January 29, 2017

Sputtering season disappoints veterans

The snow may have turned to rain, but Sunday Morning Road Hockey’s season is still on ice.

It’s been eight weeks since the roadsters slapped the evil orange plastic ball in anger and some of the league’s veteran players are beginning to question the fortitude of its next generation.

“I think they’re about as flaccid as it gets,” said Colonel, one of only four players to report Sunday.

For the second week in a row, the game was forced to an alternate venue as the home courts remain encased in a sheet of inches-thick ice despite a week of warmer temperatures and melting rain.

But Colonel said the temporary venue shouldn’t be an excuse for the roadsters’ sputtering start to the season’s second half. Nor should the chilling cloudburst that drenched the roadsters just as they warmed up Sunday.

“We’ve had crappy weather, but we’ve had crappy weather before,” said Colonel.
The rainstorm didn’t deter Joker.

“We’ve come out in worse weather than this,” said the veteran goaltender. “The roadsters should be able to make it out in any kind of weather.”

Indeed, previous generations of roadsters were renowned for enduring any kind of weather to ensure the game played on. Their lack of resolve to clear the courts after they were covered by the first snowfall in early December contributed to the extended mid-season hiatus as subsequent snowfalls turned to an impenetrable covering of ice and frozen slush during an extended cold snap.

“They don’t understand the work ethic,” said Colonel, a veteran of shovel brigades in seasons’ past. “They grew up in such privilege, always being handed everything on a silver platter… The younger players just want everything handed to them.”

Joker said it's time for those players to prove their mettle. “There are some fair weather players that need to suck it up.”

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January 28, 2017

Courts remain ice-locked

Some sections of the road hockey courts are still frozen with an inches-thick layer of ice. So Sunday’s game will once again be played at Fraser River Middle School.

Living Legend, who scouted the courts late Saturday, said most of the surface at both courts is clear, but huge swaths of thick, impenetrable ice remain around the nets at the east end. In fact, the ice is so thick, the gates are still frozen in place.

“Unfortunately, the courts are in the shade most of the day, so the warm sun in the past week hasn’t had much of an effect,” said the fellow founding father.

A few more days of mild weather should take care of the rest of the ice, and diminish the ice mounds on the center court, said the Legend. Then it should take only a modest shovel brigade to return the courts to game condition.

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January 22, 2017

New facility fails to lure lazy roadsters

Not even the novelty of a new home court was enough to fire the roadsters up for the second half of the season.

Only five players reported Sunday to the converted basketball court that was one of the few outdoor facilities completely clear of the snow and ice that has kept the road hockey season frozen for the past seven weeks. A week of warmer temperatures and heavy rain diminished the glacial sheet a bit, but the roadsters may be banished from their traditional home court for another week or two until the tundra has melted entirely.

In fact, conditions are so bad at the road hockey courts, they’ve been secured by bright yellow caution tape.

Colonel said the unfamiliarity of the new venue may have tempered the ardour of some of the roadsters to get their game in gear after the extended layoff.

“I think people like what’s normal and comfortable for them,” said the veteran centreman. “I’d say our guys aren’t super good at being outside their comfort zone.”

Nouvelle Guy, who supplied the nets that converted the basketball court to a hockey venue, said he was discouraged by the ambivalence of his fellow roadsters.

“It’s pretty disappointing,” said the versatile veteran. “I expected there would be more people out here, but it is what it is.”

The new facility presented some challenges. While it’s mostly enclosed, the surrounding fence is much lower, allowing more balls to escape play. And the fencing doesn’t quite reach the ground so low rollers had a tendency to slip beyond the game.

But, said the Colonel, it was a more than adequate alternative.

“It’s a nice clear court,” said the feisty forward. “The surface is smooth. It’s a lot of fun running around here today.”

That exercise was a major motivator for Nouvelle Guy.

“It’s been really tough,” said the power forward. “I’ve been wanting to get out on the court. It’s one of the things I love to do.”

The mid-season break that has now stretched to seven weeks for some roadsters is unprecedented. And that could have serious implications as players begin to gear their game for the climactic Stanley Stick championship series in April.

“People are fatter,” said Colonel of the season’s slothful pause. “People don’t quite grasp it’s a lot easier to put a few pounds on than to take a few pounds off.”

Playing consistently keeps players sharp, hones their timing and playmaking, said the veteran. Those skills diminish quickly.

“You lose your hands, you lose your ball skills,” said Colonel, who struggled with some of his deke moves during Sunday’s half-court scrimmage. “It’s best for everyone to be out playing the game.”

Another week of wet, warm weather may still not be enough to thaw out the home courts. The ice is that thick, reported Living Legend after he scouted it on Saturday.
Roadsters are advised to check the website and the road hockey social media feeds for updates.

Twizzler announced he'll miss six weeks beginning in February as he takes an extended sojourn to his ancestral home. With his return scheduled for mid-April, he may still be able to play in the Stanley Stick.

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January 21, 2017

BREAKING! Game is on! And on the move.

A week of mild, rainy weather still hasn’t unlocked the road hockey courts from their Ice Age that is now in its seventh week.

So Sunday’s game will be played on the outdoor basketball court at Fraser River Middle School, on 8th Street and Queens Avenue, in New Westminster.

The facility is about the same size as the game’s traditional venue, enclosed on three sides and, most importantly, it’s entirely free of snow and ice, said the Living Legend. He scouted the location on Friday. Nouvelle Guy will be bringing nets.

The Legend said it’s more important to get the season’s second half properly underway.

“The roadsters are champing at the bit,” said Legend, one of the game’s two founding fathers.

“I am raring to play this week,” said Colonel in a message posted to the road hockey media.

The roadsters last played a competitive game on Dec. 4, after which the courts were buried by successive snowfalls then frozen by alternating thaws and deep-freezes. A shovel brigade prior to the Shrimp Ring Bowl on Jan. 8 managed to clear only a third of the playing surface; the traditional start to the season’s second half devolved to a Shrimp Ring Shootout competition.

As cold temperatures persisted, last week’s game was canceled despite efforts to secure a new venue. But they were all still covered with snow and ice as well.

Sunday’s game will be only the third time since Sunday Morning Road Hockey moved to the courts more than 20 years ago that a game will be played in new environs.

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January 14, 2017

BREAKING! Sunday's game canceled

Sunday’s game is canceled.

Another week of frigid weather means the courts are still a frozen tundra of ice and snow despite the roadsters’ heroic effort last Sunday to clear a playing space.

Alternate venues are equally encrusted by snow. In fact, one possible destination was buried by a roof that collapsed from the wintry weight.

Other courts that are clear of snow are too far afield to ensure the trip is worthwhile for the roadsters.

“Some of the guys are already coming quite far to play,” said fellow founding father Living Legend in a statement issued Saturday evening. “It would be unfair to ask them to travel even further for what might turn out to be a pretty sparsely attended game anyway.”

The availability status of those courts on a Sunday morning is also uncertain.

“We wouldn’t want to go a long way and infringe upon an already established game,” said the Legend, who recalled a similar drama years ago at the roadsters’ home court.

With temperatures expected to begin moderating on Sunday, and a week of mild, wet weather ahead, the home courts should be ready for game action by next week, said the Legend.

The roadsters last played a competitive game Dec. 4. Two snow storms that week buried the court and made it difficult for many of the roadsters to travel to shovel them clear. A subsequent thaw followed by an extended cold snap then turned the 18-inches of accumulated snow into a concrete-like moonscape of frozen slush and ice that proved a too great a match for shovels and spades.

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January 10, 2017

SPECIAL REPORT: Game could move

Sunday Morning Road Hockey may be on the move.

roadhockey.net has learned the weekly game may relocate from its traditional home at the concrete courts if there’s not a significant thaw by Sunday. Current weather forecasts indicate that’s unlikely as temperatures have dipped back below freezing and more snow is expected on Saturday before it turns to rain.

That won’t be enough, as the courts are still largely buried under more than a foot of compacted snow, slush and ice, the legacy of more than a month of wintry weather.
While the roadsters did manage to heroically clear about a third of their court last Sunday, it was only enough space to stage a penalty shot competition.

The roadsters are starving for a real game, said fellow founding father Living Legend. “It’s been five weeks since anybody shot the evil orange plastic ball in anger or the Colonel ran anyone into the fence. That’s too long.”

So, a contingency plan is being formulated that could see the game shifted to a new locale until rain washes away the snow. It would be only the second time in more than 20 years at the concrete courts that a game will be played elsewhere.

One week, in the mid-1990s, a game was moved to an underground parkade during a similar freeze-up. In 2011, the roadsters also opened their season on the road, literally; they played the Wink Classic on the street in front of the fellow founding father’s home as he recuperated from extended health issues.

While the roadsters talked casually about the possibility of officially starting the season’s second half at a new venue as they chopped and shovelled last Sunday, plans are being solidified to make the move a reality if the cold weather doesn’t abate in time.

Stay tuned to roadhockey.net, or the league’s social media channels for further details.

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January 08, 2017

Roadsters dig out before digging into shrimp ring

Twizzler scored four times to become the first, and most unlikely, winner of the inaugural Shrimp Ring Shootout on Sunday.

The shotstopping stalwart enjoyed a reprieve from the heavy pads as only one goalie was needed. Twizzler took full advantage as he ripped bullets past his rearguard rival, Joker, high into the top corner, over his glove and through the five hole. It was a remarkable offensive effort against some of the game’s top snipers including Doo, Lak Attack and Scooby, who was making his first appearance at the courts in more than a year.

That the competition occurred at all was a testimony of the roadsters’ resolve to restart the season after a five-week hiatus brought on by extended wintry weather.

“This is the week we were going to get back to playing hockey and you have to take a stand that you’re not going to let anything stand in your way,” said Doo during a break from the arduous effort to chip and shovel away more than a foot of hardened, compacted snow and ice.

It may have been the worst conditions the roadsters have ever encountered at the concrete courts said Lak Attack. A snowfall early in December wasn’t cleared before a thaw and subsequent freeze encased the concrete surface in ice and frozen slush. More snow piled on over the holiday hiatus that was compacted when the neighbouring school reopened.

“This is something we’ve never seen,” said the veteran who’s participated in numerous shovel brigades over his long career. “The amount of snow, and the ice underneath; there’s a lot of challenges.”

But the roadsters were undeterred. Every chunk of snow or block of ice heaved to the side felt like a victory, said Doo.

“They’re doing something impossible. It’s back-breaking labour for a game that we’re probably not even going to be able to play.”

That realization was apparent more than an hour into the clearing effort as the accumulated snow had been removed from only a third of the court, and a thick layer of hard ice still remained.

The shootout contest may not have had the competitive fire of a regular game, but for the roadsters who survived Sunday’s shovelling brigade it still felt like victory.

“It’s great to see,” said Doo. “This is probably helpful for people’s fitness.”

“This is a building block of how badly the guys want to play,” said Lak Attack. “It builds character for the guys… and that’s good for the rest of the season.”

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January 04, 2017

SPECIAL REPORT: Hiatus could last as ice lingers

Concern is growing that the mid-season hiatus caused by snow and ice could extend to a fifth and even sixth week.

The season is scheduled to resume Sunday after the two-week holiday break that was preceded by two cancellations because the road hockey courts were encrusted by a thick layer of snow and ice. But an extended cold snap hasn’t allowed the concrete to thaw.

More snow is forecast to fall Friday and Saturday before it turns to rain on Sunday. But with temperatures expected to continue hovering around the freezing level that turn in the weather may be optimistic.

The Living Legend, who has been monitoring the condition of the courts through the wintery weather, said it would take a heroic effort, a lot of shovels, scrapers and salt to get the concrete in game shape.

That is, if the roadsters can get to the courts in the first place. Surrounding side streets are in deplorable shape as well because city works crews were also caught off guard by the chilling conditions and they’ve been unable to recover. The street where the roadsters normally park is a narrow rut of frozen slush flanked by inches of slippery hard-crusted snow.

“It’s pretty rough out there,” said the fellow founding father. “I almost got stuck doing a drive-by.”

But getting the game going again is not beyond the scope of possibility. A similar convergence of precipitation and cold temperatures chilled the middle of the 2008-09 season, putting the game on ice for five weeks over the holiday break. That season’s Shrimp Ring Bowl wasn’t played until Jan. 18, in sunny, mild conditions; but only after two hours of hard labour chipping and shovelling the accumulated ice and snow away.

“It’s pretty bad, miserable conditions,” said Lobsterboy at the time.

“My first reaction was this isn’t going to happen,” said onetime centreman Cowboy Bill.

If the temperatures don’t moderate by Sunday, and the roadsters don’t deal with the ice and snow, the layoff could even extend another week. The long-range forecast is for more snow and cold weather through Jan. 16.

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