Monday, August 06, 2007

AMHL Thursday: Heads Up

Thursday, August 2, 2007
5:30 a.m.

My belly and legs on the living room floor, I arch my back in the classic cobra position, my head up and eyes focused on the framed photo in the bookcase.

“To Jimmy: Heads Up!!” Cam Neely had signed the picture commemorating the night Cam’s banner was raised to the heights of what is again called “the Garden.”

I wonder what this morning’s game against the AMHL Bruins will be like. Will we win to secure first place? How will I do?

On Rink Two and between shifts in the second period, we’re down 3–1 when defensive partner Bill Chioffi says, “I got a Cam Neely story for your donut blog.”

Chioffi, a health nut and herbalist, was minding his own nutritional supplement business at a local Whole Foods store when he was asked to help a customer with product selection.

“I look up,” Chioffi, who, like thousands of other parents in Bruins Nation, has a kid named Cam, “and it’s Cam (expletive deleted) Neely!” Bill resisted the urge to gush and chat about hockey, instead concentrating on the customer’s needs. But he did shake Neely’s hand, hoping this would increase his (Bill’s) point production.

I get back to business, subconsciously enhanced by Neely’s metaphysical presence. On the next shift, I step up from the right point to control a loose puck. No time to corral it because a defender is about to poke it away—I snap my wrists without aiming and hope for the best. The puck hits Mike Chase’s blocker, handcuffing the Bruins’ backstop, and then falls behind the goal line.

In the third period, we’re still down a few goals. I pinch in from the right point to intercept a Bruins’ forward who’s carrying the puck out of his zone. His head is down, so I stand my ground in front of the Bruins’ bench and brace myself as I reach for the puck.

Wham! Bam! Cam would have liked the way the forward crumpled to the ice! But the Bruins’ bench is screaming for a penalty.

“That was a check!”

No penalty. The referees are probably tired of blowing the whistle for, by game’s end, they will call ten penalties, three for roughing. In addition to the Neely-like style of play—to the extent the no-check AMHL allows it—players have exchanged heated words. The only things missing from this scene are haymakers and bloodstained lips and ice.

The Bruins win, 6–3, but in the locker room, the Avalanche are not wallowing in defeat. No, our heads up, we discuss our plan to stymie Aaron Sherman and the Capitals in next week’s first-round play-off game.
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