It's back: the weirdest ice hockey blog in the world

Rod Sarich has no real concept of editorial deadlines.

Wednesday, 30th December 2015, 7:25 am
Rod Sarich - an unusual chap.

So his latest missive is...well, rather late.

But give the lad his due.

Chicken and pasta, yummy.

He's one hell of a writer, late or not.

Sit back (this could take some time) and enjoy the brilliantly entertaining ramblings of Rod Sarich - Sheffield Steelers' very own Canadian e-Shakespeare.

"Our weekend trip up north to play at Fife Flyers, then back to Sheffield to face Belfast Giants, felt a bit like a Middle Earth saga.

The team had decided that we would travel up on the Friday, to avoid any potential delays caused by the recent closures of the Forth Bridge.

Normally it would have been a regular travel day, leaving Saturday morning and driving the 6 or so hours up to Fife for a 7:00 game.

Instead we had a quick training session Friday morning, packed up the wet gear, and got straight on the road. However, we didn’t go very far before our first stop.

To prime us for the long journey ahead, the bus dropped us at Tinsley Trans Café were we had a delicious lunch that, for some, involved 3-4 helpings of chicken and pasta, and some braised steak for dessert.

By some, I mean Tyler Mosienko. He’s got to rank in top 10 for all time big eaters that I’ve played with over the years - definitely top 3 for Steeler’s players.

Andrew Sharp was a heavy consumer. On our road trips you’d frequently find him destroying a family sized Tupperware container full of tuna pasta bake, but not before he’d supplemented the dish with a couple of layers of ham, beef, turkey, or whatever else could get his hands on from the team sandwich supplies, nuking the whole thing in the microwave to complete with a topping of melted cheese slices. Yuk.

And then there was Jerramie Dommish. He might have been one of the fastest skaters I’ve ever played with; he was definitely the fastest eater anyone has ever dined with.

Picture a starving dog eating a 20 oz, T-bone… after chugging a litre of Red Bull. He attacked the food. Watching him almost coming out of his chair while devouring pizzas at G Casino post Sunday matches, I often thought he presented a good case for the development of a dinner chair seatbelt.

Still, given Mosi’s smaller stature, pound for pound he’s up there with the best. The amount he packs away into that small frame is truly impressive. And he’s not picky either. Like a Mr. Fusion on the back of a futuristic Delorean - banana peels, beer, beer cans - anything goes.

As he’ll tell you himself, he’s runs a bit hotter than most. He’s always on high idle so he needs the calories. Watching him on the ice, you wouldn’t disagree. Myself, I smashed a respectable two plates and clambered back onto the bus, looking forward to a relaxing 5 hours of uninterrupted BBC 4 history docs on the iPad, and possibly a cat nap. No such luck.

For one, Russ Moyer had also come prepared for the long journey.

Way back in September he’d been ridiculed for enjoying an economical out of season purchase of a Christmas DVD boxset from the rest services on one of our trips. With the season of justification upon us, he wasn’t going to miss his opportunity to display the fruits of his forward thinking.

First out of the box? Of course, it’s National Lampoons Christmas Vacation - Chevy Chase’s enduring Christmas classic. I’ve seen it a million times, but it’s hypnotic – it makes you watch.

Unbelievably, Daisy (Brad Day) has never seen this film, nor has he ever heard of “Chavy Chase”. It’s another reminder that I’m getting older.

So halfway through the movie, with Desbiens getting tired of his Open University business class studies (big shocker there, I feel for your Dessy) and an unusual gathering of bodies in the “Study Zone” at the front of the bus, someone has the bright idea to play some cards.

The game of choice is Schnarples. I haven’t played for years and it’s every man for themselves as we all try to win tricks and avoid ticks, with the eventual winner racking in a moderate sum from all tick earners. The more ticks you accumulate, the more you owe. Vestberg, being the professional poker ninja that he is, can smell blood in the water. My blood.

But card shark is probably the wrong label here. It’s more like card octopus. Admittedly, it doesn’t exactly roll of your tongue but it’s a damn accurate analogy to the way he managed to play two game of online poker on his phone while simultaneously fleecing me for £15!

After several hours of monetary forfeiture, the bus pulled off at the services so we could stretch our legs and grab a quick bite before the resuming our journey.

Thankfully the services we stopped at were newly updated and included a Waitrose and a KFC. It was a tough decision choosing between a high class Waitrose ready meal or a bucket of the Bird. I needed to let my wallet cool off, and was seriously leaning towards the Colonel's addictive delights, but in the end I was able to find a pack of nearly out of date ham and some exotic olives at Waitrose. Sharpy would have been disappointed. Eventually we arrived, in the dark, at our hotel at Pettycur Bay.

Just north of Fife, we’d heard that the hotel had a great view across the Forth towards Edinburgh but at the time of our arrival we were unable to see anything. Feeling a bit wound up from

riding the bus all day, we dropped our bags in our room and went in search of a relaxing pre-bedtime pint.

The hotel wasn’t as labyrinthine as some that we’d stayed in but we did get a bit side-tracked exploring the various amenities that the, hilariously named, Bay Hotel had to offer. There had a swimming pool, arcade room, snooker room, gym, gift shop, and laundrette - presumably to service the rows of caravans that, owned by the hotel, populated the rest of the hillside.

Eventually we located the hotel lounge. Two pints of Belhaven Best were being poured, and looking rather delicious, when we were informed by the staff that they couldn’t accept cards, nor could food or drinks be charged to the room. Without Dessy’s OU text books on hand to inject a bit of economic theory into the Bay Hotels current payment policy, and combined with the end-of-shift-look coming from the lady behind the bar, business enlightenment didn’t seem like it was going to be a good option here.

And being recently cash skint, and I not wishing to go so quickly grovelling to the Bank of Vestberg, we emptied the shrapnel from our pockets and pilfered the cracks of the lounge sofas, raising just enough of to cover the pints. Happy days!

The morning revealed a very nice view indeed, excluding the shallow water oil rig that featured just off shore from the large open beach which had been exposed by the low tide.

Back to food, breakfast was equally impressive. It included eggs, black pudding, fried potato scone, bacon, sausage, and a nice bit of haggis, which most of the newbies tried, and liked!

After such a formidable breakfast, and with no pre-game arranged, some of the guys headed to the snooker room. A few of the others were headed with our fitness guru, Danny, for a few laps of low impact water rehab in the leisure centre pool. I fancied a walk and headed off down the road to scope out the local golf courses.

The first course was not that far east of the hotel and when I got there it was looking pretty busy. I popped into the starters hut for a scorecard souvenir and received a mixed welcome from the man behind the counter. Apparently not a hockey fan. Or, as he put it, “not a fan of hockey players”. I can only guess that the Flyers hadn’t been paying him the correct amount of homage when visiting “his” course.

The next stop on my tour lay to the west of the hotel and originally my plan had been to walk back along the beach, out past the oil rig, and on to the next local golf course. But halfway along the beach I realised that my trainers were a bit under matched for the puddles left from the receded tide. Also it was a lot further than I’d reckoned, so as I passed in front of the hotel I clambered up the hillside and off the beach.

It was a decent little walk, and it felt like I’d been gone a fair while but back in the snooker room, the war of attrition raged on. Legue vs. Day if I remember correctly, with sole spectator Nelson sitting in the corner looking hypnotised by boredom.

The aquasizers were still at it as well. But by this point a kid’s pool party had taken over. It was a strange combo - our lot’s professional rehab session taking place amidst the inflatable

giraffes and water wings. Not sure if Planter got a piece of cake, but with all of his bobbing and weaving though the 4 year olds it looked like he’d earned one.

The next item on the game day schedule was the team pre-game meal which, as it turned out, couldn’t hold a candle to breakfast. After some side salad to start, which everything indicated had been donated by the low tide, freshly raked off the beach, the main course was presented as a kind of pasta dish which I was later informed featured chicken, or possibly turkey. I hadn’t really taken notice. I’d been more preoccupied with determining if the white sauce was cream or Dulux based, leftover from the yearly touch up

of the carbonara coloured caravans. I’d have put my money on an all-weather oil based product had it not been for the turbulent afternoon nap provided by my lactose intolerant roommate which pretty much cleared up the issue.

In the end I couldn’t stomach very much. Looking across the table and noticing that the flux capacitor’s meters were reading a bit low, I passed mine on to Mosi for clean-up and went back to the room in search of some complimentary ginger nuts.

The game that night went well enough and the post game meal provided by the Flyers was, as always, fantastic. And after a quick stop at the late night Tesco for water and snacks, we began the long bus ride home.

This time there would be no schnarples. My wallet was still feeling the hurt, and Vesty was circling the tables with that dead kind of look in his eyes. Instead I opted for a couple educational hours on the iPad watching the “History of Ceramics” and “British Highwaymen” before planning an attempt at falling asleep.

It’s taken a long time but I’ve finally mastered the art of sleeping upright in a bus chair. A good pillow always helps, as do ear plugs or earphones even, but the most important underlying factor is mostly beyond one’s control – the ever-dubious coach seat.

Some seats are better than others, and it’s mostly down to the material. Leather may look nice on a fancy new coach with microwaves and tv’s but in terms of sleeping it’s the last thing you want. The combination of space age material team track suits and contoured leather seats basically equates to sitting on banana peel – you’re continually sliding out of the chair and onto the floor. This is not ideal for the upright sleeper.

Even for those who attempt to sleep horizontally across the aisle will curse the fancy leather seats – though more for the back crippling ass contours and non-retracting seatbelt clips than the leather itself. As a former horizontaller myself, I often found myself dreaming of the board flat psychedelic seats of the 1970’s buses which starred in my junior days, only to wake to dislodged ribs and serpentine spine.

The other concern of the vertical sleeper is the location of the window dividers. The wily veteran will carefully choose a seat with a reclined position that leaves his head far away from any slumber prohibiting partitions. He’ll also double check to ensure that the recline function of the chair actually reclines, and stays reclined.

Six hours of gradual returns to your upright starting position will put even the most relaxed person in a bad place. Especially when the estimated arrival time is 6:00am!

Thankfully our current bus is a real gem. Wide, moderately flat, non-leather seats, with a generous recline, are available to all (except those on the back row). As a result, I slept for almost three hours and woke satisfactorily with a steady stream of drool running down my chin (the downside of the vertical sleeper). However my smile was quickly eradicated as I realised, via my Google maps app, that we’d just come off the M1 for what turned out to be a rather long detour through Wakefield.

My middle-of-the-night rage began to build as the detour signs continued to point straight ahead. It was a groggy rage. At one point I even thought I saw a “Sponsored by the Belfast Giants” advert on the side of one of the detour signs. I could see him now, Forney, smiling away as he enjoyed one of his 12 hour gluten-free slumbers in the local Sheffield IBIS!

Eventually we arrived back at the Arena. A heavy-eyed unloading took place as the wet gear was hung as quickly as possible; everyone was looking for pole position in the wacky races convoy that would ensue as we raced back to our real beds, hoping to squeeze in an extra 20 minutes sleep in the 9 hour turnaround before we had to be back at the rink. But, wouldn’t you know it, the cars were all frosted over. Not such a big deal if you’ve got a proper scraper. But even then, standing out in the cold at that point only goes to increase the risk that you’ll have waken up more than desired before you get back into your own bed.

Nothing worse than not being able to sleep straight away when you get home from a long trip.

Although, given the hour, I think some of the guys actually opted to grab breakfast on the way home in order to avoid interrupting their sleep when got back into bed. Myself, I opted to get straight off to bed, saving a hearty breakfast of French toast (eggy bread) for my pre-game meal.

After that it was out the door and off to the rink. But not before I’d stylishly dressed myself in a black suit, navy blue sweater and socks that didn’t match. A fact which I only discovered half way to the Arena.

The Belfast game went well enough, but unfortunately my number was up for signing autographs after the game, which meant a bit more delay on my way back to bed. Futhermore, Seth managed to wrangle me into a video interview, for what, at the time, I wasn’t sure.

However, the next day I was enlightened by a text from a friend who’d seen my blue jumper, black suit and wonky tie interview on the league website. At least they couldn’t see the socks. And the interview wasn’t too bad either, considering my mind was already waning towards the Chilli Banana’s half peri-peri chicken and rice I was going to grab on the way home.

I arrived home just in time to catch the end of The Hunt on BBC4, then it was off to bed and ready for work on Monday - the end to a very long weekend. And if you’re wondering why this blog just keeps going on and on, it’s because it’s now the following weekend and I’m writing this in an attempt to avoid the lure of schnarples while riding the bus on a 5 hour journey up to Glasgow. We face the Clan tomorrow then it’s back through the night to take on the Blaze. It’s all feeling a bit like Bill Murray’s Ground Hog’s Day. But this time I think I might let my wife pick the socks and suit for Sunday."