In This Hockey League, Furious Fun is the Goal

Phantoms players watch their team in action at the rink outside Hammond Middle School in Alexandria. Each season the league's teams compete for a championship, and while the winners receive T-shirts, there is also a fiercely desired prize for the best of the runners-up  --  a castoff champagne bucket called the Sheba Cup.
Phantoms players watch their team in action at the rink outside Hammond Middle School in Alexandria. Each season the league's teams compete for a championship, and while the winners receive T-shirts, there is also a fiercely desired prize for the best of the runners-up -- a castoff champagne bucket called the Sheba Cup. "You'd think it was the damn World Series,"says Bill Raue, founder of Alexandria Inline Hockey. (Photos By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)

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By Brigid Schulte
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 28, 2006

By day, they are defense contractors, NASA engineers, car salesmen, teachers, economists, insurance salesmen and orthodontists. But at night, on a lighted oval of concrete just off Seminary Road, when they have their skates laced, helmets on, hockey sticks in hand and are dripping in sweat, they are Benito, Rocket Man, BFL (Big Fat Liar), the Egg, Tight Lips, NASCAR and FFO, the Fleet Footed Orthodontist.

Or, if he's having a bad night, just FO.

They are the Phantoms. And they rule in the Thursday night coed roller hockey league at the Washington area's only outdoor roller hockey rink. Unless, of course, you ask their rival, Roadkill. Just the other night in a heated game, BFL, a.k.a. Scott MacQuarrie, and Roadkill's Julio Varillas got into it. By the end of the night, the Phantoms had dominated 2-1 and the two plonked their broken sticks into a trash can.

"When we play that team, we get riled up," BFL explained. "That was a brand new stick. It was only about three hours old."

And that's only on Thursdays.

On Mondays, in the elite league, the well-connected White House All Stars and the all-Czech Bohemians, led by Peter the Czech, who hang out their flag, blast Eurotrash music and drink only Pilsner Urquell, routinely re-fight the Cold War. On Tuesdays, in the Rec League, aging engineers and architects on teams such as Bladerunners and the Dognads -- a name coined from merging the Dog Biscuits and the Nads -- can act out their foiled NHL dreams. And when Dynamo is on deck, all bets are off, especially if the team has brought the moonshine. There's Friday night pickup free-for-all, Wednesday hockey without the wheels and Sundays for the family.

Four men plus a goalie per team. Ten games a season. Three seasons a year. Red balls for when it's hot. Orange for cool. Pink for when it's freezing out. It never stops.

It's a whole other world on wheels.

"It has a funky charm," said Bill Raue, founder of the Alexandria Inline Hockey Association, who built the rink and runs the leagues. "You come. You play. You hang out. You tell lies. I figure I'm keeping 40-year-old juvenile delinquents off the streets."

The game is fast and furious. And addictive. Just ask the Egg, Ed Miehle, who drives all the way from Germantown for the Thursday night games. (His Phantom teammates lured him with the promise of a fax machine and a DVD of the movie "Gladiator.") The leagues can be wild and raucous. It's as if buttoned-down Washington operators stepped into a phone booth, ripped off their clothes and emerged bigger, meaner and ready to kill. And that includes the women.

"Oh, you should see some of them out there," said Raue, pronounced RAO-wee. "They're evil."

That goes for Miriam Prantner, 30, a defense contractor and Phantom team captain, known as Benito, as in Benito Mussolini. "I'm a dictator," she said one recent night while unlacing her skates and peeling off her hockey pants, as the Capitol Hookers, the next team to play, made its way onto the rink.


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