Wednesday, January 17, 2007

How to bag a moose

Notes from the Suns locker room-by Jon Duval

Friday, Jan. 12

12:00---I feel badly for all those professional athletes arriving in town to compete in the Ski Tour. They bust their humps to train for big money prizes, risk life and limb to entertain. Yet, because of a scheduling snafu, they will receive little to no attention as the Suns are taking on their archenemy, the Jackson Hole Moose!

Good thing we are on the road or they might not have a single spectator.

1:00---Unfortunately Ivars "Muzzy" Muzis is out for this weekend due to a broken fibula, the result of last week's vicious leg check. As much as we'll miss him on the ice, I really want him here to ease the boredom of this drive with Seinfeld quotes.

7:00—Jamie "Shorty" Ellison takes the ice for warm-ups in a Mexican wrestling mask he picked up in Tijuana. Welcome to the Western Beer League!

8:06—Blake Jenson and a Moose player race head on for a puck, striking it simultaneously. It flies up and catches him square between the eyes. He skates slowly toward the bench, looking annoyed as a rivulet of blood flows off his nose onto his uniform. Chris "Chipsy" Warrington, unable to see what transpired from his defensive position, yells at Blake to join the rush. He'll feel guilty about that later.

8:10—Our bench, usually more packed than Whiskeys on Dollar Night, feels desolate due to the absence of so many players.

8:22—Jeremy "I Need a Nickname Even More Than Swain" Schreiber, playing his first game as a Sun, shows why it's beneficial to grow up wrestling bears in Medicine Hat, Alberta. Let's hope the Moose forward who just tried to cross the neutral zone with his head down can remember that, once he manages to pick himself off the ice.

8:27—My chicken parm lunch threatens to make a reappearance as I catch a glimpse of Doc (Frank Batcha) stitching up Blake between periods. What had first seemed an innocuous cut now looks more akin to something you might see on one of those Discovery Channel surgery shows. Simultaneously repulsive and mesmerizing.

8:47---Have to love the garbage. Both Adam Swain and Ryan "Doogle" McDonald take brilliant shots, which result in the puck sliding softly across the front of the net to my stick. I rarely get this kind of goal, always being either half a step too slow or fast, so I'm still nervous. Even though my shot has to go approximately two inches, I shoot as hard as I can.

8:55—Nomination for best assist of the season is this: After making a nice glove save on Chipsy's off-angle slapshot, the Moose goaltender skates out of his crease and politely deposits the puck in front of an incredulous Doogle, who nonchalantly flips it right back into the open net. Even the ref is perplexed, as he's fairly certain he hadn't blown the whistle yet. If Jackson's goalie were a South American soccer player, he would've been executed by now.

9:40---Jake "Mini Me" Nikolaisons, two years old with mini-Suns hockey stick in hand, begins what I pray will become a Suns' intermission tradition. Prompted by his dad, Suns assistant captain Vilnis, he says with increasing volume "Go Suns!" The team roars in response. We're officially fired up.

9:58---I cut across the offensive blue line, holding my breath in anticipation of getting smoked. Luckily, their defensemen have backed off due to my blazing speed. Oh wait, that's Ryan Enrico. Regardless, they leave me enough room to drive in and make a drop pass to John "Chugga" Stevens, his nitro boosters all used up in order to join the play. He collects it delivers a perfect saucer pass to Jami James, who was apparently waiting for the most dramatic moment possible to score his first goal as a Sun.

10:13---With the Moose goalie pulled for an extra attacker, Swain breaks through their defense for a breakaway on an empty net. Only he doesn't go for the goal, instead choosing to pass the puck to Shorty for a gimme that seals the victory. Single female readers take note—you can't teach this kind of unselfishness.

Saturday, Jan. 13

2:30---I lay in bed in a state of exhausted frustration. My roommate for the road trip, whose anonymity I'll respect lest any prospective dates are reading, is snoring magnanimously. It's sounds like someone trying to turn over the flooded engine of a 1982 Dodge Dart. I wonder if this is considered grounds for justifiable homicide as I hit him repeatedly with my pillow.

7:27---Hey, Cubby just arrived from God knows where. Can anyone prove he's not actually in the CIA? Regardless, he's a welcome addition in the locker room and behind the bench, where he can hopefully translate for us after Fester becomes unintelligible once he imbibes his 24th Red Bull of the night.

7:59---Two-on-one with Billy "The Kid" Tryder. This is a great example of why it's never a good thing to give me too much time in front of the net. As I hold and hold, looking at the gaping holes the goalie is leaving and then at Billy and then back at the net, the puck slips off my stick. "Nice hands, #6," echoes out from the Jackson bench. Yup, I deserved that.

8:35---I guess the Moose have short memories. Another forward tries to cut through the middle and is stopped with violent abruption by Jeremy "The Neophyte" Schreiber.

9:47---Let's watch this one in slow-mo: there I am, fore-checking a Moose defenseman behind their net. And here comes their dirtiest player, charging in from the blue line to knock me to the ice with a blindside punch. Being that I'm already on my knees, I see no need to get kicked out of the game for dropping my gloves while accomplishing nothing other than struggling to my feet. So watch as I turtle, tuck my head into my arms and let this goon rain blows on the top of my head. I wave bye-bye as he gets tossed from the game, and then he takes another penalty for throwing his helmet in an uncoordinated fashion. I'll be honest, despite giving our team a man advantage this late in the game, I still feel a bit like a wimp. Good thing we weren't in front of a home crowd.

9:50---Vindication. A repeat of our fourth goal, as Chipsy makes a beautiful pass to Shorty, who puts us in the lead. I should get that guy's address and send him a thank you card for getting a five-minute penalty.

10:13---Not quite bedlam in the locker room, but a sweep of the Jackson Hole is always cause for celebration. Trevor 'Trestor' Thomas does so in style, slipping on the George Jacket for his monstrous slap shot goal and, more importantly, adding to Fester's career stats by having to wear the coach's jersey due to his errant gear packing.

11:00---Cubby entertains our table at the post-game meal with Suns lore. With a sly grin, Cub says, "George (Gund) loved us. Even more than the pro teams he owned. He used to fly the Suns up to watch Minnesota North Stars games. Once he brought us onto the team bus and there were all these pros and George proudly said, 'Hey, Dino (Hall of Famer Dino Ciccarelli), this is Cub. He plays for the Suns.' And Dino kind of gave this incredulous stare, wondering if he was expected to know who I was." What I really want to know, though, is where the hell are our trips to Japan and Alaska?

Sunday, Jan. 14

6:00---This drive back to work would've been infinitely more painful had we allowed the Moose to end our streak. Maybe now I'll be able to enjoy the sunrise over the Tetons.

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