I went down to the Soldiers' Field tennis courts the other day to play street hockey for dear old Adams House against the concrete monolith of Mather.
When game time rolled around, only I, the Mather team and Tod Hartje--who was refereeing the game--were there. It was an Adams forfeit.
But since the nets were set up already, and there were willing participants, we all decided to play a game. We divided into two teams; Hartje, the varsity hockey team's first-line center, was on the other team.
At first, I thought I would have little chance against a guy whose team had played in the NCAA Tournament the last two years. After the first couple of minutes, I was right. Hartje and his team jumped out to an early lead due to some incredibly crisp passing.
Hartje was the quarterback of the **ense, opting mostly to pass rather than shoot. But when he shot from the outside, he got off some doozies that threated to go through the chain link fence surrounding the court.
When I played up on our defensive set, I was usually on Hartje, and I made a couple of plays I won't forget. Within a 30-second span, I blocked two of his shots. I never knew what it was like to look down the barrel of a loaded gun until then. Each one of the blocked shots had terrific hang-time. After hitting off my stick, the ball went 30 feet over the fence.
Our team slowly crawled back into the game, and soon the score was 6-6. We decided that the first team to eight would be the winner.
And with Hartje as the playmaker, the other team scored a pair of quickies to win.
Last week, I came down to represent Adams in a game against Kirkland. Again, since I was the only one there, we forfeited. But at least, when we chose teams, Hartje was on my team.
But Kirkland's goalie was on fire, making save after save. I took advantage of Hartje's instincts--which I had seen on the ice much of the year--especially the accuracy of his centering passes. Countless times, Hartje got the plastic ball through the defense. But I failed to shoot it into the net.
Soon another hockey player, sophomore C.J. Young, made his appearance on the court, on the opposite team. Immediately he began to scrap for every loose ball in the corners just like he does on the ice. Young got the puck almost every time.
With a few people subbing in and out, I eventually found myself playing against both varsity players.
It wasn't easy trying to defend both of them. Then I realized that there were many people my age who have played hockey against these two and lost. What chance, I reasoned, did I and my team have?
It wasn't easy trying to play against two varsity hockey players. When I see Hartje and Young from the stands, I see casual efficiency; they make the game look easy. From up close, their deft, quick movements are something to watch, even if it is only street hockey.