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Entering his third season at the courts, the Kid says it's time he show the roadsters he's a man; he's got facial fuzz, and he vows to up his offensive contribution to eight goals a game.

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PRE-SEASON PREVIEW
Kid makes manly moves

Junior sniper promises potent offense

by Jay Suburb

The Kid says it's time for the roadsters to respect him as a man.

The junior sniper reported to training camp Sunday sporting a month's worth of peach fuzz poking from his callow cheeks and a newfound resolve to prove himself as a big-game player.

After setting a torrid scoring pace through most of last season, including a record 13 goals in one game, his hands turned to stone when it counted the most, at the Stanley Stick championship series. He scored only three times in the opener and was contained through most of the finale by the tight checking of Lak Attack. It made, he says, for a long summer.

"But that's in the past, that's gone," says the Kid. He's already focussed on this season's championship.

And to get there, he knows he has to raise his game to a new level.

"I'm up to the challenge, that's for sure," says the Kid.

That's why he didn't take any time off during the summer. While the rest of the roadsters were lounging on their patios sipping pina coladas, he and the Bird kept playing in the afternoon league, where they'd first cut their road hockey teeth.

Though the play in the afternoon league is less intense, the players less motivated, he says the additional court time has given him an edge over the returning veterans.

"I noticed some flab on those guys, a little more sweat," says the Kid.

As the veterans struggled to regain their timing and hone their sharpness around the net, the Kid was able to wheel and deke with mid-season panache, leading his team to an easy 15-2 rout.

"The Kid was able to do whatever he wanted to out there today," says the Hired Gun, who reported to camp 40 minutes late, by which time the game was already out of reach. "The Kid set the offensive tone, but at some point somebody's gotta start playing defense, and that's the battle you're gonna see here all year."

And until the Kid can show his mettle in the season's waning weeks as well as the early-going, the veteran roadsters are reserving judgment.

"He's a great goal scorer, but the thing that counts is winning the Stanley Stick at the end of the season," says longtime shotstopper, Lobsterboy. "He's gotta learn to keep his play topnotch year 'round."

"I think it will be a little tougher for him in the next few weeks if a few more of the holdouts start coming in," says Turk, who was victimized by the Kid's mid-season maneuvering as he struggled to regain his own form after a long layoff to rest his injured neck.

"It's not how you start, it's how you finish," says notorious gameshow host gone bad, Wink, who's starting his 11th season.


While the veteran roadsters anticipate the gradual return of some of Sunday Morning's established stars, like Hollywood and Lak Attack, will dull the Kid's early-season dominance, the Kid said they could actually help him.
"Having them get me the ball is obviously a plus," said the spirited sniper. "It gets me more breakaways, more good chances. When you get the true stars, it makes it that much easier."

Sunday, the Kid and his sophomore sidekick, Bird, were able to run circles around the flatfooted defense of Paul One, the Living Legend and Giebelhaus, who played with a hobbled knee almost eight months after reconstructive surgery. It was only when longtime defensive stalwart, the Hired Gun, showed up, that he encountered some resistance.
"Obviously the people on my team today weren't of like minds to play some defense," said the Gun. "When that's the case, you've gotta focus on the hottest guy on the other team, and that was the Kid."
Indeed, with the Gun guarding his man with his usual single-mindedness, the Kid was only able to spring himself loose for one more goal.
"Whenever I go up, he's close," said the Kid of his persistent shadow. "He's always all over me."

The target of the Kid's fancy footwork was Turk, who made his first start in net after injuring a vertebrae in his neck almost a year ago. And while he said he tried to stay sharp during his long rehabilitation by playing computerized hockey games, he said the real thing was harder than he anticipated.
"The guys at the courts here are a little bit bigger than the guys on the computer screen," said the veteran goaltender. "I think it was a good test for me today."

Such was the case for most of the roadsters who reported to Sunday's training camp, as they tested their road hockey legs for the first time in months. And by the end of the short, one-hour scrimmage, the results were mixed, at best.
"I think I'm better prepared," said Bird, who played in the afternoon league through the off-season. "I think my conditioning is a bit higher."
"I'm feeling a little sore," said Wink. "But mentally I'm feeling good, I'm kinda excited. I'm thinking I've still got a few years left in me, long enough to see the Kid get fat and slow."
"My body's not getting any younger," said Lobsterboy. "I gotta make sure all my joints are working so I can flop around in the crease and make sure I've still got some mobility left."
"I was pretty hyped up," said the Hired Gun, who admitted he usually doesn't show up for the pre-season. "I felt it was important to be here and take a bit of a leadership role."

But a number of roadsters didn't share their motivation. Training camp holdouts included Lak Attack, Gump, the Whirling Dervish, Philderama, Lumberjack, Slick, Couch, and the Guy Called Mike.
"I'm a bit disappointed," said Lobsterboy of the tawdry turnout. "You'd think they'd be jumping at the chance to strap on their running shoes and get out there and play again."
"I'm very disappointed in the people who didn't show up," said the Hired Gun. "It's something we've seen the last couple of seasons, and it's disheartening to see."
But other veteran roadsters weren't ready to push the panic button just yet.
"It's all about the ebb and flow of the game," said Wink. "It's a long year, guys have got lots of things going on. We should be proud of the guys who did show up."

Veteran journeyman Wendel had previously announced a limited playing schedule as he pursues educational opportunities in a faraway city, but the status of other veterans, Sexboy and the Colonel, is unknown. Hollywood, who's never made a secret of his enmity for early-season action, made a special guest appearance at the courts as the roadsters were packing up, and reaffirmed his commitment to the league.

For much of Sunday's training camp scrimmage, it looked like Lobsterboy might record the league's first shutout. And while two late goals by Paul One kept his name from being forever etched in the Sunday Morning record books, he said it would have been a hollow achievement.
"It would have been kinda meaningless," said the senior shotstopper. "It wouldn't have felt like a real shutout; it's the preseason and the players are just getting their gamelegs."