We Battled to the Bitter End
Last weekend went pretty much as expected for yours truly and my STICK U teammates at our ball hockey tourney. Actually we got off to an unexpected start as the skies opened and lightning flashed on the morning of the 5th Walter Gretzky event – delaying our first game by a half hour or so. When we finally got started with our thrown together squad against a crew called the Sausage Chasers we were only able to get in half a 20 minute game before the flashes from above returned to further postpone what, for us, was a pretty good start. We actually led 1-0 and would come out of the rain delayed in a 1-1 tie. Not bad considering our mixed bag of talent, including a basketball/rugby phenom turned hockey rookie, a goaltender with little to no competitive experience and a few of us 40-somethings. I think we all felt buoyed by the possibility of chasing the Sausage Chasers into a game one defeat. However, we’ll use the rain delay as an excuse to explain the final 4-1 tally, which wasn’t in our favour. Our opponents scored a questionable second goal, which we all thought should have been whistled down, with our goalie scrambling to secure a loose puck. This goal to take the lead served to shake our concentration/confidence just enough to allow a third and then fourth marker. Post rain, the playing surface also got pretty slick. The Boy earned a giant raspberry on his knee. A fellow hockey dad showed off a nicely scraped elbow of his own. A text message to the Boy’s mom following the game had her wondering if a trip to the ER was required. The Boy didn’t even want to clean it, but was convinced or coerced otherwise by a saner teammate/father.
Beleaguered, but not beaten, we retired to tailgates and lawn chairs to “rest up” for game two. And by rest up I mean eat a couple of burgers, down a few pops (of the wobbly variety – for the dads at least) and complain a little more about game one. 4+ hours gave us plenty of time to contemplate the good and the bad of our first contest. The good took the form of stellar goaltending by our relative emergency replacement keeper aka my brother-in-law. For a kid (he’s 26) who has never really played hockey outside of the driveway variety, he stood on his head. On one particular save even the ref standing beside me temporary fence/makeshift boards exclaimed, “How did he get to that one?” The lads performance throughout the tournament would be an impressive surprise.
In game two against a squad called the Iceholes, we came out sticks a-blazing and quickly took a two goal lead, which we held carrying a 3-1 margin into the second half of the game. Then, I think it is safe to say the proverbial wheels came off or maybe our relative lack of subs vs. our competitors took its toll. When our opponents tied the game at three I think we could all feel it slipping away, but we weren’t able to do anything about it. On the sidelines, I pleaded with one of my teammates to back-check, but that was much easier to say than physically do. The final nail in the comback coffin was placed with under two minutes left in the match. STICK U would fall to 0-2.
While any playoff aspirations had been dashed by the second loss, we were still hopeful for our last game the next morning, slated to be played against a team called the Boozehounds. Surely that would bode well for us if the team stayed true to their monicker the night before an early Sunday morning contest. And yet, we also knew the challenge would increase as three of our nine players would not be available for the final test of the weekend.
We six brave remaining soldiers re-energized with food and drink at a local watering hole while we watched game two of the Stanley Cup Finals. What else would you expect a bunch of wannabe jocks to do when their not playing. We decided one period of cheering (for opposite teams I might add) in the bar was enough in light of our 8:30am wake up call. Most of us watched the Canucks defeat the Bruins, while one weary teammate sawed logs. Personally speaking, forty-year-old calves and hamstrings were already starting to feel the effects of running around on the tarmac a few hours previous.
In less than 12 hours, those effects would be ever more exaggerated. Running for another 20 minutes wouldn’t seem like a smart thing to do. But, to steal line from Henry V, “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers” soldiered on and into game three. The other team, 13 strong, sympathized with our numbers and chuckled when I asked if any of them cared to slip on a red STICK U jersey. Their sympathy would soon turn to cautious respect as we were able to keep the score knotted at ones and then twos through the first half of the game. Unfortunately, we started to hear a familiar tune as our depleted charges slowly gave way to fresher opposition legs. The game ended in a similar fashion to its predecessors with us on the wrong end of 5-3.
We battled hard from our four runners and single sub to our still over-achieving backstop. We felt no shame. There was more annoyance as we felt that with a couple more players we could have taken any of the three teams we faced. We also reflected on our nearly opposite 2-1 record in the same tourney last year. While we’ve no illusions about our level of play (we are in the Adult Rec Division after all), we still think we can, nay should, win every game – the competitive fires still burn bright. That same flame was evident in the Boy who questioned the refs and recalled missed opportunities that could have turned the tide in our favour in each match. Even rec ball hockey losses sting. It’s become readily obvious that he’s his father’s son.
We’ve already plans to go back to defend our honour with ample reinforcements in tow. The invites are going out today. STICK U will return.