WINNING: WHAT MATTERS

Tournament street and roller hockey can be very competitive. Many teams play, few win. But accomplishment goes beyond winning.

Comportment means a lot. Great teams have won lots of championships while acting like a bunch of hooligans. They likely romanticized themselves as noble, stick-wielding gladiators. But they were really just jerks, and that’s what they’re most remembered for.

If you don’t win with a modicum of class, you don’t really win. This is RECREATIONAL SPORT. No need to saw somebody in half, or drop a million F-bombs. At times, I didn’t follow my own advice. Those incidents were thankfully rare, but I remain embarrassed.

Beyond that, what matters most is WINNING ON THE ROAD.

Winning any quality tournament is difficult. But, talent being roughly equal, which team would you pick?

*Team A, with its entire roster. Players sleeping in their own beds. Driving a mile or two to the rink. Playing before local support. Close calls going their way. Favorable scheduling and bracketing.

*Team B, with a roster decimated by work schedules, lack of cash flow and players who won’t travel. A non-stop party going on at the hotel. Driving hours to another town, or renting cars and claiming bags after flying. Rattled by hostile spectators. Screwed on close calls. A path to the championship game that resembles the Bataan Death March.

Both descriptions are exaggerated, except when they’re not. But road teams clearly conquer the odds by winning big tournaments.

Lots of tournaments have gone largely local. The economy is tight, and many teams got tired of the scenario facing Team B.

No point boring anyone with horror stories regarding homer officiating. But no tournament director sits down with the referees and says, “Make sure the home team wins.” On a close call, however, refs usually give benefit of the doubt to the guy they’re going to see tomorrow, not the guy they won’t see until next year. Easy decision. But home-team favoritism and domination is bad for business. Numbers drop.

Advice to tournament directors: IMPORT A FEW REFEREES. I always do so for my national tournament in April. Heightens credibility.

Hats off to any team that hits the road and comes back a champion. Makes the trip home a LOT EASIER.

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