Sunday, December 5, 2010

10 Seconds

Andy MacDonald’s world kaleidoscopes into a black, swirly place as his helmet smashes into Horcoff’s knees. Whether it was the aging ice plant in the Oilers barn, or merely a statistically probable ‘lost edge’, Old MacDonald got his eggs cracked in a frying pan of hard plastic shin guard. The puck skitters backwards to a thick, almost bored, Ryan Whitney in his own zone. Whitney has played the game long enough to accept the vulcanized rubber with his periscope up, always up. The ice unfolds in front of him and his back-brain reacts quickly to the orange and blue flicker bursting across the red line. Whitney snaps an angled tap-pass through center ice and he who shall not be named swoops into the puck; a mixture of gawky teenaged angles and raptor speed. There is a certain aspect of the predator to this player, a certain poise, a ferocious tenacity that oozes from every choppy stride.

The oxygen content drops a few millionths of a percent as the crowd collectively inhales, their oval seating pointing all gazes sharply inward at the unfolding spectacle. It is an arena, a palace of sweat and blood, refined surely from the days of down-turning thumbs and slaves, but still a place of gladiator spectacle. The history-forgotten St. Louis defenceman reacts quickly, but the inevitability of the opposing teenager’s speed leaves no doubt.

An overtime breakaway for all the bananas.

The shared intake has paused in the lungs of every fan: ready for an explosive, exulting expulsion, or a caustic chain of curse-word. The decider flashes towards a waiting Jaroslav Halák, a Slovakian stand-out, perhaps the best goalie their country has ever seen. Halák’s already churning partial C’s in the ice, treading water in a physical and metaphorical sense: the incoming cruise missile has taken away his time and his options.

The jersey ripples behind the forward as he knifes towards the red-box that will potentially define the rest of his human life. Not even pausing a moment to wax melodramatic at perhaps lonely and focused existence of a super-athlete, two quick dekes later he has opened his grip to allow the puck to be shot from the all-reaching open forehand. All thirteen holes of daylight between the goalie and the white mesh are quickly dissected by the turbo-charged spatial centers of the young forward, and shuttled down his spine into the fast-twitchers in his arms.

Mere milliseconds have passed, and it’s too soon for any reaction by Halák. The goalie needs more time. The rubber rockets of the synthetic swoop of stick. The few perfect moments of the puck eluding Halák’s butterfly reaction are lost to all but the lens of a high speed camera. There is time perhaps for the silent absence of one note –

And then the crowd roar dwarfs the subtle soundwaves of knotless nylon rippling triumphantly.

The goal scorer curls away from the goal, the fierce happiness writ on his slender face – crowd sound slams into him as he makes his turn, the air vibrations physical and gut-felt. Victory instincts kick in: arms are raised, fists pumped, flourishes flourished. The united, communal fan-brain goes pleasure center nova. Dopamine highs slam banging fists into the slender Plexiglas dividers: the inner ring’s reaction is barely removed from caged monkeys whipped into a frenzy by the arrival of the feed bucket.

That-good-music-feeling surges through the fan base as every mind and minds-eye catches up the firm realization of a vanquished enemy, and more importantly, the arrival.

He who shall not be named.


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