The best game I can't play

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Puck. It's coming straight for me. Finally. Been waiting for this moment since my first shift of organized hockey almost 35 years ago.

There are seconds left in a tie game, and I'm standing in front of an open net.

It's MY chance to score a winning goal! Cue the Guns N' Roses' version of ... "Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door."

I never netted a winner in real life, but in my hockey daydreams, it has happened at least a gazillion times.

In those same fantasies, I've played with the Corner Brook Royals, the Edmonton Oilers, the Toronto Maple Leafs and every other team in Canada. I've also skated alongside the likes of Gretzky, Messier, Crosby and the greatest hockey player of all time, Wendel Clark.

"Clark breaks down the wing, past Bourque and in on goal. He shoots ... No, he passes over to Bartlett, who's all alone in front and he SCCCOOOOOOORRREEES! Steve Bartlett!" Bob Cole yells. "The pride of Newfoundland pops it in to give Toronto its first Stanley Cup, a 4-3 win over Montreal! They're rocking back home now. Bartlett is the bomb!"

Then Don Cherry shows me the love.

"That Steve Bartlett," Grapes says to Ron MacLean after the game, "He's my kind of guy. He plays the way the game should be played. He's tough, talented and tenacious. Men, they want to play like him. Kids, they want his autograph. And, well, the women want ..."

But those are just hockey hallucinations.

Sadly.

In reality, I suck at puck.

Always have, and now in my 40s, it's a certainty I always will.

I'm not exaggerating. Ask anyone who's ever played with me. I'm horrible.

Sure, even in my hockey heyday - playing midget hockey in Corner Brook - I was scratched more than a lottery ticket.

But tonight, while wearing the black and gold for Millenium Express of a Conception Bay South beer league, I'm on the verge of potting the winner.

In the grand scheme of things, the game means nothing. It won't bring Middle East peace, solve global economic woes or identify Pierre Poutine.

As well, there's no money, championship or accolades on the line in this match-up.

But, right now - in my world - this game, and scoring its winning goal, means everything.

Put it in, and I'll enjoy a nanosecond of fame with a beer, and have something to smile about tomorrow.

Miss, and I won't live it down as I peel out of my stinky gear.

Anyone who's ever played knows the hockey dressing room is a breeding ground for ruthless and relentless razzing, where nothing or no one is sacred - and I wouldn't change that even if I could.

And if I don't bury the biscuit, I'll be kicking myself when I get home tonight and then throughout the day tomorrow.

Oops. Got to go. Must get back to the game. The puck is here. My time to shine.

"Snap!"

It's off my blade ... and I shoot it wide.

Puck!

Steve Bartlett once stood next to Wendel Clark in a bar but wouldn't talk to him because he didn't want his image of No. 17 to change. Send him in an email at sbartlett@thetelegram.com or follow him on Twitter at @SteveBartlett_.

 

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