Celebrating a life’s milestone

Not a lot of life’s milestones achieve 25 years anymore. Jobs at the same employer rarely endure that long, let alone careers. People rarely live in the same apartment, same home for a quarter of a century. And fewer couples are attaining their silver wedding anniversary.
So I’m pretty proud that the little pick-up road hockey game I started with some buddies one fall morning 25 years ago is still going on. In fact, it may rank as one of my life’s achievements.
Over the years, generations of players have come and gone; only two of us remain from that inaugural match.
We’ve played through all kinds of weather. We’ve survived injuries, bad feelings, spells of complacency, goalie crises, shoddy equipment, no equipment and even the occasional locked-up court.
Through it all, we’ve been driven by the game’s spirit of camaraderie, the joy of competition without consequence, the connection we forge with the changing seasons and passing years, the pursuit of lasting youth.
Most of the games have been documented by renowned road hockey beat reporter and photographer Jay Suburb; first in a photocopied handout, The Road Hockey News, then on a Geocities website, Road Hockey Illustrated, and for the past 13 years on the blog, roadhockey.net.
Sunday, we officially opened Sunday Morning Road Hockey’s silver anniversary season.

Mario Bartel road hockey photojournalist storyteller communicator
Colonel tries to beat Joker with a wrap-around late in Sunday’s regluar season opener.

Quick shots a victorious recipe for undermanned team in season opener

Colonel’s languid attempt to wrap a shot around from the back of the net past Joker’s outstretched pad late in the game may have been the longest anyone on his team possessed the ball Sunday.

And while he didn’t score on that play, the wily veteran and his mates used quick crisp passes and timely shots to overwhelm their opponents 15-10 in Sunday’s regular season opener.

Playing without the benefit of a spare player to shift off for refreshed legs, Colonel and his mates kept the pressure on all game by keeping the evil orange plastic ball moving, even if their feet weren’t. That kept their opponents on the run, and Joker on his heels.

“Our passes were a little crisper, our shots were a little faster,” said Colonel. “Sometimes all you need is that extra split second and they go in as opposed to not going in.”

Joker admitted he had trouble tracking the ball at times as it moved quickly back and forth between the opposition’s stick blades.

“They were one-timing shots, and we were taking our time.”

The up-tempo playmaking was rewarded by a quick 5-2 advantage. But Colonel and his mates were wary to keep the pressure on.

“We came out pretty fast, but we learned pretty quick the game would go on for a while,” said the veteran centreman. “We had to keep our noses down and take chances when there were opportunities.”

Joker said his side’s man advantage may have kept their legs fitter but dulled their mental sharpness. Knowing they might be able to outlast their opponents in a longer game, played hung onto the ball, made the extra pass, moved the ball around the court more before taking a shot.

“We were taking our time,” said Joker. “We were accepting the pass and then setting up to shoot as opposed to shooting right away.”

That gave Lak Attack ample time to set up for saves. And, but for a brief lull in the second period, he was equal to the task.

That lull coincided with the underdog’s renewed effort sparked by Joker’s temper tirade  after successive goals stretched the lead even further. Kid, Bam Bam and even a pair by the Living Legend pulled the underdogs to within a goal, 10-9, at the second break.

But that was as close as they got.

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