Saturday, July 22, 2006

AMHL Thursday: Mystery Man

Adam “Berger Meister Meister” Berger is a mystery. Even though his role as the Tuesday Donut Boy has enhanced his AMHL presence, few—except perhaps his teammates—know much about Berger because he’s so busy practicing that he doesn’t have time to enter personal facts on his AMHL profile page. Tuesdays, he delivers Dunkin’ donuts and makes the coffee but is on the ice in full gear before most of his teammates have arrived at the rink. He’s the last one to leave the ice, too, honing his hockey skills while other players are enjoying donuts and discussing the game—and wondering what Berger does for a living, if anything, to afford him the luxury of extra ice time.

Is the presumably forty-something independently wealthy? Does he shun work and live with his parents?

On Thursday mornings, Berger is more often than not the first one on the ice and the last one to leave. This Thursday, he and his Bruins hoped to edge over the .500 mark with victory on Rink Two against me and my Avalanche. With less than ten seconds remaining in the first period, Avalanche forward Scott “Rhymes with Melon” Gelin rushed up the left wing with the puck as his Tuesday teammate Berger backed into his own zone.

“Shoot!” I shouted from the bench, not needing to do so because yellin’ at Gelin to wind up for a slap shot is like tellin’ the blood vessels around a just-broken bone to stop swellin’ to the size of a melon.

Crossing the blue line and at the top of the face-off circle closest to the Bruins’ bench, Gelin swung back his stick, like Zeus reaching toward the highest heavens to grasp a giant lightning bolt. Gelin, this season’s owner of the AMHL’s mightiest slap shot, released all his energy through his stick shaft, down toward the blade, and through the puck.

Berger braced himself, hoping the blast would miss its target, but the defenseman buckled as the puck struck his foot. On his belly and in distress, Berger attempted to push himself upwards, failing several times before his teammates helped their fallen comrade to his feet. With his team leading 2–1 after the first period, Berger was the first to leave the ice.

Would he call an ambulance? Phone his mommy? Someone to take him to the hospital?

Maybe we’ll never understand the enigmatic Berger. As the Avalanche and Bruins battled into the second period, Berger eschewed medical attention. Instead, he gingerly skated in front of the Avalanche bench—and then climbed over our dasher—his yellow jersey contrasting those of the bewildered Avalanche players.

I told Berger he was on the wrong bench, but he didn’t say a word as play had resumed.

“Hey Matt,” I asked the referee as he skated closer to our bench, “Is it a bench minor if a player is on the wrong bench?”

“Nah.”

Berger would rejoin his Bruins on the bench but ultimately decided it was in his best interest not to risk further injury. He silently left the rink before the Bs had secured a 6-4 victory, but what would the inscrutable Berger do if the injury precluded him from playing next week—or for even longer?

After presumed medical inspection later that day, Berger informed AMHL management that he had broken his foot. Bad news for the Bruins. But what would this mean for donut delivery? How would the injury affect his “job?” What was the prognosis?

Pressing for more information, I asked Berger via e-mail.

“I won't know if I'll need surgery until next week. I won't be able to put any weight on it for 6–8 weeks. The good news is that it was the left ankle. Not good for work at all. I'm trying to close two deals, and I have to take multiple capital sources through the properties.”

What exactly that means remains a mystery, except to say that someone else will be on Tuesday donut duty.
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