This wasn’t how the series was supposed to go. I had exactly sixteen games left in me, four in, four out. That’s how it’s supposed to go. I sat on the bed starring at Lillianah tie a silk yellow scarf around her head as she got ready for the game. Some of the guys have strict rules during the playoffs, one being no sex. This made absolutely no sense to me. I shrug my shoulders at the thought and stand up. I walk behind her and kiss her bare shoulder. “I have to go meet the team in the lobby to head to the arena, I’ll see you afterwards?” She leans back into me and I can’t help but kiss her neck. She turns around and wraps her arms around my neck. “Nothing stupid, and yes I will see you afterwards.” I roll my eyes but kiss her anyways before leaving her hotel room. She acted like she didn’t like my current black eye, but I knew deep down inside it turned her on. Also considering we hadn’t had sex since before . . . since before what happened . . . it was pretty damn amazing. I finally have my old Lillianah back. She’s vibrant and healthy and the weight she’s put on was put on in all the right places. My dream woman.
I step onto the elevator and take a deep breath. Game six. We had to finish this series off tonight, the last thing I wanted to go was head home for a game seven. Game seven’s . . . the epitome of all evil. Once the elevator reaches the lobby level I step out to see the boys were all gathered, all with fake smiles on their faces. They were thinking the same thing I was. Do or die. Fuck the Flyers. Who are they anyways? A bunch of wash-ups seriously thinking their worthy of being in the same room as the cup? They got something else coming. Carcillo has something else coming. I wasn’t going to put up with this bullshit anymore. Tonight was it. Everyone around me knew that as well.
We all walked into Wachovia center in a spread out single file line. No one talked, no one made any eye contact with the people surrounding us, and we went straight to the locker room. As I stood in front of my makeshift locker, I discarded my jacket and hung it up, taking a few deep breaths in and out. I knew I’d be doing this four times. Four times for the cup. I pulled my iPod out of my front pocket and plugged it into the stereo. I selected the playlist Lillianah had made for me earlier in the series and as soon as the music filled the room it was business as usual. Flower was smiling, Sid was swaying, Scuds praying; the atmosphere felt like a regular season game in the middle of January but we were all well aware that this wasn’t. I went through the motions myself, dancing in place, humming to myself. I stripped out of my clothes and pulled on my gear, same way I always do. When it was time to take the ice for warm-ups, I shoved a ball of bubble gum in my mouth and took to the ice. This was it.
Knuble shoved the knife in our backs, and then Lupul stepped up and twisted it. I felt like I was skating through mud. It made no sense. Fuck, this was it. I can’t handle game seven’s. I refuse. I watch from the bench as Sid gets called for slashing. I hang my head for a moment before glancing up at the scoreboard. That big goose egg under our name was fucking annoying. Just thirty-one seconds into their power play Philadelphia takes their lead up to three. After the goal I see Carcillo take to the ice. I glance over my shoulder at Disco Dan. “Put me on the ice Dan!” He looks at me and we silently communicate through our eye contact. He knows what I have planned, and just like him I’m praying it will work too. He nods his head, his arms still crossed over his chest. I skate out to the right point, Carcillo in my shoulder. I glance over at him. This was it.
“I wanted to talk to you about what happened the other night,” my mom states to me as soon as I climb into her car outside of the hotel. “What about it?” I asked suddenly scared she’s going to tell me I’m too young to marry. “I wasn’t the greatest mother.” “Mom, stop right there,” I interject. “No, just listen. I treated you and Lizzy the same exact way. Tough love. It worked for her, but it didn’t with you. I wanted you to play piano, I pushed you to play piano, but I pushed you too hard. It took me a long time to realize my mistake. You’re not the same person as Lizzy, thank God for that. I don’t think I could have handled two cheerleaders in the house. But just know that the same parenting style obviously doesn’t work for all children involved. I know you’re going to be a wonderful mother though. You’re healthy now, you have that glow. I’m proud of you Lily.” I look over at her, tears in my eyes. I didn’t know what to say, there were no words that could express how much I appreciated what she just said. “Thanks mom,” I whisper with a smile. She flashes her smile back at we and we drive the rest of the way to the arena in silence.
I’m double fisting beers as we walk down the stairs to our seats. I look like a sunflower in the midst of orange gerberas. I see Vero sitting inconspicuously next to Avery, both dressed in black. I smile when I slide in the seat next to Vero. I slide my white jacket off to display my gold ‘Pittsburgh’ tank top and Vero smiles at me. “Thank goodness you wore that, we were a little scared,” she smiled as she pulled her jacket off to display a white Penguins t-shirt. Avery doing the same. I set one beer down between my feet as I sip on the other. “So this thing about being stupid, think it’ll happen tonight?” Charlie asked as he leaned forward from behind me. “No, I think he would have already done something by now. Besides, they want to close out the series tonight; he can’t afford any asshole moves.” Satisfied with my answer he leaned back in his chair and chatted up my dad.
My second beer was finished shortly after Phillie scored their second goal. This wasn’t exactly how things were supposed to go. I knew that if the boys lost tonight they had one more chance to close it out, but was that worth the stress? An all-or-nothing type of game? Hopefully I won’t have to witness any of those. The only thing that kept me smiling throughout the game those was whenever Max was close enough to us for me to see his black eye. It surely was a thing of beauty. I gave him crap for it, but deep down inside it was a huge turn on. During the intermission, Vero, Charlie and I faced the hoards to grab a few more beers. When we finally reached the counter after being harassed by every living human passing us I held up two fingers, Vero as well. It was going to be a long game.
I sank down in my seat and covered my face with my hand as the Flyers scored their third goal. This wasn’t good. Not at all. I felt my mom’s fragile hand squeeze my shoulder and I took another sip of my beer. Vero, Avery and I all shared knowing looks. We were scared. The crowd was loud, so loud I couldn’t even hear my own thoughts. I couldn’t help but think how the boys were communicating on the ice. They had to of been screaming. It was damn near impossible. I finished off my third beer, and as I bent over to pick up my next one I saw the gloves fall to the ice. The number on the back of the white jersey was clear as day as that asshole pounding into Max’s head a few good times, dropping him to the ice. I was stunned. Everyone in orange jumped up and cheered and I had to stand up to make sure he was getting up. I’ve seen him fight a few times, but never like this, never against a Neanderthal. The Flyer skates to the penalty box, throwing his arms in the air like he’s the damn Pope. My eyes flutter over to Max as he’s escorted as well. With one quick movement, all of our mouths fell open. “Did he just tell everyone to shut the fuck up?!”
For the first time since I’d been in the NHL, I was swallowed alive by the media. Three or four reporters I could understand, but I couldn’t even count how many microphones and tape recorders were shoved in my face. Was what I did epic? Fuck yes it was, but I still had to play it cool. “I gave up their first goal, I owed it to my teammates to swing the momentum our way,” I explained to them over and over again. Didn’t matter how they worded their question that was the answer I was giving. Once the crowd disappeared in front of me, I headed for the showers. “Fuck me Talby, I don’t even know what to say after that,” Billy laughed as he threw a towel at me. I shrug my shoulders at him before submerging myself under the hot water.
Lillianah is standing with her hands on her hips, biting her bottom lip all while shaking her head. “What?” I laugh as I link my arms through hers and wrap them around her waist. “I don’t even... I….” “It’s okay babe, I’m just that damn awesome.” She punches me in my good shoulder as she laughs. “What was that for?” I ask looking down at my shoulder to act like I’m hurt. “That was to keep your ass down here on planet earth. I knew you said you were gonna do something stupid, but do you even know what that did? What it means?” I place my forehead on hers. “I do, and frankly, I’m scared as hell to talk about it. I did it, it’s done, we move on. I just had to do the right thing.” “Telling the whole city of Philadelphia to shove it up their asses was the right thing?” I’m getting turned on at how emotional she is about the topic. Her arms flailing around her, her voice is even different. It was then I knew that she was in this as much as I was. I wasn’t playing to win for me anymore, but for us. “Yes, yes it was. Come on, we have flights to catch.”
I receive high-fives from every guy on the team as I board the flight. Disco Dan looks at me and smiles, which I nod my head back. I was hoping my fight with Carcillo would give us enough momentum to at least tie the game and stay alive. The five unanswered goals were damn near overwhelming. Philadelphia just crumbled at our mercy from the five minute mark of the second till the final buzzer. A simple fight went from a push for momentum to a complete turn over. I was extremely happy with the outcome, but I felt like talking about it would be sacrilegious.