Players relive frozen childhood

Copied from the Houston Chronicle (Last names deleted to protect the guilty!)

April 1, 2008, 1:36PM
Trip to Wisconsin for pond hockey tournament stirs golden memories


What: USA Hockey’s Pond Hockey Championships• When: This past February

Where: Eagle River, Wisconsin

Houston connection: Marc “Coach”, Meyerland, Lyle “JC”, Clear Lake, and Ed “Fast Eddie Meebs”, West Houston

EVERYBODY has memories in their life about great times in the past. For people that love sports it may have been a choose-up baseball or basketball game. Unfortunately for most people, that’s where it stays. There are no alumni reunions of sandlot baseball or driveway basketball teams.

Marc, Lyle, and Ed, although they grew up in different parts of the country, all have a lot of ice hockey memories of youth games played on frozen lakes, rather than climate-controlled rinks, somewhere.

In February, the trio was presented with the opportunity to travel to Eagle River, Wisc. and play in the USA Hockey Pond Hockey Championships, to which their collective answer was “Why not?”. It looked like a great opportunity to relive some of their past lives. Marc, 60, Lyle, 49, (the baby of the group) and Ed, 52, all play recreational hockey on Sunday evenings for the Houston Strength at Ice Skate USA at Memorial City Mall.

At the Pond Hockey Championships the Strength trio played for the Larimer Park Owls. Larimer Park was the pond where [Ed] and childhood friends played their hockey in the Evanston, Ill. area.

Over 140 teams, about 850 players from 21 states, participated in the three-day championships on 18 rinks set up on Dollar Lake. Warming tents for players, concessions stands and the vehicle parking lot were all out on the frozen lake.

The Eagle River fire department made sure the playing surface was in good shape for the next day by drilling a hole through the ice to reach the water, which was then sprayed over the playing surfaces. There wasn’t a Zamboni machine to make sure the ice was nice and smooth. Eagle River, known as the Snow Mobile Capital of the World, has a population of about 1,400 when there are no hockey players in town.

[Ed’s] main concern about the games, after having lived in Houston for the last 22 years, was how he was going to stay warm.

“My blood has thinned a little,” [he] said.

However, he couldn’t wait to play some hockey like he did when he was younger.

“Lacing up the skates while sitting on a snow bank next to a pond or lake, playing with some of my best friends while growing up in Evanston, Illinois,” and his hockey playing friends from Houston, “was incentive enough to brave some cold weather for a weekend,” he said.

Each team in the tournament played three games.

Pond Hockey tournaments have some different rules than regular hockey. Rinks are approximately 75 x 150 feet, surrounded by shoveled snow banks. Hockey goals are 6-inches high and 4-feet wide. There are no goalies and only four members per team. If a puck goes off into a snow bank, players try to dig it out. If the puck is buried too deep, a player yells “puck” and the referee tosses out a new one.

In the course of a game, 15 or more pucks could be used, no slap shots are allowed and finals look more like football scores.

Teams are organized on age and experience, although as [Lyle] said, “four guys that grew up playing hockey in Minnesota were a lot better than four guys that play hockey in Houston.”

“The emphasis was not really on the competition,” said [Marc]. “It was on the unique experience of playing outdoors, playing in minus-12-degree weather, the temperature of our first game. It brought back people together whom you grew up with. I might have played with Lyle as a kid and Lyle moved away. Twenty years later the guys you played with as a kid are reuniting to play in this tournament.”

The other members of their team were friends of [Ed] from his days in Evanston.

“It was almost like we got to meet five more childhood friends that we hung out with the better part of three days, played hockey together, rode in the van together, had a beer and a bratwurst together, froze together in the sub-zero climate. Great camaraderie,” said [Marc]. “We felt like celebrities in Eagle River. Everybody was so nice and so friendly to us wherever we went.”

Even though the Larimer Park Owls only won one game out of three, [Ed], [Lyle] and [Marc] are counting the days to next year’s championships, which will again be held in the same location, and, they hope, the same temperature.

For more info and pictures about this great event, please see this site.


Game Recap Week 9

5/20/07 vs Skate Texas (5-3-0)

This Skate Texas team has significantly improved this season, already winning more games than they have in the past 3 seasons combined. they also sit two points ahead of us in 4th place, so a win today would begin to put us in prime playoff position.

In the past two games, we’ve given up goals very in early in the contest and this was something we hoped to avoid to start another game. While we were able to make it out of the first few minutes without giving up a goal, at the 4.5 minute mark, with Paul in the box for slashing, the Skate Texas power play made us pay, as Josh didn’t quite see a shot that went between Keith’s legs and found it’s way to the back of the net. True to our form though, Chuck brought us back to life just 19 seconds later with his 17th goal of the season to tie the game at one. Less than two minutes later, after Chuck won a faceoff, Lenny broke through the defenders and popped home our second goal to take the lead. Both teams continued to flash their offensive abilities, with Skate Texas coming down on us with numerous odd-man rushes, each time, only to be turned away either through stellar defensive play or with Josh slamming the door shut.

The second period continued down the same path, as we had numerous opportunites to grab a two-goal lead, but could not find the back of the net. Skate Texas also had numerous chances, a few 2 on 1’s, a 4-on-1 that Joe played beautifully to break up and a breakaway that Josh stopped with his stick, but left a juicy rebound for the trailer. He recovered in time however and made a fantastic blocker save on that shot as well. Lyle also stepped up the defense, as he used his body to break up a couple of rushes and got under the skin of the Skate Texas forwards. Halfway through the period though, after some work around the back and side of the net, the puck squirted free with Josh caught out of position and the Skate Texas forward roofed the puck over his outstretched pad to knot the game at 2. Just 2 minutes later, Skate Texas was pouring on the pressure again and a beautiful one-timer found it’s way under Josh’s left pad to give them their lead back. In the last five minutes of the second period, we were also forced to kill off two penalties, one of which would be carrying over into the third.

Starting the period, we knew we would need a quick score, but staying out of the penalty box became a bigger priority as Lyle was whistled for roughing at the 12 minute mark and Tom N. took a slashing penalty with 30 seconds remaining in Lyle’s penalty. After clearing the zone, the puck was shot back in right to Josh who attempted to clear the zone again, but hit Chuck with a pass instead (although it wasn’t planned that way!). Fargo raced down the left wing and made a perfect shot into the far corner of the net to tie the game with a 5-on-3, short-handed goal! While we were confident that we could grab another lead, Skate Texas turned it up another notch and consistently peppered Josh and the defense with attack after attack. We also showed some offensive life, as Dave had his second breakaway of the game late in the period, but again, couldn’t find the net. With two minutes to go however, our biggest challenge approached us as Chuck was called for holding. This meant we would finish the game short-handed. Skate Texas had ample opportunities and probably fired 5-8 good shots on net, with a couple leading to scrums after the whistle. With 20 seconds remaining and the puck tied up at the side of the net, one of their forwards took a jab at Josh after the whistle and Paul let him know, not so subtly, that that was not acceptable. The Skate Texas forward didn’t like that and punched Paul back in the head and wrestled him down to the ground. Keith tried to come in to get their guy off Paul, but another forward came over and grabbed him as well. Once the tangled bodies were separated, Paul and his opponent were given 5 minutes each for fighting and Keith and his man were given 3rd men in penalties. After a lengthy delay, the situation was sorted out and the final 20 seconds of this great game were played. After the faceoff, Lenny grabbed a loose puck and held it in the corner to burn the seconds off the clock and preserve the comeback tie we worked so hard to earn.

Final Score: 3-3 (4-4-1)

Next week we are off for the Memorial Day weekend holiday, however some of us will be playing on various teams in the Memorial Day Invitational Tournament. We’ll return in two weeks (6/3) against the Maple Leaf Pub, who are currently sitting in third place.

Game Recap Week 9

12/17/06 vs. Gang Green (3-4-1)

Historically, Gang Green has been a thorn in our sides, as we just cannot seem to beat this team. Every game has been close, but they always seem to come out on top. They were ripe for the taking as they had only won once in their past 5 games.

We never really seemed to get going in the right direction in this game, which saw an absurd amount of penalties being called. Even Josh was called for a penalty! It started early in the first period, as Lenny was circling behind the net, he got called for holding and when he approached the referee about the call, he gave him two more. At the end of one, we were down a goal and had spent a large portion of the period killing of penalites, which doesn’t help too much in the offense department. Nonetheless, feeling good about only being down a goal heading into the second, we pressed on. However, that was short-lived as Paul took a penalty, which was a bad call from the start. He then said something to the ref, got two more,  slammed the door to the box, while still mouthing off and got tossed from the game. Losing him certainly wasn’t going to help our already weak offense. When the parade to penalty box paused for a few moments, we managed to slip a goal in, knotting the game up and holding that way until the end of the period. The third period pretty much followed the same suit as the previous two, tight defense, not much space for offense and oh, yes, there were plenty of penalties. Gang Green managed to have a few called on them, but after they slipped a bad goal by Josh and we were trying to mount a comeback, the zebra’s seemed to have it our for us, calling a non-stop line against our team. When they were missing calls, Josh was getting visibly/vocally irritated. He was slamming his stick on the posts and screaming at the refs to call it both ways, and that’s when he also got called for an unsportsmanlike penalty. There was little to be done, as this game had been predetermined and Gang Green slipped another goal through on their way to victory.

Final Score: 1-3

Record: 4-4-1

Merry Christmas everyone, we’re off until January 7th, but we’ll see everybody before then at the Holiday Shootout Tournament, Jan 5th-7th.

Next up, a rematch with the Enforcers.