Wednesday, July 5, 2017

An Ode to Taylor Field

Taylor Field, a home of legends
Some great, many tragic
To Rider fans and the CFL
A place of football magic

To soccer, on the other foot
That field is hard and fast
It cost us games, it cost careers
The nightmares, they will last

Tears will flow and dreams will end
When those stands are made to fell
But to that pitch, that vicious bitch
You dear, can rot in hell.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Our Captain, Conrad

My first memory of Conrad was that he was the scoring demon for a team of young guys that we developed quite a rivalry with.  One night in the old indoor soccer facility I chased him and the ball into the corner, he pulled the ball out and tried to get away from me.  I met him at each turn and I finally forced him into an outside position and I said “Shoot from there you A** Hole”.  He did and my next comment was “Nice goal”.

He was friends with a player on our team so next season we convinced him to sign with the Roadrunners.  We converted him to defense, a correct decision that he never forgave us for.

Eventually he became our captain.  It is extremely difficult to be a person on an un-coached team that everyone will look to for direction.  Conrad had all the attributes a captain needs.  For starters he didn’t want the job, and he led by example, not speeches.  If we needed a goal to win he would go score it.  If we needed a big tackle to win he would do it.  He chose his words carefully and we all trusted him. 

An example, one night we were playing a yappy young team at Leibel Field and a kid got in my head.  He insulted everyone on our team and in a fit of stupid anger I took him down, getting a yellow card in the process.  A rare occurrence for me.  In the pub after the game I was explaining to everyone why I did what I did and Conrad said “I missed all that, I was playing the game”.  MESSAGE RECEIVED.  I have never done anything like that again.  That is a leader.

Because I am a better drinker than I am a soccer player my favourite part of the night is always the post-game trip to the pub.  It was at O’Hanlons that I really enjoyed Conrad’s company.  Well-read and opinionated, a great listener, I truly enjoyed our conversations about music, movies, politics, golf, soccer and the never ending saga of the people in his building that kept stealing his cats.  And of course there was the road trip to Weyburn, one of my favourite nights ever.

I thought it would go on forever but it didn’t.  A couple of years ago the team made some decisions that Conrad had a serious disagreement with.  The next season he quietly disappeared and now plays for another team in our division.  Last summer I actually had to mark him for a whole game.  I hated every single minute of that game. 

So now I limp my broken old body to the pub after the games and I silently tip my glass to the empty chair at the table that should be Conrad.  MESSAGE RECEIVED Conrad, message received.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


When I watch soccer, or any sport actually, what I am most amazed at is how quickly the athletes think and make decisions.  I have never been blessed with that "vision", what football players (american style football that is) call the game "slowing down".  When international soccer legend John Schepers played on the team I quickly realized that much of the misunderstanding between us was because he was playing the game five seconds into the future, and I was always five seconds in the past.

It is probably not a coincidence I typically play defense which is slightly more reactive than offense.  Although I clearly remember occasions playing with Gerry Kane when the offense would be attacking one side of the pitch and Gerry would be sliding over to the other.  Just as I wondered where he was going the other team would recognize the side they were on was fruitless and they would cross the ball only to have it intercepted by Gerry who was already waiting for it.

An irony now that I am reaching the later stages of my career is that the game is starting to "slow down".  Unfortunately so am I.  For the first time I can see the passing alleys before they open.  When I get the ball I always look for Kirk (I will never get over that 29 goal 1999 season) but I instinctively know that Giles is sweeping down the right side and Dave has turned and is patiently waiting exactly 10 yards in front of me for a ball at his feet.  Too bad that while I weigh these options some kid clammers into the back of me.

When it comes to scoring however, I think there is no hope.  I often wonder what strikers see as they approach the net with the ball.  I imagine they see a limping three foot high goalie with an arm in a sling and huge cavernous spaces to shoot at.  Through the gaping scoring opportunities they look through the back of the net into the crowd and see super models yelling "score one for me Kirk, score one for me".

I realize I have no scoring touch so on my few forays up field I study the goalie looking for tendencies, I visualize, on stoppages I count out the paces to the front and back post, I visualize again, trying to anticipate where the ball will go under different scenarios.  But when the ball is at my feet and I look up, do you know what I see?  NOTHING.  Maybe it is because of the adrenaline, maybe my natural defenseman's complete fear of failure, maybe I just suck, but I see nothing.  No diminutive invalid, no huge open spaces to shoot at, no super models chanting "we love you Brucey".  The bloody net simply disappears.

Bruce Crouter (30+ years of league play, one open field goal - Thanks again John)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Great Night

Is a road trip tournament too much to ask?  Apparently it is.  I have always wanted to go on the road with my team.  In 25+ years of playing it has never happened.  Then I saw it on the schedule...a game in Weyburn in August.  A Wednesday but we could make it work.  I started planning in May.  When the time came though the plans unraveled, everyone had an excuse.  I have to work, I am married, I am afraid of the dark.  To hell with it, I was still making a trip of this.

The night started at Starbucks.  We met in the parking lot and assembled a convoy.  High on caffeine we headed for "the Opportunity City".  On the way in we passed the Roadrunner gas bar and saw the opportunity at once.  A patched together Roadrunner squad of 11 battle weary men, no goalie and a pretty good attitude.  As the young lineswoman stripped down to her sports bra and played with a soccer ball in front of our bench the Roadrunners stretched and finished their cigarettes.   We started the match with the fiery Bruce Weild in net.  As expected the powerful young Weyburn squad attacked in waves firing at every opportunity at the top of the net.  Not good enough.  Eventually they started to break down and the Roadrunners countered with three Dave Charge breakaways against the most moronic off side trap at half I have seen since the Roadrunners squad of the early 90's.  Key the cute lineswoman to flag every one incorrectly.  It was left to Adam Ailsby to weave through the entire Weyburn fullback line, ask our good friend Laurie the ref if he was onside and then run the last half and score.

The second half was more of the same as the Roadrunners dug in with guile and tenacity.  Wave after wave was repelled and slowly we took control.  The Weyburn crowd grew frustrated as the night sky engulfed the game.  Alfie brilliantly asked for a water break after a prolonged Weyburn attack.  Unfortunately this lead to 12 minutes of extra time in pitch blackness.  In a match that will make me as proud of my team mates as anything I have ever been proud of the Roadrunners smashed to pieces everything Weyburn had to offer.  Ailsby eventually put the nail in the coffin catching the Weyburn keeper off his line popping one in from 35 yards.  I was extremely proud to take on my roll at midfield late in the match running as hard as I could at long balls only to be smashed to the ground repeatedly as the ball was cleared down the street.  Tick tick tick...Weyburn looses.

We left Weyburn, a city torn by lightning, a city defeated, with a quick stop for a picture at the Roadrunner gas bar.  We headed to O'Hanlons, the entire team united.  We drank, laughed and told stories until closing.  Connie took the next day off because he was closing the bar with me.  What a guy.  I stumbled out at closing, drunk, proud and victorious.  I finally had my road trip, all in one night.



Goalies are very unique players.  Every goalie I have played with or against has a completely different style.  Here are a few examples:

Pure violence  - Many years ago I played with a goalie from Cape Breton.  After an opposing player told him he was going to break his ribs, our goalie broke the mans chin bone on a corner kick.  He stood over the guy as he rolled around bleeding from his nose and eye and told him quietly to keep out of his penalty area.  To this day when I hear "keeper's ball" I hit the deck.

Style - Again out East I played with a friend, Garth Tupper, who one year grew his hair long, bought bright red shorts, shirts and gloves and grew a handle bar moustache.  It drove me crazy to hear opposing forwards suddenly saying this guy is great, don't bother shooting from outside the area.

Attitude - Tim Benna played for the Roadrunners for years.  He brought an aggressive attitude and bright red baseball shoes with sharpened blades for cleats.  Once I was guarding the post on a corner when Tim punched the first save back into danger.  The ball was fired right back at my chest.  Tim recovered and punched the ball and my head into the post.  He told me off for being in his f***ing way.

Guile - Eugene Mooreside "Gene the Machine" had Attention Deficit Syndrome (ADD).  In most years the constant and changing threats faced by Roadrunner goalies would suit ADD, but ironically, Gene played in an era when the Roadrunners actually controlled the ball for long periods of time.  It was quite often an adventure.  I would always cringe when Steve Masyoluk would smash a ball into Gene in the warm up to keep him alert.  My favorite memory was in indoor.  Twice Gene had his coke bottle Buddy Holly glasses broken in a game.  Both times the referee stopped the match and Gene shouted he could keep going.  It made you wonder what he saw?

Talent - Max Lingard, the self proclaimed "sexiest footballer alive" was the most skilled goalie I have ever played in front of.  He was fast, had great hands, and could fly through the air.  He could kick a ball 60 yards and throw it 50.  He quickly realized the key to winning with the Roadrunners, get the ball directly to the forwards.

Confidence - Scott Samis's ego could stop a ball in mid air.  His confidence was incredible.  He was great to play in front of because he truly believed that he should have been able to stop any shot on net, no matter whose fault it actually was.  In 1998, Scott stopped an amazing six penalty shots in a row.

Commitment - Mike Raymond, like his father before him, inspires the fullbacks around him with his quiet confidence and his commitment to making saves.  He is the kind of guy you put your body on the line for, because he would take a hit for the team.  If he has bad things to say about the fullbacks, he keeps them to himself.  I like that.

The Kitchen Sink - There have been many others who filled in between the pipes.  Some examples, Schepers would break his ribs or go blind every time he went in net to rest his knee.  Jason Randall gave everything he had, including gallons of blood.  Darryl Luterbach has always been there to back the team up in our hour and a half of need.  Even little Spartak tried, his saves were OK but his 11 yard goal kicks all came flying back faster than they went out.

It has been a pleasure and an honor to play with all of these memorable and great players.

Nial O'Hanlon Retirement

Nial O'Hanlon Announces Retirement from the Roadrunners 

Ending weeks of speculation Niall O'Hanlon today announced his retirement from the Roadrunners (at least for now).  Niall cited irreconcilable differences with Roadrunners management and coaches as the main reason for his departure.  Soccer insiders had speculated that Niall's bonus laden contract became almost worthless when his field time was reduced this past outdoor season.  "For fecks sake, when they said I would get $1.2 million if I played more than Crouter, I thought I was rich" a frustrated Niall O'Hanlon remarked at the end of the Roadrunners most recent successful campaign.

Others have suggested that it was his commitment to O'Hanlons Pub that led to the decision.  The demands of running a pub outside the Old Whorehouse district have perhaps taken their toll.  Also, recently Niall found himself off-side with the Hoteliers in the recent smoking ban debate.  This may have affected his decision to return to the beloved squad that welcomed the young midfielder some four years ago.

Since Niall is still a young man, other have suggested he is distancing himself from the Roadrunners in order to join another squad.  The team's recent fall from grace could have driven the midfielder turned barkeep to the Chargers.  A recent publicity shot of the Chargers provided ample evidence that Niall is in their plans.   All sides have denied this rumour citing a communication mix-up for the picture.

Either way, this is a sad day for the Roadrunners.  Many were brought to tears by the news:

Niall, was he the guy at the pub, at the field or both?  That reminds me, I have to return my shirt
- Colm Dunne

When Niall was out there I never had to worry, hey Niall, do you want my shirt back?
 - Dave Smith

Niall was a friend, a boss, and much more.  I wonder if he wants my shirt back?  It's ripped.
- Nev Fernandez

I loved playing soccer with Niall, although I really liked Gaelic football better.  I should ask if he wants his shirt back. - Paul Laughran

The sad news for the Roadrunners was softened by Niall's other announcement today that the Pub has renewed its sponsorship deal with the team.  A one time cash injection has been provided for the indoor season and potentially new uniforms in the Spring.  An enthusiastic Dick Stinson would not comment on the amount of the financial arrangement but did hint that it would cover most of the teams fines.

In honour of the renewed partnership O'Hanlons Pub is introducing an all vegetable pizza called the "Roadrunner".

Niall, you will be missed greatly on the pitch.  We will see you at the pub.

95 Fullback Minutes - 2003

95 Fullback Minutes 

0 minutes - Whistle Blows, Coach shouts "Bruce, that's your man".

5 minutes - I catch up with a forward that I thought was faster than me, I begin to relax.

7 minutes - Coach shouts "Bruce, that's your man".

10 minutes - Intercept pass, send ball up to Duncan, coach shouts " don't stop and admire your pass"

15 minutes - Get called off, replaced by Niall who tells me to "enjoy my rest because it looks like I need it".

30 minutes - Subbed back in, I tell Niall it's too bad he has already lost a step at his age.

31 minutes - Coach shouts "Bruce, that's your man".

35 minutes - Receive ball from keeper, relay it to midfield who send Kirk off to score on a breakaway, I quietly compliment myself for starting that play.

37 minutes - Gerry shouts "Bruce, that's your man".  Where the hell did he come from, I thought he was hurt?

40 minutes - John scores - I start to actually enjoy the game.

42 minutes - I "give" a ball to Duncan then remember to do something, oh yeah "go".  I get the pass and lead the ball back to Duncan at midfield.  Now I stop to admire the pass, screw the coach.

45 minutes - Halftime - great speech from the coach.

60 minutes - I am finally subbed back in.  Niall doesn't say anything this time.  I think to myself it must be time to lock down this game.

65 minutes - See a big hole at midfield and shout to Anderson "Bruce, that's your man".  Oh crap, now I am doing it.  He gets as mad as I usually do.

70 minutes - I jump up for a header on a corner kick and my man drops to his knees when he realizes he can't get the ball.  The referee points to the spot.  I am crushed, I let the team down.

71 minutes - Sterling takes a yellow complaining and Darryl helps me up off the pitch, that makes me feel a little better.

75 minutes - I am subbed off, I sit by myself.  Coach comes to ask me what happened, I am glad to see he isn't pissed at me.

92 minutes - Whistle blows, we win the Shield.  I run to congratulate the keeper.  On the way I think about the pain, the obstacles overcome, the commitment, the losses to United, the unmet expectations of the past, and the completely met expectations of today.

93 minutes - Dick raises the trophy

95 minutes - My five year old son asks the simple question "did you win the trophy".  With tears in my eyes I say "yes we did" and I hand it to him.