I tried to control my temper for the rest of the week at practice, but that’s easier said than done. Sure, I threw a few hip checks, and legally tipped guys that pissed me off, but Coach and Angelica noticed. They didn’t seem too happy about it.
It didn’t help that Angelica came to practice everyday looking like a whole damn meal in black leggings and a large T-shirt. She was different from the girls I usually found attractive. I normally went after the girls who did yoga six days a week and a juice cleanse once a month. But seeing Angelica on skates with a stick in her hands did something strange to my body. Every time she would skate across the ice she looked so elegant, but also dangerous. She would dance around the other players, tangling them up as she effortlessly stole the puck. I hate to admit this, but she definitely got the better of me once or twice this week.
We were running a passing drill, I was on the left wing while Angelica was supposed to stop me from passing. I tried to fake her out, make her believe I was going to go left to get around her when I wanted to go right. She didn’t fall for my trick. She seamlessly robbed me of the puck and began skating in the opposite direction. I turned around to see if that actually just happened.
“Close your mouth, McLaferty. This can’t be the first time a girl has gotten the better of you,” Angelica teased. Laughter spread around the rink while my cheeks started to feel warm.
All week I’ve been thinking about ways to get Angelica to agree to a date. I just wanted to prove that I could get her to say yes. Nothing seemed to work. I would ask her every day after practice and she would always turn me down. Then I had a crazy thought. What if I changed my “playboy ways”? I desperately went over every thing she said she didn’t like about me and began figuring out a way to change them. This change would only be temporary of course. Just long enough so Angelica could notice the change, agree to date me, give her a good fuck and then go back to my ways. We would still date cause the sex would be amazing! I know, I sound like a complete dick. But I had my reasons for not being a relationship kind of guy.
Maybe I could talk to Angelica after practice, convince her to at least give me a chance to show her the guy I would be. Damn, I liked it so much better when women chased after me instead of the other way around.
“Mclaferty,” Coach called as I headed into the locker room. Ah fuck, I’m in trouble again. Twice in one week Trey, not a good way to start with a new team. I turned around to face him making sure to not break eye contact.
“Yes coach?” I asked.
“Meet me in my office when you’re done,” he demanded. He turned around talking to Angelica not caring if I answered, but I did anyway.
“Yes Coach,” I sulked into the locker room. I made damn sure to take my sweet time as I got changed, prolonging the confrontation with Coach.
Luckily, Giroux walked up to me giving me a legitimate excuse to take a long time.
“Listen man,” he started. “Simonds didn’t mean what he said a few days ago. We do that to all the new players. It’s sort of a ‘Welcome to the Team’ thing,” he brightly smiled before continuing. “I remember mine, the guy ended up breaking my nose. We’ve been best friends ever since,” chuckling like it was an inside joke between the two of them.
I suddenly felt lonely. This team really wasn’t just a team, it was a family. I never had a “best friend” on a team I played for. Don’t get me wrong, there were guys I hung out with off the ice but we weren’t really friends.
“You should feel honored we picked you first,” I gave him a quizzical look, confused on what exactly I should feel honored about being slashed in the knee. “See, the first ones always the easiest. Meaning, we like you so we don’t wanna beat on you too hard.” His smile grew wider.
“Oh well, thanks man,” I stuck my hand out to him, glad to know this tidbit of information. He gave my hand a firm grasp and whispered,
“And as your friend, I’m advising you not to chase the coaches daughter. That man can hold a grudge. Plus, most of our teammates have girlfriends, so I need a new wingman.” I actually liked the idea of him and I out at a club scoping the talent. I think he and I would be pretty successful consider we each have all of our original teeth. Something a lot of guys in our profession can’t say.
“But if you still wanna go after her, again I’m advising you not to, she can never turn down a bet,” he said winking.
Grioux’s words began to sink in. She can never turn down a bet. That seemed too easy. If I was going to get Angelica out on a date, I was going to earn it. But, I would use a bet as a last resort.
“If you ever tell anyone in this organization that I gave you this tip, I will step on your foot with a newly sharpened skate.”
Our conversation was interrupted by Coach banging on his office window, motioning for me to get in there.
“Speaking of Coach,” I said grabbing my bag and standing up. “He said he wanted to talk to me, so I better not keep him waiting,” I shrugged.
“Alright man, good luck,” he called over his shoulder after he slapped me on my back. I knocked three times on Coaches door and waited until a heard him mumble that I could come in.
As soon as the door clicked shut behind me, coach didn’t waste time lecturing me.
“Look McLaferty, after this week’s stunts I want to bench you for the first game of the season,” he crossed his arms as my face fell. “But the organization strongly disagrees with me,” my ears perked up at this information.
“We still have three weeks left in the preseason. If I don’t see improvement on your attitude and sportsmanship, I will put on the fourth line no matter what the organization wants. Am I making myself clear?” His eyes were stone cold, arms folded across his chest. I shook my head yes, wondering if coach would ever like me.
“Don’t think just because the organization saved your ass, I won’t hesitate to bench you the next time you wanna throw a punch, we clear?” he asked raising his eyebrows.
“Good, leave.” Without wasting any more time, I ran out of his office.
The rest of the preseason past in a blur. Coach kept a close eye on me while I struggled to keep my temper in check. I was pretty successful for the most part, it was difficult at first but when I saw Angelica nod in approval, it mad my decision worth it.
Coach even seemed to be warming up to me. True to his words, I started our first preseason game on the fourth line but steadily worked my way up. But during our fourth preseason game I almost blew it. We were playing in Detroit, coach was playing me on our second line for the first time and the game was going pretty well. We were winning by two and Detroit seemed to be getting frustrated. I could understand why, the puck hit the goal post multiple times. That could drive any player crazy.
We were halfway through the second period when a Detroit player began to taunt me. For the most part, I was able to ignore him. He didn’t seem to like that because as the third period started, his taunts became extremely personal. He was looking for a fight and thought I was his easiest target. Sure, I was getting extremely annoyed, my hand inching to shut him up. But every time I got off the ice, I would take very large deep breaths and Angelica would remind me, “he’s not worth it.” I nodded my head, repeating her words in my head.
There were fifteen minutes left in the third period when he crossed the line. We were about to take a faceoff against each other, when he got really close to me, so that only I could hear his words. “You know, in two years, you’re sister should give me a call. Do you think she’d still be a virgin by then?” My blood began to boil and rush into my ears. I gripped my stick tightly trying to slow my pulse. He had a smug smirk on his punchable face. Did I look like that when I smirked? “If she is, I’d be happy to do the honors!” That’s it. I dropped my stick and grabbed his jersey. Before anyone could intervene I had him pressed against the glass. The crowd began to boo as he smiled at me. He had gotten exactly what he wanted, a rise out of me. I wanted to throw a punch, I needed to throw a punch. Before I could, Giroux skated up, putting his hands on my shoulders, saving me from making a mistake. He began pulling me away and headed towards the bench. Coach looked pissed while Angelica looked confused.
“What the hell did he say to make you snap,” Giroux asked. I shook my head as I clenched my jaw. I couldn’t speak I was so upset. I needed to scream, break a stick, something so I wouldn’t go back on the ice and punch that asshole repeatedly. Instead of sitting on the bench, I headed straight into the tunnel to calm down in the locker room.
As soon as I was alone I started pacing, trying to take deep breaths, but his words filled my head.
“FUCK HIM” I yelled as I broke my stick over my knee. I turned to throw it but Angelica had followed me. I stood there staring at her. She didn’t look upset or disappointed. She just studied my red face and broken stick in my hands.
“Do you want to tell me what happened out there?” Her hands were on her hips, her voice steady.
“He-” I panted, trying to form a sentence. I dropped my broken stick and collapsed on a near bench. I put my head in my hands, “He crossed a line.”
When I didn’t elaborate, Angelica asked, “and what line was that?” I shook my head. I didn’t want to repeat the words he spoke about my sister, it made me sick.
Sensing I wasn’t going to tell her, “Well the good news is, you didn’t throw a punch.”
His smug face flashed in my mind. “I really wanted to.”
Angelica sat down next to me, “I know.” We sat in silence as I began to calm down. “If it helps, my dad isn’t angry with you. We’ve both seen the improvements you’ve been making.”
I found comfort in the fact that my efforts weren’t going unnoticed. It also seemed that the rest of the team began warming up to me, on and off the ice. Giroux and I often played video games at his place, I even briefly told him I have a sister.
“I do really like playing for your dad,” I admitted. The man was tough, but he was great at what he did and I knew that I could learn a lot from him. Angelica chuckled next to me.
“I knew you’d come around eventually.” I could hear the smile in her voice as I continued to stare at my hands. “I tend to be right about a lot of things.”
“And humble too,” I added. The tension was steady leaving my shoulders. Talking to Angelica had a surprisingly calm effect on me.
“Well, there is still about 6 minutes left in the third,” she said looking at her watch. She stood up and stuck out her hand. “Why don’t you and I go back out there and win this game?”
I felt more in control,looking towards the broken stick on the floor. “I’m going to need a new stick first,” I grabbed her hand and stood up.
She started to head back to game smiling, “I think we can arrange that.”