|The Penguins finally landed in Pittsburgh in 1967. It
wasn't too long after that hockey fever swept the
playgrounds of the Steel City. By 1973 it was a
full-blown obsession. Kids all over the area were
picking up sticks, curving their blades and stuffing
their pucks. Teams were organically growing all
over the city. These teams weren't organized and
regimented by adults with a bunch of safety
equipment. These teams were cobbled together with
chicken-wire goals, couch cushion padding and
tennis shoes. Street hockey was born and it wasn't
for the faint hearted.
Dormont had a number of these type of teams. Castle
Shannon, Greentree and Mt. Lebo also had teams but
to a lesser extent. We had a team and what a team it
It was brought together by a guy named John Ruccino.
"Chino" was a wise-cracking, smart ass who had an eye
for talent and a mouth for soap. A little overweight and
little older than the rest of us, he shoved us around and
kept us in line. He showed us the ropes. "You buy your
s%&#t at Duane Rupps. You tape your knuckles the
same way as your sticks. You hit him in the gut and
bop your head under the chin. Yeah, Chino knew all
of the tricks.
His first recruiting coup was to bring a tall, lanky kid
named Lynn Covey to play center. Covey was the
Mario Lemieux of the street hockey circuit. Full of
head fakes and hip jukes, his limbs seemed to reach
around defensemen like a rubber band. He would
score at will. Six, seven goals a game were common-
place for him. Teams that hadn't played him before
would stop playing and just watch him to see what
he'd do next. Amazing talent for the game and way
too smart to listen to Chino.
On the right wing, we had probably the best athlete
that Dormont ever produced, Jody Zimmerman.
Jody played every sport with equal aplomb. He was
the perfect foil for Covey as he was always open and
always passing. Jody played basketball, football,
baseball, hockey but, I imagine that if you handed
him a cricket bat, lacrosse stick or a curling broom
he would own it and be on the starting team the next
day. I would stand in awe of him and be caught just
watching him on many of a field. I remember him
intercepting a backfield lateral, eight yards behind the
line of scrimmage, for K.O football, running 60 yards
and tripping over the five yard line with no one
around and not scoring. I will never let him
forget that one! The only failure he ever had.
Our other offensive guru, Russ Connolly, was the
fastest white kid I ever knew. His blinding speed
had the other team backtracking so quickly they
would inevitably fall down.
Our goalie, was undoubtedly, the most talented man
in the county, in everything. Bobby French became
a state champion wrestler, could ride a unicycle UP
a hill, could draw with the skill of Michaelangelo and
could walk UP steps on his hands. His impregnable
appearance in front of his home-made goal was
fashioned with oversized couch cushions strapped
to his legs with bungee cords, a board from his
Dad's wood shop slapped on his forearm, a first
baseman's glove and a Jason hockey mask. Oh yeah,
he was the only boy I know who could do a split.
Nobody scored on him!
|Me and Jim "Buggs" Malone played defense. We were
undersized but, we had a skill that made us a tandem that
couldn't be beat, we cheated. Poke-checking, cross-checking,
check-checking, we knew where to shove a stick
and where it hurt. It's not like we wanted to cheat, we had
to cheat. No refs. Just screaming kids on the sidelines.
We got paid back once in a while, we didn't mind. It was
war and we wore war paint.
The untackle-able Doug Haney also played for us. Haney
of the 47 Little League homerun fame talked about here.
The dude was a beast. Played rugby into his forties! I
still carry the nasty scar on my right hand from trying to
tackle him (I didn't). And, let's not forget John French.
|John was wiry and head strong. That might have been enough but, it was smart aleck-y comments and his well-placed
barbs that drove the other teams nuts. They would be trading insults with John as we scored. Eventually, John's
insults would invariably cross over to our team, usually his brother. It wasn't long before someone, sometimes our
team and sometimes the other team, would be chasing him across the playing field. Then you would have a fight
with him and Bobby! It was a tough combo. Bobby could yell at John but, if anyone else did...
We played our home games at the Kelton School playground. It was a perfect-sized, asphalt hockey rink. Our pucks
were orange, plastic disks that we cut open and stuffed with the right combination of Kleenexes and BB's, adjusted to
weight. Our sticks were bought at Duane Rupp's Hockey store on Bower Hill. We would buy the plastic ends and boil
them in Mom's soup pot to curl them into the perfect, curved angle for rising a puck to head height. I earned the
nickname "Cement" for breaking so many of these off while doing a slap shot. I was Rupp's best customer.
We played teams from all over the quad-city area. The "Lebo Losers," the "Shannon Shock," the "Greentree Punks"
or something like that, and we beat them all. It was the game against the "Other Side of Piedmont" that I most
remember. They had 21 kids! They would throw line after line after line at us. We barely changed at all and they
would constantly change their lines! Wave after wave of kids trying to wear us down as we played for hours on end.
You would knock one down and a bigger one would show up next! It was like playing the Gas-House Gorillas!
They never stopped. Yet, we won 15-0! We played for three years straight! and NEVER LOST ONE GAME!
I think we were 27-0!
Then we quit. I don't know why. Probably girls.
|WHERE ARE THEY NOW...
John Ruccino: Whereabouts Unknown...possibly dead.
Lynn Covey: Happily married and living in the vacinity with a really good job. So I hear.
Jody Zimmerman: Married with three kids in Castle Shannon. Recently joined the Internet.
Russ Connolly: Moved to Florida, met a Venezuelan Princess, married her and brought her back to Dormont.
Can be found at Sam's every Friday night.
Bobby French: Died of Lung Cancer at the age of 38.
Buggs Malone: Moved to Florida and then moved back to Dormont. Had two wonderful children, bought a 10-foot television
and now rarely leaves his basement.
Doug Haney: Local legend and historian lives in the same house he always has. Gives tours at the Dormont Historical Society
like he's Mickey Mantle.
John French: Lives with his Mother in Mount Lebanon and still trades barbs with any one in earshot.
Me: Moved to Florida. Moved to Arizona. Happily married and bought a new car yesterday! Working hard filling up the Internet.