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.
Coach Brad Keenan assembled his team in the visitors’ dressing room. Here’s the situation. boys. Norberry’s backup goalie has a bad case of the flu and won’t be able to play for Norberry tonight. I’ve met with Norberry’s coach, Jeff Hadley, and we have worked out a deal. Miles Myers will finish the game in goal for Norberry. In exchange we get guaranteed home ice advantage in the playoffs,” Coach Brad Keenan explained.
The Maplewood Cougars looked at each other as if they couldn’t believe what they had just heard.
Coach Keenan and spoke directly to Miles Myers, “Miles, this is a great opportunity for you. I have assured Norberry’s coach that you will play to the best of your ability. The better you play during the rest of tonight’s game, the higher you will arise in my estimation.
Brad then turned to address the rest of his team, “Now I want you to get this straight guys. Miles is not a traitor to his team. He’s helping us get home game advantage during the playoffs and the playoffs is where we’re headed. Now were only down by one goal, so let’s go out on the ice and win this thing!”
When the two teams return to the ice Miles Myers was roughing up the crease with his goalie skates. He was in Norberry’s goal wearing number thirty in a Knight’s red and white sweater.
One of the Norberry’s defenseman 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.
On Tuesday morning Rick got a surprise visit from Peyton Ramparts and his girlfriend, Sabrina Davis. They walked into Rick’s hospital room and threw their winter clothing onto a chair besides Rick’s bed. It was snowing outside and there were still snowflakes on Peyton and Sabrina’s parkas.
Rick had been up for a couple of hours already. He had a bad dream during the night in which his coach, Brad Keenan had told him that he couldn’t play for the Cougars anymore due to medical concerns.
Previous to Rick being hospitalized, he, Peyton, Sabrina and sometimes Misty went for coffee at The Red Top Restaurant every morning. Rick found out that Peyton used to play organized hockey in the past, but quit because he had more interest in forming his own rock band. Peyton told Rick that he used to play center for The Norberry Knights and that his coach and teammates told him that he was a really good player. Whenever his band, Winter Dreams had an evening off, Peyton and Sabrina would come to watch Rick’s hockey games.
“Hey Rick, how are you doing buddy?” Peyton asked while putting his hand on Rick’s shoulder.
“My head still feels kind of foggy. It’s like having cobwebs on your brain,” Rick answered. He groaned as he sat up in his bed as his muscles were still very sensitive.
“I’m sorry to hear that, but I kind of expected you would still be hurting after your injury. That dick, Davidson took a run at you on purpose. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that his coach put him up to it,” Peyton said, his face starting to redden with anger.
The league’s convener wrote a letter to both Maplewood’s coach, Brad Keenan and Norberry’s coach, Jeff Hadley. The letter was to inform the two coaches that the previous game that the two teams had played would be declared. ‘no contest’ and that a make up game would be scheduled. It also stated that extra security measures would be taken. Four security workers from the Garda Security Company and one Winnipeg Police Services constable would be hired for the rematch. It was agreed that the Garda Security guards would check every fan in attendance for concealed weapons prior to the start of the hockey game.
Coach Brad Keenan folded the letter up after he read it and placed it in its envelope. He put it in the right hand corner of the desk drawer in his office at the Maplewood Community Center. Brad got up from his well worn executive chair and walked towards a window. The weather looked sunny and bright, but Brad had a bad feeling about the rematch. He had kept a close eye on Miles Myers performance in goal during last night’s practice. The coach realized that Myers was struggling to make some of the more difficult saves that Rick Miller would easily have stopped. Brad wasn’t the only one to notice. The rest of the Cougar players had also observed the same weaknesses in Miles’s performance.
Misty arrived about ten minutes late for her afternoon gym class. She was finishing her cigarette at the smoking pod behind Maplewood Collegiate and was talking to a new girl who had just enrolled in the high school that day. While they were talking Misty lost track of the time. When Misty arrived at the lockers about five minutes late, the other girls were already in the locker room getting changed. Misty waited outside the entrance to the locker room and could hear the other girls talking. The girls’ voices were loud enough that Misty could overhear what they were saying. The dominant voice that drowned out the rest was that of Linda Saunders. Linda was a strong personality that attracted her own group of followers. At this very moment Linda was holding court with a group of four other girls. She had just overhead one of the other girls singing the praises of Rick Miller.
“Rick is such a great goalie. His play is the only reason that our hockey team is still competitive. I just hope that his injuries don’t keep him out of the line up too long. The Cougars have some key games scheduled for the next two weeks,” Sandra said.
“That’s for sure,” Tristan said. “I hate to say it, but I don’t have much confidence in Miles Meyers’ ability to lead the team.”
Sandra and Tristan were so busy talking that they hadn’t noticed that Linda Saunders had walked up right behind them.
“You two are full of crap,” Linda yelled. Her face was beet red. “Yes, I agree that Rick Miller has played well so far this year, but consider how much experience Rick has. This is his third year playing for the Maplewood Cougars. This is just Miles first year and he has been working very hard at improving his skills.”
‘That may be true Linda, but let’s face it. Right now, Rick Miller gives the team the best chance of winning,” Sandra said.
“That’s only so long as Rick and his slut girlfriend, Misty manage to stay away from drugs,” Linda said as she put on her red gym shorts.
The odor in the girl’s change room was bad enough, but it appeared to be getting worse due to the tension in the room.
“What drugs?” Tristan asked.
“Pretty well any drugs those two can get their hands on. Stuff like weed, hash, acid, peyote, downers and bennies just to name a few.” Linda answered.
“How do you know this for sure?” Michelle asked sceptically.
“How do I know? I got the scoop from my cousin Rudy. Rudy’s a real stoner who goes to all the Winter Dreams concerts. He also went to all the outdoor rock festivals this summer. Rudy told me that he’s seen Rick and Misty stoned out of their heads at these rock festivals. Further more both Rick and Misty are very tight with Peyton Ramparts, the lead guitarist for Winter Dreams. You can always see them having coffee at The Red Top Restaurant. Rick and Misty always attend Winter Dreams after concert who goes to those parties is a stoner,” Linda said.
“Why did you call Misty his slut girlfriend?” Cindy demanded.
“Because she is. I got that information from Rudy too. He told me that he saw Misty with some freak called Gypsy at The Lake Mariposa Rock Festival. Rudy says that Misty loves drugged out hippy guys. She’ll sleep with anyone she meets. Before Rick, Misty was dating this grease ball called Jim. Jim is such a slime that he used to beat up Misty regularly.”
Just then Miss Redding, the gym teacher, broke in on the discussion and ordered the girls to hurry and get on the gym floor before she started handing out detentions.
As soon as Miss Redding’s back was turned, Misty escaped through the back exit door of the girls’ locker room. With tears streaming down her face, Misty ran to her favorite local park about three minutes from the school. She used one of her green gloves to wipe some snow from a park bench. Once a spot was cleared Misty sat on the bench lowered her head and began to cry. She was still very upset by the way Linda Saunders had been talking about her. When Misty looked up there was a bright sun out that enhanced the beauty of the snow covering the branches of the trees. Misty was startled when she felt two hands on her shoulders. She turned around to see Peyton Ramparts and Sabrina Davis.
“Are you skipping gym class, too?” Sabrina asked.
“I tried to go to gym class but I’m very sorry that I did,” Misty said starting to weep again.
Peyton looked Misty on the eye and said, “So tell us what happened.” He started using one of his black gloves to clear enough room for he and Sabrina to sit down.
“I’m really starting to hate the fact that my boyfriend is the Cougar’s star goalie.” Misty said.
“Why?” Sabrina asked.
“It’s those damn hockey wives. They are such a clique. The worst of the whole bunch is Linda Saunders. She’s been spreading horrible rumours about Rick and I.” She’s just jealous that Rick’s a much better goalie than her boyfriend Miles,” Misty replied.
“What kind of rumours?” Peyton asked. All three friends could now sit on the park bench as Peyton had cleared off enough snow.
“Linda’s been telling the other girls that Rick and I are heavy stoners and that I’m a slut,” Misty answered.
“That is bad,” Sabrina said.
“Now that Linda has told the other hockey wives the rumours are starting to spread through the whole school,” Misty said and continued to sob.
Peyton leaned over towards Misty. I’ve got an idea. Do you know Gordon Zender, our band’s security manager?”
“I don’t really know him, but I think I’ve seen him at band parties,” Misty answered stifling her sobs.
“So you’ve seen Gordon and know what he looks like. We call Gordon, Godzilla for a reason. He’s six foot four and weighs around two hundred seventy pounds. Most of it is muscle. He works out at the Iron Works gym three to four times a week. Before our band hired him, Gordon was a bouncer at the LaSalle Hotel. The LaSalle used to be a rough place with lots of fights, especially on the weekends. That all stopped a few days after they hired Godzilla as a bouncer.
The first night on the job two guys started heckling the LaSalle’s house band, Blind Rage. Godzilla didn’t waste any time. He grabbed both those idiots by the back of their collars and carried both of them out to the back parking lot. One of the hecklers turned to the other one and said, “We can take him. It’s two against one.”
As soon as one of them made a move toward him, Godzilla grabbed both of them and dropped them in a nearby parking lot dumpster. That’s how Godzilla likes to take care of business. As Winter Dreams were all there to watch Blind Rage that evening, we were very impressed with Godzilla’s ability to handle a dicey situation. That night the band called him over to our table and asked Gordon to be our road manager. The rest is history as they say,” Peyton said.
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.
Before the face off both teams had an opportunity to change up their lines. Coach Brad Keenan did not like what he was seeing on the ice. His Cougars were getting badly outplayed by Norberry and his team were just running around the ice like a pack of terrified mice who had just seen the cat appear.
The Norberry Knights were applying massive offensive pressure and Maplewood didn’t appear to have any answer for it. Brad turned his head toward assistant coach Vince Perreti.
“I’m going to take the first line off and send out the grinders. Let’s see what the fourth line can do during the next few minutes.”
“It’s worth a try,” was the response from Vince. “Right now we can’t seem to get the puck out of our own end.”
The Knight’s coach, Jeff Hadley saw what Brad was doing and called out his third line. Hadley’s third line were similar to Brad Keenan’s fourth line in that they were all role players. These guys knew that their purpose was to lay on the body hard. If injuries, penalties and fights resulted from their style of play, so be it.
Coach Jeff Hadley passed on a quick, to the point, message to his third line as they were preparing to jump over the boards.
“Look guys. Maplewood’s coach is hoping that a change in strategy will wake his players up. The going may get a bit rough out there, but I know that you’ll all do your jobs out there.”
Brad Keenan’s fourth line rarely got much ice time during a game. He sent this line out for brief periods of time when the opposition were starting to intimidate his scoring lines. The coach might also send them out when his offensive lines were getting tired or the Cougars held such a big league that the outcome of the game had already been decided.
Coach Brad Keenan had recently signed a new power forward named, Chad Barlow. Chad did not have much experience playing hockey, but he was a star linebacker with Maplewood’s football team, the Panthers. Brad was aware that whatever skills Chad still needed to develop as a hockey player, was more than compensated for by his positive attitude, desire, strength and aggressiveness on the ice.
Maplewood’s coach had not forgotten head referee, Steve Kowalski’s stern message, delivered before the game officially started, about keeping the game clean and under control. At this point in the game, Brad did not care. He realized that if he was unable to radically change the momentum of the game in his team’s favor, the Cougars would most likely suffer defeat in this pivotal hockey game. The Maplewood Cougars needed to win this game to maintain their mathematical chance of making the play offs this season.
A few seconds before Chad Barlow got a chance to climb over the boards, Coach Keenan whispered these instructions in his tough, power forward’s ears. “Look. Norberry has just sent Glenn Davidson out on the ice. Forget about what the head referee said. I want you to give Davidson and the rest of his team a strong message.”
“I gotcha Coach,” Chad replied while moving his tongue in a lizard like manner. “I’ll take care of Davidson or anyone else on the Knights who needs an attitude adjustment.”
“I know That’s why I signed you,” Coach Keenan said with a smirk on his face.”
As head referee Steve Kowalski got ready to drop the puck, Bill Woodward, the center for the Cougars and Dennis Sharp, Norberry’s center positioned themselves for the opening face off of the game. At the drop of the puck the Knights center won the face-off and passed the puck back to defenseman Lyle Gaines. Gaines careened the puck off the boards in the direction of right winger Dale Hanson. Hanson turned on a burst of speed that moved him about fifteen feet from Maplewood’s goal. As Dale Hanson wound up for a blazing slap-shot, Eric Coswell, the Cougar’s star defenseman, moved in front of the goal to move Knights right winger Tyler Weise out of the crease area. Coswell was attempting to give his goalie, Rick Miller, a clear view of the upcoming shot on goal. Unfortunately, Dale Hanson’s shot ricocheted off Eric Coswell’s shin pad causing the puck to take a change of direction.
The puck landed up in the bottom right corner of the Cougar’s net. Rick Miller had been screened on the shot and didn’t have any chance of stopping the puck that changed direction.
Only thirteen seconds of the first period had elapsed and the Cougars were down one to zero. Rick went for a short skate out of his net before returning to mentally prepare himself for the next face-off.
Due to the brawl in the stands that took place during their last outing, security was very tight at the St. Vital Arena. Three uniformed police constables were on duty reinforced with six guards hired from the Garda Security Company.
The head referee for tonight’s game was Steve Kowakski who had the reputation as the official who administered the most discipline to players who broke the rules.
Rick Miller was back in goal for The Maplewood Cougars. During the pre-game warm up, Rick had easily handled shots coming from all angles and had not allowed a single puck get passed him. The stands were packed on both sides of the arena with loud but cautious fans that were here to support their respective teams. The fans on both sides were very cognizant of the extra security officials. It appeared that none of the fans had made any plans to spend the night in jail following tonight’s game.
Head referee, Steve Kowalski skated over to both the Knights and the Cougars benches and read the riot act to both the coaches and the players. He explained, in no uncertain terms that he and his linesmen were going to call a very tight game and if he saw any player intentionally attempt to injure an opponent, he would personally make sure that the offender would be suspended for the rest of the season including the playoffs. Both coaches nodded their heads by way of indicating that they clearly understood his stern message.