December 30, 2007

Paul None: A special report

With his shadow yet to darken the concrete at the road hockey courts this season, Paul One has become Paul None. And, say some of his former foes, the game is suffering.

Once known as one of the grittiest, hard working players in the game, Paul One has become largely unknown to a whole generation of players. His last game was in April of last season, after only sporadic appearances through the year.

It's a far cry from the commitment he once showed, and which became an example to the other players. In good weather and bad, One was always there. He was the first to pick up a shovel to clear the concrete from an overnight snowfall. He was undaunted by rain or sleet or ice. And when goalies were lacking, he'd step up to strap on the pads.

"He's one of the most valuable people we had out here, one of the most valuable teammates you could have," said Elvis.

"Paul One always brought a lot of heart to the game," said fellow founding father, Living Legend. "He was the kind of guy when he stepped on the court, you'd have to follow his lead."

But his absence so far this season has left a void, say some of the roadsters. And never more than last week, when the venerable game was upstaged by a motley band of roguesters in the neighboring court who played on through the winter slush and cold while only three Sunday Morning players slipped away in shame.


After last week's humiliation of a squandered game, Sunday's game was a triumph for the veterans, three of whom outworked and outscored their younger opponents and led their team to a resounding 20-13 win.
Living Legend scored three times, Lak Attack added a handful more, and Wink reclaimed his post at the point to spark their team's offense. The senior linemates were an example to their mates and a lesson to their overmatched opponents, who struggled to establish their speed advantage on the slippery concrete, slicked by slush and a semi-frozen snowpack that took almost 40 minutes to clear prior to game time.

Shamed by Lak's lament for the game after last week's cancellation, Wink made his first start of the season on Sunday. He vows it won't be his last.

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December 23, 2007

Lak lashes out

Lak Attack said farewell to his favorite stick on Sunday. He may be next.

The veteran superstar was disconsolate as he deposited the only stick he's ever played with since his first game at Sunday Morning Road Hockey, in 1998, in the stick graveyard. But he was more disgusted with his fellow roadsters; only three of them showed up in the cold rain and slush.

It was the kind of day that used to bring out the best in the Sunday game as the roadsters defied deplorable conditions to play on, much to the astonishment of neighbors and passersby who could only shake their heads at the resilience and determination of the crazed players. It was, said Lak Attack as he leaned forlornly on his doomed stick, the kind of day that built the game, ensuring its survival through roster changes, controversy and goalie crises.

"The game has grown stronger," said the fleet-footed forward. "But at times like this, it shows how fragile it is."

The roadsters' apathy was especially difficult to take as a newfound game of neophyte roguesters, who've occupied the neighboring court for the past few weeks, played on through the persistent sleet.

"I might just have to join their league," lamented Lak Attack. "I might have to stick with the league that's dependable and willing to play, has players who show up and are accountable for their actions."

Only Scooby and the Living Legend persisted through the downpour in hopes of a game. But as the clock clicked past game time, their effort to clear the court of a couple of inches of heavy, soggy slush grew increasingly half-hearted.

"We've become a bunch of minor-leaguers," said Lak Attack.


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December 16, 2007

Eye of the storm

With angry grey clouds roiling all around the road hockey courts, Nibs was the placid eye of the storm.

The unlikely netminder, who stepped between the pipes when regular rearguards Gump and Pig Farming Goalie were inexcusably absent, was a calming influence on his sometimes harried teammates as they weathered a furious five goal comeback midway through Sunday's game. Having bought them some time to regain their focus, Nibs and his mates romped the rest of the way to a 20-12 win.

"Nibs kept us in it by making some good saves in the early part of the game," said Lak Attack of his shotstopper's steady play.

Instead of feasting on the neophyte netminder, Nibs' opponents were frustrated and flustered time and again by his lightning toe and smothering glove hand.

"It was hard to get the ball by him," said the Colonel. "If you can get a few softies by him, that can be the difference in the game. But Nibs didn't really give up any softies today. He was pretty focused."

His teammates were equally impressed.

"Nibs is always entertaining when he's playing net because you never really know what you're going to get from breakout to breakout," said Smith. "You never know if you're going to get the stellar save or one that bounces off his hip and goes into the net."

More importantly, they were inspired. After faltering on their defensive assignments to allow their foes to crawl back to within two goals at the game's halfway point, they buckled down and started to run up the goals.

"I think the courts got a bit drier in the second half and that helped up to be a bit quicker than the other team," said Lak Attack.

"We started to take a little more time with the ball and make good plays to create space," said Smith. "We started to move the ball like we can."

That was bad news for their opponents, who were outscored 10-3 through the game's second half.

"We were outmatched," said Colonel. "They had a lot of good players, you can't take much away from them. They had better legs than our team."

Cowboy Bill was unable to reprise his 12-goal effort from a week ago, a feat that went unrecognized by the road hockey press after they were called away to cover a major breaking international news story at another venue.

With the roadsters champing at the bit to maximize their playing time, there are no plans for the traditional Christmas holiday break; games are tentatively scheduled for Dec. 23 and 30. The annual Shrimp Ring Bowl, the highlite of road hockey's social calendar, will be held Jan. 6.

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December 02, 2007

S'no go

Cowboy Bill wasn't going to let a surprise snowstorm keep him from Sunday's game. Too bad there wasn't a game.

For the first time this season, a game was scuttled by winter weather when only three intrepid roadsters braved the heavy wet snow that plummeted relentlessly from the sky even as professional forecasters said it should be raining. But Cowboy Bill, Lak Attack and the Living Legend weren't going to let that stop them.

So they shoveled. And when the snow covered the areas they'd just finished shoveling, they shoveled some more. In fact, they shoveled so much, when they finished shoveling the entire court, they were too exhausted to actually get much game.

"It's a pretty snowy day," said Cowboy Bill, taking a break from his court cleaning duties. "I was hoping we'd have a few more guys."

Last year, three games were lost to inclement conditions, stalling the season and dispiriting the roadsters. This season, relentless rain through the opening weeks ruined a few pairs of shoes, but sunny weather the past two weeks had given players reason for optimism.

"This is kinda how last year started, the first big dump and then after that it seemed every second week we got snow or not enough guys coming out," said Cowboy Bill. "It's our first snow out of the year. Hopefully it's not an indication of the rest of the weeks throughout the year."

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