The Hockey Player

This poem was inspired by a six–year–old boy who vowed to play for Team Canada one day.

The Hockey Player
© 2014 by Dominic Spano

He sits all alone, his back to his name,
Equipment laid out, three hours 'fore the game.
His duffle bag's open, he sits there a while
And says not a word, breaks nary a smile.

Alone with his thoughts, he ponders his role
In this game that has claimed both his heart and his soul—
This game that he's played since before he could walk,
When fate had decreed he'd be born a Canuck,
Has taught him to lead and to share and to vie,
It taught him to win and to never say 'die'.

He straps on his armor as gladiators do,
Then pulls on his socks and his home jersey too;
And with supreme reverence he ties on his skates
In exactly the manner as did all the greats.

Half-hour to game time, the warm up is nigh;
He'll fine–tune the skills he'll employ on the fly.
With gladius in hand, marked with nicks and a dent,
The blade fully taped and its edge slightly bent,
He starts for the rink filled with fans and with noise,
His demeanor demure evokes assurance and poise.

The clamor now builds in the arena aglow
With the cheers of the fans chanting row upon row.
The gate's fully opened to welcome the players
Onto the ice, resurfaced in layers
So clear and so smooth, like a fresh pool of wax,
Not a scar, not a chip and without any cracks.

"Look, here he comes!" sixteen thousand fans yell,
Their cheering as thund'rous as mad hounds from hell.
Just steps from the gate, he commences to trot,
Then quickens his pace and jumps through the slot
Not far from the blue line on his side of the ice
And skates in broad circles, counter–clockwise,
To warm up his muscles and practise his aim,
His focus intense to prepare for the game.
Then he draws in the puck and skates towards the crease,
Firing wrist shots and slap shots with lightning release.

At last it is time and the game's underway;
He races up ice and he joins in the fray,
Then quickly returns to defend his blue line,
His plus–minus ranking he'll not undermine.

The fans hold their breath while the game still is tied;
The tension keeps building, for they want the home side
To pull off a win, hand their guests a defeat;
But they, too, show great heart, it's now 'edge–of–your–seat'.

His will's undeterred, he creates his own breaks,
He speeds towards the net and the goalie he fakes,
Then he flings up his arms way into the roar
Of the crowd on its feet chanting he shoots and he scores.

His team's up a goal and the crowd is intense;
Surely their side will not sit on the fence.
And he grits now his teeth for it's down to the wire—
That point in the game when his belly's on fire;
But with one minute left and by all that is holy,
The visitors grow desperate and pull out their goalie.

Now it's six against five so he turns on the jets
And picks off a pass near the empty net,
Then with a quick backhand brings the guests to a screech,
Down by two goals, their game's out of reach.

And the fans, they erupt and they jump to their feet;
Their guy pulled if off, their warrior elite
Sent them home thrilled and fulfilled their desire,
This hero revered whom they greatly admire,
Their next Hall of Famer with jersey retired.

Back in the team room, he still sits alone,
Though teammates high–five him, he maintains his tone
And strips off his socks and his damp jersey too,
Then removes his armor without further ado;
For he knows that the morrow will bring a new day,
And the fans start each game in the same fickle way.
Redoubling his efforts will quell their desire,
While anything less will kindle their ire.

So before he departs and calls it a day,
He ponders a moment the price still to pay,
Then glances again at the name on his jersey
And affirms in his brain, with no hint of mercy:
"One day", repeats he, "engraved, you will be
With the greats before me "sur La Coupe Stanley."

*****

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