DeVole Arena was packed tight. Standing room only. Every VIP box was stuffed. There wasn’t an empty seat in the house on either side. It was like the whole state of Michigan showed up to watch the charity game between the newly founded Fury and hometown favorite Sounders. Both locker rooms were buzzing with excitement, players deep in their pregame superstitions. Tess breathed deeply into her hands as her head was tucked between her knees. To say she was nervous was a serious understatement. She wasn’t afraid to play before dozens of screaming fans. She was concerned for her team, her girls. She wanted so badly for them to take the hockey world by storm tonight!
“Hey Tess chill babe,” Sam’s smooth voice echoed through the locker room. “Girl we so got this, ok? Right ladies?”
“Hell yeah!” Courtney shouted back. “What is it your friend, Meda always says before a game?” Tess chuckled, then repeated the slogan Meda and Apollo had spread through the Sounders.
“óchi ypochórisi óchi parádosi! No retreat! No surrender!”
“Fuckin’ A right, Cap!” Lucy DeCapo had joined the Fury from a minor women’s league in New York. Her Bronx accent came through thick and heavy. “We are the muthafuckin’ FURY! Accetta nessuna sconfitta! Accept no defeat!”
“Damn girl I love that!” Sam crowed. Lucy grinned big and began shouting ‘Accept No Defeat!’ Soon, the rest of the team joined in. Even Coach Hamilton was chanting. It shot the locker room full with charged energy. Every player was chomping at the bit to get out on the ice and prove their worth. With a roar of anticipation, they headed down the player’s tunnel to the ice. One by one the players were announced. As usual, the commentators got creative, making them all chuckle and shake their heads. Tess was bouncing in her skates.
“She’s loud! She’s proud! She’s a hurricane on steroids! She’s your favorite redhead and mine, playing the position that made her father famous…Tess “The Closer” Pritchard!” Tess blew a kiss to the commentators and waved enthusiastically to the crowd. Looking up, she spotted her mom sitting behind the players box. Deana Pritchard had gone all out, wearing her dad’s number – and now Tess’s – and screaming her head off, cheering for her daughter. With a wide grin, Tess took her place in front of the net. Rolling her shoulders, she cracked her neck and put on her game face. The crowd went quiet during the toss. Courtney faced off against Max, waiting patiently for the puck to hit the ice.
The Sounders won the toss but Courtney scooped right in. She was giving Max hell and the game had begun. She stuck to the big Russian like glue. She was going to fight for the puck. The crowd was going wild as they watched the battle unfold. Courtney finally angled the puck away from Max and shot it over to Sam but Nash blocked the shot. He barreled down to the goal, looking Tess right in the eye. She smiled behind her mask and followed every movement. With a cocky grin, he took his time. Tess knew all his tricks because she had studied every Sounder. It was a shame Nash hadn’t studied her. It was always fun when she was underestimated.
Nash teased her for a bit before delivering a hard slap shot that was meant to slide between her legs. Male goalies usually had a space at the apex of their splits where a puck could slide through but the same rule didn’t apply to most women goalies. Men were generally not flexible enough to get flush with the ice. Tess was. But Nash didn’t know that. She watched his eyes widen as she dropped into a split, stopping the puck cold against her stick. He came to a stop, his mouth gaping open. Then he threw back his head in deep laughter, nodding his respect.
The Fury played just as hard as the Sounders, if not harder. They hit hard, they checked hard, they ran those men up and down the ice in relentless pursuit of the puck. By the end of the second period, neither team had scored a goal. Brandon stepped up his game after watching Tess pull stop after stop each time a player rounded on the net. Apollo was so fucking proud of his woman he could hardly contain himself. He wanted nothing more than to hoist her in his arms and plant a deep passionate kiss on her lush lips for the whole world to see she was his.
Half time came to a close and the final period commenced. Sam took a hard check from Niko, resulting in a split lip. She just smiled and played on. Lucy got a one minute penalty for mouthing off to a referee. Courtney continued to keep Max on his toes. By the sounds of the crowd, the Fury was cementing themselves in the hearts of the live fans. Even the die hard Sounders fans were falling in love with these phenomenal women. They were certainly living up to their team name, bringing fire and passion to the game they loved.
It was getting down to the wire. Apollo and Meda teamed up with Max to try to score what would be the only goal of the game. The twins knew Tess could read them and anticipated she would be ready for anything. Tonight would be the night they caught her by surprise. They had been working in secret for months on a new move and were ready to debut it. They called it the Hurricane. Players didn’t normally name their game winning shots but the twins picked up on that trend from their famous father. Max skated headlong toward the goal, the puck weaving tightly in front of him. Just as the shot zone came into view, he passed it to Apollo. The twins circled each other with blinding speed before Meda shot the puck toward the net. Tess blinked and in that small moment, misjudged the angle of entry. She groaned out loud as she felt the tip graze the fingers of her glove, sailing into the back of the net.
The buzzer sounded and everyone jumped from their seats. Tess was laughing as she lifted up her mask. Only the flashy flamboyance of the Dakiedes twins could get her off her guard long enough to score. The end of the period sounded loudly and the teams met in the center of the rink. High fives, loud laughter and congratulations swirled around. Apollo scooped her up and kissed her.
“You were fucking amazing, baby girl!” he exclaimed. “I’m so fucking proud of you!” Tess laughed and kissed him back. The cameras were going off like crazy and she knew there would be pictures circulating in the tabloids the next day. She didn’t care. She was in love with this man so let all the hockey sluts go on notice. Apollo Dakiedes was taken.
“No, babe, that last shot was amazing! I’m going to have to add that one to my ‘shots to watch for from the Demolition Derby’ file.” Apollo laughed and twirled her around. Setting her back down, he gathered with his team while she went to hers. Karina stood on the ice in her skates, microphone in hand.
“So what do you thing of your Fury, Detroit!” she shouted. The fans pulsed with loud excitement, shouting cheers and whistles. They were hooked. “You’ve only seen a taste tonight of what these amazing women can do. Can they play hockey or can they play hockey?” She was winding up the crowd like a ringmaster under the Big Top. “It is my honor to be their coach. I have been blessed with an outstanding team but more than that, I’m watching a lifelong dream of mine come true. It’s about damn time women were recognized as a formidable force in this sport. I’m so thankful I get to be a part of this new movement and watch my sisters rise like a phoenix from the flames. Thank you all so much for accepting us and showing your love for us tonight. Here’s to a fantastic first season!”
The crowd roared their applause, littering the ice with red roses. The ladies picked up as many as they could, blowing kisses to the throng of fans. With wide smiles, they made their way to the locker room. An after party was prepared for them at Persephone’s but Tess had to get through a press conference first. The reporters swarmed the locker room, making a bead on her as she stripped out of her protective padding. Getting through this would be a piece of cake. Promoting her team and the message of the foundation were always high on her list. Now her voice was that much stronger after tonight’s game.