Decades ago, several Penn State students approached the authorities on campus and asked to use one of the university’s gyms for a proposed street hockey league.
Surprisingly – as it was a time of distrust between administrators and us – we received permission to use the year-old Intramural Building, its new hardwood floors be damned.
The organizers, of which I had a limited role, then formed the league, which had about eight or 10 teams.
The top team in this floor hockey league, we thought, was ours. We were stacked with players from neighborhood teams in southeastern Pennsylvania, back when street hockey was soaring in popularity thanks to the success of the Philadelphia Flyers.
We rolled through the first six or seven opponents and then faced a team from the Boston area.
That’s when we realized that Pennsylvania hockey was mush and rudimentary when compared to rock-solid and innovative New England hockey.
Those Boston guys were doing stuff with the puck and making plays none of us had even thought about. The final was something like 10-1, as we glumly fathomed our state’s low stature in the world of hockey, regardless if it’s played on the floor, street or ice.
But the league itself was a hit, and I think it carried on for at least several years after I graduated from Happy Valley.
It was a success because of the popularity of the Flyers and, later, the Pittsburgh Penguins. And it was a success because you didn’t need an ice rink and because it was a fun game to play.
Sure, you needed some skills, but you definitely needed to be physical, as there was plenty of hard checking, as well as fights. You know, the kind of stuff that testosterone-filled and adrenaline-triggered folks in their early 20s thrive on.
I loved the sport so much that for about 20 years after college, I kept a street hockey stick in the truck of my car in the event I stumbled across a game. I think it happened twice. One time, I just drove on by because I was working. The other time, I stopped, fetched my stick and talked my way into playing a couple of shifts.
Street hockey in many ways is the perfect combination of skill, physicality, teamwork and running/endurance. But it’s only my second favorite sport to play.
My favorite is basketball. Specifically playground or street basketball, as I’ve noted before.
As for my all-time entire top 10 sports to play, here they are:
— Basketball (playground or street ball).
— Street hockey or floor hockey.
— Slow-pitch softball.
— Football (tackle and two-hand touch). Tackle football in the snow should be an Olympic sport.
— Golf, with family or close friends. Or with beer.
— Wiffle ball.
— Bowling, with beer.
— Ping pong.
— Tennis, only if you have someone else to chase down the errant shots.
If they were real sports: Billiards and mini-golf would crack the top 10. Poker would be, too.