Just then, the door to the office suite opens, and Evan Kazmeirowicz, Crush winger and team captain, walks in. He’s tall and muscular with an annoying, slick-looking undercut and a boyish smile. He’s fit and effective on the ice still, even though he’s getting kind of long in the tooth for professional sports, in my opinion.
I’ll hand it to him—he reads a room a lot faster than I ever could. His smile dissipates as he looks from Max to Coach to the GM, whose name I can’t even remember.
“Looks like I missed the fun part of the party,” he comments, walking over to hold out a hand. As we shake, he adds, “Ready for a tour, new guy?”
New guy.That’s me. I’m the new guy. Never in a million years did I believe I’d be the “new guy” somewhere this season, but here I fuckin’ am. I stand and nod, ready to just be out of this room. Maybe seeing the ice and the locker room will help me feel a sense of routine. Maybe it will feel real somehow.Acceptable.
Dell salutes me as he starts a conversation about my bonus contracts. I should probably say something. Thank them or something. But nothing comes out as I shove my hands in the pockets of my jacket and follow Evan, in all his calm confidence, out the door.
We walk down a dark, administrative hallway, and it’s not until we come to an elevator that Evan says, “I take it you weren’t expecting a trade?”
“I heard your goalie got hurt or something. But no, I did not wantthistrade.”
“Trades happen all the time. It’s part of the business,” Evan says as we step onto the elevator. “Seven years is a long time at one club.”
“No reason to trade me though,” I say with a shrug. “I performed well for them. Solid.”
“Solid doesn’t mean there isn’t a reason to trade. Maybe they felt it was time for you to grow and you growing meant someone on the bench could grow, too. Maybe they wanted to make up some space in the salary cap for the development of new talent and the bench was strong enough to lose you to make it happen. Shit happens all the time. None of us are indispensable.”
“That’s arrogant as hell, dude,” Evan says, laughing and shaking his head.
“It is what it is. I was performing there. I wanted to be there. No reason to send me packing.”
“Well, I’m sorry your feelings got hurt. But we’re a good club. We work hard. Some of us play hard. But when we’re on the ice we are pros, and we expect you to fall in line with that.”
“I mean, yeah, I’ll do the work. Doesn’t mean I have to like being here.”
“So, you’re coming in with a massive contract, right? Like, millions?” Evan asks as we walk down a ramp, presumably to the ice.
I don’t answer him until we step out onto the ice. “Yeah. It’s a good contract.”
“Look…what do I call you? Calum?”
“Look, Cal,” he says with a soft shake of his head, “there are guys who’ve been playing their asses off, second string, every damn year, making far, far less than you. Guys who come in with a good attitude, happy to play, happy to suit up even though they know they’ll get very little ice time. And they never complain. You need to see the big picture here. You’re getting paid millions to do a thing you love and you’re good at. You get to do it with a team of guys who’ve killed it the past few seasons in a city where it’s never, ever boring. Do your time. Prove your worth. Then go back in a couple years if that’s where you want to retire.”
“Retire?” I ask with a disbelieving laugh. “I’m twenty-six. You’re the one who looks like you might be past your expiration date.”
Evan smirks, unaffected. “That may be true, but I scored on you a few times in the finals, I think. Slap-shot ring a bell for you? Is my old-man memory working right?”
I bite the inside of my lip, not willing to confirm or deny that he scored on me in the finals. He winks and says, “Come on, man, let’s go see the weight rooms and PT clinic.”
Hmm. Straight shooter.
You’re getting paid millions to do a thing you love and you’re good at. You get to do it with a team of guys who’ve killed it the past few seasons. Do your time. Prove your worth.He makes sense. I might like Evan Kazmeirowicz…a little. I still don’t want to be here, but at least the team captain isn’t a total wanker.
The last fifteen seconds of the song is all drums as I smash out the outro with a combination of kick drum, rack tom, and ride cymbal that absolutely rocks.
As I finish, the only sound in the space is the last ting from the cymbal. I let it dissipate on its own before looking to the guys to see what they think.