Sin City Shoot-out - Las Vegas 2009
written by TSHA / Team Asia
Thursday, February 5th
The TSHA in early February of 2009, few in number but large in ambition, jetted into Nevada airspace relentlessly honing in on that glowing jeweled Mecca of sin and gluttony in the freezing desert that is Las Vegas.
Getting off the plane the four weary TSHA tournament hopefuls, hockey sticks in hand, were trying at whatever cost to make a speedy entry into the gates of this modern Babylon. They fought the urge to make well thought out and reasonable wagers at the airport’s one armed bandits, only to become embedded in an endlessly snaking rental car line like prehistoric flies in amber awaiting their newly minted promise of unlikely American muscle car revival: a prostitute’s eye-shadow blue Charger.
Attempting to regain their élan of entry after their millennial wait, they sped into the heart of Sin City in their modern (yet disappointingly anemic) muscle car with Paul, despite being in the driver's seat, delegating driving responsibility to anyone or anything, human or electronic willing or even vaguely able.
Finally arriving at the hotel Excalibur they shuffled into their “Wide Screen King Rooms”. Our hopefuls felt immediately better as they eased their tired bodies, but still naively fresh souls, into the huge room space decked out in plush carpet and larger than life wide screen TVs.
Then, anxious, but “freshly refreshed” and in need of distraction, they gathered in their uniforms to fulfill one of the objectives of going to Vegas in the first place. To capture the TSHA team in all its glory in front of the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign.
Having not brought full hockey equipment some TSHA members mounted a posse to secure the needed supplies from the best local source available. Which, as it turned out was the hockey “section” of the local “Sports Authority”, that had almost enough hockey stuff to equip half a line on a girls pee-wee floor hockey team. Adequate supplies of equipment would thus have to wait until the under-stocked but serviceable pro-shop located at the very rink were the tournament would be contested.
Undaunted by their lack of new equipment our hopefuls attempted to practice for the next days games in parking lot of the Excalibur only to be harassed and beaten down by instantly appearing Gestapo like hotel security agents. The guards ignored the protests of the players laying into them despite the fact that they were in fact guests of the very same hotel. Without the ability to practice they returned to magnificent hotel/casino/fast-food-emporium/cheap-souvenir-hawkers-booth/Disney-resort-attraction/bordello to amuse themselves with all the distractions available to them.
Friday, February 6th
Waking up, the previous evenings shenanigans behind them, our hopefuls made their way to that home of nutrition Denny's, anticipating that world famous gastronomical feast the “Grand Slam”, only to find that there would be a one hour wait to enter this American food-wonderland. No matter, that would give our four TSHA regulars just enough time to become familiar with their new Team Asia teammates, fresh off the plane from San Francisco and into line at Denny’s.
The new members of Team Asia turned out to be skilled veterans who, despite minor annoyances such as the replacement of one hip the year before and an impending operation to replace the other in a week and a half, easily brought up the level of what we have up until now termed “hopeful four” but who, it should admitted, could have been more correctly labeled as a “drag ass, and now hung over, TSHA frightful four”.
With a stout breakfast in them (and yet threatening to come out) there was nothing more to do but for the freshly fortified Team Asia now 11 players strong, to head down to the rink which was located in a disused-strip-mine/mall filled with massage parlors, Christian evangelist church fronts, Korean BBQ restaurants, pawn shops and pay-check chasing and loan places all surrounded by a tar pit.
The first Team Asia game started at 4PM. It was not a successful outing for Team Asia, having never played together they were variously and in combination; disorganized, disillusioned and dismembered, going down gasping in a 7-2 loss to the eventual tournament victors the MASHA. The only bright spot being that John “Mr. Hockey” Lacara and Colin “30%” Kozik scored to save the embarrassment of a shut-out.
Not to be dissuaded by as small a thing as devastating loss in the previous game, hockey balls that bounced like golf balls in the unusually cold Las Vegas winter, or petty equipment issues such as the referees insistence that Colin wrap his shins and calves in bath towels, Team Asia regrouped magnificently. Starting their next game at 6:40 PM Team Asia challenged the Carolina Thunder, gaining confidence and better results as the tournament wore on.
Still losing 4 to 2, with Vicken Yanikian getting both scores for Team Asia, they nonetheless felt that they were improving with every minute of ice time.
To celebrate their least severe loss in the tournament to date, the boyz decided to take themselves out for a massive steak dinner at The Range in Harrah’s Casino. After ingesting pieces of meat bigger than their heads they were indeed feeling somewhat better about their futures and anyway much, much better about the present.
Saturday, February 7th
Getting up early and making their way through hotel halls filled with ball hockey players in various stages of undress, unconsciousness and even unbridled partying still in progress from the night before, Team Asia members fought through to feast on McDonald’s Egg McMuffins and cheap coffee conveniently located within the medieval walls of delight of the Excalibur Hotel and Casino. With their earliest start time of the tournament to date at 12:20 PM Team Asia barley had enough time to finish their MickyD’s and bundle themselves and their gear into the powder blue Charger to get to the rink on time.
With their team getting stronger by the game Team Asia took on the Fighting Irish. They were down 2 to 0 in the first period but with the experience of almost 3 games playing together, Team Asia was getting better all the time. Team Asia continued to push hard and pulling the goalie in favor or six attackers tied the game 2 – 2 in regular time and forced the game into overtime. Both goals were put in by that hero of Team Asia, John “Mr. Hockey” La Cara. Alas, despite their heroic efforts, Team Asia went down in the first minute of overtime when the tiring defense, with a median age of 57, was not able to give any more to keep up with the pressing forwards of the Fighting Irish.
If one thing was salvaged from the loss it was another TSHA contribution to the advancement of “science”. The “Van Ackere Effect” was once and for all proven scientifically as a repeatable experiment. Having removed his knee pads after Friday’s games to increase mobility for the final effort against the Irish, Paul immediately took an incredibly painful slap shot to the knee causing him to limp around for the rest of the game, and indeed the day.
Having lost every game of the tournament, Team Asia now had no choice but to cheer themselves up as best they could. They chose the tried and tested tactic of bundling everyone into the rental cars and driving to Hooters. This experience is likely to lighten the heart of the most disappointed ball hockey player and this trip was no exception. Team Asia, spirits lightened by a hearty lunch and even better scenery, headed back to the Excalibur for some hot showers.
After circumnavigating fully eight times (and traveling over 52 kilometers) our intrepid group was finally able to get across the asphalt moat and though the concrete drawbridge and into the legendary castle of pimpy delights and center of family fun and entertainment that is the wondrous Excalibur Hotel with its rows of slot machine zombies, tables of games of minimal chance, barely clad family entertainment oriented nude table dancers, outsized buffet troughs of vast quantity and dubious quality, and numerous inebriated/hung over ball hockey players representing teams from across the continent,
Having showered off the sweat and humiliation of two resounding loses for the day, and unceremonious elimination from the tournament for the weekend, our intrepid, but no longer so hopeful, Team Asia ball hockey players were disgorged into the glittering whore of a city. Taking advantage of Las Vegas to become involved in that most civilized of all American activities the “all-you-can-eat” buffet the players made their way over to the MGM Grand hotel and casino to eat as much as they could, and take even much more than that again, in fruit.
Once again into the sinful streets of Vegas the players avoided making any soon to be regretted calls to 696-9696 despite their broadly advertised and very compelling offer to bring “hot babes straight to you IN TWENTY MINUTES OR LESS!” Still, their appetites whetted for the female form, they all piled into the vehicle of a mad homosexual Filipino cab driver who almost insisted that any minors present, and to his disappointment we only had one with us, drink as much alcohol as possible both in the vehicle and at any location he should take us to.
Sunday, February 8th
Sunday was a welcome day off in Las Vegas. The players toured “The Strip” marveling at the variety of hotels, casinos and attractions. They also marveled 4 floors of M&Ms specialty shop on The Strip while at the same time questioning the need for the existence of such a retail outlet at all.
In need of a filling repast after all that walking, the players enjoyed the best rib joint in Las Vegas: TCs Rib Crib way off the strip. Huge food and even huger buckets of soda at the Rib Crib had the players jaws dropping when they were asked if refills were needed after only minutes of the enormous containers hitting the table. Dinner done, the players returned to the strip to finish off their visit to Las Vegas by taking in the Blue Man show at the Venetian.
Finally back at the Excalibur, and ready to get some sleep before early morning flights, the players encountered 2 pre-pubescent cheerleaders in the elevator on the way up to their rooms. The tiny competitors were cradling trophies larger than themselves that they had won at the National Cheerleader Championships that weekend. They could barely conceal their contempt for our former hopefuls and their futile efforts as they got off at their floor barley managing to trundle down the hallway with their massive and well deserved awards...