On the Backs of Our Youth…Once Again
Last weekend provided the third opportunity for the Boy and I to don the same uniform at the annual Walter Gretzky Street Hockey tournament in the hometown of arguably the most famous father/son hockey combo in the World. It seems fitting for us to make our yearly pilgrimage to Gretzky’s stomping grounds, which originally began as another tourney for me and my “older” buddies to use as an excuse to get together under our beloved STICK U banner.
I say originally began because this year, and last for that matter, witnessed a decided shift to younger team members. One of my fellow hockey dads (a former hockey dad in actual fact) and his son joined the fold last year. This year we added a friend’s 21 year old, with some recent Junior B ice hockey experience, between the pipes. The effect of said younger players has had a decidedly positive effect on STICK U and its ability to compete in the Adult Rec division. Previous STICK U forays into ball hockey and/or slo pitch baseball tournaments have ended with less than stellar records. In fact, it has not been uncommon for our ragtag group of late 30 and early 40 somethings who only get organized a couple of times a year to record an unflattering goose egg in the W column. And then, all of a sudden, particularly on the ball hockey front STICK U received an infusion of youth in the form of the Boy and a couple of buddies who began to turn our competitive fortunes around. Funny how much fresher, 17-year old-legs and lungs that retain ample amounts of oxygen can buoy a team. I’m thoroughly convinced the young lads actually make us all feel younger; not wanting to be stood up by our junior comrades. The same is true when we play younger teams (and there tend to be many of those even in the Adult Rec Division); almost like there is some sort of lesson needing to be taught to these upstarts. All the while proving to ourselves we still have what it takes.
And so, this past weekend in very un-STICK U-like fashion, our side was able to complete the round robin portion of the tournament with a 3-0 record; including two victories over teams comprised of much younger players and with a limited roster of 7 in a 4-on-4 format. Our combination of youthful exuberance and aged experience proved to be a lethal combination. However, and almost as if the Hockey Gods knew better, a clerical error on the part of tournament coordinators accidentally stripped us of our last win; temporarily removing us from the second round of the competition. The egrigious mistake was partially addressed and we retained a berth in round two, but we were relegated to 26th rather than our deserved 5th place ranking. We would consequently play the 6th ranked team. Of course, as our luck would have it, our protested 6th place foe had more young uns than we did; a dozen to be exact – our run to glory came to an abrupt, unceremonious halt on the back end of a 7-3 loss. We’d ultimately settle for 19th out of 81 teams. We weren’t particularly pleased with the our fated path and we let tournament officials know about it; though to be honest the elders on our team would likely be hard-pressed to play in a fifth or possibly sixth match over those two days. For my own part, I was admittedly and I’m guessing noticeably hobbled by leg and back muscles screaming at me in defiance of my boyish weekend exploits; exploits which may have included a couple of late night, post-game, celebratory beverages. I was pretty sure I could hear my older comrades’ muscles doing their own vociferous pleading. Later in the day those same muscles stiffened into seemingly untenable knots soothed only by a hot bath and copious epsom salts. So it seems next year’s incarnation of STICK U might continue to push the youthful envelope in search of Adult Recreational Street Hockey dominance. Yet, this elder will continue to play on as long as these noisy limbs will allow.