Blades of steel

He said he didn’t kick the guy, and I believe him. He didn’t just say it, he screamed it, he yelled, he cried it out so the words echoed in the cold, cold rink. He was sitting on the plank that was also the stands, just seconds after the ref had thrown him out of the game, and he was just beside himself. He was so sad and so angry that he was almost delirious, it seemed.

“I didn’t kick him. I DIDN’T KICK HIM,” he yelled again.

Not this guy.

The other team’s coaches were laughing. Well, one of them was laughing, the other was yelling something to my teammate, which made one of our coaches really mad so he started to yell back at him. The two of them were yelling at each other over the heads of the clock keeper and the scorekeeper who sat in their little box between the benches. The clock keeper was my teammate’s mother and she was trying to act cool, but in the end, she couldn’t so she through an icepack at the other team’s coach.

He stopped laughing when it hit him in the shoulder, but when he saw who had thrown it, he started to laugh even harder. The Mom just stared ahead.

Meanwhile, the referee was standing about two meters from the boards, his hands on his hips, talking to our coach. One of them, the other one was still with the screaming teammate, on his knees, in front of the plank behind our bench, still where he had carried the kid.

“I. DIDN’T. KICK. HIM!” yelled my teammate again.

“Listen, that’s about the worst thing you can do on the ice. It’s dangerous, and he shouldn’t be doing that. There’s no place for that in the rink. Or for players that do that,” said the ref, as if he hadn’t heard the scream.

“He didn’t kick him, ref, you’re just being mean,” our coach said. Only, he used another word as a synonym for “mean” and I remember being surprised at hearing him switch an adjective to a noun, and then being surprised at myself – and a little bit proud of myself – for realizing I had noticed it. After all, we had just learned the differences between adjectives and nouns and … the rest.

“The player in red was on the ice, covering the puck, and the blue player kicked him, plain and simple,” said the ref.

“He didn’t kick him, his skate was on the ice, he was trying to find the puck, ref. And nothing happened. Their player’s just fine, he was laughing when he skated past our bench, ref. He was laughing,” said our coach.

I thought that was strange because their player hadn’t been laughing at all. He hadn’t been hurt too bad, he did skate back on his own, and but he hadn’t been laughing. I thought he had been adjusting his elbow pads, and chatting with his teammates.

“OK, send your players out, faceoff in your zone,” said the ref, and skated backwards towards center ice.

He blew in his whistle and gestured to the other bench that they should send their players to the faceoff.

“I didn’t kick him. I didn’t, I didn’t,” my teammate yelled again, and unbuckled his helmet. Our coach put the helmet on the bench next to him, and handed my teammate a water bottle. He took the helmet, dropped it off the bench and kicked it so it flew a few meters and landed on the concrete floor. Then he grabbed the water bottle and threw it onto the ice, barely missing the referee.

The referee blew in his whistle again, and skated to our bench as fast as he could, stopping in front of the open door, spraying snow right on to my face.

“That’s it, you’re done,” he yelled to the kid behind our bench, and pointed towards the locker room.

“No!” said my teammate, and started to kick the asphalt. He kicked it a few times, and I think I saw some sparks flying, and and then he stood up and jumped up and down.

“Come on, son,” said the coach who had been on his knees, and now got up. “Let’s go,” he said, and put his arm around my teammate and walked him to the locker room.

I don’t know if he kicked the player or not. I don’t think he did, because he had never done anything like that before, and he never did anything like that after that incident. And I also don’t think he’d been that angry had he not thought he had been treated unfairly.

But I don’t know that for sure.

All I know is that the next day, my father spent an hour and a half sharpening my teammate’s skates in our garage, doing his best to undo all the damage the asphalt had done to them.

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