It was Wednesday afternoon and Rick decided to skip his economics class that afternoon. Over the summer he went to the library and got a copy of the slim, brown, grade twelve economics textbook and read it all the way through in a couple of sittings. As Rick had already read several books from the library on politics and modern history, he found the concepts in the economics textbook easy for him to understand. Rick thought that missing one economics class was not going to impede his learning. He had a big game tonight against the Norberry Knights and Rick felt that he needed the afternoon to get himself both mentally and physically prepared for the game.
Rick had read about how some very successful professional hockey players prepare for their games. Rick knew that a great deal of the preparation for a game was mental and this meant ‘psyching yourself up’. He lay down on his bed, closed his eyes and visualized making great saves in the upcoming game. Rick would do this for about twenty minute before he walked down to the basement to do some warm -up exercises.
His routine started with some light stretching movements. Rick would then climb up on his stationary exercise bike and pedal at a moderate speed for about twenty minutes. After his bike ride, Rick moved to the spot on the carpet where he kept his free weights. He would then do some light resistance training. After following this routine with a five- minute break, Rick picked up a light green tennis ball. He used his right hand to whack the tennis ball against the cement wall in his basement. As soon as the ball rebounded off the wall Rick would catch it with his left hand. He completed this exercise in two five minute intervals.
Rick used an old towel to wipe off the perspiration while he jogged upstairs to the kitchen to make himself a corned beef sandwich and a glass of milk. After his lunch Rick got into bed and took a forty-five-minute nap.
Upon arising from a restful nap, Rick started to think about the importance of tonight’s hockey game. Rick’s team, the Cougars had gotten off to a shaky start to the season. So far, they had played five games in which they won one, lost three and tied one. This was the worst season start for the Cougars during the last ten years. Rick was trying to figure out why this was happening.
One reason was that only a few players returned from last year’s team. Most of the veteran players were now ineligible to play due to their ages. The majority of this year’s team were younger and frankly, were not as talented as the veteran players the team had lost. Rick knew that he would really need to step up his game this year to make his team competitive. Once again as he had done the last few years, his coach was trying to split the workload between his two goalies by platooning them.
The other goalie was two years younger than Rick. His name was Miles Meyers. Miles was shorter and didn’t have the big build that Rick has, but he was a very acrobatic young goalie. While studying Miles’s play. Rick concluded that Miles would be a top notch goalie with a few more years of experience under his belt.
The Cougars were scheduled to play the Norberry Knights that evening. Before getting his gear ready for the game, Rick thought about giving Misty a call to see if she would like to come with him to watch the game.Tonight, Rick was scheduled to start in goal as it was an away game. It worked out that Rick would play most of the away games and Miles would work the majority of home games. For some reason, Rick liked this arrangement as he found that he preferred to play in different rinks. He seemed to get more pumped up when he knew that at least one side of the arena would ‘boo’ him. Like a professional wrestler, Rick enjoyed ‘drawing heat’ from the opposition’s fans.
As Rick did not know how Misty would respond to his invitation, he was more than a little nervous when he picked up the phone.
“Hi, Misty. It’s Rick,”
“You think that I don’t recognize my new boyfriend’s voice by now?” asked Misty.
“I love the sound of ‘my new boyfriend’,” Rick said.
“It sounds like you are falling in love.”
“I already have,” replied Rick.
“So what’s on your mind?” Misty asked.
“I’ve got a hockey game and I want to know if you would like to come with me.”
“That’s right. I’m dating a jock. I’ve never done that before. Sure, let’s go for it. I’ve never even been to a hockey game before.”
“You’ll love it. Good, fast paced action. Can you be ready by five-thirty?”
“I think I can manage that. I’m kind of looking forward to watching you play hockey,” Misty answered.
Rick picked Misty up precisely at five-thirty. Misty was dressed in a slightly faded red UCLA sweatshirt and was ready to go. When they arrived at the St. Vital Arena a few of Rick’s teammates and their girlfriends were just getting out of their cars. Eric Coswell, one of the Cougars defensemen was the first to greet Rick. Eric was wiry and a bit small for a defenseman, but he was very strong and was very effective in keeping opposing players out of Rick’s crease.
“Are you all ready for an epic battle tonight, Rick, my man? Hey, who’s the beautiful young lady beside you?” Eric asked.
“I just got out of my car and you’ve already fired two questions at me. Which one do you want me to answer first?” Rick replied while smiling at Eric.
Tonight Rick was feeling really good. He had often dreamed about a time when he would have a female to show off to his teammates. It had not been easy being the only player on his team not to have a girlfriend.
“Yes, I’m psyched for the game and this is my neighbour, Misty,” Rick said. He was positively beaming by this point.
“Actually we’re more than just neighbours, Eric. Rick’s my new boyfriend,” Misty said proudly.
“Yeah, sorry Misty. I should have said that you are my girlfriend,” Rick said sheepishly.
“You’re forgiven dear. I hear that Rick’s a really good goalie,” Misty said.
“You heard right. I would go so far as to say that Rick’s the best goalie in the league,” Eric said.
Rick blushed and said, “We better get in the arena. I need to find Misty a seat in the stands and you and I need to get dressed for the game.”
“Please excuse Eric’s poor manners,” said a shapely young female with sparkling green eyes and beautiful auburn hair that was impatiently standing by Eric’s side.
“Sorry, Rick’s already met Susan, but I don’t know if you two girls know each other,” Eric said.
“I know Misty from school. She’s in my biology class. Unfortunately, we’ve never really talked before today,” Susan said.
“Hi Susan. I’m sorry I haven’t talked to you yet. I’m a bit shy and I’m still new to Maplewood,” Misty said.
“Well, that’s all going to change tonight. Rick, you won’t have to take Misty to the stands. I got you covered. I’m going to get us a couple of coffees from the concession stand and then I’ll introduce her to the rest of the ‘hockey wives,’” Susan said.
As Rick and Eric entered the visitors dressing room all the talk was about the girl that Rick brought to the game. A few seconds later the Cougars coach Brad Kennan returned from the washroom.
“Listen up you guys. I know you’re curious, but don’t ask Rick any questions about his new female friend. Wait until the game is over. You guys all realize the importance of tonight’s game. I need Rick and the rest of you guys to place all your concentration on the game for the next ninety minutes and nothing else. Most of all, I don’t want Rick distracted by anything. I need him to be completely focused on the game.
As I’ve told you guys before, I’m not happy with the way we’ve started off this season. I also know that you’ve heard a lot of talk from some of our fans. They’ve been saying that this year’s team is too young and doesn’t have the talent that previous year’s teams had. Yes, we are probably the youngest team in a few years, but that doesn’t bother me. Our youngest players will pick up on experience as the season progresses. I want you players to forget about the naysayers and to start to think positively. I believe in you guys and believe that we will be a force to be reckoned with this season.”
The Cougars started getting dressed for the game. Every player followed a different routine in putting on their hockey gear. For Rick, the most important component of getting prepared had already been done at home. Rick was meticulous in making sure that every item of his goalie equipment was placed in his duffle bag before he left home. Rick would double check a few minutes later to make sure that he hadn’t missed anything while he was packing up his duffle bag.
One of the last pieces of equipment that Rick put on was his hockey sweater. When the Cougars played on the road they always wore their white sweaters with brown and gold trim. Rick always preferred the road jersey with his name and the number one on the back.
As he was tonight’s starting goalie for the Cougars, he was the first to lead his teammates from the visitor’s dressing room to the ice. Rick had placed two pucks in his trapper glove for the five- minute warm up. He always felt a tremendous rush of adrenaline surge through him as he led his team out to the ice.