The youth league championship was being played at Rutledge High’s ice rink. The place was packed with parents, supporters, Sounders and Fury players. It seemed the whole of Detroit showed up to support the kids and the organization. Karina sat next to her sons with Damon right beside her. The two were engrossed in deep conversation. The Cliftons, Jasper and Celia, were sitting with Apollo and Tess. All were sporting Predators jerseys with “Double Trouble”, the nickname their coach had given them.
The puck was dropped. The Brawlers took off toward their goal with the Predators hot on their tail. The lead didn’t last long as Jake swung in and stole it out from under them and rocketed it across the ice to his brother. Jordan barreled down to the net at breakneck speed. When a Brawler defenseman attempted to steal the puck back, he launched it toward his teammate. With a wicked fast slap shot, his teammate sunk the puck and the Predators scored the first goal of the game. Fist and chest bumps were had with the shooter.
“That’s Callie Jackson,” Celia told Tess. She was screaming her head off, cheering for her sons. “She’s their best player. I think Jordan has a small crush on her.”
“She’s good!” Tess exclaimed. “That was a good shot! We’ll have to keep our eye on her.” She pulled her phone out and fired off a quick text to Karina. Catching Karina’s eye, they both nodded. Karina would be having a conversation with Callie’s parents after the game. The young player was a good candidate for the Foundation’s Future Fury program. The Clifton boys were all over the Brawlers, giving their opponents a run for their money. Damon kept his eye on both of them, a lopsided grin on his face.
“Those two work well together,” Karina said. “They have a connection that reminds me of Apollo and Meda. WHOA!! NICE SHOT!!” The Predators scored again, Jordan having sunk the puck with an assist from Jake.
“DOUBLE TROUBLE! DOUBLE TROUBLE!” The crowd chanted. You could see Jordan and Jake’s beaming smiles as they fist bumped each other, cracking their helmets together. Celia and Jasper were going nuts, cheering for their boys.
“Yeah I’m pretty impressed with their synergy at such a young age,” Damon said, close to her ear. “There’s a couple of potentials on the Brawlers side but those Clifton boys are something special.” Karina nodded in agreement.
“They are all each other has had for a long time. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Jasper and Celia. I know they’ve worked hard to raise them right and it can’t have been easy having to be away from their children so much. It really doesn’t surprise me they have that closeness on the ice.”
“You sound like you speak from experience, Coach,” Damon replied, crossing his arms over his broad chest.
“Yeah that’s a story for another time,” Karina chuckled. She liked Damon but she wasn’t ready to disclose all her secrets to him as of yet. The buzzer sounded, signaling the end of the first period. She pulled a little notepad from her back pocket and began jotting notes down on the players.
“What are you doing?” Damon chuckled. Karina smiled and kept writing.
“Coach’s best friend is a handy dandy notebook. I never leave home without it.”
“Ah geez, Mom this isn’t Blue’s Clues,” Jax laughed. “Dude, she freaks out if she can’t find it. It’s like her bible or something.”
“Shush, you,” Karina giggled. “I probably have thousands of these things in my office. It has saved my ass many times over the years.” She leaned over to show Damon what she’d written, her arm brushing his. “See, here I can jot down the player’s name and what their skills are. I can also keep tabs on their weak spots. This method has helped me make good decisions on who would be the best fit for whatever team I’m coaching.”
“Huh,” Damon huffed. “So, do you just rely on your little notebooks or do you compile a database somewhere?” Karina rolled her eyes.
“Yeah duh there’s a database,” she laughed. “Of course there is. Notebooks can be lost or accidentally on purpose get washed in the laundry.” She shot an evil glare at Roan before grinning again.
“Hey, in my defense you didn’t clean out your pockets so…” Roan stuffed a handful of popcorn in his mouth, shrugging his shoulders. Winking mischievously at his mom, he went back to conversing with his twin.
“You’ll have to teach me the ways of the handy dandy notebook,” Damon laughed.
“Yeah you go ahead and make fun of it now, Big Man but you just wait. It’s a tried and true method, I’m telling you. How do you think I pulled together such a crack-shot team of badass women athletes in so short a time?” She tapped the notebook on Damon’s forearm. “The power of the notebook, my friend.” Damon burst out laughing.
“Well I’m sold then. The Fury is a force to be reckoned with, that’s for sure.” The game was going well. The teams were currently tied two on two going into the third period. Callie Jackson was running circles around the other boys on both teams. One of the Brawlers tired of her stealing the puck and checked her hard into the boards. The boy was immediately swarmed by Jordan and Jake, costing both teams a two minute penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. Callie didn’t seem phased at all. She got up, straightened her equipment and glided back out.
The buzzer sounded. Third period was over. The score was still tied. That meant only one thing…sudden death overtime. For a youth league game, this one was proving to be a heart stopper. Both teams were evenly matched and were giving their all to win the title of league champions. Tess and Celia were on the edge of their seats, eagerly anticipating the winning goal. The puck was dropped and the players scrambled. There was a lot of elbow action and sticking going on, trying to get the puck out of the massive crowd of players centered in the middle of the rink.
Finally Callie broke away and raced down toward the Predators goal. The whole arena was on their feet, shouting and screaming. A mass of Brawlers pounded after her, trying to catch up with her. She rounded the net, looking for the perfect shot. There! The small space in the goalie’s butterfly right before his knees hit the ice. She lined up. She took the shot. She scored! The puck sailed like a black bullet under the goalie’s knees in that split second before he could block it. The Predators won! They were now the youth league champions!
The arena was in an uproar. It had been a good solid game played by tough teams. Jasper took his wife’s face in his big hands and kissed the hell out of her. Celia was left breathless and collapsed in her seat with a dreamy look on her face. Tess was sure she would be hoarse by the end with all the shouting she was doing. The teams lined up to congratulate each other on a game well played. The championship trophy was presented to the Predators coach.
“A fine game played by fine players,” his voice boomed over the microphone. “It is an honor to coach your children. These young men and women are driven to be the best they can be. But, a lot of these kids wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the hard work of one person. Tess Pritchard. She pulled this town together. She rallied the troops. She brought the game of hockey to so many who would never have had the chance to fall in love with the greatest sport ever played. So, thank you Tess. This one’s for you!”
Tess was shocked. Her hands covered her mouth as tears poured down her face. She let Apollo lead her down to the edge of the ice, unable to speak. When he put the microphone on her trembling hand, she cleared her throat. “I am humbled. I don’t know what to say. I am so proud of all of you, of every child in this league, of the coaches who stepped up to take on this challenge. But I can’t take all the credit. That belongs to the fine young athletes who are a part of this league. They are the reason for all of this. Watching you grow and become the amazing person you were meant to be is thanks enough for me.”