The Whirling Dervish took a one-game break from his semi-retirement Sunday. He says he hopes to be able to play at least two more times before the end of the season, to ensure his eligibility for the Stanley Stick championship tournament in the Spring.


Week 14
Dervish takes a whirl

Veteran comes back for one game, hints at more

by Jay Suburb

Sunday Morning Road Hockey's young stars may be forgiven if they thought they'd stepped into an old-timer's game on Sunday.

The Whirling Dervish came out of semi-retirement to make a special holiday appearance. Playing on a line with fellow founding fathers, the Living Legend and notorious gameshow host gone bad, Wink, their combined years of road hockey experience totaled more than the entire lives of many of their teammates.

The veteran forward, who hadn't played in a game in more than a year, admits his hiatus may have diminished his fitness, but not his desire.

"I got a little bit tired towards the end of the game, but I think it was more because I was making up for my linemates," says the Dervish, a former Philbud who joined the league in its first season at the old tennis courts. "You've gotta put your money where your mouth is; if you're gonna make a comeback, it starts with actually coming back."

And while the Dervish's determination wasn't enough to allow his team to fight its way back from a 15-8 rout in the morning's second game, he says he's encouraged by his performance. So much so that he's looking to play at least a couple of more regular season games to maintain his eligibility for the Stanley Stick championship series in the Spring.

"I was actually a bit nervous the night before wondering if I was gonna be one step behind," says the feisty forward. "I didn't find it that difficult to keep up. I don't think I was the slowest guy out there."

Having the Dervish whirling down the wing again is good for the game, says fellow veteran, Lak Attack.

"It's very uplifting. He's got a lot of grit, he makes people work. I think he brings the game up a level."

Although the Dervish could never be counted amongst road hockey's elite scorers, he's always been one of its hardest workers, forechecking and crashing the boards tirelessly, hustling back to pick up his check in the defensive zone while lesser teammates lollygagged at the center line. It's a work ethic Sunday Morning's newcomers would do well to learn from, say some of the veterans.

"The old guys bring in a little more defense, while the young guys bring some fast legs," says Lak Attack. "You have to have a good mix of the old guys and some young blood, that makes the game a little more competitive."

"I think it's good for some of these young guys to understand that we've been playing since they were in diapers," says Wink. "It's important that they understand how hard some of us have worked to keep the game going."

But while the contribution to the game by the old-timers may be appreciated by the rising stars, they've still gotta be able to keep up, says New Guy.

"The fatigue factor is more relevant," says the rambunctious rookie. "They wear out after about the first half of the game and you can start running them down in the corners, beat them to the ball."

The Whirling Dervish went into semi-retirement earlier last season to spend more time with his young family, and because of the increasing demands on his time from work and an educational opportunity. But unlike other lapsed roadsters, he's maintained his ties to the game and he's staunchly refused to make any pronouncements on his future, one way or the other.
"I've managed to keep in shape," said the wily winger. "It's not really that difficult to step right in."
Although he did admit to having lost a step to some of the game's youngsters, if not his fellow veterans.
"I'm slower, I get tired easier, I'm more conscious of being injured because it takes longer to recuperate," said the Dervish. "There's older farts than me out there."
"Maybe the only thing that wasn't there was the mental aggressiveness," said Lak Attack of his aging teammate. "It's kinda like the timing of going after the ball, you're not sure if you should be going after it, there's a little hesitation."
"He's always been kindofa grouchy, surly guy," said Wink of his senior centreman. "
Maybe if he comes out, he'll be happier."

Another veteran player also returned to action on Sunday, albeit from a much shorter, and considerably less honorable, absence. Lobsterboy played his first game in net in a month, after missing a number of games to nurse a hangover and then to travel out of town. And while he seemed a little rusty at times, whiffing a couple of easy shots midway through the morning's second game, he could hardly be blamed for his team's loss.
"I just think we didn't check very well," said Wink. "Everytime a goal goes in, it's not always the goalie's fault."
"We tired to pinch in a few times and we got caught on some bad plays," said Lak Attack. "It was just too difficult to get back in time to break up the play."

Some of that difficulty may have been due to the slippery conditions. For the second consecutive week, a heavy overnight frost had coated the concrete hockey courts with a dangerous sheen of ice that slowed the game's speedsters and rendered every upcourt rush an adventure.
"It's too slippery, you can't stop and change direction," said Lak Attack.
"The slippery conditions really affected my style," said the Whirling Dervish. "I couldn't really go hard to the net the way I would have liked."
"You gotta watch out where you're running," said New Guy. "You can't go top speed. When you go into the corner you've gotta start slowing down at about half court before you get there."
But it was perhaps the risk of injury the roadsters feared most. Especially after Ottoman's younger brother, Ottoboy, slipped on an ice patch and fell heavily into the goal post on his first shift in his first career game and had to be helped off the court.
"I think some of the older guys like the Living Legend had some troubles," said New Guy. "When you're a little older it takes longer to recover, it's easier to twist something, break something. You could be out of action two or three weeks with a good injury."
But not every roadster was intimidated by the conditions.
"The only real tough condition for me was all the talk about the conditions," said Wink. "It's the same for both teams."