Five Guys You Meet Playing Pickup Roller Hockey

Empire Roller Rink in Columbia, Mo., where pickup hockey on Tuesday was a highlight of my week in college.

Pickup roller hockey is always a blast. It doesn’t even matter if you play well that particular night. It’s about the cast of characters that takes time out of their otherwise unathletic lives to play the game they love. Here are a few guys you’re sure to run into at Open Hockey.

That Flashy Douche

There’s no denying this guy can play. He’s probably the most skilled guy out there, but my gosh, doesn’t he know it. Mr. FancyPants can usually found dogging it until the puck is on his tape. At that point, everybody else out there is transformed into a traffic cone. While helpless defenders swing their sticks at the guy’s legs, he unleashes toe drags, through-the-leg dekes, one-handed maneuvers and, if he’s feeling particularly obnoxious, the attempted “Michigan.”

Play some solid defense against this guy, and he’ll become frustrated quite quickly. I played against one of these guys just last week, and when one of my teammates stepped in front of him, he responded “Play the body on me again and I’ll break your f*&%ing jaw.” Spoken like a true roller hockey player.

Gramps

gramps

Most of the guys at the drop-in session are in their 20s or 30s, but that hasn’t deterred this Vietnam vet from lacing up every week for the past 40 years. Gramps might or might not have upgraded to inline blades from classic four-wheelers, but if he has, his blades are still the ones with the plastic chassis. You’d make fun of his old-school Jofa bucket, but as long as Teemu is still in the NHL, it’s not really out of style. His gloves were undoubtedly manufactured by Cooper and his stick is wooden because, well, duh.

Don’t let his age fool you though: this guy is tough as nails and knows every trick in the book. Try to take the puck around him and Gramps will get three slashes in on your wrists before you’ve taken two strides. Hear somebody yelling for a pass? It’s probably everyone’s favorite AARP member looking for a cheap steal. By the time you’re done with one pickup game, you’ll always want Gramps on your team. Just don’t get him started on Eddie Shore and ’39 Bruins.

Captain Serious

Although it’s endearing reference to Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews in NHL circles, there’s nothing to like about this guy. You might just be looking to get a weeknight workout in with some friends, but for CS, it’s Game 7 of the Cup Finals. While you were drinking Keystones in the parking lot with Gramps, CS had already been at the rink for an hour doing pushups while listening to Master of Puppets on loop.

When this guy scores a goal, you know he’s breaking out a celly that most would reserve for, you know, a game that actually counts. On the bench, he’s the one yelling at guys to hustle, demanding “short shifts” and dishing out the occasional “‘atta boy” or pat on the ass.

Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into when you head into the corner with CS. Yes, it’s a Tuesday night drop-in game, but that won’t stop him from taking you into the wall, moving the puck up the boards and holding you to the ground until the play is halfway down the rink. And, oh boy, don’t tell him to calm down. “This is hockey, not ballet”, after all.

Woody Woodpecker

CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACK. CLACK. Oh, do you want the puck or something? If Woody is open, he won’t be for long. This guy ALWAYS wants the puck and he makes it known to both his teammates and defenders alike. If Woody’s playing defense, chances are your pass to the point is getting intercepted and going the other way. Occasionally Woody might throw in a “Yo”, “I’m Open”, or “Over here”, but the effect is the same.

The Goalie Whose Fault That  Certainly Wasn’t

There’s nothing better than walking into the rink and finding out there are two goalies and you don’t have to shoot on the dreaded board or play posts. So, with that in mind, it’s important to be patient with goalies because it’s better than not having them. That said, this guy will drive you up a wall when he makes an excuse for every goal he lets up. It’s not the fact that his five-hole is the size of a pornstar’s and it’s not his fault he gets beat short side every time. Nope, it’s your fault or his equipment’s fault or a fluke.

Some classics:

  • “I haven’t let up a goal since I switched out of that Jofa helmet. That thing was awful.”
  • After letting up a goal on a floater from Center: “That wasn’t a soft goal. His slapshot is like a curveball.”
  • “Dude, you were screening me.”
  • “Thanks for the screen, man.”
  • “You gotta get that guy out of the front. I was screened.”
  • “What do you mean it hit off my glove? You’re blind.”
  • “It’s physically impossible to keep my stick on the floor protecting my five-hole.”
  • “Great defense, guys.”
  • “How was I supposed to know he’d go backhand?”
  • His pads are way bigger than mine.”
  • “If this were ice hockey, I would’ve stopped that.” (and then the other way around when he’s playing ice hockey)
  • “You wouldn’t have to worry about my play if you scored a few more goals.”

You know what, man. Go home. We’d rather use the shooter tutor.

Every rink or parking lot has its own cast of characters. Tell us about your pickup hockey crew in the comments.

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