Today the NHL is hosting its second Winter Classic, where Sidney Crosby and his Pittsburg Penguins will face the host Buffalo Sabres. It's snowing like an SOB right now in Buffalo, and the crowd is roaring with anticipation.
I think the guys in visors will have an advantage in the swirling snow, but they may need windshield wipers. Some may be concerned that such an unusual scenario during a regulation game would be a disadvantage, but I feel both teams face the same variables.
The following is an unedited excerpt from my upcoming novel, Bad Ice.
For the rest of the afternoon the pond was alive with the muffled sound of metal blades scraping on windswept, uneven ice mixed with chatter and laughter. Occasionally a cracking sound echoed off the densely treed, steep hillsides when two wooden sticks collided. The sun, a pale white disk, barely succeeded its feeble attempt to penetrate the icy haze in the platinum sky.
Jason took his turn tending goal at one end of the pond. He leaned against the chipped metal hockey net as the action heated up at the far end. He loved watching young people playing pond hockey; it took him back to his own childhood. No referees, no grouchy coaches, no shit-disturbers chirping from the opposing players' bench. Or my own bench, for that matter.
Watching the children in carefree play, as he often did, he felt a mixture of contentment and loss. He wondered what it would have been like if a child of his own had been among them. Well, he thought, maybe I'll never know.
He picked out Mishayla, her flowing honey coloured curls bursting from under her helmet. Then again, maybe there's hope.
She kept up with the Gauthier children with apparent ease. She'll make it far, he thought. Maybe by the time she hit her teens, a professional women's league would be ready to welcome her.
Her mother, on the other hand…
He laughed when Christina awkwardly pushed the puck past Bertie at the other goal, obviously by accident. She raised her arms and squealed with delight. She almost lost her balance and Bertie dropped his stick and reached out to prop her up.
Jason skated over to join the others as they offered congratulatory back slaps.
The daylight turned from light silver to steel blue, and a few snowflakes began to drift about. Jason squinted upward and called across to Bertie, pointing at the sky.
Bertie waved in assent, and placed his whistle to his lips. He blasted a call that ricocheted off the pine trees. Corinne, who had been at the edge of the pond attending to little Barbara, beckoned to the children.
"It’s getting dark, my children; I can hear the cocoa calling me all the way out here. Wrap it up, time to go."
With moans of protest, the Gauthier children gathered their sticks, dumping them on the snow at the edge of the makeshift rink. They climbed up on the tailgate of the SUV, and Corinne helped them to exchange their stiff, frozen skates for chilly boots.
Jason skated toward his friend. "I’ll take these two ladies in a few minutes. I think our novice here needs one more lesson."
Bertie glanced at the still struggling Christina as she inched along the ice, using her hockey stick for balance. Mishayla skidded around her, laughing as her mother squealed in protest. "Yeah, she looks like she could use some help, but I don’t think she’ll be an expert today."
"Not that kind of lesson, idiot."
Bertie raised his eyebrows. "Oh, that kind of lesson. Don't forget this is a family rink."
Photo from cbc.ca