Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Diary of a Suns rout over Park City

Notes from the Suns locker room


Saturday, Dec. 16

5:30--It's Saturday night and we're coming to you live from the Sun Valley Skating Center. I just imbibed three shots of espresso with enough sugar to make the spoon stand straight up. Let's hope it does the trick. After last night's victory over the Park City Silver Kings and a nine-hour drive to retrieve my brother from Salt Lake City this morning, my legs feel more wooden than Ben Affleck's acting.

6:00--Jamie and Villi are out for tonight's game. Apparently they got bored of scoring goals last night and decided to try their hands at enforcing. Thus, the lines have been mixed up and Coxie (Paul Cox) and I get the pleasure of skating with Billy the Kid Tryder. Billy happens to hail from a suburb of Boston close to my hometown. Look out, two Massholes on the ice together.

7:00--While we might have one of the best men's teams in the nation, we are nothing compared to the kids who come out to perform the National Anthem at our games. Considering how self-conscious I get singing in the shower, these are the bravest people in the world in my book.

7:16--I know this is something you never want to say or even think during a game, but I think the Silver Kings' chances of winning are something akin to me getting called up to the Bruins this season. Their team is more decimated than Napoleon's army marching out of Russia.

7:30--There's something I should tell you before I continue: at this moment in time I am what you would call snakebit. I'm getting the chances, but just can't score—Prom Night all over again. During the opening weekend I didn't really notice it. I was too focused on winning our inaugural games and not skating into my line mates. Last night, however, its presence became stronger until I could no longer ignore it. Now I'm like Charlie "Rain Man" Babbit five minutes before Wopner.

7:37--Here it comes. I've slipped out of our zone between their defensemen and am about to receive a beautiful centering pass at center-ice for a breakaway. In my excitement to end the drought I look for a higher gear, but at the last second remember that I don't have one and trip over the redline instead. I corral the puck as I spring up, my legs doing a Roadrunner impersonation that almost sends me to ice again. After all that graceful floundering around I'm hearing footsteps by the time I reach the net, but I still manage to aim at the open top corner. Then I shoot the puck into the middle of the goalie's chest.

7:52--Period over. Some kid I don't know tells me he wants me to score a goal. I don't know whether to give him a hug or pull his shirt over his head.

7:59--Funniest moment of the night so far. Vilnis Nikolaisons' son Jake has become a stalwart in the Suns' locker room and is running around with his little hockey stick, high-fiving everyone. While this is undeniably cute, it doesn't necessarily make you laugh. The hilarity comes when you realize he looks exactly like his father. "He's mini me," Villi says in his Latvian accent. Priceless.

8:09--Word is professional golfer Brad Faxon is in the penalty box tonight. I wonder if it would be inappropriate to take a deliberate penalty and ask him how to improve my short game.

8:23--Adam "We're Currently Taking Nickname Suggestions" Swain does a slow motion skate through three Park City players while shorthanded to score his first goal as a Sun. I can almost see that good-natured grin he always wears widen.

8:30--This game is a mess right now. We're well ahead and the opposition has got about as much spirit as the fat kid in gym class.

8:36--Adam "Seriously, This Is The Best We've Come Up With So Far" Swain treats us to an encore performance. Man down once again, he glides past the defenseman at half speed and slips the puck into the net while being upended. This kid is cooler than the other side of the pillow.

8:48--Paul Barnzy Baranzelli goes hunting for intermission nourishment and comes back to the locker room with Cup-a-Noodle. Whereas I would be working on not throwing up on my skates, he'll be working on a hat trick when we step back out on the ice.

8:54--8-2 at the beginning of the third. Replacement goalie is in for the Silver Kings and their captain has requested that we don't shoot at her head. And no, that's not a typo.

9:01--Playing in his first game of the season, Johnny Miller gets his 60th goal in a Suns uniform. Damn you natural athletes.

9:17--At the end of the second period, the Kid's stick turned into a wet noodle causing him to miss the net on my pass across the crease. Now I return the favor, flubbing his perfect two-on-one dish. I can hear my brother laughing from the stands.

9:23--Barnzy walks in toward the net unmolested from the right. I'm standing open on the far side waving my stick in the air, hollering his name, doing everything short of shooting off warning flares to get his attention. He calmly zips the puck five-hole for his fourth goal of the game. Good thing too, because I either would have missed or scored the 11th goal on a second-string keeper. Not exactly a win-win situation.

9:37--Last few minutes of the game and Trevor Thomas takes a shot from the point. Instinct takes over and I drop my blade on the ice just in time for the puck to deflect off of it into the net. I can't help but laugh. Scoring the 12th and final goal of the game is like beating George W. Bush in a spelling contest. I feel slightly dirty, yet secretly happy to get it over with all the same.

9:45--John "Cubby" Burke comes to my salvation and keeps me from being outfitted with the George Jacket for two weeks in a row. He's run the gamut of the program, starting of as a player on the original Suns' team, then coach and finally general manager. Always at the rink with a smile and a kind word, Cubby represents the best of the organization. We repay his kindness the best way we know how: by cloaking him in an ugly red jacket.




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