By WESLEY HOST
One of America’s favorite games of yesteryear has come back onto the Mary Washington campus. Every Friday and Monday night, around 15 students go to the Cage to indulge in a pick up game of street hockey.
Sophomore Calvin Sherwood started campus street hockey in the spring semester of 2010. It gained a small following at first but gradually caught on to the student population. Originally they played with garbage cans, but they have since graduated to nets and pennies. Sherwood had played roller hockey in his home state of California and thought it was a good idea bringing it to an area with a good amount of hockey aficionados.
Teams are chosen and players don either neon yellow or blue pennies. Each team consists of three players and a goalie. Several players tape their sticks, some to get a better grip while for others the tape serves a more practical purpose, fusing together broken pieces. An orange ball is dropped in the middle of the rink for the face-off and two players tussle to gain possession.
From there, all the creativity begins. All of the offense is freelance, no set plays or formations. No real positions either, although some players are offensive minded and others defensive minded. Structurally, the team tries to remain in a rotating triangle. Give and goes are also a common strategy and passes are connected until a lane opens up, at which point it is time to strike.
The chain link fence acts as additional offensive players. Attackers rip the ball off of the fence, either to themselves or to teammates, for savvy assists.
On defense, it’s always man to man. Excessive body contact is outlawed, but players still body up their opponent against the fences.
The only protective gear is worn by the goalies, which consists primarily of catching equipment. Kneepads, a chest protector, a helmet, an outfielder’s mitt and a lacrosse glove make up the makeshift protection.
Everyone has different experience levels, some new to the sport and some who have played different versions of hockey for years.
Freshmen Corey Lyons has played ice hockey most of his life. The majority of his playing days were at the Governors Academy, a prep school in Massachusetts, yet he has also served stints with Little Capitals and the Prince William Hockey Club.
“I wish there was a rink around here, [but] you take what you can get,” Lyons said.
Street hockey allows him to get a little taste of the sport that he loves, despite the smaller following of ice hockey in this area compared to the New England region.
Offensive players like Lyons have to be especially clever in finding shots. The goals, about four feet tall and six feet wide, favor the goalie. Players have to bait the goalie with the ball to force him to come away from the goal if they are to have any chance to hit thenet. Yet there is occasionally the spectacular shot that is able to just clear the goalie’s shoulder.
Once a flourishing goalie, a car accident ended Steven Brown’s playing days on the ice. He now plays his traditional goalie position as well as a field player on the street, but he still favors the net.
“I just like the pressure of the game riding on your shoulders,” Brown said, while also adding that the playing surface does not matter to him.
Goalies spend more time on the ground then on their feet during an offensive attack. They sprawl out and stretch their bodies in front of their goal to prevent any chance of scoring. They slide and shift on their sides and stomachs to gain possession of the ball.
Cory Yeago also known as “the Russian” is in hockey terms, an enforcer. His large frame and shaggy facial hair create a daunting presense for would-be goal scorers. He snarls if opponents come close to his territory.
“We started playing roller hockey back in the day” said Yeago, primarily a roller hockey player. He has noticed a renaissance of sorts in the last year regarding hockey. “Hockey’s starting to make a comeback now that the Capitals are doing well,” Yeago said.
The D.C. area hockey team is currently in second place behind the Tampa Bay Lightning in the southeast division.
At the end of each month teams play in the Eagle One Finals. The final game is one game to seven goals to decide who will have bragging rights and ownership of the Eagle One Cup for the next month. It is composed of a water jug, several buckets, a sour cream container and a bowl, spray painted silver. Not too shabby a replica of the NHL’s Stanley Cup.
The Eagle One Cup is the pinnacle of street hockey success. The winning team gets the trophy in all of its spoils. Some eat cereal from it; others simply adore its presence daily. To the average eye it may look like a collection of containers or a cheap knockoff of the famous hockey cup, but to those in the street hockey club there is no grander trophy.