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.
“Yeah, I heard something about that,” Rick answered.
“Well, it’s true, but the story has been greatly exaggerated. I spent about two weeks in a psychiatric rehabilitation facility in San Francisco. I was there basically for observation so that the doctors could make a diagnosis,” Misty explained.
“So, what did the doctors come up with?” Rick asked.
“At that time they told me it was manic depression. My psychiatrist in Winnipeg changed the diagnosis to schizo-affective disorder.”
“Yeah, I remember you telling me about that. Do you need to take medication?’
“Yes, lithium. For a long time, I wasn’t really taking it. I just lied to my doctor and my parents telling them that I was taking the lithium regularly. I got busted when they eventually took a blood test. The test showed that there was no trace of lithium in my body.”
“Why didn’t you take your medication?”
“Because it made me feel worse. To be more precise I didn’t feel any emotions at all when I first started taking it. Plus, it was making me gain weight.”
“So, do you take lithium now?” Rick asked.
“No. My new psychiatrist in Winnipeg put me on chlorpromazine after he changed my diagnosis to schizo-affective disorder,” Misty answered.
The restaurant was starting to get very smoky. It appeared that most of the customers were puffing hard on their cigarettes while they sucked back the strong Salisbury House coffee. The smoke in the air was starting to make Rick’s eyes water.”
“Let’s go back to Memorial Park. It’s getting too smoky in here for me,” said Rick.
Rick and Misty started walking back across the Osborne bridge. Misty thought she saw the shadowy figure of a man trying to climb up on the railings of the bridge.
Rick said, “It looks like that guy is going to try to jump over the bridge.”
Both Rick and Misty started yelling, “Hey man, stop! What are you trying to do?”
“Leave me alone. I’m going to jump,” the man answered.
“Let’s talk a bit first,” Misty said.
“Talk about what?” the man asked.
“About anything. Misty and I have been looking for someone interesting to talk to.” Rick answered.
“I’m not an interesting person and anyway you’ve got each other to talk to,” the man said.
“Let me be the judge of that. How about the three of us go to the Sals and get a cup of coffee? It’s starting to get chilly out here.” Rick said.
“I don’t even have enough money for a coffee, man, and I just smoked my last cigarette,”
“What’s your name?” Misty asked.
“Norman or just Norm.”
“Hi, I’m Misty and this is my boyfriend, Rick.”
“Like I said, I haven’t got enough money to go to the Sals and I’m kind of busy here.”
“Okay. I’ll tell you what. You come down from the railing and I’ll pay for your coffee and anything else you want to eat. Don’t worry about cigarettes. I just opened a new pack. How about it?” Rick asked.
“Well, I guess I could have my last coffee and cigarette before I leave this world.” Norm answered.
“That’s great. I’ll give you a smoke right now,” Rick said.
When they got back the Salisbury House, Norm ordered a Big Nip, and an order of fries and a coffee.
“Thanks guys. I haven’t had anything to eat yet today. My dad kicked me out at around ten this morning,” Norm said.
“So what have you been doing all day to keep warm?” Misty asked.
“I’ve been riding the bus. My dad bought me a monthly bus pass before I got the boot,” Norm said. “I don’t know what to do or where to go. Two months ago my mom kicked me out of her place.”
“Don’t worry we’ll figure something out,” Misty said.
Norman Robinson was only nineteen years old, but he was already starting to take on the appearance of a homeless person. He was tall and very thin. Misty noticed that Norman had a missing front tooth. He had a large hole in the front of his navy blue parka that made it look like he had vomited on his coat. The hole was actually a result of Norman helping his dad remove a defective battery from his car. In the process of completing this task, Norman had gotten some battery acid on his jacket. The acid had burned the hole in it.
Misty turned to Rick and said, “Let’s take Norm over to my place. I think my dad might like to talk to Norman.”
“What makes you say that?” Rick asked, looking somewhat befuddled.
“My dad has changed a lot since the summer. I’ll tell you about it later, but he now has a job working at a homeless center,” Misty answered.
“Wow. Lloyd has a steady job now,” Rick said.
“Look you guys have done enough for me already. After I finish my coffee and smoke I’ll just walk back to the bridge,” Norman said.
“I don’t think that’s such a great idea,” Rick said. “You don’t have a place to go tonight, do you?”
“That settles it. You’re coming with us,” Rick said firmly.
Rick, Misty and their new friend walked back to Rick’s car that was parked on a street next to Memorial Park. When Rick tried to start his car the engine wouldn’t turn over.
“Damn,” Rick said. “I just put a new battery in two weeks ago,”
“Open the hood Rick and let me have a look,” Norman said.
“In less than a minute Norman asked Rick to try starting the car again. This time the engine turned over immediately.
“How did you do that?” Rick asked.
“It was just a loose cable. I was training to be an auto technician so I knew what to check first.”
“Wow, thanks a lot man,” Rick said, feeling both surprised and grateful.
One morning, Misty’s mother, Sheila Roberts was doing her morning devotions. As a devout Christian, Sheila had long established a habit of having a quiet time with the Lord before she started her day. Her devotional time included reading from her Bible, praying for herself and others as well as remaining quiet and waiting for God to speak to her. Today, Sheila heard the Lord speak to her spirit, “Sheila, I’m going to do a great work in your husband, Lloyd, because I love him very much. I am asking you to include Lloyd in your prayers every day.”
Sheila did not hear an audible voice, but she knew in her heart that she had heard from God. After the incident at the rock concert during the summer, Sheila had been thinking about Lloyd. By this time, she had forgiven Lloyd for allowing his daughters to get involved in a dangerous situation. She had loved Lloyd at one time, but since she became a Christian and Lloyd didn’t, Sheila felt that her husband would have a negative influence on their children. She could not say that Rick was a bad person. In many ways he was a good man, but she could no longer tolerate his immaturity and his harmful addictions. What she really wanted was a godly husband and Lloyd certainly was not. Sheila decided to call her pastor Randy Neufeld to discuss with him what the Lord had told her.
Lloyd Roberts was just waking up from a short nap he had after supper. As be reached for his pack of cigarettes, Lloyd could still remember the dream he had. He was in that zone where he was just coming out of the dream state, but was not yet fully awake. Lloyd was used to having many dreams while he slept, but there was something different about the ones that he had been having lately. His most recent dreams all seemed to have some spiritual or religious theme to them.
A few minutes ago, Lloyd had seen Jesus in his dream holding a little lamb in his arms. The other night he dreamed that he was sitting in a quiet, peaceful location by a stream. When he turned his head he could see a man who looked like Jesus waving for him to walk over to where he was standing. Lloyd scratched hic head before putting on his baseball cap with the Ford logo on it. He had started to notice a bald spot near the top of his head and thought that if he covered it up he wouldn’t have to think about it. What he was now thinking about was the significance of his dreams. His daughter, Sasha had been a Christian for awhile now, but Lloyd was wondering what kind of influence her new boyfriend was having on her beliefs. Lloyd expected Sasha would be home in a little while. He would ask her what she made of his dreams.
Lloyd had recently attained employment as a residential care worker at The Main Street Mission. He found that of the many jobs that he had worked over the years this was probably one of the few that he actually enjoyed. Lloyd liked the street people that he got to know and was starting to feel that his life was finally starting to have some meaning.
Lloyd was beginning to mature as he entered his mid forties. The incident that happened at the rock festival had shaken Lloyd up. It now occurred to him that he had some serious responsibilities as a parent.
Lloyd’s dog, Pigpen started barking loudly while scratching the front door with his paws.
“Hang on. I’ll be right there.” Lloyd hoped that his voice was loud enough to be heard outside the door.
When Lloyd answered the door he was greeted by Misty and Rick and a young man that he did not recognize.
Lloyd moved closer to Rick to give him a hug. “Hey, man, I haven’t seen you in a dog’s age. Pardon the pun, Pigpen.”
“Hey, Dad. I’d like to introduce you to our new friend, Norm. Rick and I just met him tonight at The Sals on Osborne,” Misty said, while brushing some snow off her coat.
“Why don’t you guys park yourselves in the living room while I put on some coffee. I’d offer you guys a beer, but I’ve been on the wagon for awhile now.”
“Yeah, Dad’s been sober for six months now. He joined Alcoholics Anonymous,” Misty said proudly, just before she sat down on the couch.
“At the last AA meeting they gave me my sixth month pin,” Lloyd said proudly as he walked towards the kitchen.
After the coffee had perked Misty brought out a silver tray with the cups, coffee and creamer.
Lloyd sat down in his black recliner.
“I’m sorry I haven’t been around to see you Lloyd. I’ve been keeping a low profile since Sasha and I broke up,” Rick explained.
“That’s what I figured,” Lloyd said. “Well you don’t have to worry about that Rick. Sasha’s cool with it. She says she still likes you, but she has a new boyfriend now. In fact, they’ll probably be here soon. Lloyd then turned his attention to the new guest.
“So how did you get to talking with Rick and Misty?”
“Actually, I first met them on the Osborne Bridge. I was getting ready to jump in the river,” Norm answered.
One day in August Rick walked to the Canada Employment Center to see if he could get some help finding a job. He was two credits short from attaining his high school diploma and realized that with this small amount of course work he would need to at least, get a part time job. At this time, he did not think that he would return to playing hockey for another season. Last year had been much too stressful for him and now he would have a lot of free time on his hands. Rick felt that he would need to get a job to keep his parents happy.
As he entered the employment center Rick was nervous. He had worked one summer at his dad’s printing plant and had a very negative experience while working there. Rick did not yet realize that he lacked the manual dexterity, fine motor skills and spatial reasoning required for most factory jobs.
Rick walked up to the reception desk and was told to pull a number out of a machine. He was directed to take a seat in the waiting room and wait until his number was called.
Rick found an empty seat and took a look around the main floor of the employment center. It was a very drab place that rendered a rather depressing mood. After waiting approximately fifteen minutes Rick heard his name called and was greeted by a young attractive female who asked him to take a seat in her work area. The employment counsellor did not have a closed- in office. Her office space was separated from her co-workers by grey rectangular partitions. This arrangement didn’t give the client any feeling of privacy as one could hear what people in other sectioned off work areas were saying.
The employment counsellor shook hands with Rick and said, “Hello Richard, my name is Arlene Johnson. What can I do for you today?”
“You can just call me Rick. I’m here to find a job.”
“What kind of work are you looking for?”
“I’m not sure,” Rick answered. “I don’t know what kinds of work are available to me.”
“Well, that all depends upon your education and work experience.”
“I’ve got my grade 11 and I’m just two credits shy of my high school diploma. I worked at my dad’s printing plant one summer and I used to have a paper route.
“Do you like working with your hands Rick?”
“Not very much. I’m not very good with my hands.”
“I have to be honest with you. Most of the jobs you could apply for require a grade twelve education and manual dexterity or fine motor skills. We occasionally get referrals from employers for manual labor jobs, but I don’t have any referrals right now,” Arlene said.
Rick was now feeling very uncomfortable. “So I guess you really don’t have anything for me today?”
“Not really. What do you do in your spare time?”
“I play hockey, watch tv, listen to music and read.”
“But you don’t do much work with your hands?”
“No, not really, but I read a lot,” Rick said feeling insulted.
“Listen Rick. Can I be blunt?”
“Yeah,” Rick replied feeling annoyed.
“You need to get your high school diploma and you need to take up a hobby where you have to use your hands. After you do that come back and see me.”
“Thank you for your time,” Rick said as he got up to leave Arlene’s work area. When he got outside Rick lit up a smoke and said to himself, “So that’s that. I’ll go back to school to get my two credits and I’ll play hockey for one more year.”
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.”
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.
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.
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 team the referee saw that Davidson looked 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.
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 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 a player 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. The girls then go to the concession stand to get a coffee or a Coke or maybe have a smoke. I think we only have three smokers in our group. Most of the players don’t smoke and they usually prefer that their girlfriends don’t either,” Susan explained.
As the girls headed for the concession stands Misty noticed that a couple of them were looking at Misty suspiciously. Marlene and Jackie told the others that they needed to use the washroom. Most of the other girls took this as a message that they would need to have a meeting among themselves before they started to socialize with Misty.
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 else. 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 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.