November 29, 2015

Carmen electric in Sunday Morning debut

Joker just wanted to introduce a new player to road hockey. He didn’t know that would end up costing him Sunday’s game.

Carmen, Sunday Morning Road Hockey’s first female player in almost 20 years, whacked a rebound past the sprawling netminder to give her side a hard-fought 12-11 sudden death victory.

“She grinded it out all day long,” said the shocked shotstopper of his feminine nemesis. “She deserved that goal.”

In fact, Carmen was one of a trio of new players making their debut at the courts, an unprecedented injection of new talent that insured the first full-court game with substitutes to spell off tired legs in weeks.

That created some unique challenges for the veterans as they tried to learn the tendencies of their new teammates and foibles of their foes.

“I don’t think I’ve ever played a game like this before,” said Doo of the new recruits. “You’ve got to learn to trust them. You don’t know what they bring to the table.”

The goalies especially felt the pressure to build a book on the new shooters, said Joker.

“You’ve got to learn quick,” said the veteran netminder. “Some guys have got a quick shot, some guys have got a quick move. If you don’t figure that out quickly you’re going to be in trouble.”

But it was the league’s most senior player that gave Joker the most trouble early.

The Living Legend scored five of his side’s first six goals as Joker struggled to find the founding father’s squib shots from every angle.

“You’ve got to shake those off,” said Joker. “Each play can be the best or worst play of your life, so you’ve just got to shake it off.”

Fortunately his mates were equal to the challenge as they quickly answered and even held the lead at the game’s first break.

“The game was pretty much as tight as you could get,” said Doo. “It was back and forth right to the end.”

That may have been at least partly due to the slippery conditions with the concrete courts slicked with frost from the cold temperatures. End-to-end rushes were at a premium and speedsters like Lak Attack and Bam Bam were mostly neutralized by the precarious footing.

“It was a challenge for both sides,” said Lak Attack.

“That really slowed the game down,” said Doo.

But, said Joker, the slippery areas in the crease worked to the goalies’ advantage.

“I like the side to side movement,” said the big backstopper. “It makes it a bit easier.”

Until he ended up on his belly, flailing at a rebound he couldn’t reach.

“All the new players played really well,” said Doo.

Posted by jaysuburb at 09:10 PM | Comments (10)

November 22, 2015

Commissioner calls for cooler heads

This should have been an upbeat story about a fun, competitive game played under difficult circumstances.

Instead, it’s an intervention.

Once again the roadsters found themselves a player short of the quorum needed for a proper game Sunday. But if there’s one thing they have perfected over the past two seasons of attendance challenges, it's fine-tuning the half-court game to a satisfying substitute.

It’s a demanding workout that tests the players on offence and defence, keeps their head in the game as they track possession, and sharpens the goalie’s skills as he faces a barrage from both sides. The atmosphere is more congenial than combative; everyone’s glad at least there is a game of some description.

In the waning moments of Sunday’s game, that spirit shattered.

At least one roadster said he’s had enough; he’s not returning.

The spirit of camaraderie has been the driving force that has kept Sunday Morning Road Hockey alive for 24 years. Maintaining that spirit in a competitive context is a delicate weekly balancing act that requires a commitment from all the players all the time.

Sure, there have been transgressions. The court is small, the space confined; everyone carries sticks, the evil orange plastic ball can hurt, especially when it’s cold.

But at the end of every game, it’s not the score that’s as important as the fact there was a game at all; there will be another next week. And win or lose, players walk off the court feeling they’d done their best, had a good workout, scored a goal or two, had a few laughs.

That’s what keeps the roadsters coming out in rainstorms, shovelling and chipping ice off the courts when it's cold, adapting the rules when there’s not enough players.

When that doesn’t happen, when a game ends in acrimony and bad feelings, it’s an assault on the game itself.

There are no stats in Sunday Morning Road Hockey. There’s no standings, no win-loss record. There’s just the game, reset every week.

No victory on the scoreboard, no dispute between players, no battle for position on the court, is worth imperilling that.

Posted by jaysuburb at 07:39 PM | Comments (7)

November 15, 2015

Effort fizzles after furious comeback

Chico said he could feel the pressure after his team battled back from a 5-1 deficit to tie Sunday’s game. But a couple of bad goals squelched their momentum and cost them an 11-8 defeat.

Playing once again without the benefit of spare players to spell off tired legs, Chico and his mates struggled early to find their pace. Speedy forwards like Lak Attack and Bam Bam ran circles around flat-footed defenders.

“We got off to a quick start,” said Bam Bam. “We had some good chemistry, we got the ball to the net and looked for rebound chances.”.

More often than not, they found them, leaving Chico waving at air as he was beaten on second and third efforts.

“A couple of those will keep me up at night thinking about what I should have done differently,” said Chico.

But a pair of seeing-eye goals by the Living Legend turned the game’s tide, sparking his side’s furious comeback.

Once the score was tied, though, the effort waned.

“We got a little bit complacent on our back check,” said Chico.

That allowed Wink to find his range with his laser slapshot, while his linemates cruised the crease looking to capitalize on wayward rebounds. More often than not, they did.

“You feel like you let the team down when you let one of those in,” said Chico. “You feel like you should have had it. You have to stay focussed.”

Bam Bam said it was only a matter of time before his side prevailed. They just had to stay patient and not panic.

“Momentum goes back and forth every game, and most of us have played long enough to know that if you just keep playing your game, bounces eventually go your way,” said Bam Bam. “We knew we just had to stick with our gameplan.”

At the other end of the court, Chico said his side abandoned the formula that got them back into the game.

“I think our team showed you can climb back into it,” said the veteran showstopper.

Posted by jaysuburb at 03:13 PM | Comments (5)

November 08, 2015

Experience pays off in half-court win

Combined, Lak Attack, Colonel and Living Legend have more than 50 years of Sunday Morning Road Hockey experience.

Their veteran guile and wile served them well in their 10-6 win over their younger, speedier opponents.

That’s because it was a half-court game that rewards patience and positioning more than it favours sheer speed.

“it’s a control game,” said Colonel. “Experience is excellent to have to hold the ball and make the right passes when you can.”

With Lak Attack commanding the neutral zone, his senior teammates time and again created scoring opportunities from deflections and bounces off the end wall. The Legend found the back of the net four times and Colonel contributed a handful more.

“(Lak’s) a possession monster,” said Doo, who played his first game of the regular season. “With his patience and vision, you combine that with Colonel and Legend, it’s quite a team to play against.”

The veteran trio meshed right from the opening face-off and never trailed in the game.

“The team that comes together and is unified is the team that comes out on top,” said Colonel.

Meanwhile the other side struggled to find chemistry with their veteran anchor, Wink, who had trouble adjusting to the unique rhythm of the half-court game after his five-year hiatus. In fact, at one point he lost track of the possession and rifled a seeing eye shot over Chico’s shoulder as his side was defending.

“He’s such a smart player, but the game has increased in speed,” said Doo.

The half-court alignment was necessitated when Joker was a last-minute scratch.

Posted by jaysuburb at 08:57 PM | Comments (2)

November 01, 2015

Wink's comeback a soggy setback on the scoreboard

Sunday’s chilling rain was no match for Wink.

The notorious gameshow host gone bad missed five seasons to overcome a crisis with cancer that left him with titanium rods in his spine and a long rehabilitation to be able to walk again. Let alone run up and down the road hockey courts.

But Sunday that was exactly what he was determined to do. And the steady downpour that kept lesser roadsters indoors and dry wasn’t going to stop him.

“I’m excited to be back and I’m confident it will be the first game of many,” said Wink.

That was enough to lift the spirits of the rest of the handful of roadsters who braved the deplorable conditions.

“On a rainy day it all of a sudden became nice and sunny as soon as we saw Wink’s smile and the walk we’re used to,” said Lak Attack. “It was a very pleasant surprise.”

But Wink’s absence from game action didn’t diminish his competitive fire. He didn’t just want to play again, he wanted to win.

Unfortunately his teammates came out flat and never found the spark they needed in a 15-4 loss. Perhaps it got soaked in the deep puddles pooling behind each net.

“They were really good and we were really bad,” said Wink. “We had some chances and couldn’t finish. And we didn’t check very well.”

The lack of commitment to defence was especially stinging when Big D nearly reprised his premiere performance two weeks ago when he scored five times; this week he found the back of the net four times, including a mid-air tap-in that eluded Joker’s flailing glove hand.

“Generally the second-best team on the day loses, and we were definitely the second best team out there, if not the third,” said Wink.

Still, the stalwart veteran shouldn’t hang his head too low, said Lak Attack.

“He’s worked hard,” said the veteran speedster of his frequent foe. “He’s out there walking, he’s in the gym, he’s watching what he eats; rehab is hard work and he’s put in a lot of time.”

Maybe not quite enough, said Wink, who was critical of his own performance. To a point.

“I think I got here on time and after that everything went bad,” said Wink. “But for the first time out in five years, I’m not dying, so that’s good.”

For Wink and for the league, said Lak Attack.

“Today was a good day for road hockey to have him back.”

Posted by jaysuburb at 08:18 PM | Comments (6)