August 18, 2016
Summer scrimmage takes twin twist
It took 25 years, but Sunday Morning Road Hockey has found its doppelgänger.
The midsummer scrimmage to launch the league’s silver anniversary season took a twin twist Wednesday when a new band of roguesters claimed the centre court as their own. But with two goalies suited up and barely any players, they’d be hard pressed to execute a proper game.
The roadsters, on the other hand, had the opposite dilemma; more than enough players but no goalies.
A merger was negotiated.
The roguesters, it turns out, are no upstarts. Though new to the concrete court they’d adopted as their summer home, they’ve been together almost as long as the Sunday Morning roadsters, playing indoors every Wednesday night at various community centre and school gyms.
Like the roadsters, the roguesters span generations; their goalies are pushing 60 years of age. They play a spirited game of pick-up, randomly changing the teams every week. They value sportsmanship and camaraderie.
They are, in effect, Sunday Morning Road Hockey’s midweek, indoor twin.
“It’s kind of fun to play with some players you’ve never played with, see what they’re like,” said Colonel of the mirror match. “I thought it was fitting for a summer game. We had a fun time.”
In fact, it may even be a portent for a special season to come, said Beckenbauer.
“I think the culture is one of the greatest things about the league,” said the veteran centreman who missed much of last season because of a knee injury. “It keeps you coming back.”
Another harbinger of the coming season may also have been the unexpected return of Kid, who hadn’t played regularly since 2011. Beetle Boy also made his annual summer appearance to spark speculation about yet another aborted comeback.
“I think it’s fantastic to see guys out we haven’t seen enough of,” said Colonel.
“It’s good to see how you match up against some of the old faces,” said Beckenbauer.
On a night that could have been a letdown, the roadsters were buoyant when the advancing dusk finally made it impossible for the goalies to see the evil orange plastic ball.
“Twenty-five years is a huge milestone to build on, it’s not often you do something for that long,” said Colonel. “It has the potential to be a memorable year.”
For the roadsters. And their indoor doppelgängers.
August 03, 2016
Summer scrimmage launches silver season
The gala silver anniversary season of Sunday Morning Road Hockey kicks off Aug. 17 with the annual Midsummer Scrimmage.
The early pre-season encounter is a fun chance for the roadsters to stretch their legs and test their creaking joints. It’s also a showcase for scouts to assess goaltending prospects for the coming season which looms closer with every passing week.
And this season promises to be special, as Sunday Morning Road Hockey celebrates 25 years of the sting of the evil orange plastic ball.
Founded in the fall of 1991 as an informal pick-up game on the expansive tennis courts at Queen’s Park, the league has evolved into a beloved weekly institution that has exercised and entertained generations of players. And while only two of the game’s original founding players remain, Living Legend and Wink, the spirit and camaraderie that were forged in that inaugural game endure.
Face-off at the hockey court is 7 p.m. and the game goes until the goalies can’t see the ball anymore.
April 25, 2016
Doo gets it done
Doo capped a season he’d rather forget with a memorable performance to lead his team to a 20-13 victory Sunday and a two-game sweep of the Stanley Stick championship series.
The speedy centreman scored a handful of goals, many of them spectacular individual efforts of footwork and persistence, to earn the series’ Conn Stick award as the most valuable player. He was the unanimous choice by the underdogs who were repeatedly victimized by Doo’s slippery moves and stickwork just as they seemed poised to get back into the series.
It was a stunning return to form for the lanky scorer who struggled to find the net at times during the regular season as he dealt with injury and personal issues.
“I had to make a commitment to play,” said Doo. “I’m proud I was able to do that.”
After romping to a relatively easy 20-6 win in last week’s series’ opener, Doo and his mates knew they’d be in for a tougher battle from their opponents in Sunday’s decider, as they were bolstered by the addition of two players, Ohio and Nouvelle Guy.
“There were definitely times we were under siege,” said Doo. “But I think we were pretty consistent all game.”
In fact the game seemed poised to get away from them entirely after the underdogs got to within one, 6-5; but a three-goal outburst reestablished their goal cushion and seemed to clip the underdogs’ growing confidence.
“That was a key point where we elevated our game,” said Doo. “Once you pull away like that you’ve got to keep your foot on the pedal.”
Joker said the trio of successive goals reversed the game’s tide back into their favour.
“We were losing momentum at that point and that was the catalyst we needed to hold the lead for the rest of the game.”
“That was kind of a backbreaker,” said Wink. “It gave us momentum and a cushion so we could give up a goal and not be too worried.”
The winners never trailed in the series, but that doesn’t mean their win was easy.
It took the solid execution of a defensive gameplan to stifle the dangerous tandem of Cleveland and Ohio.
“Everybody knew the job they had to do; shut down their big shooters,” said Joker.
“I thought we had a really solid game plan and we stuck to it,” said Doo.
“There was a lot more battle,” said Wink, whose side added Holt and Coach to its lineup.
That gave them two full lines of players. And a challenge to establish chemistry quickly.
“The camaraderie we built on this team over two games was second to none,” said Joker.
“I think we found some chemistry and that will take you a long way,” said Doo, who settled into an effective combination with wily veterans Lak Attack and Wink after some initial line rolling.
“You don’t panic, you know you’re going to be able to complete passes,” he said of working with his senior wingers. “It really was a team win.”
While the addition of Ohio and Nouvelle Guy was expected after they were excused from last week’s Stanley Stick opener, the arrival at the courts of Holt and Coach was a surprise.
The former was making his first start of the season after spending the year pursuing educational opportunities abroad; he received a special veteran’s dispensation to participate in the championship while Coach fulfilled the minimum regular season games to play in the finale. All the new players were distributed by a special supplemental card draw before the start of Sunday’s game.
This year’s Stanley Stick champions are: Wink, Lak Attack, Doo, Colonel, Coach, Holt, Joker.
The roadsters will next convene at the special mid-summer scrimmage and annual Beetle Boy comeback anticipation in August.
Next season will be Sunday Morning Road Hockey’s 25th anniversary. Plans are already being formulated to celebrate the milestone including a reunion game of past roadsters.
April 17, 2016
Winners wear down overmatched opponents
The only thing gorier than the bloody cut suffered by Lak Attack in Sunday’s Stanley Stick opener was the score.
The versatile veteran shook off the high stick that clipped his left eyebrow to lead his team to a dominating 20-6 win in the first game of the two-game championship finale.
After a tight first half in which the underdogs got to within three goals, 8-5, fatigue and heat took their toll and the winners outscored their beleaguered opponents 10-2 after the break.
Having an extra player to sub off tired legs certainly worked to their advantage in the balmy conditions, said Colonel.
“it was a warm day and any time a team doesn’t have a sub at all, it just allows the team with a sub to stay fresh and go hard every shift.”
But to take full advantage, the winners had to strike quickly. They did just that despite being outplayed in the early going, said Doo.
“They were generating chances,” said the speedy centerman. “But that was classic offence from defence for us from the beginning of the game.”
Joker also stood tall in the net, rebuffing Bam Bam and Cleveland in close.
“He did well to be there when we needed him,” said Colonel of his veteran goalie. “It’s a big boost because you know you can take a few more chances offensively.”
Which is exactly what they did.
“They got a couple of quick goals and the momentum was always on their side,” said Bam Bam.
A brief flurry and some fortuitous bounces got the underdogs close early in the second period. But Doo said his side kept its cool.
“We had a lot of veteran presence on our team… so we didn’t panic.”
That's something the underdogs will have to remember if they’re to win Sunday’s second game to force a deciding sudden death mini game.
“All you need is one win to send it to the mini game,” said Bam Bam. “We’ve got to create more offence, take more shots, keep it simple.”
Despite Sunday’s lopsided score, the leaders aren’t taking anything for granted.
“I don’t think we got the other team’s best game this week,” said Colonel. “Next week they’re going to come out hard, feel rejuvenated. It’s going to be a whole other game.”
Doo said his side’s experience will serve them well to maintain an even keel.
“When you’ve been around enough Stanley Sticks, you know each game is completely different. We’ll have to rely on our veteran experience and patience next week.”
April 10, 2016
Bam Bam's return a battle
After missing more than a month of the season with an ankle injury, Bam Bam didn’t have the luxury of easing himself back into the lineup.
Sunday’s game was the last regular game before the Stanley Stick championship series, and the feisty forward felt the full intensity of the season’s short strokes in his team’s tough 15-12 loss.
“I was definitely two or three steps behind,” said Bam Bam. “The cardio will take some work, as will the physical aspect of keeping up on the dry surface.”
It was definitely a spirited affair as players from both sides were fearless in blocking shots and relentless in their offensive attacks.
“The intensity was high,” said Doo. “There was lots of good stick work, lots of back checking and the goaltenders played really well.”
All factors which set up an epic finale when players leave it all on the court every shift.
“Every bounce counts,” said Bam Bam. “It’s a lot different from regular season games.”
The addition of several rookies midway through the season likely won’t lessen the ferocious commitment it takes to win the Stick, said Doo.
“They’ve had a lot of games together to get acclimatized to our game,” said the speedy centreman. “There’s no true rookies out there.”
Sunday’s warmup featured two great swings of momentum as each team managed to battle back from three goal deficits to build three-goal advantages of their own.
Doo said it was important to take full advantage of any lapse in concentration.
“When you see your opponents letting up, you just have to pounce and we were the ones able to do that at the end.”
Bam Bam conceded the momentum swings are inevitable in such an intense game.
“Every week we know teams are going to go on a run,” said the veteran forward. “Once you have it going your way, you have to capitalize as much as you can.”
Which is exactly what his side did as they used some fortuitous bounces and won some difficult battles at the top of the crease to rebound from an early three-goal deficit by scoring six straight goals.
“We weren’t giving them anything, but they just found the space out there,” said Doo. “They had a little better body position, they were a bit faster.”
But they couldn’t sustain it and the leaders gave up a five-goal run of their own en route to their demise.
“I think it was pretty even today,” said Bam Bam. “They got a couple more bounces.”
April 03, 2016
Cleveland rocks comeback win
Cleveland and his teammates shook off a sullen first period to fire six unanswered goals and roll to a 15-10 win in Sunday’s game.
The shifty rookie found his legs, and his passing game, to spark the second period barrage. Feeds that had been rolling harmlessly into the corner in the first frame suddenly found the blades of his line mates who deftly tucked those setups behind a bewildered Joker.
“I think we got our legs and developed some chemistry,” said Colonel. “We had a lot of chances early, but then we started to put them away.”
Time and again Joker found himself abandoned by his defence.
“Our defence wasn’t getting back on the odd-man rushes,” said the embattled net minder, who’d been almost unbeatable in the first period when his team stormed back from an early deficit to go into the break up 5-4. “Once the first couple went in, it opened the floodgates.”
Cleveland scored twice, the Legend three times and Colonel added another to shatter the shotstopper’s confidence.
“It just started to get to me,” said Joker. “It fell apart really quickly.”
Colonel said keeping their game simple was the key to their comeback.
“If you pass it around too much, there’s too much opportunity to bumble it,” said the senior forward. “Those quick passes and deflections to the net work best.”
A brief flurry by the underdogs on the strength of an unexpected hat trick by Big D gave them some life. But it was too little too late.
“When everybody is really tired and you’re able to make a run at the end of the game, it shows character,” said Joker.
March 27, 2016
Lack of luxuries give game mystique
Even as Lak Attack’s stick blade delaminated to half its usual width, he kept firing shots with the rattling, flacid impliment in warmup.
Good thing he was playing net.
Not that his goalie equipment was in any better condition.
Haphazard gear that’s held together with thread and tape, sticks that are peeling and gloves and shoes full of holes are part of Sunday Morning Road Hockey tradition.
But what the game lacks in luxury, it compensates with character.
“There’s no pretence in Sunday Morning Road Hockey,” said Doo, who’s shaved many a blade to toothpick width over his long career with barely an effect on his offensive capabilities. “If you’ve got a stick that you can’t even see the blade, then you just play with it.”
Goalies are particularly skilled with tape and thread to keep their equipment functional, if not exactly stylish.
“You do your best,” said Lak Attack, who suited up for Sunday’s half-court game wearing a protective cup on its last thread, literally. “You put some string in, or a little bit of tape, and you’re good to go.”
His second-hand pads also left something to be desired; leg guards flapped loosely because of missing straps or buckles, the thick rolls didn’t mesh properly, leaving a gaping five hole as a target for eagle-eyed forwards.
“If you’re a shooter, you have the luxury of picking your spots,” said Doo.
“It’s challenging every week,” said Lak Attack, who recovered from some early miscues Sunday to shut out one side through the game’s second half. “Somehow you have to perform above what you’re really capable of given the gear.”
Doo said broken down goalie gear is part of the game’s mystique.
“The goalies play with whatever they have, it’s part of the experience.”
That tradition of resilience was forged in Sunday Morning’s earliest days, when legendary Goaltending Stalwart Wawrow faced down some of his era’s fiercest shooters without the protection of heavy leg pads or even a mask for much of his career. That formative era was followed by Couch, who fashioned his leg pads from thick pieces of furniture foam.
“It adds character to the game,” said Lak Attack. “It wasn’t built from equipment, it was built from the players who played, and we continue that tradition.”
“We don’t have many luxuries out here,” said Doo. “There’s kind of a shared bond because nobody shows up with shiny new equipment.”
March 20, 2016
Sunday's win a long shot
Wink’s long sizzler that eluded Colonel’s flailing glove hand was a fitting winner for his side’s sudden-death 10-9 victory in Sunday’s game.
The distance shot had vexed the netminders all day.
“For a goalie who doesn’t play very much, the long shot tends to move a lot,” said Colonel, who stepped between the pipes when regular back-up Lak Attack was a surprise scratch. “The ball dips away and you’re just not used to that curl.”
His opponents had used the long shot to build a 6-3 lead, five of those goals by opportunist Doo, who pounced on rebounds or zeroed his sights on Colonel’s gaping five-hole.
“From our perspective, we just had to get a lot of low shots on net, get some bodies in front and take advantage of rebounds,” said Doo.
But when his mates started to get fancy, stretching for the extra pass instead of putting shots on net, the game’s momentum shifted and their three goal advantage disappeared.
“There were definitely some ebbs and flows to the game,” said Colonel as his mates used their own pinpoint shots to wrest an 8-6 lead.
“Everybody has such a quick release,” said Joker. “They can shoot the big bombs but they also get them off really quickly and that can be tough for a goalie to deal with.”
Doo said his own goalie’s struggle with long shots was a bit of a wakeup call to tighten up defensively.
“When you haven’t got any spares, you can’t play hard every minute,” said the speedy centreman. “You’re going to give up some chances and that’s when you’ve got to rely on your goalie.”
They also got back to the game that had put them in the lead initially, peppering shots at the net.
“We didn’t have to make the one extra pass,” said Joker. “Once we started shooting, it started going in.”
March 13, 2016
Hard work reaps reward in half court game
Road hockey rewards hard work. Especially in the half-court game, said veteran utility forward and backup goaltender Lak Attack.
Sunday’s winners used their work ethic at both ends of the court to turn an early 2-0 deficit into a 10-7 victory.
“They worked hard and because of that they were able to get the breaks,” said Lak Attack, who minded the crease for both sides.
After spotting their opponents, Cleveland and Wink, a quick advantage, Beelzebub and his teammate Living Legend got to work. They forechecked aggressively on changes of possession, dug hard in the corners, hustled after stray balls. Their effort paid off with three straight goals and they never looked back.
“You’ve gotta work through it and persevere,” said Beelzebub of his side’s slow start.
A seeing-eye backhand by the Living Legend that found its way through the smallest of gaps on Lak Attack’s short side may have been an early backbreaker. Legend created the scoring opportunity by battling for the ball off the boards.
“When either team gets an opportunity, they have to take the time to be patient,” said Lak Attack. “They have to wait for the goalie to make the first move.”
Once they moved ahead, the winners never took their foot off the gas, pressuring Wink and Cleveland almost every rush off the change of possession. Beelzebub was especially persistent, pestering the oncoming forwards into making mistakes that resulted in turnovers.
“Defence usually gets a bad rap in this game,” said Beelzebub. “But it’s just as important as offence, even more so in a game like today.”
That’s because with only two players aside, any defensive lapse instantly created an odd-man rush.
“It’s a slower game,” said Lak Attack. “But you’ve got to be alert at all times because the bounces can come from anywhere.”
And while the intensity of Sunday’s game may not have matched the fierce pace of recent matches with better attendance, the stakes were just as high as the season heads into the home stretch toward the Stanley Stick championship finale.
“You’ve got to go out there an give it your all, no matter if it’s full court or half court,” said Beelzebub.
February 28, 2016
No lead safe enough in wild game
A pair of seeing-eye goals by the Living Legend bookended a game that swayed on wide swings of momentum.
To set the table for Legend’s game-winning chip shot over Joker’s shoulder, his team twice battled back from deficits of four and three goals. They also gave away leads of their own.
“It was a back and forth battle all day today,” said Lak Attack, who was on the short end of the 17-16 final score.
Both teams showed resilience as they refused to succumb when the game’s momentum turned against them.
“It can be demoralizing,” said Cleveland, whose side battled back from 8-4 and 14-11 deficits. “If you keep pushing, stay at an even keel and hopefully the bounces start going your way.”
It also helps if the goalies are struggling.
Both Joker and Twizzler seemed to be fighting the ball at times, giving up easy goals before shutting the door for stretches at a time. Five quick unanswered goals that erased his side’s early four-goal advantage almost sent Joker on a self-imposed exile to the sidelines.
“Joker is a good goalie, so you’ve got to take advantage of those opportunities,” said Cleveland.
“They scored some quick goals and that was really a letdown for our team,” said Lak Attack.
At the other end, Twizzler seemed to be slightly hobbled for a stretch after he overextended his hip to make a brilliant toe save.
With little to choose between the sides, the decisive goal may have been as much a product of desire than a talent advantage.
“It comes down to who wants it,” said Lak Attack. “You might be working hard but the bounces have to come your way.”
“You just keep your head down and put the ball on the net,” said Cleveland.
February 24, 2016
Stanley Stick dates announced
An infusion of skilled new players, a burgeoning rank of solid goaltenders and spring-like weather should add up to an exciting stretch run of the season.
The Stanley Stick is less than two months away. The coveted chalice will be contested in a two-game series April 17 and 24.
The Stanley Stick championship series is the only time of the season when teams carry over from one week to the next. To be eligible to play in the finale, players must have appeared in at least three regular season games.
February 21, 2016
Shots swing momentum back to winners
With a lineup comprised of three rookies and two players returning to action after extended injury breaks, Doo and his mates could have folded their tents after a 7-1 run that cost them their early 4-1 lead in Sunday’s game.
Instead, they answered with a streak of their own and powered to a 15-11 win.
“We had a lot of energy, we had a lot of skill,” said Doo, who made his return to the court after an extended absence because of a hip injury.
But they didn’t have a lot of game action in their legs.
In fact, only Living Legend has been a regular starter.
Cleveland, Ohio and Beelzebub are rookies, still wet behind the ears. Between the pipes, Twizzler made his first regular season start after being sidelined all season with a knee injury he suffered in the summer scrimmage that required surgery.
Still, they were able to use their fresh legs to run circles around their veteran opponents and find gaps in Joker’s goaltending armour.
But veterans don’t become senior players without learning a thing or two. As the grizzled defenders started to clog the passing lanes and stifle the speedsters’ superior playmaking, they were able to generate their own scoring chances on counter attacks.
“You have to be sound positionally,” said Lak Attack of his side’s mid-game surge. “You might be down, but if you work hard you’re going to get your chances.”
“They had a lot of veterans who knew how to clog things up,” said Doo. “They started shutting us down, they got in all the lanes.”
They also started to find the net, reversing their early deficit to an 8-5 advantage.
With the wheels threatening to come off, Doo and his mates went back to basics. They peppered shots at Joker.
“We realized we just had to start shooting,” said Doo.
The effort paid off quickly and handsomely. Doo regained his scoring touch. Beelzebub drove hard to the net, Living Legend found the top corners. They reclained their lead and never looked back.
“We had to put our heads down and go to the net,” said Doo. “Then the momentum swung back.”
“They just wanted it a bit more,” said Lak Attack. “We had some breakdowns at key moments.”
February 07, 2016
Rookies run roughshod in 15-7 rout
The road hockey careers of Coach, Cleveland and Ohio totals less than 10 games. Combined.
Sunday they teamed up with the league’s most senior player in a 15-7 rout of their overwhelmed opponents.
The offensive chemistry of the new foundlings was apparent right from the opening face off. They passed the evil orange plastic ball with authority. They executed dizzying give-and-goes that left defenders spinning on their flat feet.
Only some remarkable saves by Lak Attack prevented the game from getting out of hand in its earliest moments.
“They were just way too skilled,” said the beleaguered backstop. “They were moving their feet more than us, they were playing as a unit.”
That unit got a big assist from the longtime hockey history between Cleveland and Ohio. But Sunday was the first time they’d both played on the same side at the road hockey courts.
“It’s almost like the chemistry was there between them even before they started playing the game,” said Colonel, who spent portions of the game just watching the dizzying playmaking of his opponents. “They were making bang bang passes, lots of nifty little moves.”
Supported capably by Coach and Living Legend, who chipped in a pair of goals of his own, the upstarts opened the lead to as many as seven goals before the determined underdogs started to claw their way back. But they couldn’t get any closer than 10-7 before surrendering five straight down the stretch.
“We got a couple of opportunistic goals but at the end of the day they were the better team,” said Colonel.
Which was good news for Joker, who was coming off a dismal performance in last Sunday’s soaker where he gave up 10 goals in a six-minute span. Or maybe it was six goals in a 10-minute span.
“The odd-man rushes and the passing were just unbelievable,” said the jocular netminder. “It makes it a little more comfortable for me back there.”
And very uncomfortable for defenders who just couldn’t keep pace.
“The only way to stop them is by taking their space away,” said Colonel.
The theory may have been sound, said Lak Attack, but the execution was lacking.
“We had a lack of defence today for sure.”
January 24, 2016
Youngblood's hat trick sparks comeback win
Youngblood scored three times in his Sunday Morning debut to lead his team to a 12-10 comeback win. He’s only 11 years-old.
The rookie phenom showed hockey sense and fortitude beyond his years as he mixed it up in the corners with grizzled veterans and drove hard to the net to create scoring chances.
“Those young guys just keep pushing and pushing,” said Bam Bam of his fearless teammate. “They’ve got endless energy, they can chase, they can cycle. It doesn’t hurt if they’ve got a good pair of hands.”
Which Youngblood apparently has. HIs goals came on a long shot, a rebound and a bold charge through a seam.
“He’s got a great skill level and he knows the game really well,” said Colonel of his juvenile adversary. “You just can’t leave him alone.”
Time and again the youngster found himself in open court, making plays and creating opportunities. He also wasn’t afraid to mix it up with some of his more notorious opponents, including Colonel and Wink.
“You don’t expect that right away,” said Colonel, who’s team quickly realized they had to overcome their instinct to go easy on their young opponent. “He’s just another player out there and we always have to play tough on everybody.”
“It wasn’t just the goals, it was the hustle, the playmaking,” said Bam Bam, whose side trailed by as many as six goals half way through the game.
But then Beelzebub hurt his arm, depriving his side of their extra player to spell off tired teammates. And Joker found his glove hand.
The garrulous goaltender struggled early in Sunday’s game. His five hole looked more like a chasm. His glove hand failed him.
But his mates kept their faith.
“We know goalies give up bad goals,” said Bam Bam. “But we knew he’d come back. We just needed to give him some support offensively.”
“He was definitely hot in the second half,” said Colonel. “That gave their team a lift.”
Especially after Youngblood scored his first goal, and Bam Bam regained his legs in his first game of the new year.
Having the extra man for the balance of the game allowed the winners to better manage their effort said Bam Bam. That gave him time to get reignite the energy that had been sapped by his extended illness that kept him on the sidelines for the past month.
“I think we did a good job of keeping our shifts short,” said Bam Bam. “The guys played hard, then they came off. Overall I think we worked well today.”
Their opponents could only rue the game that got away from them.
“I think we took them a little too lightly, and that cost us,” said Colonel.
January 17, 2016
Wink blasts team to victory
The Winkian blast is back.
Already goalies are cowering in fear.
The veteran founding father, who’s on the comeback trail after missing five seasons with health issues, scored three of his side’s first four goals to spark a 15-8 victory in Sunday’s soggy game.
All of them were rifle blasts that eluded Lak Attack even before the lanky netminder had a chance to react.
“I was putting the ball where I wanted to put it,” said Wink.
That was high past the outstretched glove of Lak Attack, just beyond the reach of his toes, and over his shoulder.
“He can shoot it high, he can shoot it low, he can place it where he wants,” said the beleaguered backup. “It’s a hard shot.”
In fact, at the height of his defensive dominance, Wink’s shot from the point was one of the most feared on the small road hockey court. Time and again he rained them past shellshocked shotstoppers with alarming regularity.
But since returning from his medical hiatus, the veteran defender has been challenged to recapture his timing and goal-scoring glory.
“I felt I’ve shot it well since I came back,” said Wink. “I just wasn’t hitting it this well.”
Finding his sizzling slapshot means defenders will have to adjust, said Lak Attack. “We really have to challenge him.”
Otherwise facing down those cannon drives will take a toll.
“You start to wonder where your positioning is, where your glove is,” said Lak Attack. “You start to speculate and you’re not very confident.”
Drawing defenders his way means more court for his teammates, said Wink.
“I think it gives us a whole other aspect that opens things up for the other two guys down low.”
Up 5-1 at the end of the first period, Wink and his mates never trailed.
But a hat trick by Big D seemed to light a fire under their opponents to make a game of it.
“The guys played really well,” said Lak Attack of their losing effort. “They just didn’t mesh well in the first. They got going in the second and third.”
By then, though, it was too late.
January 10, 2016
Slick surface stifles scorers
The icy court pebbled with rock salt and gravel may have frustrated players in Sunday’s game, but it was a boon for Joker.
The veteran netminder limited both teams to a total of eight goals in a competitive half-court game that was as much about survival as scoring.
Several overnight frosts slicked the concrete, making for precarious footing.
Pebbles of stone and salt sent shots and passes skipping with abandon.
“We haven’t seen something like this in many years,” said Lak Attack of the challenging conditions. “It was like playing on gravel.”
But for Joker, the harried, haphazard play seemed to move in slow motion, giving him plenty of time to square his position and cock his glove hand.
“It slows down the game,” said the gregarious goaltender. “You can see everything and you can get a little better positioning. I think I did that well today.”
Time and again he frustrated shooters who were happy just to get a shot on net as they tried to control the wildly careening ball.
“People were cautious and some good opportunities to make passes just didn’t materialize because of the courts,” said Lak Attack, whose side jumped to a 4-1 lead then hung on for a 5-3 win.
The conditions were equally challenging for defenders, who struggled to anticipate passes or found themselves sliding wildly on icy patches.
“It was very frustrating for both sides,” said Lak Attack.
And a confidence booster for Joker, whose stingy ways reversed a couple of shaky starts in recent weeks.
“Today I felt great,” said Joker. “My confidence for the rest of the season will be sky high.”
January 03, 2016
Shrimp Ring shame
One of Sunday Morning Road Hockey’s enduring traditions may now be a portent of the game’s decline.
Sunday’s 20th annual Shrimp Ring Bowl to kick off the new year was a shrimp ring without a bowl. Only four players reported to the frost-slicked courts and the game was iced.
And that doesn’t bode well for the season’s second half, said Lak Attack, a veteran of many of the celebratory showdowns.
“If you have a good Shrimp Ring, you know the guys are committed,” he said. “But if you don’t, you know the game is waning away. It’s disappointing.”
While a cold fog that iced the roads may have kept some of the roadsters home Sunday, there was a time when even a snowstorm couldn’t prevent the Ring’s renewal. Like in 2005, when the roadsters chopped and shovelled three days of accumulated snow and ice to ensure the game went on.
“That’s what’s been lost,” said Lak Attack, as he, Nouvelle Guy, Joker and Living Legend dipped their bargain shrimp into tangy cocktail sauce. “Guys have had a good holiday; you’d think they would be champing at the bit to come out and play.”
Still, there’s reason for hope.
The league’s core veterans remain passionate, their enthusiasm buoyed by the return of fellow founding father Wink after he missed five seasons to overcome medical challenges. And there’s a promise of new recruits, including another goalie.
“It’s time to find some new faces that are passionate and committed to the game,” said Lak Attack. “We have to build around that. It’s only going to get better as long as we’re all committed to the same goal.”
December 21, 2015
Joker overcomes mid-game swoon
Joker bent, but he didn’t break.
The sophomore shotstopper weathered a difficult second period to make some big saves late in Sunday’s game and lead his team to a 15-10 win.
Early on, it had seemed the rout was on. Sparked by the Living Legend’s two quick goals to open the scoring in his first game in three weeks, Joker’s mates built up a 5-1 lead at the game’s first break.
There was talk of a trade to better balance the sides.
But rookie winger Beelzebub, playing in only his second game, found his legs, power forward Bam Bam found his energy and point man Wink rediscovered his slapshot to wrest momentum from the leaders through much of the middle frame.
Joker wasn’t equal to the task, whiffing some easy shots, conceding juicy rebounds.
“I did struggle,” said the embattled crease minder. “Bam Bam and Beelzebub started to connect. They were getting a lot of one-timers, a lot of plays from behind the net and I just wasn’t fast enough.”
Bam Bam said his side regained their confidence after a pep talk from their own veteran goalie, Lak Attack.
“We started to look for the open guy right away,” said the veteran speedster. “We found some chemistry.”
By the time the ripples in the puddles formed by a mid-game squall settled, the underdogs had narrowed the margin to a slim two goals.
“We just had to keep working,” said Doo of his side’s reality check.
Which is exactly what they did.
Living Legend battled hard in the corners. Nouvelle Guy drove to the net, Doo dazzled defenders. And, most importantly, Joker came up with some big saves as his mates pressured in the offensive zone.
“If he doesn’t make a couple of big saves, our confidence could have been sapped away,” said Doo. “Joker is a good goalie and that’s what good goalies do; they shake off the bad goals and let us get back into our game and finish them off.”
Still, the Legend’s two seeing-eye goals that ended the game came as a relief to his side’s goalie.
“I was sweating,” said Joker.
“We’ve been here long enough that you see a couple of plays go against you, and that can snowball into six quick ones and you’ve lost the game,” said Doo.
Sunday's game was the last of 2015, as the roadsters take a one-week hiatus to celebrate the holidays with Colonel at his family bunker. Play resumes Jan. 3 with the annual Shrimp Ring Bowl, the highlight of Sunday Morning Road Hockey's social calendar.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”