The puck slid across the ice. Trevor, number 16, was passing it between his hockey stick as he skated towards the net. His sole focus was on his goal. His teammates were yelling at him that someone was open. Instead of passing the puck, he continued forward.
Suddenly, an opposing defender, a member of the Colorado Avalanche, was in front of him. In a matter of seconds, he had swiped the puck from Trevor. Anger flaring up, the Dallas Star raced after him. Instead of trying to steal the puck back, Trevor slammed himself into the player, crushing him against the wall. The puck was free. The Avalanche player shoved Trevor back. Trevor proceeded to push him to the ground, accidentally falling on top of him in the process.
The whistle blew and the refs skated onto the field. Trevor was charged with a penalty. He glared at the Colorado player before skating to the penalty box, where he proceeded to cross his arms and brood. One of his teammates skated past and shook his head at him. Trevor did not care. It was only the preseason; it did not really matter what happened.
With the power play, the Avalanche were able to make the winning goal, something Trevor had been trying to achieve himself. The Colorado players grouped together to celebrate their victory on the road. Trevor shrugged as he stood up and skated to join the rest of the Stars. They were avoiding looking at him. He was used to it, though. They resented the fact that he often cost the team points for his needless fighting on the rink. Was that not what hockey was about? The fights were epic.
As the players skated towards their bench, Trevor looked up into the stands, immediately regretting it. Most of the seats were empty. There were hardly any fans that had stayed for the whole game. This irritated him. Sure, it was the preseason, but still! Tickets were cheap; there should have been more people.
What was even more annoying, though, was to see several of the people wearing North Stars jerseys. The Stars had been called the North Stars when they had been in Minnesota. The franchise moved to Dallas in 1993. The people of Minnesota still could not let it go, and those who had migrated to Dallas insisted on wearing North Stars gear to Stars games. Trevor would have been fine if the Minnesotans had decided to follow the team, but the least they could do was show respect for the present by admitting their loss! They should have let go and become Stars fans. Heaven knew the team needed more.
He shook his head and turned to one of his teammates. “Why can’t they just get over the North Stars?” he muttered.
The other player, a big guy named Mark, raised his eyebrows at him and replied, “Hey, I’m from Minnesota. I know how they feel. At least they’re here.”
“Why don’t we just give them the rights to the North Stars?” he went on deridingly. ‘It would make them happy, and we have no need for the name. We didn’t even keep the colors.” Perhaps that would keep them away from the Stars as well; they could be the Wild’s problem.
“I hope we do,” Mark said earnestly. “The Stars won’t even let the Wild wear throwback North Stars jerseys.” He shook his head in disappointment.
Trevor shrugged and did not answer. It did not seem right to him that so many Stars fans were stuck on the old North Stars. It irritated him. Maybe it was just because the North Stars had been his rivals when he was young. Sometimes he could not believe he was actually playing for that same franchise. He pushed the thoughts away as he skated for the locker room.
After cleaning up, Trevor headed to a bar in his car. He did not mind going alone. He was not close to any of his teammates anyway; they tended to avoid him. Some would talk to him casually, but there was no depth in the relationship. They had to get along because they were on the same team. Trevor wished he was on any other team.
The outside air was warm as he stepped out of his car. Trevor felt a wave of irritation roll over him. It was the end of September; the hockey season was starting soon, and yet Texas acted like it was the middle July. July in the north, of course. He had spent one summer in Dallas when he had first joined the team. He had nearly died. Six straight weeks of above 100 temperatures was just too much. There was something seriously wrong with the state.
Of course, there were many more things to hate about Texas, which he thought about as he entered the bar. For starters, there were no lakes. Sure, Texans claimed they had lakes, but they were really all ponds. Lake Michigan was a real lake. Chicago had several others, but that one was by far the most grand. He was proud to have grown up so close to something so significant. IT did not freeze over in the winter, though. The smaller lakes had to be used for skating. Still, they were better than the puny puddles Texas called lakes.
The bar was small and crowded, but Trevor found a seat at the counter. There were many men in cowboy hats and books talking to each other and drinking beer. Pictures of longhorns decorated the room.
Trevor ordered his usual beer. As expected, no one seemed to recognize him. His stomach tightened as he remembered his dream of becoming a famous professional hockey player. That goal seemed much more distant than when he had been in high school. It appeared nearly impossible if he stayed with the Stars. Even if he did eventually excel with the team, he could never be loved and admired in this city like he desired. Simply put, Texans did not like hockey. It made sense; it was a southern state that did not know what real cold was like. Kids did not grow up skating on ponds and rinks like in the Midwest. Football was the big thing here. They also enjoyed basketball and baseball. That did not leave much room for hockey. True fans were sparse.
Almost as if on cue, a group of guys near him began talking about the Cowboys. Trevor scoffed. The Cowboys were going nowhere. Why not focus on the NHL instead? He shook his head. It was only a pipe dream. That would never happen. He downed his beer and then slammed it on the counter before standing up. He had to get out of there.
The next game was two days later on Saturday. Trevor was told to arrive early to talk to the coach. This was not too unusual, so he did not think much of it. The office was small and filled with hockey equipment and books. Coach Burns was a tall, athletic Canadian man with brown hair and piercing green eyes. He had played in the NHL with the New York Rangers most of his career. He was currently sitting at his desk with his hands folded and his lips pursed tightly. “Trevor, sit down,” he said in a booming voice.
Trevor crossed his arms but remained standing. He had on his black jersey with “Dallas” and “16” written on the front in yellow, though he was missing his gloves and helmet. He would fetch them after this meeting. He was not too concerned with this meeting. The coach often talked to him about his habits of fighting and not getting along with the team. Trevor always listened and then filed the thoughts away. “What is it, coach?” he asked in almost a bored voice.
Burns tapped his fingers together. “I was thinking, Trevor. Your behavior has been pretty consistent. I don’t know if you even listen to me when I’m talking. Do you want out of Dallas?”
Trevor shrugged. It was true, but he did not see the benefit of admitting it; he doubted the coach would agree to trade him to a good team.
“I see,” Burns said. “Well, it’s either that or you’re not mature enough or the NHL.”
Trevor started. This had caught his attention. He dropped his arms to his sides and looked at Burns earnestly. “I’m mature enough, coach!”
The coach let out a heavy sigh. “I don’t know, Trevor. You’ve cost us too many points with your penalties. And you’ve gotten into fights on the streets too. Plus, you don’t seem to care about your teammates, or this team, for that matter.”
Trevor grimaced. “No offense, coach, but this is Texas. This is not exactly how I imagined by NHL career going.”
Burns raised his eyebrows at him. “You won’t have a very long career if you don’t learn to make the best of whatever you’re given. We all can’t play for our dream team.”
Trevor’s head lowered and he cast his gaze to the ground. “Yes, coach,” he mumbled. He had honestly tried, but it was hard to get excited about a team like the Stars. It was hard to not be disappointed that he was not where he wanted to be.
“However,” Burns said, “I don’t think the NHL should give up on you yet. You have a lot of potential. You just need a chance to start over and work under someone who can rein you in. I think you could become a great center. Just not with the Stars.”
Trevor’s head shot up. “Coach?” He felt hope bubbling up in his chest. Was he finally being offered a way out? It seemed too good to be true.
“I’ve decided to trade you,” Burns said. He paused. Trevor tried to hide the eagerness on his face. The coach smiled. “You don’t like Texas?”
Trevor shook his head, not caring if it was probably a rhetorical question. “No one here cares about hockey. No one but the players, I mean.”
Coach Burns nodded slowly. “Then how would you like to go to the State of Hockey?”
Trevor had opened his mouth to respond; it now stayed like that in shock. Most of his body was frozen. When he finally realized he was hearing correctly, he closed his mouth and swallowed. “What?” he said, though he knew perfectly well what was being suggested.
Burns smiled broadly. “I’m trading you to the Minnesota Wild.”
Trevor stared at him dumbly. “You mean the team that replaced this one?”
Burns’ smile fell. “Yes,” he said emphatically. He raised his eyebrows. “That is not a problem, is it?”
Trevor wanted to object; even though the Wild were not rivals to the Blackhawks, he hated the team in principle because they were in Minnesota. He could not honestly be expected to go there! He opened his mouth to retort back a reply, but he closed it again, thinking better of it. He supposed it could be worse. If he complained, it would definitely get worse. He clenched his teeth together and forced out the words, “When do I leave?”
“They will be expecting you Monday afternoon,” Burns said. “Your first game with them will be on Tuesday in Minnesota. That should give you some time to get settled.”
Trevor nodded but did not say anything.
“I hope you show the Wild more respect than you’ve shown us,” the coach said seriously. “They’re a good team. Minnesotans love hockey.” He winked.
Somehow, that did not make it any better. Minnesota was one of the last places he wanted to go. Sure, it was in the north, but he had hated the state his whole life. How was he supposed to get over it? “Have you told everyone else?” he asked quietly.
Coach Burns shook his head. “I thought we could do that afterwards. I hope your last game with us is great. Give us something to remember you by.” He smiled as he stood up.Trevor did not respond. He was still trying to process everything. It was unbelievable. Minnesota was on the other end of the country. It was so close to Chicago and yet so far. Would he ever make it to the Blackhawks? He pushed back the despair he could feel rising. He would be getting out of Texas; he had to focus on the positives. “Thank you, Coach,” he said with a forced smile before turning and walking out of the office, his mind spinning from the news.