A record turnout
of roadsters eyes the pile of sticks at center court, prior to dividing
them up into four teams, to play in a mini knockout tourney.
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by Jay Suburb
For the first time in road hockey history, there was no
game Sunday morning. There were four.
When a record turnout left a throng of roadsters idle
on the sidelines, and a pile of sticks at center court almost as high
as the Kid, the squads were split into four teams to play each other
in a mini knockout tournament
And while the format left two teams to play without a
spare, the roadsters were excited by the chance to maximize their playing
"I think it was just a little overwhelming,"
says Lak Attack of the horde of players crowded on the court during
the pre-game warm-up. "When you saw all those guys, you knew it
wasn't going to work. It was a good idea to split it up, otherwise nobody
would end up getting a workout."
"With all the people we had here, I think it would
have been tough to keep everyone happy," says notorious gameshow
host gone bad, Wink. "You would have got maybe only one shift a
"You come to play on Sunday morning," says the
Colonel, a longtime critic of crowded games that leave more players
waiting on the sidelines than mixing it up on the court. "It was
the right move today because we all got to play, and that's what we
come out for."
"It was nice to be able to split all the guys into
two decent teams," says Paul One, who's arrival at the courts Sunday
with two relatives in tow, Bullwinkle and Rocky, helped fuel the unexpected
population explosion. "You're usually sort of in the land of in-between,
where you don't have enough guys for two games, but you've got too many
guys to play a decent game with two teams."
Split-squad games have been discussed in the past, especially
around Stanley Stick time, when attendance at the road hockey courts
seems to peak. But Sunday was the first time there were enough players,
goalies and equipment to actually test the format.
Instead of dividing the sticks at center court into two
piles, they were split four ways, with a goalie, Ottoman, Pig Farming
Goalie, Lobsterboy or Gump, assigned to each of the teams. The games
would be played to ten, with the two winners from the first round then
facing off for the day's championship, while the losers battled for
"I thought this way was much more exciting,"
says Lobsterboy, who's team lost both their games in his first start
at the courts in six weeks. "You've got a lot faster action, less
shifting; it was a lot more intense."
"I think you're more into the game," says Paul
One. "You know exactly what's going on in the game because you're
on the court for every shift. You're part of everything, whether it's
good or bad."
"It was like old time road hockey," says Wink,
a veteran of the league's lean years, when most games were played without
spares. "I was waiting for Philderama to come out of the corner
and whack me in the head just like the good old days."
"It made for a different kind of day," says
Billy Idol. "It changed the routine up a bit."
If the mini-tournament format had a flaw, it was the lack of motivation
for the teams playing in the day's third-place game. After each side suffered
tough losses in their openers, they seemed to be going through the motions
for their showdown with each other.
"Everybody remembers the gold medal game, but nobody cares about
the bronze," said Wink, after his team was trounced in the consolation
"In the first game, the guys really had their hearts in it,"
said Lobsterboy. "But in the second game, we fell back early and
it was written on the wall that we were going to lose."
"It's a mental letdown," said the Colonel. "You feel like
if you lose that first game and then you're playing in the consolation
game, nobody really cares about that game."
But for the consolation winners, pride was at stake.
"We actually had a lot of confidence going into that second game,"
said Paul One. "We wanted to win. We didn't want to be the day's
"I think we showed a lot of heart in that second game," said
Billy Idol. "We did quite well. We tried to rotate the backcheck
and we were able to score a lot of goals quite quickly."
"We actually kinda played better as a team in the second game because
we got used to each other," said Lak Attack.
Sunday's big winner was Pig Farming Goalie, who's side won both their
games, including an overtime squeaker in the opener.
"Team play pretty good today," said the agrarian goaltender.
"I think we utilize out strengths, got good passing and good shooting."
Besides the surplus of players, the key to making the split squad
tournament work was the return to action of two veteran goaltenders, Lobsterboy
and Gump. Each struggled at times as their teams lost their opening-round
"It's hard getting back into the groove," said Lobsterboy, who
hadn't played in six weeks. "There's pressure because I've only won
once this season."
But his teammates were less critical, especially in the second game, when
they were forced to play without a spare.
"Lobsterboy was acrobatic as ever," said the Colonel. "He
made a lot of good saves."
A heavy fog that descended over the courts just before game time left
the concrete courts as slick as ice and a challenge for the quicker players.
"It's tough when you're slipping and sliding, and you're not able
to make the moves" said Lak Attack, who took a number of tumbles
during the course of the day.
"The conditions were really tough," said the Colonel. "You
get some guys out here who have a fair amount of talent and they're brought
back to earth because they can't use their feet or their agility quite