My day started at 5 AM. I dragged myself out of bed, knowing I had a long day ahead of me. By the time I did that, however, volunteers were already hard at work putting up tents and fencing at Concord Pacific Place for Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer.
Hundreds of hockey players and volunteers braved the first downpour of fall to take part in the event on Saturday. In all, there were 55 teams playing over 130 games of road hockey over the course of 8 and a half hours, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the Canadian Cancer Society. You can still donate to Team PITB and we’ll be continuing our fundraising efforts over the next couple months.
Harrison and I arrived for check-in at 7:30 am and met our team, composed entirely of readers of PITB. We had never met in-person before, let alone played or practised hockey together. And yet, like an inspirational sports movie, our ragtag group of misfits overcame the odds (but not The Odds, who were not in our division) and the inclement weather, finishing the day with a stunning 4-1 record, outscoring our opponents 53-16.
All right, so we weren’t exactly the underdogs we expected to be at the start of the day. It turns out that the members of our team greatly undersold their abilities. Every member of the team contributed and rallied around one another, except for the moment when we all booed Harrison. More on that later.
Our first foe was PITB’s official women’s road hockey team, the Vancouver Wellwoods. This was our most anticipated match-up of the day, so it’s a good thing we played them early in the morning. The anticipation would have grown to unmanageable levels otherwise. Also, at that point in the day, my goalie pads were unencumbered by the weight of rain water and my legs weren’t composed entirely of wet spaghetti noodles.
To put it nicely, we demolished, dominated, and destroyed the Wellwoods. The final score was 11-3, leading to much gloating, ribbing, and razzing, though sniper Kristie Sykes was quick to point out that she scored two goals on me. Pfft, sure you scored two goals on me, but that’s only because you’re good at hockey. Ha! Take that!
Really, though, we beat the Wellwoods at their own game. Their longstanding motto has been “Training is cheating,” and, as my wife pointed out, we took it to the next level by only meeting each other an hour before game time. We also had the aid of our first round draft pick, Scott Rintoul, whose speed, skill, and red-headedness certainly made a difference. It was, unfortunately, the only game he was able to play with Team PITB, but he was there for us when it mattered.
The Wellwoods assured us it wasn’t over.
The victory cheered the spirits of Team PITB and had us envisioning a perfect 5-0 record. Thankfully, 99.3 The Fox and their stacked team of hulking behemoths came along in game two to coldcock us with some reality. Although we jumped out to a 1-0 lead with a greasy goal from Kostas Tsoupakis, we couldn’t hold them off forever, losing 4-1. As it turned out, we were the only team to hold The Fox to a single-digit goal total, so we take some pride in that.
Also we’re fairly certain they were all on performance-enhancing drugs.
The loss was the wake-up call we needed, as we rallied to win our remaining games against Qoola Frozen Yogurt Bar, Team 1040, and the Pint Beavers, who had a celebrity draft pick of their own, Thomas Gradin, to help them out.
In fact, my personal highlight was stopping Gradin on a breakaway. Heck, I’m going to put that on my resume.
Gradin did manage to get one by me, but it was disallowed because he bowled me over while scoring.
Another highlight was Team PITB coming together and bonding…over booing Harrison. In a game where we were already running away with the lead and after already scoring two goals on a shift, Harrison had the gall to dig a rebound out of the poor, middle-school-aged goalie’s pads and roof it. The boos and jeers were immediate and fierce. And hilarious. An ashamed Harrison went for a change and faced a litany of shoves and gut punches.
Harrison’s note: You guys are jerks.
I did almost lose my hand later in the day as it turned blue. In the cold and wet conditions, we feared that frostbite had set in. We were all set to amputate when we realized that my blocker had stained my hand. It wasn’t dying — it had just been dyed.
PITB is nothing without our fantastic readers and that was particularly true on Saturday. Without those of you that stepped up to join our road hockey team and help us raise money for the fight against cancer, our team would have just been Harrison and myself and we would have lost every game because Harrison is only good when the goalie is a middle-schooler. Big, big thanks go out to Kostas Tsoupakis, Dean Back, Kelvin Yu, Spencer Dubas, Taylor Mah, Ben Kiddie, Phuong Pham, Kevin Zecchel, Joe Ducklow, and Dylan Mclellan.
I’m fairly certain that Kostas’s body is composed entirely of hustle. Dean isn’t just the bassist for Theory of a Deadman, he’s also a two-way power forward with soft hands. Kelvin and Phuong were PITB’s own bash brothers and their willingness to play a stay-at-home defensive game was greatly appreciated by me as the goaltender. Spencer’s patience and ball control brought a calming presence whenever he came onto the pad.
Taylor Mah deserves special mention, as he donated $3000 to the cause, earning him every single one of the incentives we offered for donating, including having the blog renamed and rebranded in his honour for a week later this year. He claims that Saturday was his first time playing hockey of any kind. If that’s the case, he picked up the game incredibly quickly and used his quick feet effectively on the forecheck.
Ben Kiddie was the kid of the group and brought a youthful exuberance and willingness to crash the net to the team. Joe, on the other hand, brought veteran leadership and caginess and was just as likely to set up a goal with a nice pass as he was to bang home a rebound while battling in front of the net. Kevin provided one of the early highlights of the day, pulling off an absolutely sick spin-o-rama around a Wellwoods defender. And Dylan seemed to dominate possession every time he came over the boards/through the fence. I’m certain his Fenwick was through the roof.
All-in-all, it was an amazing experience and a very well-run event. We had a fabulous time and look forward to taking part in the event next year.Road Hockey, Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer, the wellwoods, Vancouver Wellwoods, wellwoods