I have told this story before.
But also I haven’t.
I mean, it’s the same story about this amazing thing I did.
The thing is,
It happened again.
I did this amazing thing…
Forget that it’s a “hockey story” – that’s just the milieu. Its essence concerns how spectacularly instinctive I am. And who doesn’t like stories about that?
I know, right?
Okay, it concerns how spectacularly instinctive I am about hockey. But still. Some people aren’t spectacularly instinctive about anything. Like me, if you exclude hockey.
Okay. I gotta calm down here. Because just thinking about it, I want to stop typing and dance crazily around the room. Wait, maybe I will. No. I gotta finish this first.
Remind me to dance crazily after I’m done.
Okay. So… oops, forget I started that sentence with “so.” I am invited to a hockey game by a man I’ve known for twenty-five years who takes me to (L.A.) Kings games the one time per season the Toronto Maple Leafs are in town. For understandable reasons.
I’ve been a Leafs fan since radio. They shouted, “Come on, Teeder!” And “Teeter” retired in 1957.
My host is one of the most thoughtful, generous, caring and decent people I have ever encountered. And I am not saying that because I want him to invite me again next year. He is also my financial adviser. (From the days when I made money. Now, it’s more like a bald guy visiting the barber. Mostly, we just reminisce.)
I once wrote this limerick about him, celebrating one of his birthdays. (And nobody lies in a limerick.) It went:
“A man of great prudence and purity
He takes care of our money with surety
As our net worth advances
He reduces our chances
Of depending on Social Security.”
It’s one of my best limericks.
Two years ago, he took me. The game was tied at the end of “Regulation Play”, plus a five-minute “Overtime.” Next up – the recently instituted “Shootout”, where selected players from each team shoot alternately at the other team’s goalie, the accumulated goals determining the game’s winner. That’s not the whole story, but it’s close.
The “Shootout” ensues. Nobody’s putting the biscuit into the basket. (Meaning, nobody’s scoring a goal.) Every player seems to be using the same strategy – skating in close to the net, trying out “fake out” the opposing goaltender.
After several rounds, the game remains tied. The next Leaf “Shootout” participant retrieves the puck at “center ice” and skates lazily goalward, pondering his optimal approach. Having witnessed the foregoing futility, from my seat I shout out, “Shoot from outside?”
He shoots from outside.
The shot goes in.
The Leafs win.
And I’m a hero.
I had successfully “called the shot.”
FLASH FORWARD TO
I know I have tipped the upcoming ending here, but revel in this with me, will you? How often do you get to communally revel?
We go to the game, with my also invited friend Paul, who is also from Toronto. (Growing up, Paul attended many a Leafs game because his uncle Joe was a sportswriter. My uncle Irving sold “dry goods.” I went, maybe, twice.)
The game starts horrendously for the Leafs. The Kings score two-and-a-half minutes into the game, and lead 3-0 by the end of the first period. By the middle of the second period, it is five-nothing, Kings.
Déjà vu. 5-0, early in the contest? It’s Dodgers-Astros all over again.
This time, on ice.
No fun for the visiting Mapleos. Nor for their expatriate supporters.
I experience one highlight. At a break in the action, during a “Jumbotron” interview, a Kings player, hailing from Saskatchewan – Canada’s landlocked “breadbasket” – is asked what his favorite casual pastime is, and he says, “Surfing.” I tell Paul, “Surfing’s big in Saskatchewan. They say, ‘You haven’t surfed till you have surfed wheat.’”
It appeared that would be the most memorable interlude of the evening.
I was wrong.
No, the Leafs did not come back from five down, garnering a miraculous victory, although they did make a respectable 5-3 final showing. (Including a personally unprecedented two “Penalty Shots” in one game, both taken by the Leafs, one that went in, and one that went in… to the stands.)
My moment arrived when it was 5 to 2.
Owning a man advantage due to a Kings penalty, the Leafs are on the attack, passing the puck from player to player, probing for a fortuitous opening for a score. The puck goes back to the defenseman at the “Point”, a considerable distance from the goal.
The defenseman drifts deliberately to his right, considering whether to shoot or to pass. He momentarily hesitates. From my seat I shout out, “Shoot!’ .
Instantaneously, he slams a shot towards the Kings goal.
The puck goes in.
And I’d ”called the shot.”
I’m tellin ya,
It’s not a fluke if you do it twice.
Come on! Who’s with me?