Coach Brad Keenan got to the St. Vital Arena about ten minutes after Hadley arrived. He, too, needed to deliver a powerful, inspirational speech to his team. Two of his top players, injured goalie, Rick Miller and suspended defenseman, Eric Coswell would not be playing tonight. The Maplewood Cougars were not only going to miss the incredible skill set of his two top players, but also their maturity and leadership abilities. He knew that his team would not be approaching tonight’s game with a strong sense of confidence. They had all seen how their backup goalie, Miles Myers had performed in yesterday morning’s practice. They watched dejectedly as Miles let in one soft goal after another.
Brad recalled how he became so exasperated that he did something that he very rarely did. He called out one of his players publicly. Brad remembered his exact words as he verbally stripped down his young, relatively inexperienced, second string goaltender.
“Do you have any idea how much is riding on tomorrow night’s game? We desperately need a win. I know you’re not Rick Miller, but the team is counting on you to step up to the plate and make everyone forget that we don’t have the services of Rick Miller tomorrow.”
As soon as the team finished practice and arrived back at the dressing room, Brad asked Miles if he could have a word with him in the coach’s office.
“I’m sorry I yelled at you, Miles. It’s not your fault that Rick Miller won’t be able to play tomorrow. To tell you the truth, I’ve been under a ton of stress lately and this morning I let it get the best of me. I just ask that you give the team your best effort tomorrow night.”
“Thanks Coach. I know I played shitty this morning. I’ve been under a lot of stress myself. Besides knowing that I need to replace Ricky, my dad has really been on my case. You see, I bought a used car that I fell in love with yesterday. My dad was not impressed that I used up a good chunk of my college tuition savings to pay for the car. Don’t worry coach. I’m going to play my best game ever tomorrow.”
Episode Eight Mr. Holmes:
Caleb Jacobson adored his grade seven science teacher, Mr. Holmes. Caleb liked Jeffrey Holmes so much that he volunteered to help his teacher clean up and organize the science lab after school three times per week. Mr. Holmes was old, very old to a thirteen year- old boy. The junior high science teacher was a thin built widower who had suffered from almost unbearable pain from his arthritis and comorbid fibromyalgia for over ten years now. The only thing that made his life bearable now was medical marijuana.
Jeffery Holmes stumbled upon the efficacy of marijuana for pain management by way of his neighbour’s son Jordan, or Jordy as his friends referred to him. Jeff was just returning from a boy’s night out at The St. Vital Hotel. While enjoying shooting the breeze with his friends Jeffrey managed to put away a few brews. Feeling a little happy, Jeff heard a loud party going on in Jordy’s back yard and leaned over the fence to investigate what all the excitement was about. He noticed a young teenage girl wearing only her skimpy, red underwear bouncing on a trampoline. Although she was likely quite impaired she still got to demonstrate her athleticism. The young beauty was somehow able to smoke a cigarette and drink a can of Budweiser while simultaneously bouncing on the trampoline.
Jordy took his eyes off the girl just long enough to see Mr. Holmes appearing to be mesmerized by what he was witnessing.
“She sure is a looker. Now ain’t she Mr. Holmes?”
A somewhat startled Jeffrey Holmes responded by saying, “Now that’s not fair Jordy to ask an old man that. Now, if I was about forty years younger I’d feel more qualified to render my opinion. She sure has great balance. I can say that much. Is that a joint that you have in your hand Jordy?”
“Sure is. You want a hit?”
“I haven’t smoked pot since I was your age. Oh. what the hell. Give the old man a couple of tokes.”
“Way to go Mr. Holmes. Why don’t you take the rest of the joint? Feel free to join the party. My folks won’t be back from their trip until tomorrow evening,” Jordy said.
“Ill tell you what. I’ll gratefully accept your offer of the remainder of the joint, but I’ll have to pass on joining your party. I’m very tired and my fibro and arthritis are killing me. I think I’ll just finish the joint and head to bed.”
“I’ll bet you’ll get a great night’s sleep and will wake up with less pain in the morning. See you tomorrow Mr. Holmes.”
Jeffrey Holmes thanked Jordy and sat down on his back door steps to smoke his joint. He inhaled deeply with each hit off the joint. He remembered the proper technique for getting the maximum results from smoking weed from his youth.
When Mr. Holmes awoke he glanced at his alarm clock and saw that the clock read 11:12 AM. Thank God it was Saturday and he wouldn’t have to go to work. Jeffrey had slept for almost twelve hours! He usually only got four to five hours of unrefreshing sleep because of being woken up several times a night from the pain., Mr. Holmes got out of his bed slowly and carefully but did not experience the jolt of pain that he was used to. He walked towards the bathroom with relative ease. “I don’t believe it. Could this be the result of smoking marijuana before I went to bed?”
Being the scientist that he was, Jeffrey asked Jordy if he could procure some more grass for him. The grade seven science teacher had to find out whether he would get similar results if he were to try the cannabis again. Jordy laughed and said, “I thought you’d like it. Yeah, I can get you some more weed today.”
Mr. Holmes gratefully thanked Jordy and assured his young friend that he would pay him generously for his product and services.
“Do you know how this container got in my study?” Isiah asked his little brother.
“Yeah, me and Rob and the rest of the gang went cray-fishing last night and caught a bucket full of these critters. I figured that I’d take one of them home with me,” Caleb answered.
Friday evening had finally arrived and it was crayfish season. Caleb walked to the family’s refrigerator and broke off a small slice of bacon and tied it on to a thread of string that was seven feet long. This was really all the equipment that he needed for a fun night of cray-fishing on the banks of the Red River.
Caleb heard a knock on his front door and as soon as he opened it he could see that Terrence, Aaron and Greg had their owns strings of bacon in their hands and were ready to roll.
“Let’s go Caleb. Ronny and Peter are going to meet us at the opening to the Monkey Speedway. The Monkey Speedway was a man- made or should I say a kid -made trail of trampled down mud, grass and brush that covered an area of the river bank.
Nobody remembers who originally named this terrain as The Monkey Speedway, but the derivation of its name likely belongs to a variety of boys who had tried to ride their bikes at top speed down this challenging path of brush. The ride itself could probably be compared to a smaller version of The Wild Mouse, a popular and scary roller coasting ride at the Red River Exhibition that arrived in Winnipeg every June.
Many of the boys who originally went for a test ride on the Monkey Speedway ended up being suddenly and violently ejected from their bicycles. When they shook off the temporary sense of disorientation resulting from their fall, they could cast their eyes upward only to see their partially mangled bicycles dangling from the branches of the nearby trees.
Some mischievous boys were not above setting potentially disabling and possibility fatally designed traps along the Monkey Speedway. Some adventurous children did indeed suffer injury resulting from these traps, but it was seldom worse than a bloodied and bruised elbow, a scraped knee requiring a few sutures at the local emergency ward or a fractured wrist.
Just let it be said, that the boys of the Norwood Flats were tough. I should more correctly say the boys and a certain girl, as there was a young lass named Tammy who was known to ask the boys if she could join them for a game of tackle football, one of their potentially life altering bike rides or a wild evening of Friday night cray-fishing.
School Daze by Ken David Stewart
I’ve been thinking about writing this book for some time now. Over the years I have thought a lot about the experiences I had attending public school. I don’t know whether or not most people think about their school days that much. I need to point out a few things right off the bat. First of all, the names and locations that I talk about in this book are all either changed or fictitious. If the reader wants to believe that some of the stories are true that is their prerogative. This book will cover the decades of the early 1950s and the 1960s. School was a lot different at that time than it is now.
I should start by saying that I grew up in downtown Winnipeg. My parents and I lived in my grandmother’s rooming house. I used to call my maternal grandmother, Bapi because I could not say the Polish word for grandmother which was Bapcha. After a short period of time everyone in our neighborhood started calling my grandmother, Bapi. Bapi was a very strong woman both mentally and physically. She didn’t take any crap from anyone. I can still remember her physically throwing some of her unruly tenants down the stairs. Bapi was my primary caregiver during the daytime and she made damn sure that I attended kindergarten every day whether I was sick or well.
From an early age I was already quite the entertainer. I recall watching Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show. My parents bought me a toy guitar and I was soon doing Elvis Presley impersonations complete with shaking my hips and moving around my legs the way my hero did. This entertained my parents and their friends to no end because I was already a fat kid and my impression of Elvis must have been hilarious.
Unfortunately for me, during the time I grew up there were very few fat kids around. This fact was to lead to much name-calling and humiliation for me when I attended public school.
I tended to make things worse for myself because I liked to dress up for school. I don’t mean wearing a suit or tie. I’m referring to donning a fire-fighters hat or dressing up in a Zorro costume, complete with a toy sword. I still remember one of my classmates pointing out that the real Zorro was not fat. His remark really stung but I couldn’t help it if I was a fat kid. After all, my grandmother was always serving me a big piece of cake along with my tomato soup and sandwich for lunch.
So naturally, my name became Fatso. I can recall a few other highlights regarding my kindergarten experience. My kindergarten teacher told my parents that because I was so bright I should be skipped a grade next year. The reason for my alleged brilliance was that my paternal grandmother who I visited every weekend, was a retired school teacher. I called her Granny and she read to me and taught me the alphabet and numbers before I ever attended school. Needless to say, most of my classmates did not have this distinct advantage.
The other highlight that I can remember was having a mean kid destroy my art project as I walked home from school. For most of my early years at school I was a favorite target for bullies. It wasn’t until grade five that I realized that being fat didn’t mean that you couldn’t fight, but I’ll save that story for later.
Around the time I became six years old my parents and grandmother bought a house in a suburban area of Winnipeg. I’m not sure how they were able to pull this off financially, but I suspect that Bapi helped my parents out a great deal. Even though I had moved out of the inner-city I quickly found out that it didn’t mean that the other children would be any nicer. In many ways they were worse. I continued to get bullied not only by my classmates, but also by my teachers. The things that my teachers got away with then would quickly end the career of any teacher today. In the late fifties and sixties school teachers could pretty well do anything they wanted to their students. You didn’t even have to be bad to have them talk to you very sarcastically or even treat you cruelly, if they so desired. The problem was in those days the teacher was always right. If a child were to complain to their parents about how their teacher had mistreated them, they couldn’t expect to get any sympathy from their parents. Your parents were more likely to ask you what you did wrong to make your teacher so angry.
In grade two my teacher asked me how much I weighed. Not knowing any better, I told her the truth. I told her that I weighed 120 pounds. My teacher’s response to this, was to inform the class that I weighed more than her.
Not to be outdone, my grade 3 teacher told the class that I was enough to make a teacher swear. My grade four teacher did her one better by calling me ‘Stupified’ for spilling some paint during an art class.
However, I would have to declare that the all-time winner of all my sadistic teachers was my grade five teacher. In those days, having a messy desk was a capital crime. My fifth grade teacher had a habit of doing visual desk inspections during silent reading. She wore soft soled shoes so that her students could not hear her sneaking up on us. As I probably had the messiest desk of anyone in my classroom, in addition to the fact that I was fat, I was to experience the full and terrible wrath of my grade five teacher. During her one of her routine desk inspections she noticed that my desk was particularly messy. This prompted her to dump over my desk and to tell me to clean up the mess immediately.
However, this monster who called herself a teacher was not finished yet. She called me up to her desk, reached into one of the drawers and pulled out a laminated badge that featured the picture of an oversized pig. She promptly pinned this photo of a sow to my shirt this and told me that I was to wear the pig badge all week. Just to twist the knife a bit further, she stopped me when I was about to take the pig off before going out for recess. I was informed that the pig would now be transferred to my winter parka just so all the kids in that school could ask me why I was wearing a picture of a sow on my winter coat.
It was the Saturday morning after the big hockey team party. Misty awoke in her bedroom in time to see the sun shining through the blinds. Misty gave herself a push and managed to make it to the kitchen. Right now her most immediate need was for strong coffee and a couple of aspirin. Misty proceeded to set up the coffee percolator. She filled a large glass with water. Her next step was the bathroom medicine cabinet to find a bottle of aspirin.
Misty definitely had a hangover. Although she felt uncomfortable with the hockey wives she had at least made peace with Linda Saunders. The problem was that this was not Misty’s type of party. This was not her crowd. She loved Rick, but this was not her scene. It was obvious that she hated being a hockey wife and was praying that Rick would retire from hockey after this season. The truth was that Misty missed California and the whole hippy scene. As much as she loved Rick, she dreamed about moving back to California in a year or two. Maybe she could talk her father into moving with her, or maybe Rick could be persuaded to come to California with her. After taking two aspirins, Misty’s coffee maker finished percolating. Misty made herself a Tim Horton’s coffee and added two packets of Sugar Twin and a shot of Southern Pecan coffee whitener to the mix. Although her head was still throbbing, Misty lit up a Sweet Caporal cigarette and propped herself upon Lloyd’s tattered, light blue coach. Misty was just starting to slump over onto the cushions at the end of the couch, when she heard loud pounding on her back door.
Getting off the couch slowly and painfully, Misty made it to the back door. When she opened the door she was shocked to see Gypsy smiling back at her. It was snowing and snowflakes were covering Gypsy’s long, burgundy coat. He was wearing a black Oakland Raiders toque and black leather gloves.
“Hey, beautiful. Long time no see,” were the first words out of Gypsy’s mouth.
“Gypsy? What are you doing here? I thought I’d never see you again,” Misty said.
“Why don’t you get dressed, put out your cigarette and come with me for breakfast at Perkins restaurant?” Gypsy asked.
“I’d love to, but my dad is still sleeping. When he wakes up, he won’t know where I am,” Misty answered.
“Just write Lloyd a note and leave it by the coffee percolator. Only don’t write that you’ve gone out for breakfast with me.”
“What should I say on the note?” Misty asked.
“Tell them that your boyfriend is taking you out for breakfast. You have a boyfriend, don’t you?”
“Yeah. His name is Rick Miller. You met him already. He was the guy with Sasha at the rock festival last summer,” Misty answered.
Gypsy started to laugh, “You stole your boyfriend from your sister?”
“Not so loud, Gypsy. You’ll wake up my dad,” Misty said as she reached into the clothes closet for her white down filled parka.
The Maplewood Cougars walked very slowly back to their dressing room. Many of the players could barely hold up their heads. When they arrived in their dressing room, the players sat down on the benches next to the equipment stalls No one said a word. It was as if the life had been drained right out of them.
After a few minutes of painful silence, Miles Myers entered the Maplewood Cougars’ dressing room. As he had removed his Norberry Knights jersey, his shoulder pads and chest protector were now visible. He looked cautiously around the room and said, “Sorry guys, Coach Keenan told me to play my best, so I did. Rick that last goal was not your fault. It was a real tough one, but you played it right all the way. Brian Williams just made a lucky shot.”
“Thanks Miles. You played great. Don’t apologize. You just did your job the way Coach told you to. I think that tonight was your best game all season. The team can rest assured during the off-season that next year they will have a great starting goalie,” Rick said as he unclasped the buckle on his left leg pad.
Coach Brad Keenan spoke next, “Thank you Rick. I couldn’t agree with you more. Miles was exceptionally good in goal tonight. Now I have a message for all you guys. I’m proud of each and everyone of you. No one expected you to play as well as you did this year. You worked hard and played your hearts out for me. We now know what it feels like to be a winning team. I can guarantee each and every one of you, that by this time next year, we will not only beat the Norberry Knights, we will also make the playoffs. And you can take that to the bank. You guys all gained invaluable experience this year and changed your attitudes from being a losing team to that of being a winning team,” Brian Keenan said. The Maplewood Cougars said in unison, “Thank you coach. You did a great job coaching us this year.” The team had all agreed to say this before the game started.
You could feel the heaviness leave the room and a steam of positivity come in. Their hockey season was over, but the Maplewood Cougars could leave the dressing room with their heads held high. The players were all expecting great things to happen t next season.
Rick felt badly about letting in the last goal of the season, but knew that this was not a bad way of going out. He had been one of the Maplewood Cougars bright lights for three years now and he was leaving knowing that he had done a great job for his team. He was leaving with only one regret, that his team did not win the city championship. When Rick left the dressing room for the final time Misty ran right up to him and jumped into his arms while wrapping her legs around him. This happened so fast that Rick dropped his heavy equipment bag on the ground.
Misty had tears running down her cheeks and just clung to Rick. “I’m so proud of you Rick and I love you so much.”
While still clutched in Misty’s embrace, Rick could see Miles and Linda Saunders walking up to them.
“You guys should get a room,” Miles joked.
Upon hearing this, Misty let go of Rick and turned around to see who was talking to them. “Hey,” she said still wiping the tears from her eyes.
“Now it’s time for me to give you some Kleenex, Misty,” Linda said.
“I just want to thank you Rick for all the help you gave me this season. I really appreciate it,” Miles said.
“You are very welcome Miles. With you as the new starting goalie for next year, I know that I’m leaving the team in good hands.”
The four young people then walked towards the arena parking lot, gave each other a long hug and got into their cars.
One of the Norberry’s defensemen Phil Regent skated over to Miles to have a brief chat,
“Look Myers. This is how it’s going to go. Me and the rest of the team are going to supply you with all of the protection you are going to need. We are going to keep the puck in Maplewood’s end for as much of the game as we can. When Maplewood does get possession we are going to really lay on the body and check them hard. We’ll ride them hard right along the boards. When your team does get a chance for a shot on goal, we’ll do our best to block it. Any shots that do get through us, I expect you to stop them. Any questions?”
“No, I want to win this game for you guys. I’ve got a lot on the line. I need to prove to myself, my coach and the rest of the Cougars that I’m a better goalie than Rick Miller is. The emotion of fear transformed into rage within Miles Myers. He was sick and tired of standing in the shadow of Rick Miller.
“That’s exactly what I want to hear!” Phil Regent said as he slapped Miles Myers on the pads and skated up the ice to await the upcoming face off.
The fourth line grinders had done their job, just not in the way coach Brad Keenan had expected. They changed the tempo of the game, not by roughing up the Norberry Knights, but by taking out their starting goaltender. Brad could now go back to his original game plan, to out skate and out score the Norberry Knights. If the fans and the Norberry Knights were surprised that Brad Keenan would agree to allowing his opposition to use his backup goalie, Brad thought it was a flash of brilliance. He was confident that Miles would not be able to handle the offensive onslaught of the Maplewood Cougars. After all, Miles’ own team knew Miles’ weaknesses better than the Norberry Knights. They could utilize the weaknesses in Miles’s playing style that they had observed during their countless practise sessions.
Norberrry’s coach, Jeff Hadley, likewise, had little confidence in Miles Myers’ goaltending skills and felt that his decision had been a good one even if the original idea came from his assistant coach, Bill White. He felt that borrowing a second string backup goalie was a much better situation, than being forced to make one of his players who had no experience playing goal, put on the pads. Jeff knew his players well.
They would step up their game to meet the new challenge in front of them. The Knights would love to show their fans that they could beat the Maplewood Cougars, even without their starting goalie.
Both teams put their scoring lines out after the brief intermission had ended. Brad Keenan strategy was to score three or four quick goals that would put the game away for them. The score clock now indicated there was thirteen minutes minutes and forty-five seconds left to go in the third period.
Both teams played to a level that they had not demonstrated so far this season. Once the game resumed, the Norberry Knights first line put great offensive pressure on Maplewood. The Knights passed the puck around with amazing accuracy and were able to get an array of dangerous shots at the Cougar’s net. Rick stopped every shot during a three -minute flurry of enemy attack. He made some stops that caused the crowd to gasp with amazement.
The rest of the Cougar players knew that Rick was the one player who was keeping them in the game. After the three- minute rally was over, Coach Keenan decided to send out his fourth line. Brad knew that he needed to give his two scoring lines a rest and after all, it was the fourth line that had scored the Cougars’ only goal. Norberry’s coach was hesitant to take his top scoring line off, but he knew that they needed a rest.
Just before the next face off, Brad Keenan called for a time out. He quickly signalled for his third line to get off the ice, while sending out his best scoring line. Maplewood’s coach took the gamble as his team just needed one goal to get the lead. By the time Jeff Hadley saw what Brad had done, it was too late for him to change his lines again.
Energized by Rick’s great goaltending, Maplewood won the face off and their center, Bill Woodward made a very accurate pass to left winger Joe Palec. Joe fired a hard snapshot that hit the crossbar of Norberry’s net. Miles Myers was shaken up by the shot but was just happy it wasn’t a goal. At that point Miles tapped into all his anger and frustration. He made some dazzling saves. No one had ever seen him play this well. One player suggested that he was playing way over his head. Cougar defenseman, Eric Coswell told a teammate sitting next to him on the players’ bench that if Miles could play for them like he was playing for the Knights they could have two strong goalies going into the play offs.
Jeff Hadley’s strategy was to keep his third line on the ice for about a minute and then returned to his scoring line.
The two respective grinder lines went at each other with a fury. Each team’s lines did not want to be responsible for costing their team the game. Both teams didn’t hesitate to lay on the body and it was very obvious they were both playing a defensive game. Just as the two teams were about to make a line change, Garry Means, Maplewood’s third line center, took a high slap shot that hit the screen behind Norberry’s net. The puck bounced right off the fencing and hit Miles Meyers in the back of his right shoulder. A startled Miles Myers quickly turned around to see the puck just behind his goal. While just trying to clear the puck for a line change, Garry Means had managed to score his second goal in the hockey game. The score was now tied at two goals apiece with just two minutes to go on the score clock.
The Maplewood Cougars just needed one more goal to win the game. Coach Keenan decided to leave his fourth line out on the ice for the last two minutes to try to hold on to the tie and force the game into overtime.
Once regulation time had ended, he would draw up a plan for his team to score the winning goal during the sudden-death overtime.
Coach Jeff Hadley saw what was happening and decided to send out his best scoring line.
He figured that his team could score a quick goal to end the game during regulation time.
The Cougars fourth line did their coach proud. During an offensive onslaught by the Norberry Knights, the Cougars grinder line kept the Knights forwards closely in check, shooting the puck over center ice to kill off some time. The Cougars defensemen also dropped to the ice the to block shots from the point on three occasions.
With thirty seconds left to go in the game the Cougars had a defensive breakdown, and Norberry center Brian Williams had a clear breakaway in front of him.
Rick Miller slowly moved out of his crease times until he was within a few feet of Brian Williams. Rick quickly dropped to the ice in an attempt to stop Brian’s wrist shot. Williams managed to shoot the puck through a small opening between Rick’s pads. Rick Miller turned his head in time to see the pick slowly dribble over the goal line. This turned out to be the game winning goal.