Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hockey in the Desert: "Bahrain Bill" Strikes Again, Part II

Continued from Part I, when Bill VanderClock is getting the run-around.

Each time I’ve gone to the Middle East, I’ve taken new hockey sticks with me (provided by Tricon Sports—great shop, great people, great service—in Lexington as donations to the youth hockey program in Bahrain).

I walk out of my room, and the security guard in the seat in the hallway says, “Ah sir, what’s in the bag?”

I think he was concerned about the big gear bag but no, he wants to know what was in the stick bag. He is now up on his feet, and his hand moves under his jacket toward what I can only guess is a sidearm of some sort. He recognizes my fearful expression.

“This bag?” I say, pointing to the big Easton bag at my feet.

“No, that bag,” he says with a heavy accent and pointing at the stick bag.

“Sure” I say, relieved that the contents are much easier to inspect than that all the stuff in the Easton bag. So I unzip the bag (very carefully) and remove the sticks.

He removes his hand from his jacket. No gun.

He inspects the sticks and says, “You use those with horses?”

I’m too scared to find this funny. (Looking back on it, he may have thought I was going to play polo).

“No” I reply, “these are for ice hockey. We play on the ice.”

“Like ice in a glass?” he asks, motioning as if he had a highball in his hand.

“No, sheets of ice. We play on sheets of ice,” I say as I imagine skating down an ice cube.

“You play with sheets?”

“No, no. This is hockey, Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Mario Lemieux…”

“Are those people you play with?”

Without explaining that those legends wouldn’t be caught dead on the ice with me, I figure out how to satisfy the still-confused sentry. I hastily open the big Easton bag to retrieve a skate. I remove the skate guard as the man stuffs his hand inside his jacket.

Then, as he glimpses the skate, his eyes flash; his hand lowers. I know he finally understands.

We both laugh. He holds the skate with one hand and, with the other, feels the edge of the blade.

“OK,” he says.

I feel like a ton had been lifted off of my shoulders. I tell him that I’m playing hockey every Tuesday and Saturday night for the next couple of weeks.

He instructs me to carry the sticks without the stick bag, and there should be no problem.

I offer him a Coke, which as always he refuses, and I then leave for my game at FunLand. Later that night (with the stick bag tucked away), I return.. He waves as I enter my room.

To this day I can’t see a glass of Scotch on the rocks without imagining little skaters—wearing white sheets—racing down the sides of the ice cubes and yelling, “Bobby…Mario…Wayne” as they go.
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