Imagine a teenage boy. Now imagine he’s a hockey player, then imagine he’s a pretty good one, and then, imagine him on the ice. Imagine it’s the 1980s, and imagine he’s playing a game in a fairly big rink. Imagine it’s the main rink of the town.
Despite it being the city’s biggest rink, and the only indoor arena, imagine only a handful of people watching the game. Imagine there are a few teenage girls, but mostly men of different ages. Imagine some of them in the stands, and some of the standing behind the plexiglass at ice level.
Now imagine the boy on the ice again. Imagine he gets the puck at the red line, on the left hand side, by the time keeper’s desk. Imagine he’s skating as fast as he can, imagine an opposing team’s player chasing him. Imagine he’s got one defenseman in front of him.
Imagine the girls screaming something, and imagine he hears them. Imagine him now trying to skate ever harder, even faster. Imagine him looking up an seeing the defensemen falling down. Imagine him skating around the defenseman.
Imagine the moment when he realizes he’s alone with the goalie.
Imagine him raising his stick and taking a shot. Imagine he’s got a pretty good stick – a white Titan TPM, just like Gretzky’s – but also imagine he’s got a pretty lousy shot. Imagine the goalie making a save. Imagine the teenage boy skating around the net, and then to the bench.
Imagine him now at the rink’s cafeteria after the game. Imagine him standing next to the pinball machine, waiting for his turn. Imagine him seeing one of the men’s team’s players there, and imagine it’s one he knows well. Imagine the teenage boy’s first stick being the men’s team’s player’s old one. Imagine he’s the star of the men’s team.
Now imagine the star player walking over to the teenage boy, and speak to him.
Imagine that the star says, “Good game, buddy”, to which the teenage boy replies, “thanks”. And then imagine the star put his hand around the teenage boy’s shoulder and say, “you made a great move in the second period when you broke in from the left, but next time, maybe don’t take a shot, but instead, skate around the net and slip it in with a wraparound.”
Imagine the teenage boy’s jaw drop. Imagine him saying to himself, “imagine a move like that.”
Now imagine the boy all grown up. He’s no longer playing hockey, but he likes the game. Let’s say he’s a writer. Imagine then that he watches the NHL highlights one morning, and sees this:
Somehow, watching a veteran NHL star score a goal in a game that was played thousands of kilometers from his desk takes him back decades, to a city he’s moved out of long ago, and to a game he has mostly forgotten.
He doesn’t remember the final score, the opponent, not even whether he scored any points or not. The thing he remembers is that one missed opportunity, and even more, the words of his idol. Goal or no goal, those few words made him feel like a real player.
Can you imagine that?