NEHL - Jack

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Four

Chapter Four

Jack

The stadium was about half full, but for some reason tonight felt different. I knew I was going out on the first line with the kid, but I had been on first lines before, but I couldn’t wrap my thoughts around why tonight was different.

I liked the kid, but in my mind he was a kid, like a little brother, not a close friend, there was just too much of an age gap. I did like the way he played though, he made both of us look good, maybe that was it, and maybe I finally found some optimism. Hah, yeah right, I’d been down too long to know what that stuff was.

Coach was throwing Pavlosky on our line, sine the three of us did so well in practice and it was a pretty good fit. He was a bigger guy like me, and could help protect the kid, but he was the type of player that would never make it out of the minors. The guy just wasn’t fast or skilled enough, look at me scout now, I laughed at myself.

I looked at the boxes up above and then it hit me, or she did, Maddie was up there watching. She was watching her brother, not me, but maybe she was. We were getting to know each other and I liked her more and more. It was hard to believe we have only known each other two days, and I was already this whipped.

I smiled to myself, me whipped, never thought I would ever think that. Of course she was the type of girl that could do it. She was damn near perfect and my body and my soul knew it. I just had to find a way to get her to know that about me.

National Anthem was done and we were ready for puck drop. The kid looked nervous, “hey kid, I’m scoring the first goal” I called over.

He smiled and he seemed to loosen up. “Catch me if you can, you can have my leftovers.”

“Not bloody likely, I’ve seen you eat.” He laughed and I laughed and he was at ease just as the puck dropped and he was able to get it back to our defender and we were going.

Maddie

Eric was playing good tonight, hell that whole line was playing well. Pavlosky missed a couple of passes that would have sprung Crabb, but he just didn’t see it, Jack did. We needed a different line mate for him and my brother.

“Maddison, did you see that?” Mr. Green called over where we watched from the box.

“Yes sir, it’s the third one tonight.”

“Damn, I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just me. Lumm most know, so why is he on that line?”

“Sir my honest opinion, we don’t have anyone that can keep up with those two. He’s the best we got as a line mate goes. Judging from the score the other team can’t keep up either.” I said a little cocky.

I took a lot of crap the last few months about my brother not living up to his draft position, now it was pretty obvious that he had it in him, he just needed the line mates to make it work.

“Start looking for a winger. I want that line ready going forward. Yes, I know, you were right, now get to work.” He said smiling.

Easy for him to say, he was the GM, I was just in the office, hell I wasn’t even the main player rep, but I was Eric’s sister and seen more games with him than anyone else. Who could we get that was good enough for their line but other teams were willing to give up?

Jack might know. He had been playing in the minors for the last few years, he might have an idea. Besides it would give us more reason to spend talking together. Not that I needed a reason, he was great, and I really liked him, and he was so hot I couldn’t stand it. Yup, more reason to talk, was a good thing.

Jack

“Here you go kid,” I said tossing the puck to him. It was his first career hat trick and while I was insanely jealous I took it in stride.

“Thanks Jack, this is so awesome, I can’t wait to call mom and dad. They are so going to flip.”

“Shit kid, I bet they already know.” I said laughing.

“Yeah, I’m sure they do,” he said smiling.

We both laughed and I started getting dressed. I didn’t get a hat trick tonight but I had a good night. I got two assists for two of the kids’ goals and I scored a goal myself. Pavlosky had an assist as well and the kid had an assist.

We ended up winning four to one, none of our other lines scored, but they were honestly happy for the kid and that would help him going forward. Confidence is the key to success in this league, and after tonight I was sure confidence would not be a problem.

“Crabb, when you get changed, they want to see you in the GM’s office.” Lumm said but he was smiling so I didn’t think I was getting traded again.

“Sure thing Coach,” I said hurrying through my post game changing ritual. I did take time to shower though, Maddie might be there.

The office door was open as I got there and I stuck my head in and the room had four people in it. I recognized Maddie right away, but didn’t know the other three guys, so I just spoke up. “I was asked to come up?”

“Jack Crabb, great game tonight kid, come in, I’m Garrett Green, GM of the Storm, and yes, younger son of Graham Green. We’d like to talk to you for a minute. Come in have a seat.” He finished indicating a giant round table.

Well shit, this was the first time I had been invited to a round table meeting. Sometimes a captain would be asked to talk about the team, but never a new player. What could I do to help these guys?

We all got settled in and I was disappointed that Maddie wasn’t sitting next to me but I kept smiling waiting for whatever they wanted from me.

“Jack, you have been in the NEHL for a few years now, and while we can evaluate players all the time from the box, we don’t always know the ends and outs. We’d like your input on what happened tonight. Your line played well, but what did you think?”

If the GM asked me point blank then he knew. I hated throwing anyone under the bus, but if he was asking he already knew. “Sir, just since you’re asking, you already know. Pavlosky missed a couple breakaways. Maybe because it’s been too long since you had the kid ready to fly, and no one was expecting it, but going forward, they have to be ready for that.”

“Is there anyone on the team now that would be able to finish that line out with you and Maddison?” He asked me again and it was like he already knew the answer so I just told him.

“No, there is no one ready for the kid. The kid just lacks confidence but he is a National League player who is just honing himself down here.” There I said it.

“You played well with the kid and we found you down here.” He said smiling and I liked him for it. He was buttering me up now, so I waited for the next question. “Is there anyone, and I mean anyone that you have seen, or played with, that could finish out your line, in the NEHL?”

There were a couple that I knew of that were similar to me, but then they wouldn’t need me. Having them ask me was a show of faith, but I didn’t want to lose my job either.

“Jack, we don’t want to replace you, we want that third guy that will make your line complete.” Maddie said ignoring some of the looks that a couple of the guys around the table were giving her.

“Damn right we aren’t replacing you. Hell you had a great game tonight but you can’t blame me for wanting more.” Mr. Green said reinforcing what Maddie had just said.

“Well, here is how I see it,” I began. “The kid is the speed and the wrister, I’m the muscle and the slap shot, what we need in the third spot is what every good line needs, we need a passer with a good wrist shot and a fair slap shot. He doesn’t have to skate as fast as the kid but he needs to be faster than me, and he can’t have a fragile ego. The kid is the star, we all have to accept that, and get on board.”

They all looked at me like I had lost my head, but I was confident in what I just said. Then Mr. Green smiled and asked another question “when does your contract expire?”

“The end of the season sir,” I said. It was true. I was still playing off my minimum rookie contract.

“Look kid, I’m not going to blow smoke up your ass, but this is what I will tell you. You help us get this organization back on track and you will always have a job with us. Your folder says you have a communication degree, and you have the experience now to scout, we won’t let you down if you won’t let us down. This organization has something you want kid,” he said and then he paused for dramatic effect “a future.”

My eyes wanted to drift to Maddie, but I stayed focused on him. I nodded, this was a chance at a future, one I needed and one I wanted. “Alright, let’s do this. The sharks have a kid named Montgren, he’s fast, good passer and isn’t afraid to mix it up. Shot is a little weak, but on our line he can excel and probably get you some points.”

“Johnson, look into that one.” Green said and everyone began writing.

Damn, I was feeling like my opinion was actually being given credit and for the first time in a long time I was excited.

“The blizzard themselves have Elkholm, he is getting older, but can still skate. He is the kind of line mate that we are talking about. Not a lot of flash in the scoring department but always seems to get assists.”

“I’ll keep that one, whose next?”

The game was over and yet I was still in the GM’s office two hours after the game. We had a list of about six players that might make the impact they wanted and I was tired, I mean tired. My third yawn must have been the indication because they finally called it quits with everyone taking a name or two and heading out.

I had got my car earlier in the day, just an old beater jeep, and was ready to go when Maddie came after me. “Do you want a ride?”

“Thanks, but I got the jeep. Go ahead and stay. I’ll see you later.” I was so tired I didn’t even feel like flirting. Hell, I must be beat.

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