January 29, 2007

Rivalry riles roadsters

They're the stars. They're the leaders. They're the players whose sticks the roadsters have committed to memory and then watch with eagle eyes to see where they fall in the pre-game pull.

The rivalry between Lak Attack and the Kid is intense. When the two veteran speedsters face off against each other, players on the bench rarely sit down. Everyone wants to be a part of it. Everyone wants to elevate their own game to help their teammate prevail.

"When they go against each other, you just wanna do your best to help the one who's on your team defeat the other one," said Beetle Boy, between shifts of Sunday's game, which renewed the longstanding rivalry. "Everybody is trying their hardest. People who normally don't backcheck start backchecking, people who normally don't try to go into the offensive zone go into the offensive zone."

"They both want to come out and win, so they're both really driving the rest of their teams to go out there and dig hard," said Cowboy Bill. "Everyone wants to work just a little bit harder."

"They lead by example," said Wink. "You put those two guys against each other and it raises everybody's game because they're such leaders."

"It's really inspiring," said Elvis. "They keep you running out there."

While the two veteran superstars can run circles around the rest of the flatfooted roadsters, that's where the similarity ends.

Lak Attack can finesse and stickhandle with aplomb, but he can also be gritty in the corners. He's a defensive quarterback, taking command in his own zone then leading the transition game into offense, where he'll often swoop in from the center line to finish the job with a sizzling snap shot from the slot or a timely pounce of a juicy rebound.

The Kid is a pure goal scorer. He relies on his stealth, incredible balance and explosive bursts of speed to sneak behind defenders and deke around startled goalies even before they know what hit them.

When the stick pull puts them onto the same side, they're almost unstoppable. But when they're pitted against each other, the game becomes a high-speed chess match.

"You know they're going to check each other," said Elvis. "They almost neutralize each other, so that allows for the rest of the team to make things happen."

"I think they realize they're above everybody else, and they're particularly jacked," said Wink. "They play even better when they're playing against each other."






Playing perhaps his strongest game of the season, Lak Attack dominated his fleet-footed foe in Sunday's game, leading his mates to a 20-9 victory. Lak Attack scored four times, while his rival scored three.

The Living Legend missed Sunday's game, and he could be out of the lineup for an indefinite period as the fellow founding father recovers from a separated shoulder he suffered while servicing the onerous demands of his exploitive employer. The slothful veteran did make a special guest appearance at Sunday's game, and he expressed enormous frustration with his inability to play, especially as the conditions for an outstanding game were almost optimal after a season of gloomy weather .

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January 22, 2007

For the love of the game

When Gump saw the frozen expanse of the road hockey court on Saturday, he knew more than just Sunday's game was in peril.

With the season already reeling from three previous game cancellations due to weather, attendance flagging, and many of the league's stalwart veterans indifferent to their commitment, the veteran shotstopper sensed the loss of yet another game could be the death blow, the beginning of a long slide towards Sunday mornings spent in front of the television watching Oral Roberts instead of chasing the evil orange plastic ball or spearing the Kid.

"I looked at it and I thought about the long term roadsters," said Gump.

So he got the emergency shovel he keeps in the trunk of his car and he set about chipping away at the moonscape of frozen snow and slush that had entombed the concrete court. He only got about halfway, but it was enough to give hope to the rest of the roadsters, who showed up in force Sunday armed with shovels, rock salt and renewed determination.

"This is huge," said Gump, taking a break from the pre-game work gang. "This is the roadsters saying nothing will stand in our way. This is what road hockey is all about. This is why I love the game of road hockey."

It was that love for the game that fueled the roadsters as they toiled for almost an hour, chopping doggedly at the frozen remnants of two weeks of snow, ice and rain storms, then pushing the chunks into the corners as other players salted and scraped the remaining icy patches.

"I'm standing here pounding on the ice with the butt end of my stick and normally I'm pounding on another player with the butt end of my stick," said notorious gameshow host gone bad, Wink, who labored just as hard as the others, even though he had to leave before the game could begin in earnest to service the onerous demands of his exploitive employer. "That tells you we really wanna play. It would have been easy to look at this today and just go home."

"This is a hell of an effort," said Beetle Boy, as he prepared to play his first game in almost three months. "It shows the true spirit of road hockey."

That spirit has been challenged like never before this season. Only one game, the second of the season, has been played in completely dry conditions. Weary of the wet and cold and the possible injuries the slick concrete court could cause, many of the roadsters stayed away; Lobsterboy, Pig Farming Goalie, the Colonel, Shakey and Wendel have only played once, Paul One, John Boy and Buzz have yet to start.

"It's been pretty tough to get motivated to come out," said Beetle Boy, an avowed fair-weather player who blames his truancy this season on work commitments. "I mean, the weather has just been crazy this year, with snowstorms and rainstorms and windstorms. It makes it tough to get up in the morning on Sundays."

"I think (the weather) affected the game, until today," said Wink.

Indeed, it was as if the roadsters' heroic effort to clear the court and not lose another game to adverse weather was their declaration that enough was enough.

"Weather's been part of the story all year," said Billy Idol. "But there's absolutely nothing you can do about it, you've just got to grin and bear it and come out here and play."

"I think you see by all the guys here that they're getting a little cabin fever," said Wink. "They're not happy with the way the season has played out so far."

"It was important to play this game," said Smith, who travelled 40 minutes to make the start. "We had a great time and that reminds us why we're out here."

"This is one of those things that can really bring people together," said Gump. "This is what road hockey has been lacking all season, a little bit of spirit."





The spirit of the pre-game cleanup carried into the game, as Gump and his mates hung on for a 20-16 win despite a ferocious comeback by their feisty opponents that narrowed the margin to two late in the contest.

"We were sitting back a little towards the end," said Smith of his side's late-game lull that almost cost them the victory as their advantage shrank from five goals to two before they ended it with a flurry. "We were done, we'd been shoveling snow and we were exhausted."

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January 14, 2007

Here we snow again

A midweek snowstorm cost the roadsters an unprecedented third game. But at least one veteran player says the toll was even higher.

Staring out across the frozen tundra on an otherwise sunny and dry Sunday, Lak Attack could only shake his head at what could have been.

"It's nice, flat, you could make some nice moves," said the veteran roadster, who was joined at the courts Sunday by only Kid and the Living Legend. "It's great for sliding around, it's beautiful."

But one thing it wouldn't be was the site for a game. And for that, the wily speedster blames the new generation of players who don't seem to share the work ethic of the veterans who built the game no matter the weather or court conditions.

"I'm not sure what's happened with this new generation of roadsters," said Lak Attack, wistfully recalling many winter Sundays shoveling snow or chipping ice to ensure the game would go on. "They just don't know what it means to come out and work hard and then reap the rewards of that hard work."

While Wednesday's freak snowfall and subsequent frigid temperatures had cast doubt on Sunday's game, the snow had been stomped and smoothed enough in the interim days that a game seemed possible.

"Today would have been a really fun day for everybody," said Lak Attack. "It would have brought us back to what road hockey is all about."

But too many players seem to have lost the fire to play no matter the conditions, to put the game before their own comfort, said Lak Attack. "I think a lot of roadsters have lost their way. I think they've gotten weak."





Never before have the roadsters lost three games in a single season to snow. In December a Sunday snowstorm and subsequent big freeze kept all but a handful of roadsters away from the court for two weeks.

Unabomber has been placed on Injured Reserve after jamming his wrist when he fell heavily to the concrete in a game two weeks ago.

The Paul One watch continues. The veteran roadster has yet to play a game this season. In December he refuted speculation he'd retired and vowed he'd be back in the lineup in the new year.

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January 09, 2007

Hard work pays off, almost

With his team down 17-10 and reeling after conceding four straight goals to their speedy and slippery opponents, Smith offered a simple proposal to his mates to get them back in Sunday's Shirmp Ring showdown: work hard. It paid off, almost.

The rambunctious rookie battled the boards to spring the ball back to Unabomber, whose long bombs into the pads of shell-shocked shotstopper Billy Idol yielded juicy rebounds for Cowboy Bill and the Living Legend. Seven goals brought them to within two, 19-17; the rout had become a nailbiter. And while the comeback fell short, 20-17, when the speedsters scored the gamewinner on a wild scramble in front of a flailing Gump, the vanquished claimed at least a moral victory.

"It would have been a half-hour shorter game if we hadn't worked as hard as we did," said Smith. "I think we worked our butts off to play a sound defensive game. We knew we had to play disciplined and we scored our goals from really hard work."

"We worked really hard to get ourselves back into the game," said Cowboy Bill, who scored four times to lead his side's late-game resurgence. "We knew if we kept putting shots on goal and be there for the rebounds, cleaning up the garbage, we'd be able to get ourselves back into the game."

But while the heavily-favored speedsters sputtered, they didn't quit.

"At that point you've just got to buckle down and think one goal at a time," said Billy Idol, who was determined to secure his first win of the season as a goaltender. "You know your guys have got it. You're just waiting for them to put it in the net. They may have had a good run at the end, but we still had more skill and speed."

With most of that skill and speed concentrated on one side for the second straight week, the opening faceoff had barely been contested when some of the players were already planning for the consolation mini-game. The fancy footwork and nifty stickhandling of Kid, Lak Attack and Doo seemed unstoppable; for two-thirds of the game, it was.

"The stick pull was tough," said Smith. "But you have to adjust, you have to play tight defense, get the rebounds, get the ugly goals."

Even as the margin grew to seven, the underdogs' confidence seemed unflappable.

"We were pretty positive the whole time we could keep up," said Cowboy Bill.

"They started to turn it on at the end," said Billy Idol. "I just tried to focus on staying up, watching the ball. I really wanted my first win of the year."

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January 02, 2007

A tale of two teams

It was the fastest of teams, it was the slowest of teams.

Sunday's game was a tale of two very different teams, one fleet and agile, the other comprised of heavy shooters and even heavier breathers. The result wasn't pretty, a Dickensian rout, 20-8, for the speedsters.

In order to fulfill their own great expectations, the young runners knew they'd have to establish their speed game in a hurry, wheeling and dealing through the passing lanes to neutralize the power game of their slapshooting opponents. Three goals on their first three shots took care of that.

"I think we needed to get off to a quick start," said Bird, who barely had to break a sweat in the red hot afterburners of his swift teammates, Scooby, Doo and the Kid. "They had all the big shots, but they're a bit slower and we were able to get to them quick, block off their shots and use our speed to control the ball."

"The whole game turned on the hustle of Scooby and Doo and the Kid," said Smith. "They set the tone for the whole game. You've gotta come out with hustle, outwork the other guys so they don't wanna work as hard."

"It did seem like all the speed was on the other side" said Guido, a former founding father whose fastest days are behind him.

Reeling from giving up three goals on the first three shots directed at their beleaguered goalie, Gump, and without the team speed to establish their own breakout offense, the underdogs were out of the game almost from the opening faceoff.

"We seemed outmatched from the get-go," said Cowboy Bill, who struggled to find the open court and his scoring touch all game. "We didn't have a lot of confidence, and they were able to take advantage of their speed with the constant pressure they put on us."

And that pressure was relentless. With three of the game's fastest players in their lineup, every line combination the winners threw on the court featured at least two speedsters to run holes through leadfooted defenders.

"Scooby, Doo and the Kid were just flying out there," said Smith. "There were more tape-to-tape passes than I've ever seen before. It was a lot of fun."

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