Page 91 of The Keeper

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And then that thing happens that all pro athletes dread. The injury that brings it all to a screeching halt. For me, it was my knee. Not your usual ACL or meniscus tear for me. No, I shattered my knee, a hard feat when you’re covered in pads. Thank god for knee replacement surgery, but still, those manufactured joints are not made for pro athletes. Hence I moved into management.

And I’m good at it. I like it. I had a lot of good years as a player and now I’m a damn good administrator. So that’s all fine.

However. I am an administrator at a team that, due to a prolific grapevine, now knows my wife cheated on me with my best friend and the CFO for the team. No Bueno.

When did my marriage fall apart? Hard to know, which I guess means I wasn’t a very attentive partner. I wanted kids. We tried for years and we had no luck. Every month, her period came like clockwork and every month, I found myself disappointed. Frustrated. Because I always wanted a family. And I wanted it with her, so it felt like my failure when it never happened.

So here I am, thirty-eight and divorced and replaying it all over and over as I try to figure out where I could have been better, done better, as a husband. My friends all think it wasn’t me – that, really, it was Margot who disengaged. She’s the one who cheated, that’s true, but people don’t cheat if things are great between them and their spouses.

Marcus nudges me out of my thoughts. “Hey, bro, you’re phone is buzzing. Come back to earth.”

Blinking away my trip down memory lane, I grab my phone from the table. A Las Vegas number that I don’t recognize scrolls across the top of the screen. I consider letting it go to voicemail but, frankly, I could use some air, so I grab it and stand, heading for the door.

“This is Grant,” I answer as I step out into the cool night.

“Hey, Grant,” an unfamiliar voice says on the other end of the line. “Sorry to call you after hours. Is this a good time?”

“That depends,” I say. “Are you trying to sell me something?”

A chuckle. “No. My name is Max Terry.”

Max Terry. Max Terry. The name is so familiar but I can’t place it.

“I’m the owner of the Las Vegas Crush,” he says.

I think I stop breathing. The Las Vegas Crush, a super team that won the cup and ate up a shit-ton of talent in the past few years. Holy hell, I need to get it together.

“Well hello, Mr. Terry. How can I be of service?”

“Our long time GM has recently told me he intends to retire before the season starts. We’re sad to see him go, obviously, but excited to bring in some new ideas. Fresh perspective. We need to move quickly, though, to get him replaced. I’m calling to see if you’d consider a conversation with us?”

He wants to know if I would consider a conversation with him? About taking the top administrative role at a team that is literally one of the best in the NHL?

“I would definitely consider a conversation,” I say, trying to keep the eagerness out of my voice. “But what made you think of me, sir?”

“I’ve heard good things. You’re a former player with a ton of league awards under your belt. You’re a Gold medalist. From what I can tell, you’re not a media liability. You’ve got good, sold management experience, from what I’ve heard. Young, fresher in your approaches. Well respected. I could go on but I don’t want to give you too big an ego boost.”

“No worries, there,” I say. “I just got hammered in a divorce settlement, so my ego is good and surely managed right now.”

Why did I just tell him that?

Luckily, he laughs. “Boy, don’t I understand that. But I’ll tell you, it’s good news for me. No baggage, It’s a chance to come in fully focused on the team, and I really need that right now. I’ve got a roster full of amazing players with huge salaries. It’s been a good run but I am really worried about our bench strength and our longevity. Come down for a visit and we can talk more about it?”

“Sure thing. I work with Tim Martin at Talent One,” I say. Can the team work through him to set things up?”

“We can. We’ll get ahold of your agent and get you down here posthaste.”

“Sounds good. Looking forward to it.”

“Grant, keep this under your hat. The team hasn’t been informed yet and we’re only looking at a couple of guys. I want to keep it quiet for now.”

“Roger that.”

“Also, I may hire an assistant GM. We haven’t had one here in a few years and I’d like to get with the diversity bandwagon. You aren’t a racist or a sexist, right? Because I’m looking at a couple of women for the role.”

“No, sir. I’ll work with anyone with a brain for hockey and a desire to be a team player.”

“Good man. See you soon.”