Alright, the last couple of days my twitter feed has blown up with talk of ‘fan fiction’ which I guess is…ah, look it up. I don’t feel like explaining it, although it should seem fairly self explanatory. After asking, I now know (for better or worse) who Holly Solace is…and no, I haven’t read a word of it. But all this talk got me thinking, and then I realized that I (yes me, the one who doesn’t think it’s a good idea for me to read about Ms. Solace deflowering whichever NHL player she feels like) had written one too. Now compared to what has been passed around, this is strictly PG rated (think Miracle, without the cool Kurt Russell speech). Back in 1994, Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom (don’t stop reading, he actually wrote about sports quite a bit back then and was good at it) wrote a series of articles titled “The Secret World Series”, after MLB locked out the players in August of that year and cancelled the World Series. When the NHL locked out in 2004 and ultimately cancelled the season…this was written, sometime in early 2005. This was going to be a big project too, of course going all 7 games and a last second winner. But as with many writing projects I start, they never get finished. So without dragging this intro out any further, I bring to you my contribution to fanfic: The Stanley Cup Final that ‘Didn’t Happen’.
The puck sailed over my glove hand probably about a second before my glove had even appeared there—by then it was already in the goal. Shouldn’t come as much of a surprise really, it’s been happening most of the evening. They take a shot, for the most part I react way too slowly and they score. But one thing that might shock you is that score only tied the game at 14 apiece. Another thing that might shock you is that I’m happy to be playing this well—and as far as I know the other goalie is happy too, he’s in the same beer league I take part in. Chances are you’ll be as shocked as I was when you find out that I’m not playing against just a bunch of beer leaguers, I’m playing against a group of professional hockey players—as is my counterpart in the other net. But what you don’t realize—hell, what I won’t realize until a few days from now, anyway—is that what we’re playing in right now would turn out to be just the first game of a best out of seven series to decide which group of players would win the coveted Stanley Cup. Yes, that Stanley Cup. Sure, none of us will ever actually get our names acknowledged on the sterling silver trophy that all hockey players dream of some day getting their hands on—some type of legal crap about the NHL owning the rights to it probably wouldn’t allow it. Too bad they don’t know that right now it’s just on loan for a few days.
But before I tell you about Cam Neely’s second goal for the Wales Conference team that just tied the game late in the 3rd period, let me explain how the hell it is I got here.
My friend Mike and I were driving around in his black Chevy Avalanche (an omen, perhaps?) earlier this evening, and had planned to drive down to the Mount Clemens Ice Arena for our usual ritual—pickup hockey on Wednesday night. It’s all in fun, but of course it gets competitive—both Mike and I have had our share of disagreements with other players. Once or twice even with each other, but since he’s about a foot taller and about 70 pounds bigger, those usually don’t last very long. Just the way it is. Since he was driving, I was using the chamois cloth he usually uses to wipe his car down to clear out the visor on his helmet, and we’d been talking about where to go afterwards. Then my cell phone rang, and in just a moment our plans would take a drastic change. I took a look at the display for the ID, and the only thing that showed up was a number, no name. I knew that number wasn’t work, so I decided flip open my phone and answer it.
“Hello,” I said into the receiver.
“Hi, is this Norm?” the inquisitive voice said back. “Sure is,” I replied.
“Okay, good. This is Steve down at Civic Arena in St. Clair Shores, do you know where that is?” I replied yes, because I live about two minutes away from it…and something about that voice sounded familiar, like I’d heard it before but wasn’t sure where.
“Think you can show up here in about 20 minutes?” Steve asked. “I’m with my friend Mike and we’re actually on our way to Mt. Clemens to play our beer league game there—can’t this wait?” I said. “No, it really can’t—look, just tell your friend Mike to come here too, we’ll use him also. Your brother Nolan was the one that told me to call you, and that to forget about the beer league game for now,” Steve answered back. Well, Nolan was supposed to join us tonight too, but if he’s skipping out for a game at Civic… “Alright, we’ll be on our way,” I said back to him, with Mike looking over at me wondering just what was going on since he hadn’t heard the conversation.
Steve sounded happy. “Good, we’ll look forward to seeing you both then,” and then he hung up.
Mike looked over and asked “So, what was that all about?”
“Mike, head towards Civic man, I guess we’re playing somewhere else tonight,” I told him. “Some guy named Steve says it’s important, and Nolan’s playing there too.”
“Nolan?!?!?” Mike exclaimed. “If your brother says so,” he said as he turned the Avalanche around and we headed toward Civic. “What do you think it is?” Mike asked me.
“I don’t know,” I said, “but that Steve guy sounded familiar, like I’d heard his voice somewhere before. Guess we’ll figure it all out when we get there.”
When we got there about 15 minutes later, Nolan was waiting for us out in the lobby, already geared up and ready to go—and he was as excited as I’d ever seen him. “Hey man, glad you could make it,” he said. “Go into those lockers over there, and then come on out onto the ice—most of the guys are out there already; Pat, the guy who was supposed to play goal for the other team in our beer league tonight is here too.” We tried to ask my brother what was up but he wouldn’t tell us, so we grabbed our hockey bags and walked into the locker room eagerly awaiting to find out what the big fuss was about—he was seriously as excited as a little child on Christmas morning, looking at a large number of presents waiting to be opened up.
I can’t even begin to describe the excitement we felt once we stepped out onto that ice though, and it dawned on both Mike and I as we realized just who was out here tonight. At one end of the ice, guys like Cam Neely, Brad Richards, Pat Lafontaine, and a few others I didn’t immediately recognize were taking shots on Pat. At the other end of the ice, Jarome Iginla, Sergei Fedorov, and ‘Steve’—as in Steve Yzerman, only my favorite hockey player of all-time and a legend in the Metro Detroit area, and, as it turns out, the voice on my cellphone that I couldn’t recognize—were taking shots into an empty net, which I would soon be guarding. Darren McCarty and Kris Draper were also here, although that wasn’t much of a shock because we’ve seen them here before. Mike looked at me incredulously and said, “Can you believe this; we’re playing with these guys tonight!”
“I know, this is nuts,” I said, most likely with that same incredulous look on my face. Along with Mike, Nolan, and Pat, I probably had that same look glued on my face throughout the night as the game started and went on.
That is, until they tied the game at 14 late. I was happy—until I saw D-Mac skate over. He looks at me and says, “Hey man, I now this isn’t the level of competition you’re used to playing against, but do you think you could stop a puck or two near the end here?” To add a little more emphasis to that, Mike also skates up and says “C’mon man, get your head out of your ass!” and then gives me a slap to the side of my mask. After gathering my senses together, I dig the puck out of the net and pass it to Draper, who is getting ready to bring the puck back up ice and hopefully end this game.
About an hour later Nolan, Pat, Mike and I are sitting at Shores Inn, recounting our tales from earlier in the night—our tales of getting to play with some legends and kidding each other about some crazy plays we’d try to make. Or at least teasing me about my goaltending escapade, for the most part. “So Mike, how in hell did you end up with the game winner tonight?” I asked.
“Well, after you made that unbelievable stop on Lafontaine, Noles found Iginla streaking up the ice with only Richards there. He deked out Richards, and then Pat totally cheated to Iginla’s side thinking he wouldn’t pass it—I didn’t think he would either but he wasn’t selfish about it at all, and it’s a damn good thing I kept my stick down.” To that we raised a glass for a toast. “Here’s to the sweet taste of a 15-14 victory,” I said.
But the night wasn’t done with the surprises yet, for Nolan spoke up and said “…and to a few more victories as well.” We all looked back at my brother, with a look of apparent shock because all he would say was “Oh, I forgot to tell you—we’re playing tomorrow night too.”