The Saga of the VA Beach 4th Liners: Chapter 1

The Saga of the VA Beach 4th Liners: Chapter 1

At Hoser Hockey Co., we like to hear the story of hockey...our stories. Each guy and girl out there has a reason they are in the game and have stayed in the game. We want to hear it. Whether you're a fan, parent, or player, share it with us. Just head over to our facebook page, and shoot us a message. 

We recently asked Doc, from DL Hockey, if he wanted to share his story. He didn't disappoint. 

The Saga of the VA Beach 4th Liners

(the ongoing tale of a mens league team, slowly taking over its rink)

By Doc From DL Hockey

Chapter 1: My Origin

The best thing about hockey is its ability to turn anyone back into a child, even if just for an hour. The tales I will tell over the next few posts are about the most enjoyable group of people I have ever had the pleasure of calling my teammates and brothers. Outside the arena, we all appear to be upstanding members of the community. We are current and former Navy sailors, lawyers, architects, shipyard workers, a former college football coach, and even a dude from Minnesota; but, as soon as we cross the threshold of the arena, we become something more than what our jobs define us as...we become 4th Liners. 
DL Hockey | Hoser Hockey Co.
Looking back on my journey with this team, it almost mirrors the classic hockey movie pattern of events: a rag-tag group of people who love the game but just aren't very good. Then, over time, with the addition of a few players and some work, the team becomes a force to be reckoned with (cliche I know). I feel our story should be told.
In the late winter of 2016, I had recently got back from deployment. During my leave period, my wife and I were back at my childhood home in the suburbs of Chicago. I found out she had never been skating. I wanted to take her, but the rink a couple of minutes away was packed. She and I decided it would be better to try to go when we got back home to Virginia. Needless to say, I didn't think that simple decision would be the start of my 4th Liners journey. 

Once we were back in Virginia, we actually had to Google a rink because we had no idea if there was one even around us (this is a common problem in this area that the 4th Liners are working on fixing). We found this run-down barn called Iceland and headed there for an open skate that would change my life. 
Doc of DL Hockey | Hoser Hockey Co.

When we arrived at the rink, I first inquired if they had an adult league. The season had already started, but I left my info at the desk anyway in case they had a position open up on a team. Since it was my wife's first time skating, for the first hour I was just going slow and teaching her. After a while, her feet started to hurt and she wanted to take a break. I had talked a lot about my old playing days, so she asked to watch me skate like she could tell I had been wanting to. It had been about a year and a half since I had actually skated, and it felt so great to knock off the rust, feel the wind go through my flow, and get that cold air pumping in my lungs again. When I got off the ice, there was a dude standing by the door waiting for me. He asked me if I was looking for a team. I let him know I was, and the desk had my info. Turns out, he was just waiting to get my 'go ahead' to call his captain and invite me to their team. 

After we I got home, I had already received a call from some hoser named Mike. This guy Mike asked if I wanted to join his beer league team, the 4th Liners. When I asked him info about them, he responded that they were not that good, but they loved the game and always had a cold beer in the locker room. That was all I needed to hear, and I agreed to join the team. Shortly after, I received another phone call from a second team. This team had heard of me looking to play from the front desk at the rink. Although I felt guilty because the rink had held up their end of the bargain on helping me find a team that needed me, I had to decline since I'd already committed to Mike. I did not know it then, but Mike would become my good friend, mentor, and coaching partner.
4th Liners | Hoser Hockey Co.
Three days later I was back at the rink, ready for my first game and full of nervous excitement. I had not played a real game in years. To be honest, I still had a bit of disdain towards playing after I was cut from the team my senior year of college. Against my initial wishes, Mike made the choice for me that I was going to wear jersey #99 because he'd actually Googled me and had seen that I had played in college. This number would instantly put a target on anyone's back in a beer league (we all know some douchebag who thinks he's the Gretzky of his league). Walking into the “locker room” (slightly larger than a broom closet), I realized in that moment how much I missed all of the aspects of playing. The smell, the locker room shit-talk, putting on all the gear, all of that is something that is indescribable. It felt so perfect.

When the game started, I saw that Mikey was not lying. They were not that good. Our goalie gave up some really bad goals: one from the corner goal line, one where he thought he had the rebound covered but it was sitting right next to him, and another where he got burned so bad on a breakaway I thought the fire department was going to be called. On the bench, I remember asking Mikey how long the team had been together. Mike said that he and five of my new teammates (Casey, King Matty, Foley, Dave, and Todd) formed the team when they were in the Learn to Play league a few months earlier. These guys were just starting out. They had never won a game, but there were signs of improvement and they had a mutual sense of confidence that they would be a good team. That very night, we were able to keep up with the opposing team and ended up tying for the final score. It was the best game we'd had since the team was created. I even got my very first goal with the 4th Liners. Needless to say, I also found out how bad the refs are in this area. In the final seconds, I was thrown a pass and heading into the zone. As I turned, at the last second I saw the stripes of the ref. We collided Stevens/Lindros style. Yeah, so, I didn't have my head up, but to add insult to injury he somehow called me off-sides too. What a way to end the game.
4th Liners Hockey Club | Hoser Hockey Co.
Turns out that tie was the closest we would come to a win that entire season. Most of the time we got routed, 10 goal type routed. Sounds crazy to say, but that was some of the best times playing hockey I'd ever had. That season I truly learned how to love the game again.

When you play in college for a team that cares more about drinking than hockey, you lose sight of the reasons you started playing in the first place. You focus more on the party-aspect and hold a grudge for the coach who was trying to re-live his glory days. The players did not look out for each other at the rink or anywhere else. Being in that environment made me lose a lot of respect for the game. I didn't see the “fun” aspect of playing hockey anymore, and this caused me only to play as a way to pass time. I knew the coach didn't like me and was not going to play me, so when I was cut my senior year I took that as a sign that I was done playing hockey. I felt stripped and cheated. This caused me to lose my love for playing the game, and even though I played at different drop-in games or as a sub on a team or two after college, it just didn't feel right anymore. It was rough, and I didn't play on a team for four years. This is why I will always be so appreciative that the 4th Liners invited me to join their team. They are the ones who helped bring back my love for playing the game.
As my first season with 4th Liners progressed, and we kept losing by bigger margins, I still saw these guys go into each game with the same wide-eyed love that a mite or squirt would have. It didn't matter if we lost 4-3 or 10-0 (yes, it happened), after every game the team was happy in their areas of improvement; and, as Mike promised, there was always a cold beer after.
Chirp Shirts | Hoser Hockey Co.
About halfway through the season, the team really started to show some development. Everything seemed smoother, the plays were less choppy, and more people were getting points. We finished that season without winning a single game; but, at that point we did not care about the record. We were already looking forward to the next season three weeks away because we knew we could win one. The people I met that season have turned into some of the best teammates and friends a dude could ask for. The biggest thing that I took away from my first losing season with the 4th Liners was that I finally had my team. This was the team I had always wanted to be on because it was what a team is supposed to be: family.
It has been about seven seasons, almost two years, since I started playing with the 4th liners. There have been a few changes, and we've added some new players, but the core and our values have remained the same. Turns out those confident talks we had on the bench my first season were just predictions that have ended up coming true. If I would have been told then that the 4th Liners would go back to back in championship games in two different leagues, I would have said: “You're crazy”. It has also opened up doors to the world of coaching for me, and helping hockey spread in the VA Beach area. That season was something we all needed. It started the spark that would lead us to become the team we are today. It helped my motivation to pursue DL Hockey with Littlefoot. That season rekindled the love for a game that has always helped me through life. My wife and I cannot thank my teammates enough for letting us become a part of the team and the hockey community. All I can do is pay forward what the 4th Liners have done for me.

1 comment

  • Jim Stein

    Nice article!!

    Must be some special kind of suck if you’re getting cut from club hockey.

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