Another Fine, Albeit Short, Father Son Ball Hockey Weekend

Last weekend, the Boy, a few of my buddies (including another father-son duo) and I made our annual, but perhaps final for now, pilgrimage to the Walter Gretzky Street Hockey Tournament. A tourney held in the hometown of the man known in hockey circles simply as The Great One and his almost as famous Hockey Dad. What better place for fathers and sons to play some puck and ball together. Coming off a stellar result, going undefeated and technically finishing in 5th place overall following the round robin  in the Adult Rec division last year, our cobbled together group of half young lads and half well-seasoned veterans like yours truly, long ago dubbed STICK U, were optimistic about our chances of showing well again. With the possibility of having a Friday night game, I had booked a hotel room for two nights with the tourney being located nearly two hours from home. As it turned out, all of our games were scheduled for Saturday, which afforded some of us the opportunity to spend Friday night “preparing” for the challenge ahead. And how better for finely tuned athletic machines to prepare than with two large pizzas, a couple of frosty beverages and a few pressure-packed rounds of hardly high stakes Texas Hold’em. I personally enjoyed the first two a bit more than the third.

texas hold'em poker

Yessir, just call me Father of the Year or                 Pre-Tourney Prepper Extraordinaire

We woke early and  just raring to go for our 11am game against a seemingly erstwhile side called the Sausage Runners.

One notable thing about Adult Rec Men’s sports teams is the variety of creative monikers, though many follow a common and predictably, sexually-oriented theme. Among my favourites in no particular order this year were Zidlicky My Balls, My Balls Your Chin, Multiple Scoregasms, Hamilton Phat Cocks, The Guts cuz it sounds mean and Kane’s Taxi Squad for the NHL Playoffs tie-in. The obvious testicularity of many of these male-constructed labels is troubling to be certain. A catchy name and homage to The Great one from a previous tourney worth noting was I Promised Mess I Wouldn’t Do This.

Surely, we’d be able to get off to a quick start against a team with a questionable nickname like Sausage Runners, which itself may be anatomical in nature. After a brief sighting of the tournament’s namesake (yup, Walter wanders the grounds giving interviews, taking pictures and signing autographs) and witnessing a brawl in one of the younger divisions, which spilled over into the spectating parents (cuz that’s what you expect to see at a just-for-fun charity tournament), STICK U faced-off against foe number one. We could tell early on the Sausage Runners were a little more dangerous than their lime green t-shirts and silly sobriquet suggested.  They scored a couple of quick markers on the Boy’s uncle (who only stands between the pipes once a year, but you’d never know it) which we answered with goals of our own. However, we found ourselves down 4-2 halfway through the 20 minute contest. Their lead would be extended by a phantom goal the ref claimed went off the centre post, but made the unmistakable sound of striking the cross bar. STICK U would battle back to make the game 6-5  only to see a two-goal lead regained and held till the conclusion. An 0-1 start would demand back-to-back victories, if we hoped to play at least one more on Sunday.



While the primary focus of such a weekend is ball hockey, the time after and betwixt games has certainly provided some highlights. This time is typically spent in lawn chairs or on beer laden coolers back behind our vehicles with tunes playing and non-stop laughter evoked by new and old stories only guys appreciate. Being well-seasoned we upped the post-game ante this year with a couple of bbqs, lump charcoal, applewood chips, thoroughly marinated chicken wings, halved limes and home-made bbq sauce prepared lovingly by a teammate.  To say the by-product of these ingredients was to die for would be a severe understatement. The Boy quipped they even rivaled hockey momma’s Portuguese chicken, a longstanding family favourite also prepared over a charcoal grill.bbq chicken wings

After a feed of wings, a couple of burgers, a distinct depletion of the cooler contents and a realization of the advancing age of a few, several amongst us were hard-pressed to leave the comfort of tailgating to play a second game.  But a squad called simply Awesome awaited our challenge, so off we went. The Boy surmised a team who called themselves Awesome, likely weren’t. Arriving at the designated “rink” for our next match, we found a ragtag group not unlike our own; except we had a bit of a young guy advantage we hoped to capitalize on. Perhaps the highlight of this game, beyond it being a 5-2 victory for the good guys, was the first occurrence of a full father-son line. The 4-on-4 format allowed for me, my buddy and our Boys to collaborate against an opposing foursome; a cool and memorable opportunity to be sure.

tailgatingOur spirits were buoyed by having evened our record at 1-1; thereby giving ourselves a chance to advance with a repeat win. A loss would signal an early tourney exit.  After a bit more tailgating with just enough time for muscles to start seizing up, we would be tasked with facing a team we suspected would be strong; though they hadn’t come up with a more imaginative name than Topper’s Pizza. As it turned out, some of their side were holding their pre-final game prep session right next to ours. We naturally encouraged them to get their fill of libations or to maybe even consider forfeiture, since they’d already won two matches on the day. What we didn’t fully realize in speaking with our foes-to-be was their relative youth. Hell, most of them were probably not even old enough to partake in wobbly pops.  We would become well aware the moment the ball was dropped to start our final match. I won’t repeat the final score, but suffice it to say, our weary legs were no match for those of our counterparts. Further, we agreed this team passed the ball and generally played at least one level above Adult Rec calibre, in which we were firmly entrenched. It leaves one to question what satisfaction a bunch of 20-somethings get from thoroughly defeating a slightly misfit bunch like ours. Not a tale of conquest I’d want to relay to my friends. Why wouldn’t they want more of a challenge at an appropriate level? With this in mind, we’ve pondered finding another tourney to enter next year, though my guess is we’ll find our fair share of sandbaggers there as well.  One thing is certain — STICK U will rise again.


Ladies, Gentlemen and Adult Rec Ball Hockey Fans — The 2013 WGSHT Edition of STICK U

Regardless the outcome of our last game and the tournament-ending death knell it dealt a disappointed STICK U contingent, I’m fairly confident the overall experience was positive. We’d cap the two-day junket with a team dinner at a local watering hole, watching the first two games of the third round of the NHL Playoffs, a few more drinks to drown our sorrows and a return to the Texas Hold’em table to recoup, in my case supplement, past losses.

We would rise the following morning with aching muscles, yet a burning desire to play at least one more game, undoubtedly fueled by the perception of having been wronged to some degree a mere 16 hours earlier. The drive home would be bittersweet and long enough for the aforementioned old muscles to seize up just a little more making the climb from the car a painful proposition.  A text from a teammate had earlier bluntly declared “I am paralyzed.” After dropping off our two passengers, the Boy turned to quickly say, “Thanks for the weekend Dad.” A simple gesture, but more than enough, coupled with two-days worth of laughs and even a wee bit o’ quasi-exercise, to validate the abbreviated weekend.


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.

STICK U logo

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.


team STICK U

2012 Summer Edition of Team STICK U with the traditional, albeit slightly offensive, STICK U Salute (Yeah, some traditions maybe shouldn't be so quickly passed on)

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.

Ball Hockey Induced Raspberry

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.

Ball Hockey Goalie

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.


Bankin’ on the Young Guns

The Boy, I and our STICK U teammates are off to our 2nd annual Walter Gretzky Street Hockey Tournament bright and early tomorrow morning; which means I should probably be hittin’ the hay and not the keyboard.  This is particularly true in light of the fact that we will be running a little lean over the next couple of days. We will play a minimum of three games over the next two days. It’s a 3-on-3 plus a goalie format.  We will have nine players tomorrow, but will lose three of those for our third game on Sunday. If we happen to secure a playoff spot and a fourth game it could get ugly.  Our saving grace is that we will be going in with five guys over 40, one in his 20s and three teenage whipper snappers.  Two other sets of fathers and sons will be joining me and the Boy.  Suffice it to say, the former five have every intention of letting the latter four do all the running and a majority of the scoring. With experience, but a decided lack of fitness on our side, we dads will play a more strategic game. For better or worse, we have five hours between games tomorrow to sit in the sun, swap stories and share a pop or two – the real made bonding stuff.

Win, lose or draw – I’m certain there will be tales to tell at the end of this weekend so I will leave it at this for now as I head off to dream of the victories ahead. The real victory, as always, will be having the chance to play alongside my kid. The chance to share a rink, albeit a concrete one, for a glorious weekend in the hometown of the the world’s greatest hockey dad no less.  Ya really can’t be that.