Read There's a Shark in My Hockey Pool Online

Authors: Dave Belisle

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

There's a Shark in My Hockey Pool (12 page)

BOOK: There's a Shark in My Hockey Pool
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"I don't condone this kind of thing," Ray
said. "But somebody has to put that pompous peckerhead in his

Derek picked up the clip of bills and rolled
it over in his palm. The Terry Sawchuk card smiled in the
background. Ray turned toward the door and started to leave.

"Hey, dad ... uh, thanks."

Ray waved with a flick of the wrist over his
head, without looking back.

"What the hell. I've bet on worse long







Planes, Trains and Dog Sleds




... 1 ...


In a helicopter high above Toronto's western
suburbia, Erskine sat in the passenger seat. Armed with binoculars,
he focused on a hockey player playing in the rink below. Erskine
pointed for the pilot to take the chopper down.

The pilot shook his head and pointed to the
power lines below. They guarded the rink like crime scene tape that
was guaranteed to turn you a brighter shade of yellow.

Erskine realized this wasn't the time to
reach for his billfold and try persuade the pilot with an extra
hundred bucks. Every man had his price, but more important to the
pilot was being alive to spend it.

Still, Erskine wasn't disappointed. This was
the way to scout up and coming talent. The kids had years ago moved
inside to their twin rinks, with home and away jerseys and shampoo
dispensers in the showers. The young men who truly loved the game,
however, wouldn't bother waiting for a figure skating class or a
Squirts practice to end. Authentic, outdoor ice beckoned. For $150
an hour for the chopper, Erskine could scout more raw talent in one
afternoon than an NHL scout could in a week.

He was looking for a diamond in the rough. If
and when he found one, the price of hockey would surely go up.
Erskine cursed the hydro poles. No matter. He could easily mobilize
his ground forces to contact a player below, if need be. He patted
his cellular phone, took a swig from his flask of bourbon and
settled back in his seat. The bourbon swirled in his stomach as the
whirlybird whipped off to other neighborhood rinks.

Meanwhile, somewhere in the Northwest
Territories, Marcotte and Hammond were mushing a dogsled along a
trail. There were eight dogs in the harness and the lead dog,
Tundra, was laboring.

"Woah! Woah!" shouted Artie. Artie hadn't had
a chance to read the brochure that came with the dog team rental.
He'd brought a whistle, but that only made them go faster. Threats
to their ancestory didn't work. The canine caravan finally came to
a halt when two or more of the dogs had to pee.

Hammond jumped off the back of the sled and
made his way to the front, taking a wide berth of the dogs as he
did. He'd made the mistake earlier of getting too close to the
mutts. They had playfully attacked him and it had taken twenty
minutes to get everyone untangled. Artie rolled Tundra over on her

"Is she sick?" asked Derek. "I know I'd be
... eating that crunchy crap they call dog food."

Artie felt Tundra's swollen stomach.

"You're not gonna believe this. She's

Derek kicked at the snow.

"Jesus H. Christ! Great. That's just great.
We get a bitch with a bun in the oven. You mean you couldn't tell
she was pregnant when we picked up the sled?"

"I thought she was just fat. They did give us
a good price."

"Sure they did," said Derek. "C'mon Artie.
You know how these rental guys operate. They've got hidden charges
up the wah-zoo. Just watch. The money we saved will have to go for
vet bills now. God forbid we lose a dog. It's not like we have a
nearby phone booth that we can call Canadian Canine Club for help.
But, no ... we're gonna get dinged instead for bringing back an
extra dog. You know what shots for a dog cost these days?! Then
there's more of that damn dog food to buy ... and don't forget the
shelter tax. You know the drill."

"Uh ... you were there with me. Remember?"
Artie said meekly.

"Oh sure, I rent dog sleds everyday. Christ,
what am I gonna do? There are no tires to kick. What are we
supposed to do? Check their teeth? Look between their claws? The
extent of my dogsled expertise is a Farley Mowat book review from
grade six ... and ESPN's yearly 30-second review about that race in
Alaska. You know, the one named for when the guy who finally did it
boasted to his buddy, Rod.

"You mean, Iditarod," said Artie.


"That book review you wrote. Did it mention
anything about what to do when a dog goes into labour?"

They took Tundra out of the harness and put
her on the sled. They made a bed of blankets for her. Artie tucked
her in with a pat on the head.

"What now?" he asked.

"Well, as I see it," Derek said, " ... it's a
wash. We got the blankets -- but no hot water."

"Does that mean her odds are

Derek punched Artie on the shoulder. "Relax,
will ya? She's gonna be alright. Hell, they have eight or nine at a
time. We can start our own dogsled dealership."

"No thanks," Artie said. "Uh ... who should
we make the lead dog?"

"Definitely the one that was second.

"Why's that?"

"'Cause we're asking for trouble if we start
messin' with the order we got these mutts in. They've got some
kinda pooch protocol. I'm not about to freeze my ass trying to
convince a pack of wild dogs to let bygones be bygones."

"Good point."

Derek and Artie brought the dogsled to a stop
outside the rink. Half a dozen skidoos were parked outside. Derek
engaged the brake on the sled. He paused to pet Tundra, pulling the
blanket up to look at her five newborn pups underneath.

"We'll only be inside a couple of minutes.
Don't honk the horn and no playing in the ashtrays."

Inside the Raven Lake rink, Napoleon Tuckapuk
and a few other players played shinny. The first thing Derek and
Artie noticed about Tuckapuk was his long flowing black hair. A
puck could get lost in it. The next show-stopping detail was that
in this game of puck carrier vs. the world, Tuckapuk was conquering
all comers. He emerged from the pack unchecked ... time after

Derek and Artie watched in awe. Artie pulled
a small notebook out of his pocket and flipped it open.

"Napoleon Tuckapuk. Five eleven. Hundred and
eighty-five pounds. Playing in a league that the Nanaimo-to-Nova
Scotia Scouting Bureau classified as being Tier II calibre. 83
goals in 48 games last year ... the majority from in close."

Tuckapuk burst in on the goalie. He made
three quick dekes, leaving the goalie in a tangled heap by the left
post. Tuckapuk gently nestled the puck into the right half of a
yawning net. Derek and Artie looked at one another.

"Let's do it," said Derek.

An hour later in Tuckapuk's small cabin,
Napoleon, his mother, Derek and Artie all sat drinking coffee
around a table in the small cabin. The walls were adorned with
woven blankets, a deerskin, and a likeness of Grey Owl carved into
the broad, bending base of a 12-point elk horn. Derek considered
making small talk with Tuckapuk's mother, but the best he could
come up with was asking her for some survival tips in the
wilderness. Would she get upset and accuse him of patronizing her?
He quietly returned his mug to the table.

"So, Nap, how soon can you leave?"

"It's, uh ... not as easy as that."

"What's to do? We hop on our dogsled and
enjoy a luxurious twelve-hour return mush to Hay River. Then you
fly to Prince Albert and bus it to Toronto ... while we continue
looking for hockey sticks in haystacks. Uh, ... make that

Tuckapuk and his mother shared a few hushed
words in their native dialect. Tuckapuk turned back to Derek.

"You see, we have a custom that when a son
leaves his mother ... he must leave something with her."

"Heck," said Artie. "When I left home, my
folks were always sending me stuff."

"I guess dirty laundry is out of the
question," said Derek.

Hammond motioned to Marcotte, who leaned
toward him.

"We can't give them money," said Artie. "It
would be an insult."

"Sure," said Derek. "Besides, they break legs
for the amount of money we're gonna owe before Operation Frostbite
here is over."

The door to the cabin opened. There in the
doorway stood Tundra, holding one of her pups between her teeth, by
the scruff of the neck. Mrs. Tuckapuk's eyes lit up and she
beckoned Tundra to come closer. The dog brought the pup to the
woman and she cradled it in her lap. There was no contract with the
dotted line, no dollar amount to be discussed ... and Tuckapuk had
yet to say whether he would or wouldn't play for Derek's team.
Artie leaned closer to Derek.

"Do you think the dog team rental guy is
gonna keep our deposit on the sled?"

"No, we can always say she only had four
pups," Derek said. "We're home free ... unless the guy's Doctor


... 2 ...


In his gold-plate-fixtured jacuuzi, Erskine
reclined in the surging bubbles. He had a drink and a Castro
Capitalist cigar in one hand, a cellular phone in the other. Pool
side to his left was a thick paperback book, titled Nitwits' Guide
to Hockey Pools. The author's name was I.B. Hunting. The phone line
clicked at the other end.

"I.B. Hunting, please," Erskine said.

"Speaking." It was a warm, throaty, female
voice on a gravel road somewhere between Bonnie Raitt and Brenda

"You're a woman. I mean, sure you are. I'm
calling about your hockey pool book."

"Women win hockey pools too, y'know."

Hunting was speaking from her kitchen. She'd
been preparing a snack for her two young sons when the phone rang.
The boys, aged two and four, roughhoused with one another at her
feet. On top of the counter were four slices of bread. Hunting
balanced the phone on her shoulder, as she spread cheese whiz in
slow, deliberate swipes. She was in her late twenties, had a degree
in clinical psychology and did crossword puzzles in pen.

Erskine took a drag on his cigar and

"Nonsense," he said. "Those are only men
using their wives or girlfriends' names ... so they have an extra
chance of winning."

"Sometimes. But who is the first person they
tell when they win?" asked Hunting.

"The guys at work."

"And who is the money spent on?"

"The guy who wins it, of course," Erskine

"Ah, another macho meat-and-potato-head. Do
you have a significant other? ... uh ..."

"Victor." Erskine's politically incorrect
blood was on a low boil. He was not about to share the details of
his pending palimony suit with a stranger. His one-night stand with
a sexy-voiced telemarketer five years ago continued to haunt him
every time the phone rang.

"The point I'm trying to make, Victor, is
that the woman's name may as well be on the dotted line because she
stands to benefit from it ... at least indirectly."

She was right, thought Erskine. You couldn't
hide gambling for long from a woman. Sooner or later their
intuition kicked in like spider sense at a web-spinning symposium.
Your next winnings might be your own -- but they could be covering
the costs of a divorce lawyer. Erskine didn't have to win money to
have a good time. Flashing wads of dough in front of strangers was
enough of a charge. All rubles, no scruples ... Erskine would
instantly show the "wanna-be"s their weigh station in the wage
scale of life.

"Okay, you've made your point. Er, what does
the I stand for?"


Erskine reached for the paperback and thumbed
through it.

"Irene. In your book ... uh, you mention a
certain goalie ... Pa DeChance?

Erskine found the spot in the book he was
looking for.

"That would be in chapter six. Goal Post
Ghosts," Hunting said.

"Are these guys alive?" Erskine asked.

"Oh, sure. Most of them just play like
they're dead. But DeChance? He's a breed apart. Some call it a

"Go on," Erskine smirked. "You're talking
with Mister Leg Puller now."

Hunting stopped spreading cheese whiz long
enough to cast an eye on her tots. The hungry kids were clutching
and yanking on her pant legs, ready to scale her south side for
their snack.

"Well, Victor Leg Puller ... legend has it he
lives in northern Quebec. He's five feet tall ... and just about
that much wide."

"Or roughly the dimensions of the net,"
Erskine said.

"That's right."


... 3 ...


Derek and Artie paddled their canoe on a
crystal clear lake somewhere in northern Manitoba. The map had it
down as Tabascona Lake. "Tabascona" was Cree for, "I like my meat
spicy." The most surprising item on their itinerary thus far was
that the Mounties hadn't been called in yet to rescue them. Derek
and Artie had bumped into a little less than half of the 2.5 people
per square mile that the atlas had guaranteed existed in this part
of the country. The natives they met had quickly given the two
hockey-player hunters a crash course in Wilderness Survival 101.
This included making bannock, an instant Indian bread. The name was
originally derived from the Cornish "banna", meaning "drop" ... and
that's how easy it was to make. An old native woman in The Pas
showed Derek and Artie how to tell apart the top five tea leaves in
the province ... and which ones not to mix when driving. Finally,
there were certain sphagnum mosses which shouldn't be squeezed.

Artie had even taken a liking to lichen. The
marketing whiz in him wondered if this fungus-alga might take off
like tofu back in T.O. The flat, brittle, light-green, vein-like
growth could be served in restaurants underneath a cup or bowl of
hot water ... acting as a mini-place mat. The diner could then
either chew it -- a northern beef jerky for vegetarians -- or dump
it in the cup or bowl, to make a hot drink or soup. Shipping would
be tricky. Artie had pocketed a few samples. They were nothing but
crumbs now. Tea bag packaging was another option.

BOOK: There's a Shark in My Hockey Pool
7.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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