Sunday, 24 July 2011

Hockey dreams

So we got the good news that Andrei was rehabbed and good to go, and that we had just signed him to a four-year deal, and we were all happy and cheering and laughing, crowding around him on the ice. The team feels real good, and so do I because we will be paired together this season. It’s a good match, he’ll be the puck carrier and he’s a righty, I’m lefty and I’ll cover him when he takes off. I never go much further than the opposition blue line anyway.

Last year was tough but we made it through somehow. Alain Moreau injured his knee right at the start of the season, and he tried to baby it and come back a couple of times, he played maybe five games all year, but without any success, he was not effective, and it hurt. He’s big and strong and has good offensive instincts, good in the corners, think Robert Picard if he had delivered on his promise, so it’s a huge missing piece.

So it was down to three of us on defence. Normand Chevrette is our captain and best player, he’s the tallest guy in the league but skates with elegance and deceptive speed, think Larry Robinson but with the temperament of Jean Ratelle or Jean Beliveau. He’s good defensively, but he’s so smooth that aspect of his game doesn’t really stand out, with his long reach he just pokes the puck off the opponent’s stick and he’s off skating down the ice with it. Jean Farly is his counterpart, shorter for a defenceman but he skates all day, he’s fast and smooth and effortless, think Bryan Leetch or Phil Housley. He has a wicked wrist shot and slap shot, so much so that our coach Mini tabbed him to take a couple of penalty shots during the season, even though we have some forwards with good scoring touch.

And then there’s me. I’m big and slow, kind of like Craig Ludwig but without his panache, and when I have the puck I zip it to my right where Jean or Normand can do something with it, or I bang it off the boards into the opponents’ end. This gets so predictable that whenever I do get the puck the opponent wingers skate over to the boards right away and body up on them, trying to block my flip, so once in a while I pass up the middle to a centre to keep them honest.

All season long we essentially roll with three lines and three defenceman. At first our coaches think this won’t work, that we’ll get gassed, so they put a forward on D but now we have a guy back there who doesn’t know what he’s doing, and our forward lines are all jumbled, and it’s not effective. We give up on the experimentation and find our gear. The three of us really pace ourselves, we have tonnes of ice-time so we can choose our spots to make the big hit or rush the net. The forward lines run like clockwork and Roger, the cerebral assistant coach, keeps on them to backcheck constantly to help us out. Jean and Normand Chevrette get most of the powerplay time, and I get to play almost the entire penalty kill shifts, that’s one facet of the game my ‘style’ fits well. We do surprisingly well and make it to the finals but lose against Plomberie Langlois, they just have more horses than we do.

So you can imagine how stoked we are to have Andrei back. Me and him talk about what we’ll do and decide that we’ll play our regular position, but switch up after the faceoff during power plays and he’ll play left and I’ll be on the right side, I’ll be ready for one-timers off his setups. My shot is Svobodian, with Gingras-esque accuracy, but I’ve been working on it all summer, banging pucks and tennis balls at a piece of plywood propped up against the garage door, I think I may surprise a few goalies. My dad is pissed at all the damage to the door though, I guess I missed the plywood a few times, and he yells at me pretty bad. I know Sidney Crosby didn’t get that kind of treatment for wrecking their washing machine, and Wayne’s dad used to flood a rink for him to skate on in their backyard every year, nothing was too good for him. This lack of parental support just may hamper my playing career.

Anyway, we have to stop celebrating because the season is about to start, the new Forum is packed for the first game and is rocking. We skate back to the bench and realize we kind of goofed because the doors haven’t been installed yet, we’ll need one per defenceman. The hinges are already up and I’m pretty handy with a toolbox, and I’m not on the first shift anyway, so I offer to put them up. The puck drops and I get down to business, but quickly realize that I can’t install six doors on one doorway and one set of hinges, they won’t be able to swing past each other for one, so I’m really stumped, but then realize that they’re not really doors, they’re more like tabs or toggles, we’ll flip them forward or back depending on who is on the ice, kind of like those ‘In-Out’ boards you see in offices, it’ll help us keep track. The toggles are about the size of draft beer tap handles, white with our name printed in red, and I will put them in vertical order according to our depth chart, which means I’ll be the fourth name down, but when I look up I realize Andrei is no longer on the bench, he’s on the ice, and now he just scored. Everyone is crowding around him and congratulating him. I’m a little sour that he didn’t wait for me, and that the coaches sent him out there without me, and now I’m really worried that I’ve lost my defence partner, and I’m looking at the guys on the bench to see who I’ll end up playing with, but now I wake up and I’m all wound up and it’s daylight outside anyway so I might as well get up, and can this darn season get going already? I used to dream of Elle McPherson or Marge Simpson or the breakfast waitress at the Wildwood, but this is ridiculous.

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