Centre Ice

Stomp. Stomp.
Clap.

Stomp. Stomp.
Clap.

4000ish people in unison.

Luke felt the concussion in his chest
as he stood at centre ice.
He leaned his chin on the butt end of his stick,
like he had seen Ken Dryden do.
On all of those games from the 70s
on ESPN Classic.

Stomp. Stomp.
Clap.

We will rock you indeed.

Luke wished for his iPod,
currently in his jacket pocket in the locker room.
He’d play that live version of Pearl Jam’s “Daughter.”
The one that evolves into “Rockin’ In The Free World.”
That would drown them out.
Maybe.

The intensity of the stomping, stomping and clapping grew.

Luke was reminded of lions and Christians.
Despite this essentially being a home game,
he didn’t know which he was.
Or if it mattered.
Or why he paid so little attention in history class.

Luke looked over at the referee.
Dude was talking to the scorekeeper.
Trying to get the time on the scoreboard right.
There was either 1 second remaining
or none
when the penaltyshot was called.
The score is 3-3.
End of the third period.

Luke looked at the banner hanging under the scoreboard.
“Michigan High School State Championship 2007”
Sponsored
by
Nike.

The fact that this was the championship game
was only adding to the frenzy of the crowd.

The cheers of support
and venom-filled screams of hate
all sounded the same to him.

This didn’t bother him.

He looked over at the “VIP” section.
NHL scouts, college recruiters, agents.
They all looked exactly the same to him.
Agendas with meticulously styled, grey-streaked hair,
wearing dark jackets with small logos on the left side.

He knew what they — this pot-bellied fraternity — were thinking.
“Let’s see what this kid is made of.”

This didn’t bother him.

Stomp. Stomp.
Clap.

Luke looked down at the opposing goalie.
He skated back and forth.
He slammed his stick on the ice.
He stared back at Luke.
“Someone’s in an awful hurry to get his ass scored on,”
Luke thought.

Luke couldn’t see his father.
But, he could picture him.
Clearly.
Wearing the
azure blue
and
maize
of the University of Michigan.

Dad was an alum.
Dad wanted Luke to attend.
Dad wanted Luke to achieve more on the ice than Dad did.
Dad has been pushing this since Luke was 4.
Hard.
Dad didn’t really achieve much on the ice.
Dad didn’t think Luke realized this.

Luke did.

Luke recognized his fathers shortcomings at a very early age.
Too early.
Still and all, he thought,
overbearing love is still love.
Support with motives is still support.
There is
there.

This didn’t bother him.

None of it.

Luke glanced around the crowd.

SHE was here.

Somewhere.

Stomping. Stomping.
Clapping.
Smiling.

She was probably here with THAT guy.

This bothered him.

That guy explaining hockey to her.
Condescendingly.
With his annoying, fucking blonde hair.
She’d laugh.

Putting
her
perfect
head
on
his
shoulder.

!!!!!!!!!!!!

Luke cringed.

And again.

Luke wondered if he could exorcise this crush
by spending time with the seemingly never ending supply of
puck bunnies
that his friends claimed he could “get” as a
hockey star.

Generic teenage girls.
Pretty hair — that they tossed when he walked by them.
Tight clothing.

He was bored already.

They weren’t her.

On their best day, they couldn’t be her on her worst.

He smiled thinking about her smile.
Then he got pissed off at himself for smiling at the thought of her smile.

Then he smiled again.

“Shit.”

He wondered how he could miss something he’d never had.
And how he could crave something he’d never tasted.

He reminded himself that she had held his hand
once.
When she was drunk.
And thought he was someone else.

Luke lived off that experience for 3 months.

Luke knew it wasn’t the world’s healthiest crush.

The referee blew his whistle.

He pointed to Luke.

“Let’s go!” he said.

Luke took a few strides back towards the opposite side of the ice,
before whirling around.
By the time he reached the puck
at centre ice
he was at full speed.

Wind in his face,
Muscle memory,
reflexes,
years of practice,
world class skill,
all were ready to do their part.

There were no more stomps, stomps or claps.

The only sound was steel blades on ice.

Luke found it nearly deafening.

The goalie banged his stick on the ice.

Luke was bearing in on him.

Score or not,
his father would still be pushing him to Michigan.

Score or not,
she would still be leaving the arena with that guy.

Luke dipped his shoulder
faked going to his right.
The goalie bit.

Luke deftly floated the puck towards
the top left corner.

The goalie reacted.
A step behind.
But, trying to close the gap in time.

Score or not,
things probably wouldn’t change much for Luke.
But…

“This asshole isn’t going to stop my shot.”

The red light went on.

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No Responses

  1. Airam says:

    You are an INCREDIBLE writer!!!

    I loved this!

  2. Peter says:

    Awwww. Thanks so much!

    I totally almost scrapped it 3/4 of the way through.

  3. Cait says:

    I (forgive me for cursing) fucking loved this piece.

    And I have such a mad crush on a hockey player, so thanks for making me think of him again.

    Seriously, I loved this piece. A lot.

  4. Travelling Tippler says:

    I liked it too, really, but for verisimilitude in the next draft: the Univerity of Michigan as opposed to Michigan University and their colors are maize and navy blue as opposed to azur. Other than that – lovely.

  5. Girl in a Guy's World says:

    You’re an amazing writer — I couldn’t wait to read the end!

  6. Pearl says:

    Awesome. You totally took me into the stadium and headspace.

  7. Rachel says:

    this was brilliant!!! did he make it??? did he make it??? i nearly ripped stuffing out of my seat! x

  8. Neily says:

    I dont know much about hockey but I THINK red light means the puck has pierced the net?

  9. Michael says:

    Excellent, enjoyed that, well done that man.

  10. Steph says:

    Awesome story. You really caught the whole atmosphere, and at the same time allowed us to crawl inside the guys head.

  11. Cyber D says:

    You have mad skills… more than enough for me to be terribly jealous!

  12. Peter says:

    cait: Glad I could help! And thanks!

    tipler: Michigan University? I can’t believe that I did that. Especially considering the insane amount of college sports I’ve watched.

    legaleagle: Thanks so much for the kind words.

    pearl: And thanks to you too!

    rachel: He scored!

    neily: Yup. Exactly.

    michael: Thanks, dude!

    steph: I should have done an aussie version with… aussie rules football.

    cyber d: I appreciate that!

  13. Alicia says:

    Wow. LOVE it, especially this:

    “He wondered how he could miss something he’d never had.

    And how he could crave something he’d never tasted.”

    Perfectly articulated. I’ve definitely been there.

    [I found you on Indie Bloggers, btw.]

  14. Meliahindmarsh@gmail.com says:

    Oliver, before Jennifer came along.

  15. Sid says:

    So like ice hockey isn’t really big in SA – coz we don’t really have snow. And the only thing I know about hockey is what I’ve learnt from Mighty Ducks – form a V and you’ll win the game. So … I don’t get the ending. Red light means? The goal didn’t go in? The game ended?

  1. April 14, 2009

    […] “Centre Ice” […]

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