As soon as Rick stepped on the ice he could hear a cacophony of noise coming from both the left and right hand bleachers. Most of the crowd in the left bleachers were booing Rick and the Cougars, but he could also hear some cheers of encouragement coming from the opposite bleachers. The Cougars were blessed to have a large group of committed fans who travelled to all their road games. Rick didn’t mind the booing and verbal assaults from the Norberry fans. It just pumped more adrenaline through his veins.
Rick made a practice of only skating one cycle around the rink. During the end of his skate Rick dropped two practise pucks on the ice for his teammates. The rest of the Cougars would complete one more round of the rink and line up at the blue line ready to take warm up shots at Rick. Rick took the warm up routine very seriously. His goal was not to allow any pucks to get by him during the warm up. With Rick’s lightening fast, well developed glove hand, none of his teammates shots entered the net. Rick’s team followed a routine of taking only slap-shots from the blue line.
Just as important to Rick as not letting any pucks in during the warm up routine, was his desire to stop the first shot fired at him by the opposition. Rick’s first test came early. The Cougar’s lost the first face-off draw to the Norberry Knights. This allowed Norberry’s star left winger, Paul Bolten to fire a blazing slap-shot at the Cougar’s goal. The Cougar’s goalie countered with lightening speed and caught the puck that was intended for the top right corner of the net. Rick decided to play it safe and freeze the puck for a face off in the left face-off circle of the Cougar’s goal.
This was just a foretaste of what Rick was forced to handle during the rest of the first period. The Norberry Knights were physically a much larger team than the Cougars. The Cougars had a slight advantage in speed, but Norberry’s game plan was to counter it with brute physicality. The Cougar players were taking hard checks every time they tried to get the puck out of their own end of the ice. Fortunately, Rick was in top form, stopping both high and low shots from every angle and scrambled to constantly stay on top of the action in front of his net. To Rick’s relief the siren to mark the end of the first period sounded just as Rick made another spectacular save.
Misty could guess what the term, ‘hockey wives’ meant and was not sure that she liked the implications. She could not imagine her prime identity as being a hockey player’s boyfriend. As she watched the first period of the game she was not sure that she even liked hockey. She wondered if some of the other girls felt the same way and only attended the hockey games because they loved their boyfriends. Misty also thought that for most of the girls being attached to a hockey player was an important part of their identity. For them, being a hockey player’s girlfriend was an important status symbol. The women’s liberation movement was starting to make some head way in the sixties, but it seemed to not have had much impact on the majority of Canadian females. To these women, dating a hockey player was critical to their self esteem and placed them in an elite group at high school.
As Misty scanned the row of ‘hockey wives’ she noted that all were attractive young women. This seemed to imply that a member of the hockey team had to have a good looking girl at his side. If he couldn’t latch onto a beautiful girl, there must be something wrong with him and he would be better off just being single, just as Rick had been before this evening.
Eric’s girlfriend, Susan introduced Misty to the rest of the group.
“Don’t be nervous, Misty. We’ll all have time to talk after the first period ends. During that time the players go to their dressing rooms for fifteen minutes. It gives the guys a chance to rest and to get feedback from their coach.
When the Cougars returned from their dressing room to start the second period defenceman, Eric Coswell skated over to Rick’s goal crease to tap his pads with his stick.
“You’re playing great tonight Rick. You’re really keeping us in the game. If Miles was in goal, I bet we’d be behind by three goals already.”
“Don’t be so hard on the kid. Give him some time. Miles has been working hard. He just needs more experience,” Rick replied.
“I’m still glad you’re playing tonight, Rick,” Eric said.
“Just remember, Eric. We can take these guys. A win against the Knights this early in the season would give our guys a big boost and would really increase their confidence,” Rick said.
“That’s another reason I like you Rick, your positive attitude.”
“Hey, I’ve never played for a losing team and I don’t intend to start now,” Rick said.
“I’ll pass your words of encouragement on to the guys when I get back to the bench,” Eric said.
In the stands Susan turned towards Misty. “The team’s sure lucky to have Rick with us this year. He’s giving us a chance to be a winning team.”
Misty took a sip from her cup of coffee and smiled. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad going out with a star hockey player.
Linda Saunders, Miles’s girlfriend, overheard this conversation and gave Misty and Susan a dirty look. Before Rick Miller decided to join the Cougars for one more season the other girls were singing the praises of her boyfriend, Miles. Linda was afraid that this would cause her to lose some prestige among the rest of the player’s girlfriends.
Linda turned to Shelly who was standing next to her in the stands. “You know Shelly. I’ve heard some wild stories about Rick Miller and his new girlfriend, Misty.”
Shelly looked surprised. “Yeah? Like what?”
“I heard that both Rick and Misty are really into drugs and that Misty sleeps around a lot,” Linda said.
“Wow!” was all that Shelly could say.
Eric Coswell skated over to the Cougars bench to pass on the pep talk that Rick Miller had just given him. He then skated back to take his position on defense. Eric was the best defenseman on the Cougars roster and he was absolutely fearless when it came to protecting Rick in goal.
Shortly after the puck was dropped to start the second period Eric’s determination and courage were put to the test. During the first intermission, Jeff Hadley, the Norberry Knight’s coach had given one of his power forwards, Glenn Davison, a special assignment. Jeff asked Glenn to meet him in the washroom for a private conversation.
“Look Glenn, I didn’t want to say this in front of your teammates, but I want you to do something for me during the second period.”
“Sure. What do you want me to do, coach?” Glenn asked as he adjusted his elbow pads.
“Glenn you’re a smart enough player to see what happened out there in the first period. We badly out played the Cougars. We had the puck in their end the majority of the time and out shot them eleven to four. We should be winning this game by at least two goals, maybe three. The only reason we’re not winning this game is Maplewood’s goalie, Rick Miller. He’s made some incredible saves during the first period and that is why the game is still scoreless. As soon as you get a chance, I want you to take a run at him. I want to see Rick Miller hit so hard that he has to be taken out of the game. At the very least, I want to see Miller so shaken up that it will throw him off for the rest of the game,” Jeff said trying to speak quietly so that his other players wouldn’t hear what he told Glen. The Knight’s coach knew that there were a few bleeding hearts on his team that would not approve of so unsportsman -like a game strategy.
“No problem coach. I’ll take Miller out of the game. I know that their defenseman, Eric Coswell will go after me as soon as I crash into Miller,” Glenn said.
“I know he will, but you’re the team’s enforcer. I expect you to punch Coswell out in the ensuing fight. I want to send the Cougars a powerful message. We can’t allow a weak team like Maplewood beat us this early in the season. I want our team to win the city championship,” Jeff said pounding his fist into his other hand for emphasis.
The referee dropped the puck and Norberry center, Milt Hamilton won the face-off draw. He immediately passed the puck back to his teammate, defenceman, Russel Stein. When Stein saw a Cougar forward rushing toward him he immediately dumped the puck along the boards. The puck careened behind the Cougar’s net and Rick Miller left his net to stop it. Glenn Davidson saw his opportunity and charged towards Rick using all of his two hundred pounds to smash the Cougar’s goalie into the boards. Rick didn’t see the hit coming and slid down the boards laid flat out on the ice. Rick was unconscious.
A few seconds after Davidson levelled Rick, an enraged Eric Coswell raced in front of the Knight’s enforcer and dropped his gloves. Davidson did the same and an epic battle appeared inevitable. Coswell matched Davidson in height, weight and power. Eric threw the first punch, a powerful round house right that brought the Knight’s power forward to his knees. A stream of red blood started to stream out of Davidson’s mouth. By this time the referee saw that Davidson looked seriously injured and with the help of two linesmen restrained Eric Coswell from any further aggression towards his opponent. Norberry’s trainer came out to examine Davidson and Maplewood’s trainer arrived beside Rick Miller. The fans let out two audible gasps. One when Davidson bulldozed Rick Miller into the boards and another one when Eric Coswell pole-axed Glenn Davidson.
With the help of the trainer and a teammate a wobbly Davidson was taken to the Norberry Knights bench. Maplewood’s trainer didn’t want Rick Miller moved until the paramedics arrived with a stretcher. As soon as she saw what happened to Rick, Misty climbed down towards the Cougar’s bench. She turned to Susan and wept when she saw the paramedics arrive.
Two young paramedics came on to the ice. Two of the Cougars players grabbed onto the paramedics’ arms as they escorted them towards Rick. Rick was now slowly becoming conscious, but felt woozy. His vision was blurry.
Two other paramedics were at The Norberry Knights bench attending to Glenn Davidson. As soon as the paramedics finished their examination of Glenn, they put some ice in a towel for temporary treatment of a cut lip that would require suturing. They also wanted to take Glenn to the hospital so that the attending emergency physician could check for a possible broken jaw.
When Rick’s paramedics got ready to assess Rick’s medical condition, Rick was lying prone on the ice behind the Cougars net. Rick was able to answer the questions asked by the paramedics. He was feeling disoriented and slightly confused. Rick could tell the paramedic where he was, but wasn’t sure what had happened to him. The paramedics brought out a stretcher and carefully placed Rick on it. Both Rick Miller and Glenn Davidson were transported to St. Boniface Hospital.
After the ambulance left the referee and his linesmen huddled together to discuss what penalties needed to be assessed. In less than five minutes, the officials had come to a consensus. Glenn Davidson was assessed a boarding penalty, a ten- minute misconduct and a game misconduct. Eric Coswell was given a five- minute roughing penalty for drawing blood, a ten- minute misconduct and a game misconduct. The official knew that when they composed their game report at the end of the third period, they would have to describe the violent incidents in detail. The game report would be reviewed by the league’s conveners who would decide what would happen in terms of suspensions for both Glenn Davidson and Eric Coswell.
On the Cougar’s bench, Coach Brad Keenan told Miles Meyers to get on the ice and start taking some warm up shots from the teammates that were still on the ice.