Friday, October 27, 2006

AMHL Thursday: Where's My Father?

I push open the Capitals’ locker room door and poke my head into the room to count how many skaters we have. I don’t enter the room, though.

Dave “Mr. Hockey” Losier, seated on the bench to my left, asks me what I’m doing.

I’m not sure if should sit this game out so that my head cold and persistent cough doesn’t get worse or if I should play because we’re short on players. I have my gear in the car in case I’m needed, no matter what my wife says.

“Get your gear. You made the team,” our team captain says.

I jog outside, where dawn’s early light is still a half hour away, to the parking lot. I retrieve my hockey gear and sticks and then join the seven skaters and goalie Mike Chase. All of them, except Dean “the Late One” Banfield, who says he’s “running on fumes” after a late night in the “Big Apple,” are almost dressed and ready to take the ice.

I plop my hockey bag down and then sit down on the bench to get dressed. Usually, I dress at home, so when I reach the rink, I’m wearing everything except my skates, shoulder pads, and jersey. Not today.

As I search for my garter belt and jock strap, Rich Yamartino says he’s going to meet Jim “Miracle on Ice” Craig later today. The former Boston University and Team USA goalie will provide a motivational speech to Yamartino’s company, and Rich was tagged to escort Craig to the event because of their hockey connection.

“Where is he now?” I say, wondering whey Jimmy C. isn’t here to pump us up for our game against the Stars. We’re on a four-game losing streak, you see...

..My teammates, even Banfield, have filtered out of the locker room and are on the ice as I put on my new kneepads and then the rest of my equipment.

Halfway through the first period, I’m ready to enter the ice. The ref blows his whistle for a break in the action, so I pull open the rink door and then skate to the bench to join the two reserves.

“Play defense,” Mr. Hockey says.

“On it.”

Standing, waiting for my first shift, I feel surprisingly well. No coughing or wheezing. My nasal passages are clear. It’s a miracle!

I play pretty well as does the entire team. We close down the Stars’ passing lanes; Mike Chase plays a solid game; and we win 4–2.

The guys are impressed with my commitment and performance but wish they could have gotten a win for my dad last week, when Fort Collins’ Mr. Hockey witnessed our 2–7 loss.

“That was upstate New York hockey!” Losier, now in the locker room, refers to our victory.

I’m not sure what he means.

“That’s where your dad is from.”

“Long Island.”

“That was Long Island hockey!”

Where’s my father?

At home in Colorado...

...I call him—just as I always do on Thursday nights—to let him know how we did. Upon learning of this morning’s victory, my dad says he’s proud of the team and that he’ll raise the stars and stripes in honor of the Capitals' victory.
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