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.
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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
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
"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
"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."