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Authors: Dave Belisle

Tags: #comedy, #hockey, #humour, #sports comedy, #hockey pool

There's a Shark in My Hockey Pool

BOOK: There's a Shark in My Hockey Pool
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There’s a Shark in My Hockey Pool

Dave Belisle

Copyright 2014 by Dave Belisle

Smashwords Edition

The Zamboni Knows

 

 

 

... 1 ...

 

Derek Marcotte finished loosening his skates
and relaxed. He looked around the locker room. If they ever needed
the Zen of the zamboni, it was now. The resurfacing of the ice
between periods had a certain mystique about changing the fortunes
of hockey teams. It was the most plausible explanation why a team
could go from flat to fabulous ... or why teams were blamed for
playing only forty minutes of hockey. How a team performed
certainly didn't hinge on the coach's pep talk. In 1985, hockey was
still waiting for its first locker room speech of Knute Rockne
magnitude. What a team did with the Stanley Cup after they won it,
made for far more interesting reading than any behind-the-scenes
bravado leading up to it.

With two intermissions in hockey for every
half-time in football, hockey players unfortunately had to focus on
twice the number of words as did their football counterparts. Enter
the zamboni. The large, oblong, show stopping vehicle parted the
ice with a watery wake. It was something tangible, something the
hopes of an entire team could easily slide under ... to be mulled
over and chewed upon. And when the Zen was "in", there was no need
to worry about when momentum, a.k.a. "the mighty mo", would make
it's unpredictable shift your way ... because it would. Tracking
the mighty mo was perhaps the easiest job an off-ice official could
have, but it was never in the scoring summary. It was the Zen of
the zamboni.

The coaching fraternity across Canada knew
this. Wally Mitchell, with thirteen years of zamboni-watching under
his belt as head coach of the Guelph Gargoyles, understood it all
too well. After two periods, his team was down two goals to the
Western University Appaloosas in the biggest game of the year --
the 1985 Canadian college championship. Mitchell's decision was
immediate. He went for a coffee.

Derek Marcotte stared across the dank
dressing room the Gargoyles were holed up in. Trailing 4-2, most of
the players heads were hanging. It was a package deal at the local
pillory -- minus the stocks. Their muddled thoughts turned from
two-goal uprisings to the scouts in the stands. Had they carried
the puck enough to be pencilled in on a notepad as "nifty"? Or
mucked it up enough in the corners to be called "gritty"? They
prayed a scout wasn't watching when they coughed the puck up in the
corner ... lest they be labeled just plain "shitty." But on a team
loaded with seniors, the next game for most would be on discount
ice time available late at night.

Marcotte needn't worry. He'd been drafted the
previous spring by Winnipeg. He'd have preferred Toronto, but he
didn't have the Gretzkyesque numbers to stake out his stomping
grounds.

Winnipeg could wait. Western was in the
twenty-two year old's sights. Marcotte rang off a silent roll call
of the faces across the room. Jarryd Williams, a pointy-eared kid
from Orillia, had come to him a year ago with an economics problem.
He'd given Williams the number of a pretty coed who would be his
tutor. Williams had gotten her pregnant, and they had the kid. Now
they couldn't find student housing, besides having other problems
... in economics.

Sandy Pederson. A speedster from Thunder Bay.
So quick that you had to keep your own head up when he was on the
ice. They'd clipped each other in a game against Waterloo. It was a
bone-jarring collision with Marcotte carrying the puck north-south
and Pederson skating pell-mell from point A to B via an east-west
route. The intersection and game was shut down for five minutes.
Following that, the coach had put Pederson out on the ice for
mostly penalty killing situations. There was more room to roam ...
and if he was going to hit someone, it was a 55% chance it would be
a player on the other team.

Patrick Bailey. Right defense and a wicked
shot. That is, until February rolled around. Since then, he'd
picked up the nickname "Twilight" because that's the only zone his
slapshots from the point could find.

Normie Schuman. A squat, square-faced kid
from Tweed who didn't feel he was contributing unless he was in
three scraps a week. On and off the ice. He had the distinction of
losing a filling in every rink in Ontario college hockey. With his
phonics framework shot to hell, it was difficult understanding
Normie at times. For a guy who let his fists do the talking, it was
time he learned sign language.

"My goddamn back ... " Gerry Pope said with a
wince to the player beside him, Chris Crossley. "Bastard gave me
the lumber from behind."

Derek watched Pope and Crossley. The two were
not to be confused with a pair of puck savvy saviors.

"Don't sweat it," Crossley said. "We'll be
swinging nine irons real soon."

"And how," Pope sneered. "My old man keeps a
place down in Fort Lauderdale. Par fours in the a.m. and bar whores
in the p.m. Heh-heh."

Crossley's helmet exploded off the bench. A
puck rebounded off the concrete wall behind Crossley, deflected up
off the ceiling and back to the rubber-matted floor. It rolled to a
stop at Pope's feet. Falling flat, the distinct splat echoed
through the room. Marcotte stood in the center of the room, holding
a hockey stick in both hands, waist high.

"So it's the goddamn road show, eh? Mind if I
play through?"

Pope slowly picked up his helmet beside him
on the bench and nervously placed it two feet further away.
Marcotte was still armed with a hockey stick and the puck was too
close for comfort.

"The biggest game of our lives and you guys
are teeing it up. Well, I'm TEED OFF!"

Derek paced the floor in the slow determined
march of his hero, Winston Churchill. Marcotte wondered how fast
Churchill actually walked, given the jittery World War II footage
in which the British prime minister was held prisoner. Derek used
the hockey stick to measure his steps, not unlike Churchill's
cane.

"Sun and surf. Hah! If it's sand you want,
remember the beaches of Normandy! The bridge over the River Kwai!
The shores of Grenada! These were surfer dudes who came in on the
enemy. Wave after wave. They holed out in bunkers day and night --
without a sand wedge. And ditch the surf boards. During war, the
Geneva Convention outlawed hanging ten."

"I should say so. The surf is never up in
Geneva," Williams said to Pederson.

Derek glared through the windowed souls of
each player he passed by.

"Men ... we're about to embark on a
twenty-minute quest where we will determine our own brand of world
order."

Pederson meekly raised his hand to draw
Marcotte's attention.

"We only have to pick up two goals," Pederson
said matter-of-factly.

Beautiful, thought Marcotte. Another
accounting major masquerading as a hockey player. Derek's stare
pierced Pederson's skull. The Gargoyle captain was trying to
motivate his troops and this number-crunching nimrod may as well be
collecting box tops for a magnetic decal board.

"Look what the Japanese had to pick up after
two bombs!" Marcotte hollered. "We're getting our butts kicked,
men! Let's go!"

The players jumped to their feet. They
quickly adjusted their helmet straps, shoved their hands into their
gloves and made their way for the door. Marcotte's tirade had fired
up a few of the players. These were the players who stumbled by,
fumbling with their sticks as they tried picking them out of the
stick rack.

"Damn the torpedoes!" Bailey yelled.

Schuman, walking ahead of him, turned
around.

"Great tune. Tom Petty and the
Heart-breakers, eh?"

 

... 2 ...

 

Third period play was underway. A capacity
crowd was on hand ... and not sitting on them. While their eyes
followed the sluggish play, their mouths spoke of actions taking
place off the ice. A collective smugness had washed over the
audience. Amateur sports were still safe from salary caps and
strikes. At least until the players demanded representation to get
more money under the table.

The action turned chippy as players took runs
at anything moving in a different colored sweater. An Appaloosa
player blasted Derek into the corner boards to the left of the
Western goalie. As Marcotte lay dazed with his head at ice level
... he was mesmerized by the gleam of nearby skate blades ...
biting ice flakes with their scraping steel appetite. The safety of
his own sight and health demanded he take a different vantage point
and he groggily staggered to his feet. He grabbed the dasherboard
on the second try. Steadying himself, he focused on a little girl
sitting in a man's lap, three rows behind the puck-marked
plexiglass. She was pointing off into the distance, presumably at
the team mascot ... a babysitter-at-large -- paid to obstruct as
many views as possible in sixty minutes.

"Hey, Marcotte! Get stuffed!"

Derek closed his eyes, conserving energy. It
was a shame children had to hear such filth. But the obscenities
raining down out of the crisp, cool, refrigerated air reminded him
where he was ... and where he should go. He blinked twice to cure
his double vision.

He immediately spotted Williams skating in
from the blue line, carrying the puck along the same side of the
ice. Marcotte rapped his stick hard against the ice twice, in case
Williams hadn't seen him. The pass came to Derek, who took it and
relayed it back to Williams in one motion. The puck fluttered
softly over the outstretched stick of the defending Western player
... back to Williams, completing the drive-thru, give-and-go
passing play. He gave the goalie a quick deke to the left. The
netminder went for it, looking in the sock drawer when he should
have gone for the closet. Williams eased the puck into the gaping
net. The deficit was cut in half, with plenty of time left.
Williams and Derek tapped gloves, congratulating each other.

"Nice elevator pass," Williams said.

Derek nodded toward the scoreboard behind
him. 10:32 remained in the third. The white bulbs flashed awake,
changing the score to 4-3.

"Still have one more floor to go."

There was life on the Guelph bench. The
difference between a one- and two-goal third period deficit was not
unlike that between community service and capital punishment.

For the next few minutes however, it was the
Guelph goalie, Jason Hartwell, who faced a firing squad of his own.
Western kept the Gargoyles hemmed in their own end. Hartwell kept
body, limb and every non-regulation inch of equipment between the
Appaloosa shooters and the trigger-happy goal judge behind him.

Finally Guelph gained control of the puck.
Bailey hit Derek with a sharp pass as Marcotte came wheeling out of
the Gargoyle zone, up the middle. A shift of the hips put Derek in
passing gear and by the bewildered Western defenseman at center
ice. Marcotte was in cold on a two-on-one break with Crossley. Pope
joined the play as a trailer, turning the break-out into a
three-on-one. Derek went bowlegged for a split second, dropping a
pass between his legs back to Pope.

Pope one-timed the soft pass past the Western
goalie's glove into the top right corner of the net. Derek,
Crossley and Pope met in the face-off circle to celebrate the tying
goal. Amidst back slapping, high fives and shin pad tapping, they
didn't see the Western defenseman, Victor Erskine, until it was too
late.

Erskine shoved Pope from behind. Pope in turn
bumped into Crossley and they both went sprawling. Derek grabbed
Erskine with his right hand and quickly reeled him in to within
nose-biting distance. With gloves in each others faces, they traded
various pokes and jabs about ten seconds short of becoming
two-minute penalties. The linesmen moved in between the two
players.

"After the next goal, pal ... your ass is
gonna be western ... like in B.C.," said Derek.

Erskine shook his head and smirked.

"Au contraire. After the next goal ... we'll
be toasting our win with champagne. I'll save you the empty for
your next bottle drive."

The Western defenseman spoke with his head
tilted back in a haughty sort of way. Marcotte restrained himself
from dropping a glove and losing his fist in Erskine's face.

The linesmen finally pulled them apart and
the teams changed their skaters. The scoreboard showed a 4-4 tie
with 4:28 remaining.

 

... 3 ...

 

Neutral zone play ate up most of the time
remaining on the clock. By the time the teams lined up for a
face-off deep in Guelph's zone, there were only 42 ticks left.
Derek hunkered down in the face-off circle. A defiant, almost
maniacal gleam filled his eyes. This was the extreme temporary
insanity that all good centers fell victim to prior to the drop of
the puck. Marcotte fixated upon the black disc cradled in the
referee's hand. It surely was some sort of priceless heirloom, the
object of a dream sequence replaying in his head. The clumsy oaf
would drop the puck. He always did. Each time, the only way
Marcotte could save it was to catch it on the blade of his stick.
This was the treacherous part. The opposing center did his
damnedest to prevent Derek from retrieving the shiny black
disc.

BOOK: There's a Shark in My Hockey Pool
11.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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