

"We had no defense going and we certainly couldn't get any offense going, we just seemed to stall," says Paul One.

As One and his mates realized the futility of their effort, that stall became a skid, and they looked to the second game for salvation.

"It seemed like a foregone conclusion anyways," says One. "We kinda slacked off through the last part of that first game, it wasn't like we went gangbusters."

"You've got to throw the old game away and just get ready to start again," says Wendel.

Rudy was also looking ahead.

"You've always gotta concentrate on the next goal," says the neophyte netminder. "You just try to stay prepared for the next shot."

While a redraw of the sticks gave his team a little more offensive punch, adding Nibs and New Guy, the outcome was the same.

"It hurts," says Wendel, of the double defeat.

"To lose two is just downright embarrassing," says One.

"It was really tough," says Rudy. "I just couldn't really find too many little victories out there."

Posted by jaysuburb at 03:48 PM | Comments (8)

January 04, 2004

Shrimp Ring shiver

Out of the fridge, into the freezer.

With frigid temperatures and icy conditions, the festive shrimp ring, centerpiece of Sunday's ninth renewal of the annual Shrimp Ring Bowl to greet the new year, never really thawed out. Nor did the roadsters.

"I don't remember ever playing in cold like this," says Paul One, whose veteran side squandered a 12-4 lead before rallying to eke out the win, 21-19 in overtime. "I don't think there's any kind of experience advantage for playing in these types of conditions."

"There's a lot of sliding, there's a lot of slipping," says Billy Idol, who defied the frosty conditions by wearing shorts.

Indeed, it may have been the sloppiest game in Sunday Morning history as the icy concrete made it difficult for players to get any kind of traction to make plays, get away shots or change direction.

"Guys who usually have a lot of running ability didn't have that ability today," says Billy Idol.

"Just staying upright is a challenge," says Paul One. "Those guys that usually make moves can't make moves, there's nobody winding up with slapshots."

Unfortunately, some of Paul One's teammates thought they could play a running game. And it almost cost them. After lucky deflections and fortuitous rebounds had staked his side to their early lead, they tried to get fancy, pinching in from center court, sending give-and-go passes to skidding teammates who slid right past them. Unable to get their footing, they got caught out of position, and their opponents were quick to take advantage, battling back to take their first lead, 16-15.

"We were pressing three guys up and you can't do that because there's no way you can get back in time," says Paul One. "We got lazy, they jumped all over us."

"You can't go as fast, but if you can make some fakes you can get people moving one way and there's no way they can stop," says New Guy of his side's courageous comeback. "You're not going to make too many pretty plays out there. It's all about getting a bounce of someone's leg, getting the ball to your stick and just burying it."

It was only when Paul One and his mates returned to those fundamentals that they were able to battle to the overtime win.

"We pulled it out the same way we started the game, with confidence and dominating play," says Elvis. "We knew it was just a matter of time that we'd get the game back."

Posted by jaysuburb at 04:42 PM | Comments (8)

January 01, 2004

Shrimp Ring on ice?

Sunday's Shrimp Ring Bowl could be on ice. Literally.

A freak New Year's Eve storm left almost a foot of heavy, wet snow on the road hockey courts, and with temperatures expected to fluctuate from above freezing in the day to well below overnight, the concrete playing surface could be a frozen wasteland by Sunday. Last week's game was delayed by almost an hour as the roadsters had to clear a thin layer of snow that had fallen the day before.

If the Shrimp Ring Bowl is postponed, it would be the first time a game has been scuttled by weather in almost two seasons, when a late-January snowstorm kept all but four players--Lak Attack, Billy Idol, Elvis and the Living Legend--from making it to the courts.

A Sunday Morning tradition for the past 11 seasons, the Shrimp Ring Bowl has become the hilight of the roadsters' social calendar, as they pause from their on-court rivalries to welcome the new year with semi-frozen crustaceans and tangy sauce.

Posted by jaysuburb at 10:08 AM | Comments (11)