Monday, April 05, 2010

AMHL Friday: Mike "The Gambler" Tavis

March 26, 2010
Concord, MA

“…It’s not necessarily about success for me. It’s not about being the biggest star in the world…” –Kenny Rogers

On a cold spring morning, I meet up with Mike “the Gambler” Tavis, who has just decided to forego his familiar duties as a skating-out Star in favor of a first-time foray between the pipes.

Neither of the regular goalies—P.J. “King of Clubs” Mann and Kate “Queen of Hearts” Fallon—can play this morning, so Tavis straps on the pads in a locker room fronting Rink Two, as the Stars and Whalers start the game.

“It’d be nice to have a chance to warm up, though,” Tavis says, and wonders if he’s correctly attaching himself to the black Bauer leg pads. “I didn’t put these on backwards, did I?”

Tavis has dressed his son, netminder Nick, so many times, but now Mike needs help from this reporter and Paul “Jack of Diamonds” Anastas, who has scrambled to find pads, glove, blocker, and mask for the newbie netminder.

Cue “Pipe Dreams” (the yet-to-be mixed Kenny Rogers version of the Yaku Boyz classic) as possibly the first-ever goalie to wear #14 steps on the ice, his Stars trailing, 0–1.

Tavis stands (note to Nick: Dad’s legs are a bit too far apart) in the crease, poker face masking his fear, and sticks aside the first shot.

The Stars have difficulty mounting an attack, so Tavis must play with the hand he’s been dealt. Whaler forward Marc “Le Sept de Pique” Vallee zips across the blueline and to the circle to Tavis’s left. Valle flings a zinger past the would-be puckstopper.

But the Gambler shows no sign of anger.

He makes a pair of stick saves and then watches his team advance the puck. When the Stars score on Mitch “Through the Years” Weiss, Tavis slaps the white-taped blade of his borrowed Koho against the ice.

Vallee attacks again, skating down his right wing. A left-handed shooter, he has a good angle—and a clear shooting lane—and snaps a shot high glove-side. Tavis snares the black disk like it’s the last poker chip.

You never count your money...’til the dealin’s done.

Still in the first period, the Whalers are all over the Stars. Ding, the puck pings of the pipe to Tavis’s right. The referees, however, rule that the puck crossed the goal line.

“No way!” yells this reporter. “That hit the post.”

But Tavis just shrugs his shoulders, knowing that bemoaning the blown call is a waste of energy.

You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. And Tavis is no quitter.

In the second period, the Stars trail 2–3. Anastas beats Weiss with a wrist shot, but then the Stars fade, on a train bound for nowhere.

When all the dealing is done, it is time for counting: Stars, 4; Whalers, 9.

Yet Mike Tavis is a winner, or at least the Gambler, he breaks even. Plus, he has a couple aces in the hole: a greater appreciation for his own goalies and knowing that he’ll be even a better coach for his son.
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