March 29, 2019

Curtain falls on difficult season

Sunday will be the last official game of Sunday Morning Road Hockey’s 27th season. The Stanley Stick will not be contested.

In making the announcement, the venerable league’s defacto commissioner, Living Legend, refused to speculate on its future. He said players can carry on with games through the spring if they're so inclined.

Legend said the lack of a consistent turnout has taken a toll on roadsters ready to play, resulting in further erosion of turnout. The league has yet to play a full game, with three players a side plus goalies and substitutes, 17 weeks into the season.

Several games were also lost to icy conditions, a reprise of the 2016-17 campaign when a series of winter storms resulted in the cancellation of nine games and a temporary move to a new facility.

While several lapsed roadsters renewed their acquaintance with the game this season, one-off appearances by Pig Farming Goalie, Elvis, Cleveland, Beckenbauer, and a return to the weekly lineup of Whirling Dervish, weren’t enough to achieve the critical mass needed to sustain competitive matches. Nor could they overcome the demise or defections of established veterans like Scooby, Doo, Bam Bam, Ohio, Twizzler and Colonel.

This will be the second straight season the Stanley Stick, the game’s most coveted trophy, will go unclaimed after last year’s championship series collapsed in disarray when Joker walked out of his goal crease and off the court to protest a pair of violent encounters.

Legend admitted last season’s unsatisfying conclusion left a sour taste in many roadsters that may have contributed to their waning enthusiasm. Others shifted their loyalties to alternate games closer to home or at more convenient times as familial commitments took root.

But there were some encouraging signs, Legend said. The league’s ongoing goalie crisis eased with the establishment of a solid core of roadsters ready and willing to strap on the big leg pads every week. And the players who did show up consistently exhibited creativity and resilience in concocting adaptations that allowed for competitive games and spirited workouts.

That’s why Legend said he remains hopeful a 28th season can be convened early next fall.

“Clearly a lot of players still love the game, and the culture we’ve created through the years,” he said. “We have to figure out how to turn that passion into actually playing games again.”

Some ideas suggested by various roadsters to reignite the league include better lines of communication through social media challenges, more vigorous recruitment of new players and a move to a new venue.

The latter may be necessitated if the centre court that has been the roadsters’ home base for the past 25 years continues to be missing one net, which was removed midway through this season for repairs and has yet to be reinstalled. That’s meant the weekly game has had to shift in recent weeks to the unfamiliar environs of the court next door, with its awkward entry gates and enduring shade that contributed to its month-long ice age through February and into early March.

An online recruitment drive yielded some promising inquiries, but they never converted to new players. And the league’s existing social media channels have been largely ignored by roadsters since they were established several years ago.

The midsummer scrimmage in August is expected to be a call to arms to test the desire of the roadsters to carry on.

Posted by jaysuburb at 07:27 PM | Comments (3)

March 24, 2019

Joker gets the last laugh with big saves

If this is Tuesday, you must be my defence man.

That’s the thought Joker may have had going through his head as he tried to keep track of a revolving roster of teammates and opponents in a game of rolling half-court Sunday.

It was a big challenge, said the comeback creaseminder who made his first start between the pipes in several weeks. In fact, he allowed one goal to Nouvelle Guy because he thought the veteran was actually his defence man.

“It’s a constant struggle to keep track of who’s who,” said Joker. “It keeps you on your toes.”

It also meant no rest for his lightning glove hand, which was in fine form, especially in the game’s early going. Time and again Joker thwarted scoring opportunities by swallowing the ball with his gaping trapper, smothering it from hovering forwards prowling for a loose rebound.

“I felt fresh,” said Joker. “When you start strong, you just want to keep that going.”
Not that opposing snipers didn’t find success.

“It’s typical Joker,” said Lak Attack, who was Sunday’s leading scorer with six goals. “We break him down after he makes a few good saves.”

In a game with rolling linemates, Lak Attack said it was important to their tendencies and fire as many shots as possible at Joker, hoping to find a crack in his game.

“You have to drive to the net and hope for the rebounds because you know he’s going to make the first save,” he said.

For his part, Joker tried to be as disruptive as possible, knocking down passes with his stick, jabbing his way into cross-crease cuts.

“My goal is to frustrate as many players as possible,” he said.

Posted by jaysuburb at 09:24 PM | Comments (0)

March 17, 2019

Kid 2.0 pays fitness price

Since Kid returned to the road hockey courts two seasons ago, the dynamic speedster has been more interested in stopping the evil orange plastic ball than firing it past flummoxed goaltenders.

Sunday, the veteran eschewed the goalie pads and discovered while he may have lost a step, he hasn’t lost his shot.

Kid was the offensive dynamo around which his various teams revolved in a series of mini games that heralded the resumption of a troubled season that had been put on ice — literally — by a series of snowstorms and freezing conditions. But by the end, he was wheezing and panting just as much as the rest of the regulars who were feeling the effects of their extended hiatus.

“Towards the end, he had no legs,” said Nouvelle Guy. “But he wasn’t the only one.”

Lak Attack said he immediately noticed his longtime rival had lost a step.

“These days, he’s more or less just another player that every now and then gets a lucky break,” said the versatile veteran who strapped on the goalie pads Sunday.

In their prime, both players could match each other stride for stride speeding up the court and making electric plays around the net, but Lak Attack said time has clearly taken a toll.

“The talent is deteriorating,” he said.

Still, Kid’s presence as an offensive threat could not be taken lightly, said Nouvelle Guy.

“He made a difference for each team he was on.”

That presented an ongoing challenge for players charged with defending against Kid
“We just needed to take away his shot,” Nouvelle Guy said. “He just kept shooting and it built up his confidence and then they kept going in.”

Lak Attack said that may have been due more to the depleted defenders.

“Maybe the odd time he’s going to get lucky,” said Lak Attack. “Nine times out of ten he’s going to shoot wide.”

Posted by jaysuburb at 09:33 PM | Comments (3)

March 02, 2019

Ice age grips road hockey courts

The road hockey courts remain locked in by a thick layer of ice and compacted, frozen snow three weeks after a series of snowstorms.

And while the weather-forced hiatus likely won’t get as bad as the nine weeks that were lost in the 2016-17 season, Sunday Morning Road Hockey’s fellow founding father said the inability to play has been frustrating.

“It felt like our season was gaining momentum, with more players coming out and others expressing interest, then this happens,” said Living Legend.

The frustration has been compounded by the bright, sunny weather that would otherwise be ideal for playing. But a persistent cold snap punctuated by overnight temperatures below freezing, has made a thaw of the courts a slow, arduous process.

On Saturday, about a third of the game court was still encased in a thick layer of solid ice and frozen snow. The lack of sunshine at the icy end of the court, which is cast in shadow most of the day from the neighbouring school building, has also been a factor.

After a mostly snow-free season, the flakes first started to fly moments after the roadsters last played a full-court game on Feb. 11. That storm dumped several inches on the court, then was followed a couple of days later by another storm.

The midweek weather events also meant the roadsters weren’t able to shovel the courts to prevent the snow from freezing into an ice shelf as the temperatures dropped.

When asked if a shovel brigade of roadsters could clear the court to allow a game to be played, the Legend just shook his head. The ice shelf is pretty hard and impenetrable without a lot of exhausting effort, he said, plus there’s hardly been an abundance of players this season to construct a brigade.

With overnight temperatures forecast to stay above freezing beginning midweek, the Legend said he’s optimistic the game will be able to go on next Sunday.

Posted by jaysuburb at 11:55 PM | Comments (13)