Playoffs Are All That Matter

Eric characture cropped colorHockey Player Magazine, May 2016

It’s only an eight game schedule but my body thinks otherwise—the season feels like 80 games.  My legs burn with each stride while my lungs gasp for more air than a carburetor.  But we’re in the playoffs and complaining is for sissies.  Everybody’s whipped, even our rivals, and it’s time to separate the wheat from the chaff.  Lose two games and we’re out until September.  No one wants to hang up their skates in early May.

My Blazers entered the playoffs in the middle of the pack and I’m the middle-aged guy in our pack chasing players ten to thirty years younger.  I’m a forechecker and harass opponents trying to break out of their zone.   I chase, because with higher mileage and less horsepower, I’m easily caught by the younger bucks.

I enjoy my role though I pine for more offensive thrust.  An unspoken scoring tension occurs during my shift similar to sexual tension in a PG movie where no one has sex.  My Blazer buddies resting on the bench have no idea whether I’ll score.  Tension.   

I rely on my teammates to light the lamp.  Our goalie, Crazy Eddie, occasionally gets credited with an assist.  He’s an interesting guy if not superstitious and a bit off balance.  A generous man, Crazy Eddie donates blood except during the winter months, believing that cold weather makes it too salty.

Other than Crazy Ed’s eccentricities, there isn’t a yuck factor among hockey players.  We play in a “no check” in-line hockey league although incidental contact happens.  Like the pros, we play with cuts, scrapes, bumps, bruises, sore hips and fat lips.   But we get paid… nothing.

Eric w BlazeOn a scale of one to ten this season I give myself a 7 for scoring and a 10 for penalties.  I visited the penalty box only once but it could have been twice.  I served two minutes for roughing and the other uncalled penalty could have been for tripping.  I had an open lane to the opposing goal and my teammate Blaze ripped me a pass.  Excited at having a potential break-away, I spastically danced like the time I electrocuted myself wiring the garage fuse box.  I tripped, fell, and watched the puck zoom by.  The referee blew his whistle, searched for my antagonist, and realized the person who tripped me, was me. My teammates, watching from the bench with scoring tension mounting, fell out of their seats howling.

“Eric, I can’t give you two minutes for tripping yourself,” the referee smirked.

I’m usually unflappable but in this case I was embarrassed.  “Guess I lost my feet.”

“You deserve four minutes for that show.”

I recently turned 53 and saw my physician, Dr. Goldfinger, for a check-up.  On my list of questions was whether my lungs were aging disproportionately faster than the rest of me.  His nurse weighed me and took my blood pressure.  Dr. Goldfinger, with laptop in hand, entered the examination room and then performed the requisite investigations.  I snickered when he tested my reflexes but grimaced as he poked, prodded and probed other body parts not typically exposed to sunlight.  After several minutes of analyses Dr. Goldfinger peeled off his gloves.

scoreboard_160424“Hmmm…” he said while scrolling down a spreadsheet.

I peered over his laptop.

“Your blood pressure is good, your blood chemistry…hmmm… good…low in metals…hmmm.  Your PSA’s, HDLs, LDLs, hemoglobin, testosterone…all are good.  Your prostate is holding steady.  But you need more Vitamin D.  And you gained ten pounds.”

“Yeah,” I sighed, “remnants of holiday binging.”

Dr. Goldfinger gazed at me and scratched his chin.  “Drink water and eat more fiber.  That’ll lighten your load.  Are you still playing in-line hockey?”

“Yep, but I’m chasing more often than getting chased.  I’m slow.  Are my lungs okay, Doc?”

champ t shirtsHe reviewed his spreadsheet and hesitated.  Dr. Goldfinger obviously had an important observation.  I nervously awaited his professional advice.  He grinned.

“Maybe it’s your skates?”

That’s it.  I need new ball-bearings and wheels.  Thanks Doc, it’s not my lungs.  I’ll live!  Anything else?”

Dr. Goldfinger mused, “You’re fine.  We’ll check your blood again next year but see about those skates.”

Before leaving his office I asked that he insert a notation in his records.

“Write down that I’ll be in the playoffs.”


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