Fractured narrative ahead. More than usual, I mean.
I live ‘on’ the northern shore of Lake Ontario, near the famous (if we are to trust the ad copy) thousand islands. (Maybe they are — they have a Wikipedia page.)
Some of these islands are very small but ‘many’ have populations; the largest (Wolfe Island) has something over a thousand people living on it. Some of them (the residents, that is — not the islands) are ‘old’. And some of them play hockey.
One day some years ago, one such group decided to enter a tournament. Some groups do this regularly (I once sort of spared with a group that entered several every year) , some rarely, some never. Tournaments abound. They’re sort of like the bonspiels I mentioned in an earlier post. Only, you know, different.
This is all well and good, I can hear you thinking, but what does this have to do with you? The connection is that the organizer of this group is a relative of The Neighbour. (Cousin? I’m not sure. I used to know, but I’ve long forgotten. Doesn’t much matter anyway.)
I’ve discussed in the past that I am not an athlete. The Neighbour, however, is. For example, he played varsity football when an undergraduate, on a team that made it to the national championship. (The big game was played down the road in Toronto and was a hugely entertaining game against a tremendously talented opponent.
Anyway, the organizer, the relative-that-might-be-a-cousin was entering a team into a tournament and, for reasons that don’t remember (if, indeed, I ever knew them), he needed a couple of bodies. In such a situation I can imagine his mental processes going something like this: “Why don’t I call my relative-that-might-be-a-cousin, the incredibly talented athlete? He is, after all, in the correct age range and did I mention that he’s incredibly talented?” TN agreed to join the team but somewhere in there there was the need for a second body. I can imagine that going something like this: “So you’ll play. We still need another player — know anyone that might be interested?” “Well, there’s this guy next door. He’s a little faster than a pylon and he has hands like concrete but he doesn’t barf on the ice much at all.”
That is, of course, imagined. But however it actually played out, I got the call.
Time passed and the day of the first game arrived; I showed up at the arena and there was a team (always a good thing) as well as something
Fans. Spectators. A gallery. Lots of them. Friends and relatives of the team. They looked at me with thinly disguised suspicion. I was, after all, a stranger.
“Umm, I went to school with <name of person from the Island>.” And that was enough — the suspicion was gone.(It was even true — I did go to school with someone from the Island. I just didn’t know her that well — we met once or twice because we were very close alphabetically. And that’s all.)
To be fair, that suspicion may have been my imagination; I’m generally pretty worried about my ‘fit’ in any group and I may have imagined it. Something did happen when I mentioned my ‘connection’, though.
The next obstacle was The Dressing Room. Normally (I think I’ve mentioned this) I take off my glasses when entering a dressing room; it’s easy to get changed in a room full of fuzzy blurs. (Do you think I have a problem dealing with people? Does it show much?) Trouble is, I actually had to, you know, Interact. There were the inevitable introductions and I had to find out where I’d be playing.
Turns out I was to play right defense on the second (there being two) line. That part was fine — I shoot right and everything. It got kind of surreal when it was revealed that my defense partner hadn’t played in a while. Because the last time he had played he had had a heart attack on the ice.
That sort of added an extra dimension to the game — keep the other guys from scoring and your line partner from having a medical emergency. That’s harder than it sounds. I’ve played with people who were always where they were needed, when they were needed.
I’m not one of them. They’re annoying, anyway.
So I tried to do my job as best I could and we had two enjoyable games. The third game was a little different. In the first two games we had done well enough to wind up in some sort of final so the third game was kind of a tough fight.
Let me rephrase that — there were no actual fights that I remember except for one that I’ll describe in a bit but it was a tough game against a good team and we were Prevailing.
With a little more than ten minutes left on the clock, the entire starting forward line stood up and left. Say what? Recall that they live on the island — they had to leave then to catch the ferry. Or spend an extra X hours in town.
This is when the fight happened — the referee blew a call, quite badly, and one of our remaining players… disagreed. I understand the emotion involved. But it never helps. It wound up with the player in question ejected. Which put us down to one on the bench. The last ten minutes of the game are a bit of a blur. But we hung on. Somehow.
No one had a coronary ‘event’.
And they made the ferry.
So everyone won.