Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Over the Boards: Rink Stories

Tales from interning in major junior hockey because the best stories happen at the rink.

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I'm sad to say my hockey internship has come to an end. It was a wealth of knowledge, a valuable experience and will definitely beef up my resume.

Pro tip: Professional teams typically prefer internship and job candidates that have worked in the minors. Just like athletes, they want to see you paid your dues and prove your skills.

Of course, with every experience you gain enough stories to write a book, and my internship is no exception. I've already shared a few, and I could continue to write stories about the rink until my finger fall off, but I'll curb my enthusiasm and keep this a trilogy. For now.

Here we go:

  • Adding Insult to Penalty
    It's the conference semi-final round of the playoffs, game three and the game was fairly even until bad reffing cost the boys two goals and handed them a 6-4 loss on home ice. In the final minutes, Coach is yelling at the refs and our players are getting tossed left and right.

    The first player to get tossed is ushered to the door by the referee. Before he exits, he turned to the ref and deadpan says, "Fuck you." Once off the ice, he tried to take out his aggression by smashing his stick against the wall. In his rage, he didn't see me leaning against the wall and nearly took my head off. Luckily, my head and his stick stayed intact.

    And so began the profanity-laced, pissed-off parade to the locker room.

    One of my responsibilities was pulling the boys for the post-game three-star presentation, which recognizes the game's best players (selected by an attending media member). I get the names from the press box (via text) and then pulled the boys as they're coming off the ice.

    Though we lost, we still had a player that stood out and was selected as second star. He basically carried the team on his back the entire game, scoring a couple goals, assisting on a couple goals and capping it with some big hits.

    As (un)luck would have it, he was tossed in the final minute for unsportsmanlike conduct, as known as cussing at the ref. He's clearly pissed and I'm not one to approach an angry athlete, especially one that's considerably larger than me (he stands a full foot taller me without skates). He has already stormed into the locker room, and I was trying to confirm if he was in fact still a star of game after being tossed. A co-intern ran into the locker room to catch him before he started undressing. He came back out, composed, and patiently waited for the final second to tick off the clock.

    Finally, right before the final buzzer, I received word he had, in fact, been booted from the three-stars list. I had to be the bearer of bad news, so I shuffled over to him and told him the news. He gave me the worst look ever, handed me his t-shirt (that's what we have our stars toss to the fans) and, shoulders hunched, headed back into the locker room.

    I felt so bad. Poor kid.
  • The German Shepard
    Mid-season, we traded our a rookie Swede for a seasoned German. And the German quickly became one of my favs. Why? Well, he was outgoing, friendly (at times too friendly--flirtatious little bugger) and the kids loved him.

    Did I just describe a German Shepard? Why, yes. Yes, I did. I also just described our German player.

    At the end of the season, the team holds a pizza party and scavenger hunt for its kids' club. All the players are expected to participate. This year's party, the German was seated with a family that had a baby, and he was an eager beaver to hold it. Of course, the mother was all for it, so she handed him her newest daughter.

    Our German was a 6'2", 206 lbs. kid who was mostly known for dropping his gloves and beating the shit out of the other teams' tough guys.

    And here he is cradling a tiny baby and telling us tales about his niece (collective awe!).

    On game days, I spent a fair amount of time herding the German through the run of show, especially when he was a star of the game. The three-stars presentation works the same across the league, yet each time the German looked to me for my guidance on what to do with his helmet, gloves and stick.

    He also made a habit of coming up behind me and scaring me whenever he had a free minute, or shooting pucks at the glass nearest my face with I was trying to get our pre-game youth skaters ready.

    These moments always brought me back to my childhood and teen years, hanging out with the my cousins' teams and then the high school team.
Thank you so much for reading Rink Stories! I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them. If you have any hilarious, quirky and embarrassing stories from your internship, feel free to share. I'm always up for a good story.

Later, gators.

- J

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