Blackhumouristpress's Blog

May 9, 2019

To Be Honest With You…

Roland was a no nonsense sort of guy. He was sort of one-dimensional when it came to ice hockey. Hockey was everything to him. Whether it was the NHL or five and six year olds playing in the park district. Roland was also fixated on the truth and living an honest life.

Roland’s daughter was married to guy who was really a great guy and he got along well with his daughter Cassie. Russ, Cassie’s husband started Internet dating with a woman from Brazil and just up and moved. There was a letter about how much he loved Cassie but there was something better for him in another country and when it came to love and true happiness, it was necessary to be selfish. Roland left his home in Detroit to live in suburban Chicago near his daughter. Roland talked Cassie into letting Roland enroll her daughter Gwen into hockey a few years back and Gwen was becoming a formidable player.

Many people talk about hockey’s old days but Roland lived it. Roland played in a semi-professional league that had Saturday night games in towns in Michigan like Marshall and Battle Creek. He would make his $50.00 a night and show up to work on the Chrysler assembly plant Monday morning. Twice Roland stitched up his own face between periods. He had a chipped front tooth and several scars on his face.

On the first day of spring league, Roland was astounded that eight and nine year olds were so beginner. At eight years old, most young hockey players have been skating for four years. Roland was going to have to start at square one with many of them.

“On face-offs, we all have a job to do. Standing there waving to grandma is not one of them. Waddling around like a penguin is not one either. There is no right field in this sport so we don’t walk out to a remote outpost… Am I reaching any of you?”

All youth teams put their hands in the middle at the beginning of the game and between periods and had a obligatory cheer. The coach asks things like- who are we? Monsters! What are we gonna do? Win! Roland had them all put their hands in the middle and then asked them who had ever been in a fistfight before.

“What’s the best way to win a fist fight?”

The players looked at him like they didn’t understand English. Nobody answered but Gwen wanted to because she had been asked this many times by her grandfather since she began skating at the age of four.

“Gwen?”

“Um… You wanna get the first punch and then you don’t wanna stop til they stop moving and if you get them by the nutsack, you wanna squeeze til they scream.”

“Right… On the count of three, yell squeeze… 1, 2, 3… SQUEEZE!”

Gwen had a hat trick and three penalties for hooking, tripping and checking in a non-check game. She would often tell her grandfather that she was going to get a Gordie Howe hat trick for him- a goal, an assist and a fight. Roland’s team lost 9-3. Roland got on the kids about not trying hard enough, about positioning, about trying to skate out of their zone with the puck and turning it over, the lack of passing and lack of determination to get the puck. As Roland left the locker room, a mom approached Roland.

“Hi… We haven’t met yet but I’m Stevie’s mom.”

Roland thought about Stevie coming into the locker room with the English au pair acting like he was a dinosaur, making dumb sounds and not getting dressed until Roland yelled in his face until his lips quivered. That only happened once.

“I wanted to ask you what you think of his skill and effort and what he can do to improve because he really loves the sport…”

“To be honest with you…”

Most people, who begin a sentence that way, say it to give them time to lie, to water it down and be less than honest with you. Not Roland.

“I would start with boxing or martial arts to toughen him up. He’s afraid of contact and this is a contact sport. I would then tell him that to buy all the equipment and pay to be on a team is like equal to buying a used car and for the money, do you really wanna do this? I could go to Jamaica for two weeks comfortably for what it costs to outfit you and watch you walk around the ice instead of skate. I would then tell him that if he does not push himself to his fullest, you’d pull him. I suspect between Mary Poppins who brings him to practice and the games you rarely make, this is sort of like babysitting for you. When hockey is played correctly, it should sound like a symphony… This team is out of tune and no tempo… Stevie is blowing clams out of his horn… You get where I’m going?”

“Wow… Is this how you see it?”

“Listen… Nobody just wakes up and decides they are going to play hockey unless they can skate and I mean skate well. Then when you got that down, you have to develop hands and a skill like chess with your heads so that you’re not constantly giving it away… Hockey is like a foreign language. To have a conversation, you have to learn the language… To be honest with you, Stevie isn’t practicing his horn… Many on the team are learning to say more than their name… Stevie doesn’t much care if he has an accent or if he even learns to speak Dutch… You following me?”

Yes, but not happily. But for sure… honestly.

March 23, 2019

The New Hockey

Filed under: humor,humour,Ice hockey,Uncategorized,youth hockey — blackhumouristpress @ 12:06 am
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The Whackers had a season that most coaches only wish they could have. 35 wins and 1 loss. The one loss was a sore point with Luke and Francis. They were going up against the team across town called the Beaters. The Whackers were flat that day back in February and the Beaters beat them soundly. Luke said a few select words to his impressionable 13 and 14-year-old boys.

“I watched those fuck sticks do drills over and over around cones and tires… How many cones and tires did you find on the ice tonight? You got the bald fuck who can’t skate who stands at center ice and points all over the place like a field marshal Don’t know what a field marshal is? Google it when you’re not looking at jack-off movies. Then the young tool with the goatee… His little butt buddy. They had slow, fat children playing D and nobody got around them. Every loose puck, they beat us to. You thought you had this game in the bag before we took the ice and they handed you your own asses… This shit will not happen again this season. If I have to find five willing to play the way I want, I’ll do that and the rest of you can sit up in the stands with your parents and criticize what I do… Are we fucking clear? Francis… Anything you want to add?”

Francis was a man of few words. He put it plainly and quietly.

“Boys… You shit the bed…”

The Whackers got back on track and tore through the season and beat the Beaters in the semi-final and then faced the rich kid prep school with their track suits, matching hockey bags and stick bags with the school emblem. King of all Kings Prep School was the hands down favorite to walk away in the final. The Whackers were nervous and on edge until Luke gave his pre-game speech.

“You won all your games this season except one. If you lose today, it will suck greatly to have to shake their hands with tears in your eyes. It will suck to get the almost won banner and miniscule trophy too with it. It will suck to go home in your daddy’s Ford Truck and watch the prep fuckers roll out in Range Rovers and Bentleys. Play every shift like it was your last one. Play like there is an empty net behind you. Be willing to do anything and you might just win.”

The Whackers skated to a 0-0 tie after three periods. In the overtime, a Whacker defenseman whipped the puck around the boards to clear the zone. It hit the stick of prep player and glided towards the prep goalie. A Whacker wing skated harder than hard to beat the defenseman and approaching prep goalie. The Whacker wing dove and whacked the puck past the approaching prep goalie and watched it trickle in past the goal line. The Whackers threw their gloves and helmets up in the air and mobbed the winger who won the game. The parents cheered and hugged one another. Out of 60 teams at the bantam level, the Whackers emerged as the best of the best. Great story, right?

Monday morning after a weekend of drinking and backslapping with parents. Testimonials and funny stories about this player or that, the hockey director called Luke and Francis into her office. In the office smiling like the cats that ate the canaries were the Beater coaches. The Whacker club lost their full time hockey director due to budget cuts so they gave the job to the twenty something year old speed skating director. In her infinite wisdom, she watched the playoff games and felt that the Beater coaches were better suited for what she felt was necessary to develop the Whacker program going forward. She liked the serpentine drills with cones and tires. She liked that the bald coach was quiet and methodical and that his sidekick had sold her on truly growing the program by working in tandem with Luke and Francis. The Beater coaches had convinced the Whacker hockey director that if they put Luke and Francis in a role of mentors, the four of them could really create something special. It sounded so good to Tiffany and the name Tiffany sounds really tough for a hockey director. She explained the new plan going forward with a lot of “likes” and “umms”. Luke listened in shock and awe. Tiffany used words like family and community to define the new configuration. Luke interrupted.

“I’m a plain man… In plain English are you saying that we are mentoring these guys?”

“Yes, that is correct.”

“And what you mean by mentoring is that we are their assistant coaches. We move the tires, we move the cones and bend over and pick up the pucks at the end of practices, right? Fill the water bottles and so on.”

Tiffany wrinkled up her nose and pushed back her glasses, she nervously hunched her shoulders before speaking again.

“Umm… It’s not really like that… It’s like one big team working together to create something really special..”

Umm Yes. Like really special… And yet really weird.

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