I got to the players entrance with like twenty minutes to go before the game. One of the guards was watching for me and led me through the tunnel to the locker-room without as much as a word.
Once there it was cleared out, no one was in there except the head trainer and he was waiting for me with a pair of skates, my skates, and they looked like they had been freshly sharpened.
I nodded thanks and smiled and headed to my locker stall, which was still there with my name on it. I grabbed my jersey down and looked at it. The A was still positioned on the chest in the corner and I felt a surge of emotion. I did miss this.
I hurried and got changed. I began heading down the player tunnel and was stopped by a woman about my age with a microphone and headset. “Not yet Jack,” she said holding me back. “I’ll let you know when.”
I nodded thinking she must know more than I did so I waited. I could hear Mister Green on a microphone addressing the crowd. It was “we are Buffalo” night and I bet the stands were packed.
“Thank you all for coming. We are Buffalo,” he said and the fans cheered.
“Well I will cut to the chase. The league has made the individual organizations responsible for fraternization between players and staff.”
The crowd erupted again, and I smiled. I guess they were Ok with me and Maddie. “I however have to look at it from all angles, and I have decided to keep the standard policy in place.”
“What,” I said out loud. Why bother having me here if he didn’t want me to play. Was I just a reminder to why you shouldn’t fall in love with someone? I started turning for the locker room not wanting to be a symbol, when the woman with the headset grabbed my arm.
“You aren’t going to want to miss this.” She said urging me with her eyes to stay. I had Maddie, so I wasn’t interested in her, but there was something about her look that spoke to me so I nodded and waited.
Of course it didn’t start again right away because the crowd was still booing. “I understand,” Mr. Green said again when he could get a word in. “So while I will leave in place the strict policy of no players and staff mingling, I will allow members of staff with in the same management level to mingle, as long as they are all of legal age.”
No one cheered, why would they? I mean that really didn’t affect what I or anyone wanted here. They wanted me on the ice. Haley wanted me on the ice. Hell, I wanted to be on the ice. This didn’t accomplish anything for the fans.
“I have come up with a solution to a recent problem,” Mr. Green said to the waiting crowd. “I have decided to make an official team position of Player scout. This player will also focus as a scout, to scout out new talent for the organization. It is in all practical purposes a management level position of the highest regard. Which means this person would not be able to date anyone beside upper management, say ownership, or at the least a general manager.”
The crowd erupted and I think I could see where this was going now. Hell I had been doing the scout work for the organization since I got here anyway, so I might as well have a title to go with it.
“Of course, who could we put in such a valuable and responsible position?” Mr. Green asked the crowd.
“Jack,” was whispered in the stands, and then holy shit, I’m not kidding, and it was like a tidal wave crescendo. “Jack, Jack, Jack,” and it went on and on.
Wow, I mean this was something. I was smiling. I wondered what Maddie was thinking right now?
“Did you know about this?” I asked Haley as tears fell down all our faces.
“No, he said he had something special planned, wow.” She said.
Wow indeed. The fans were screaming my boyfriends name like he was a superstar. It was amazing to watch and I couldn’t have been more excited for the way Buffalo fans had embraced my man.
“So when you say Jack, do you mean Jack Crabb?” Mr. Green asked and the fans went ballistic. “Do you mean the Jack Crabb, who started the whole “we are Buffalo” movement?”
The fans were so excited I wondered what the noise level was like in that arena. It must have been deafening. That was my man they were screaming for and I was so proud, and nervous all at the same time.
“So, I guess there is only one thing left to decide, will Jack Crabb accept this position as Player Scout, and rejoin the team and the organization, that he has made special again?” The crowd erupted as Mr. Green finished.
Of course they weren’t erupting for him, they were erupting for the alternate captain of the Buffalo Blizzard as he took to the ice. He didn’t go to Mr. Green, instead he did a slow skate around the rink waving to all the fans. It felt like he was waving to all of them one at a time.
When he got to a camera he stopped smiled and said with a heart over his chest, or the best you could with hickey gloves on, “Maddie and Haley,” then he resumed skating.
Ok I was balling. Haley was balling. Heck her parents were even balling. He was the best man I knew, and he was mine. Jack finished the tour and ended up by Mister Green who now stood in front of a makeshift table with some paperwork on it.
The crowd was still erupting as Jack waved to them and Mr. Green was smiling looking over the full arena. I knew he was already envisioning next year, like the rest of us.
“So Jack, I guess you can tell that we would like you back with the Blizzard.” The crowd erupted again. “I have a contract here, and I swear on Haley Mills, it is such a fair contract, that even Maddie would not find fault with it. This is a player contract for seven years, and a management contract for life. What do you say Jack, do you want to be a member of Buffalo one more time?”
The crowd erupted and the smile on Mr. Green’s face was so pleased, I knew he was happy, or he would be, if Jack signed. I didn’t know if Jack would sign for that long a period of time. Oh Jack, what are you going to do?
I grabbed my phone and dialed the number before I could change my mind. I listened to it ring while Jack just stared at the contract lying on the table. I saw on television the moment Mr. Green pulled his phone out and looked at it.
“Well hello Maddie,” he said into the line and I watched on TV again as Jack’s eyes turned to Mr. Green.
“That’s a pretty good sneak attack,” I said laughing.
“I thought so,” he said smirking. “It’s a good contract Maddie, trust me.”
“I do, I just wonder if Jack wants to play that long.” I said while thousands of people watched the owner of the Buffalo Blizzard talk on his phone.
“Let’s find out, I’m putting you on speaker.” He said before I could stop him.
“Maddie,” Jack asked from his spot.
“Hey baby,” I said.
“Do I sign,” he asked and the crowd was hushed. I knew how to play this game to.
“Well, I think it comes down to four votes,” I said. “I want you to sign,” the crowd erupted. “Ok that’s the first vote, Haley what do you think?”
I handed her the phone and she looked at me like I had lost my mind. She took it and she talked into the receiver. “Hi Jack,” she said.
“Hey princess, what should I do, should I sign?” He asked her and he looked right into a camera as he asked. The crowd held their collective breath waiting for her answer.
Haley was smiling, I could see it, when she said, “You have to keep an eye on Eric, so yes, you have to sign.” The crowd erupted and a camera flashed on my brother who was getting razzed by the entire bench but he had a big smile on his face.
Haley handed the phone back to me and then Jack asked “who’s the next vote?”
“Well, the fans of course, do they want you back?” The crowd erupted and cheered and began the “Jack” chant again. We were all crying, at least on this end of the phone. Jack just waved to the crowd.
When it settled down he asked me one more time “Who is the last vote?”
“You are Jack, do you want to play the rest of your career for Buffalo? Do you want to play hockey and be a part of this city for the rest of your life. Jack, most hockey players use the word we, because it’s a team and a family, but only you can decide, is this your family Jack, is this where you want to be?”
Everyone waited while Jack thought. “I’ll call you back later, love you.” He said hanging up and I closed my phone.
Jack looked around the rink. People were screaming, I mean literally screaming for him to sign. He looked at Mr. Green and from the look on his face you couldn’t tell what he was thinking. Finally he broke and a smile showed on his face and he said “got a pen?”