Every night in just about every town and city across North America, middle-aged men of average means take their aromatic and disheveled bags of hockey gear into frigid arenas to indulge their fantasies.
I’m one of them, a legend in my own mind. Gretzky and Lemieux can’t even come close to my speed or prowess with a stick, let alone my good looks and potential for lucrative endorsement contracts. Sure, I’m 40-plus, but many NHL rookies started at that age. The fact that they were all coaches is incidental.
I’ve shrewdly convinced my wife that I only play hockey to prevent a coronary, which would leave her widowed with a carload of rink-rats. “I’m doing this for you dear!” I shout, donning the latest NHL expansion-team cap, as I head for the door. I drag two meticulously taped sticks (one cracked) and a hockey bag the size of a four-man tent with me to the car.
At the arena, I proceed to the closet, labeled “dressing room.” The stench of sweat, mildew and liniment quickly clears my frosted nostrils. It’s time to prepare for battle.
Opening the bag, I peel apart my sweaty long johns which froze in the garage like a Stanfield icicle. Balancing on one foot, I acrobatically slip into my tattered jock. A cramped teammate to the left unintentionally elbows me in the ribs when his shredded shoulder-strap breaks. To the right, the sprawling goaltender unwittingly jabs a buckle into my not-yet-padded derriere. I haven’t even stepped on the ice and already I need the first-aid room.
In the spectral array of equipment, tonight I’m playing on the Mostly-Red Team, with two yellows and an orange, against the Almost-All-Blue Team, plus one black. I hope their goalie shows, because otherwise we’re playing against “The Sweater.” It’s mortifying. It just hangs from that net, with an attitude no-less, waiting to be tested. If only my stick would raise the darned puck better. That rag reeks, flutters and stones me every time I shoot. It’s Vezina-trophy awesome!
Twenty-seven layers of tape fortify my ankles and finally I’m dressed. I slump to the bench, lulled into a trance by the rumble of the Zamboni and the late hour. There’s got to be a better way to do this.
How do rich people play hockey? My mind conjures up decadent images.
• Rich people play hockey at a time of day when they are normally awake.
• Rich people have every NHL hockey sweater (even the Senators), with socks to match.
• Rich people use Gucci equipment bags made of fine Corinthian leather.
• Rich people have reserved private dressing-suites.
• Rich people employ locker room valets.
• Rich people use custom-made hockey sticks that weren’t purchased on sale at a gas station.
• Rich people bring their own opposition goalies, who let them score on every shot.
• Rich people install little trampolines at the bench to help them jump over the boards when they’re tired.
• Rich people pipe oxygen and Perrier right to the bench.
• Rich people send their equipment to a laundry service.
• Rich people don’t repair their worn equipment, they simply throw it away.
• Rich people leave cash in their pants in the dressing room and don’t worry.
• At the end of the night, rich people never search for pucks shot off the ice.
• Rich people play in arenas with enough hot water for showers for the whole team.
But then... “Hey. Wake up!” And I’m over the boards for the next shift.
— John A. Lynch