By Collin Insley, Staff Writer
For as long as the NHL Lockout lasts, I’ll be using this space to report my beer league roller hockey team’s weekly games. Follow me on Twitter @SoCalPuck for even more exclusive content.
It’s October in Orange County, California. The weather is starting to cool down (well, not really…), the leaves are changing, and it should be time to drop the puck on the 2012-13 Anaheim Ducks hockey season. Instead, you’re likely now far more familiar with the intricacies of revenue sharing and collective bargaining than you had ever hoped to be. It’s sad – though not the end of the world.
No, there may not be any NHL hockey to be had, but there are plenty of hockey leagues gearing up to start – from Southern California’s local ECHL team, the Ontario Reign to beer league teams of varying skill sets local to rinks spread across the Southland. I’m a member of one such beer league team. We call ourselves Motley Crew, and for good reason. Motley Crew is a collection of 9 guys almost exclusively culled from chance meetings at local pick-up games.
We play on Wednesday nights in the Adult Intermediate C division, at a Ducks-run roller hockey rink in Huntington Beach, CA called The Rinks Huntington Beach.
In seasons previous I would occasionally sub in for missing players a handful of times each season, though last season was my first on the official roster. We started last season strong, but hit a rough patch in the middle, losing four in a row, only to rebound and finish the season strong with a couple of emphatic victories.
Motley Crew, as currently constructed is composed of the following players:
Aaron Arak (D)
Alex Bletsos (F)
Aaron Delfs (F)
Jon Fleishman (F)
Danny Gandasetiawan (F)
Collin Insley (D)
Greg Schulman (D)
Jamie Tinnion (D)
Andrew Ton (G)
Aaron Delfs and Andrew Ton are the newest additions to the team. Aaron started playing for us as a sub last season, and will be playing the full season this time around. Andrew replaced our longtime goalie Patrick Demers, who could no longer play because of work commitments.
We had our first game this past Wednesday night, October 10th at 6:45PM against a team called Quicksilver. This season our league is enlarged due to a merger of two Wednesday night leagues from last season. The result is a ten team league, which means we’ll play most teams only once – which is unfortunate because it won’t allow rivalries to form. Last season, for instance, we developed quite a heated rivalry with a team called PM Machines.
During one game late last season, things got a little bit out of hand with punches thrown, goalies skating all the way across the rink to jump an unsuspecting player, and even the threat of a bench clearing brawl. It was more than a little bit embarrassing, and resulted in the suspensions of three different players (two for them, one for us). And as fate would have it, who were we scheduled to play in a consolation game the very next week? Why, the PM Machines of course. (Surprisingly, cooler heads prevailed in the “grudge match” game – I don’t think a single penalty was called.)
The PM Machines are again playing in our league this season, and we’ll play them on December 12th at 8:35PM. Circle that date on your calendars.
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The game against Quicksilver was a strange one. They’re a team that played in a lower division last season, where they went 7-3. By contrast, we went 4-6 in a slightly higher division, so in theory the game should have been pretty closely contested – and it was, though both teams took about a period to get up to speed. Part of that, I’m sure was the fact that both teams had short benches, starting the game with only one sub each. On our side, our captain Jon was traveling for work, Aaron Arak wasn’t going to be able to get off of work early enough, and Alex (who is habitually late to show up) didn’t get to the bench until the end of the 2nd period. Ah, the joys of beer league hockey.
Quicksilver got on the board first, though we quickly evened the score on a garbage goal potted by Danny. Although we felt like we had dominated the period, we weren’t burying our chances, and they scored another one to end the period. On the bench, in-between gulps of water and gasps for air, one of us made a point to point out that we carrying the play – we just needed to start hitting the net.
Danny, Aaron Delfs, Greg and I skated out to start the 2nd period, and BAM-BAM-BAM we scored three quick ones within the first three minutes of the period. Danny potted one on a breakaway, Aaron finished off a pretty passing play for a tap-in, and I sniped a five-hole goal off of a two-on-one break.
But Quicksilver would answer quickly, and back and forth we’d go for the rest of the game. With about 5 minutes left in the 3rd period, Quicksilver was leading 8-7 when I collected a turnover and quickly went the other way on a two-on-two. I angled left while Danny screamed down the right wing. As I approached the top of the circles, I moved the puck across my body, to my backhand so as to fake as if I was going to drive wide and around the defender. As soon as the defenseman bit, at exactly the right time, Danny burst into the hole and I threw a backhand saucer pass into his area. It landed on his tape, and with a quick flick of his wrists, he roofed it. We were tied 8-8.
I went to the bench for a breather. Once play resumed, it wasn’t long before Jamie intercepted a clearing attempt at the red line and dumped the puck back in hard on Quicksilver’s net – but their goalie wasn’t paying attention and before he knew it, the puck sneaked past him, off the post and in. We were up 9-8 with only about three minutes left in the game.
Play resumed, and moments later, Quicksilver took the first penalty of the game – a tripping infraction. With less than two minutes in the game, we’d be able to milk away the win. I hopped on the rink to start the power play, and indeed, we made safe passes, took smart shots, and smothered the puck whenever it found its way onto a Quicksilver blade. We were still trying to score another goal, to increase the gap, though Quicksilver’s goalie had other plans, making two spectacular gloves saves to sustain the score.
By the time the clock ran out, both teams were exhausted congratulated each other on a game well played. We’ll play them again November 7th. It should be interesting to see how each team will fare with their full compliment of players.
Do you play on a beer league team? Leave your own stories in the comment section below.