Last weekend, one of Daughter’s hockey teams played their last game of the season at our local rink. We played twice against the same team – and when I say “we” I’m trying to draw your attention to the fact that I’m the assistant coach – and since it was the season finale, we had even got a little news item on the club’s website.
You get it. It was a special event.
In fact, it was so special that even the man I had earlier only seen at local soccer games and the men’s hockey team’s games – working the door, hanging out with the officials, cheering on the boys – was there on both days. He hung out in the locker room corridor, fist-bumped the head coach, and took in the action.
After the first game, the whole team went for dinner, and between bites of his club sandwich, Coach suddenly happily remarked that Dee had been at the game.
“Oh, he’s a beauty,” he said with a big smile on his face. “Every time we have a game with the oldtimers’, he’s there and he notes all the goals. And if he can’t make it, he calls me at 11pm, and checks the score and my points. Always at 11.”
“And if I don’t answer, he’ll call my wife and ask her if I’m at home. ‘Can you ask him if he got any goals or apples’, he’ll say and then I’ll send him a message or something,” Coach went on.
“There was a famous character in Helsinki who’d go from rink to rink as a one-man cheerleading team, yelling and shouting, making up rhymes and chants as he went along. According to one rumour, he once drove a moped to watch a game some 200km away, ran out of gas and had to hitch a ride back home. According to another, he had been a genius at the university and then somehow crossed the line,” I said.
“Yeah, there’s one at every rink,” Coach said.
A superfan. A local superfan.
And Coach was right. There is. They’re special, they’re different, and they are ours.
Our rink had two superfans when I was in my teens. They were both “special” in that special way, but our duo had one more special characteristic. One of them was super negative, and the other one super positive. One guy’s glass was always half empty, the other one’s half full. (Or if you really looked it, maybe even more than half full and besides, a full glass would’ve been too much anyway, so a glass half full was just perfect, really).
They knew every player on every team, even if not all players had the patience to stand and chat with them.
But they were the yin and yang of the rink. The devil and the angel on your shoulder.
“I remember one game when I walked from the dressing room to the ice, with one guy on my left, telling me we’d lose, that we had no chance and that the other team’s defencemen would crush me, and the other walking to my right, telling me how we’d win, wishing me good luck, patting me on the back until I hopped onto the ice,” I told Coach, and then we laughed.
The next day, Dee came down to the dressing room corridor after the game, when I was walking around with a box of leftover fruit and candy from the players. I asked him if he wanted an apple.
“Oh, sure,” he said and rummaged around the cardboard box I was holding and then he grabbed an apple and a chocolate bar.
He thanked me, and took a couple of steps towards the door before turning around. He took a step back. With the blue face mask casually under his bearded chin, he looked at Coach.
“You playing tonight?” Dee asked him.
“For sure,” Coach replied.
“Talk to you later,” Dee said, took a bite out of the apple, and left the rink.