February 04, 2010
Remember in street hockey how annoying it was to call timeout, grab the net, wait on the curb until a car passed by and then yell "game on"? Yeah, it doesn't seem all that agitating in comparison to games being delayed by Taliban rocket attacks, as players press themselves against wooden boards while sirens blare.
Christopher Torchia of Associated Press has a wonderful story today about hockey during wartime; specifically, the Kandahar Ball Hockey League that features soldiers from different nations playing some serious stick under incredible conditions. From the AP:
The five-a-side teams, including a goalie in helmet, leg pads, chest pads and gloves, battle with a rubber ball on a concrete-floored rink with wooden sidings in an open slab of desert surrounded by the "Boardwalk," a walkway lined with stores, coffee shops and restaurants. It's a social scene, humming with commerce, where soldiers go to relax after a day on duty in the desert. And maybe catch a little hockey.
There are more than two dozen teams drawn from different units in the league's two divisions, some of them coed and most of them Canadian. The U.S. Marines used to have a team. The Slovaks have one. Some team names are flamboyant - "Dust Devils" and "Desert Dogs" - while others are less so. One is called "Maintenance," after the Canadian military unit that fixes equipment.
As you can see, it's rather low-tech: The Canadian military gym donates equipment. The league runs through April, so there's still time for a major sports apparel company to see this story and do something both obvious and warranted: Giving these guys their own lightweight official sweaters with logos on them. (Get on it, Reebok; and you can contact them here.)
It's a great story and worth your time. Also worth your time: Remembering how many hockey fans are over there right now, starving for news and missing puckhead culture while serving their nations. It was a very big deal when the Stanley Cup visited an active war zone for the first time -- and that was three years ago. Which is sad.
Not to get maudlin here in our cesspool of snark, but: Get home safely, get home soon, and hopefully our society treats you with the proper respect.
Or at least provides some shin pads. Because a street-hockey slapper to a bare leg can be worse than a paint-ball wound.
Thanks to Puck Buddies James W. and Dan H. for the story tips.