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Humor: When a genuine Hockey God takes to the pickleball court, grandma best look out – hip-replacement surgery be damned.

- January 21, 2024

The pickleball court is no place for arrogance according to a friend of mine who is not yet 50 and has taken up pickleball at a tennis club in Annapolis, Maryland.

He had to sign a special waiver indicating that he was not “technically” old enough to be playing pickleball, but in the event he showed up to an  open session of pickleball and there were an odd number of players he could play as long as he promised not to use any abbreviations like LOL and believed that Vietnam was a necessary war and he would never flee to Canada if he were drafted. (To be clear, they meant drafted into the military and not the National Hockey League.)

My friend, who wishes to remain nameless in case Bondra reads the FXBG Advance on Sunday mornings and then refuses to play pickleball with him ever again, described Bondra as a little “arrogant.” This made me laugh because in my mind Peter Bondra should be arrogant in pretty much every undertaking that requires a ball or puck because, um, he’s Peter Bondra and led the NHL in scoring … twice.

My friend, who played club ice hockey at a Division II school in Pennsylvania, persisted in questioning Bondra’s arrogance so I told him I would compare their hockey careers and see if Bondra’s arrogance was misplaced. (Bondra also speaks at least three languages and none of them are Pennsylvania Dutch.)

In fairness for the comparison, I used my friend’s “greatest” collegiate season which was 2000-2001 and was not Bondra’s best professional season. The only true comparison might have been using Bondra’s age-six peewee season, but those numbers are not readily available on Google.

At one of these open sessions of pickleball he was paired with Washington Capitals’ legend Peter Bondra who, at 55, is still way too young to be playing pickleball but apparently does not know that being a professional athlete in the United States means you should never have to play a sport where you have to pick up the ball for Irma because she is only two months removed from a double hip replacement.

My friend’s team played against guys who drank beer out of reinforced steel athletic cups after games at a frat house. Bondra played against guys who drank champagne out of the Stanley Cup. Bondra played against goalie Patrick Roy who was a first ballot Hall of Famer and not against “Tiny” who played Temple ice hockey because John Chaney cut him from the basketball team and, though he could not skate, was installed in goal because he took up a lot of space in the crease. (I made that up about Tiny. I have no idea if he could skate.)

Perhaps my friend’s larger point is that excellence in one’s vocation should not translate to arrogance on the pickleball court. And he may have a point there because in my other life as an insurance claims adjuster (humorist doesn’t pay like it did when Mort Shal took the stage—most pickleball players will know Sahl) and I would never think of bringing the arrogance I take in writing a kick ass deer hit estimate to the local Kenmore courts. Or talking smack when an opponent claims I stepped in the “kitchen” and retort that I was in a burned-out kitchen earlier today and the only thing on fire in this match was my backhand.

I’d like to take a moment to publicly declare that I am not slagging on pickleball in any way. First off, I don’t want to put off any readers who love pickleball and want to continue to subscribe to FXBG Advance when they move to The Villages in Florida. And I own pickleball rackets which my neighbor has informed me are so old they would be considered antiques, which seems unlikely since pickleball was founded in 1965 and antiques have to be 100 years old.

I enjoy pickleball and in the proper twilight of our inevitable aging process I can see how it may need to be a perceived equalizer of athleticism.

In the case of my friend Tyrone that may even be true. He was a Division I football player, but put a pickleball racket in his hand and he’s capable of losing to a kid in a crib sucking on the end of the racket because he dropped his binky when he hit Tyrone with yet another overhead and started laughing so hard he filled his diaper.

But Tyrone is not Peter Bondra as evidenced by tripping over the chain gang when he tried to dash onto the field when he made his NCAA debut for James Madison at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg.

Peter Bondra may not be as good at pickleball as he was on the ice (503 career goals and 45th on the all-time list of most goals scored), but he has every right to be a bit arrogant when he steps on any court, and I assure you he’s better than Tyrone by simply not tripping before the game starts.

Snipe away, Bonzai!

by Drew Gallagher

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