Meet the Zamboners

They hadn’t lost a game. In fact they won their two previous games by a combined 8 goals (actually four goal margins in each game). In their most recent game they trailed for two minutes before scoring 5 unanswered goals and turning it into a rout.

But here they are, trailing 2-0 in the last 3 minutes of the first period. They’re missing several players (on a team with a roster roughly 13 strong, that significantly shortens the bench). There’s lots of hockey left to play, as everyone knows, but things are becoming dire. Tension settles over the bench like a heavy fog. Something has to happen.

Less than one minute later it is apparent things have changed. With a one goal lead and the scoreboard reading 3-2, that fog of tension has broken into laughter and cheers. When the final horn sounds, they’ve won handily yet again, 9-4.

Meet the Zamboners, an intramural hockey team like no other.

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty. If you’ve ever been on a co-ed intramural team you are well aware that finding a surplus of girls, let alone the minimum requirement, is a task in and of itself. The Zamboners have five girls which leaves them comfortably over the minimum requirement of two.

What’s more, one of these girls, a varsity soccer player, is the team’s leading scorer with 11 goals in three games. Talk about dominance. Think Paul Kariya with a ponytail. A case could be made that a few of the girls are actually better than some of their male teammates, especially those who can’t even skate backwards.

So what the leading scorer is a girl, you say. What makes this team so interesting?

There are not just one, but two goalies. One played prep-school hockey in Connecticut, the other played in public high school just outside of Chicago. One is stand-up, one is stand-on-his-head. One is 6’2″, the other is 5’2.” That’s right, stand them next to each other and one is literally head and shoulders taller than the other. Both are unafraid of leaving their net to cut down the angle on a breakaway, even if it means stacking the pads and taking out the oncoming attacker.

There are two pairs of brothers and sisters on the team. You’ve got the DiPietros who happen to be rather tall and the “Kakni” (it should really be Kakneses) who are rather short.

The team members are wide and varied in their backgrounds. Kids who have played hockey all their lives, kids who have never played a minute of organized hockey in their lives (and can’t skate backwards). There are pre-meds, javelin throwers, computer scientists, weightlifters, skiers, field hockey players, plant soil science majors, and political science majors. Probably just as eclectic a mix as any of your previous or current intramural teams, but a fun

bunch nonetheless.

Yet, what sets this team apart one might say, are their coaches. Yep, coaches…for an intramural team. Two of them to be precise. Sad/funny/serious but true. It’s sad because, yes, it is just an intramural league. It’s funny because, well, neither of the coaches has played a lick of hockey in their lives; they can’t even skate. And it’s serious because, as you might have picked up from your own intramural experiences, teams tend to be a bit disorganized.

The coaches are all business, or at least one of them is, wearing a shirt and tie (quite dapper one might add) to each game, chomping on a stogie while watching the action unfold, barking out orders to the bench.

The other is equally serious about his job, although it is quite hard to take him seriously when you see the outfits he picks out for each game. Hair slicked back, parted on the side, or fro-ed out. The pants could be plaid one game, Nantucket red the next, or far too small and blue the next. With a booming voice, he is a commanding and shocking presence on the bench.

Their claim to fame is the tactic of pulling the goalie with under two minutes to go as long as they’re up by 3 or more goals…to play offense. It’s highly complex and planned far in advance (think five minutes into the first period with a 4 goal lead). It’s become their trademark: the goalie (regardless of physical stature) speeds toward the bench while removing glove and blocker, tosses his stick to the bench and catches a player stick, rock star style, without slowing down. He cruises into the offensive zone. It’s a site to be seen.

As one of the coaches of this fine group of men and women, I’m proud to share their story. I’m even more proud to tell you I was one of the innovators of the Zamboner goalie pull. I’ll just let you decide which coach you think I am.