The More Things Change
Katherine Donnell could feel her heart pounding out of her chest as she stood at the concourse entrance that was next to the Captain Morgan suite area. As she looked out onto the empty CONSOL Arena she couldn’t help but smile and think about the journey that lead her back to a place that she called home for more than three years. The last time she was alone in CONSOL was the day that she cleaned out her office that she shared with Bill Guerin and handed in her letter of resignation to Jim Rutherford.
Katherine left the Penguins a broken woman, unsure of her decision making ability, questioning what all of her hard work had been for. Seeing now the group of players that the Pens were using, she knew that she had done her job; all her hard work gave them the Baby Pens they needed, and that the experience of working and being groomed Bill and Ray Shero made her more than competent to do the same job with a different club. That was over a year ago and Katherine was with a new team, the San Jose Sharks, doing the same thing she did for the Pens. In her wildest dreams, Katherine never imagined that it would come down to those two teams playing each other in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The faint sound of shoe heals clicking on the floor of the concourse snapped Katherine back to reality. She wasn’t alone and she was now officially in “enemy territory”. The Sharks were more than glad to get Katherine’s insight into the esthetics of CONSOL and she just wanted a few minutes to refresh her memory.
“I thought that they took your key from you when you left this joint,” a familiar voice squawked.
Katherine didn’t need to turn around. She knew exactly who it was.
“I have special privileges,” Katherine said with a smile. “Some guy named Guerin told me that I would always have a home here.”
“Yeah, that might be true any other time of the year, sweetheart,” the familiar voice said in closer earshot this time, “not this week.”
Katherine turned to see her former mentor, Bill Guerin.
“Hasn’t Kara kicked you out the house yet?” Katherine wrapped her arms around Bill and hugged him with everything she had. She owed this man so much and she was always going to be forever grateful for everything he had taught her. When Katherine came to the Pens she was book smart about managing players and it was Bill who gave her the player’s perspective on the game and helped to make her the hockey-savvy women she was today. They came up the ranks together from Wilkes Barre and now were both at the top of the professional careers.
“What can I say, she likes the beard,” Bill said as he hugged Katherine back. “How come Paulie hasn’t kicked you out and why hasn’t he made an honest woman out of you yet?”
Katherine and Paul Martin had been together for almost three years and engaged for almost one year. They were both with San Jose now, with Paul going to them first in a Free Agent acquisition and Katherine following as a bonus to Paul’s signing. Paul was the veteran defenseman that the Sharks needed and Katherine was the wiz-kid player prospect scout that would help bring the team the personnel to get them to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“I think it’s my cooking,” Katherine coyly flashed a smile.
“Yea, I’m sure it’s your cooking,” Bill snickered back at Katherine, knowing the road she took to finally get to Paul.
“Come with me, I’ll clear off some desk space for you down in my office and we can catch up,” Bill said as he wrapped his arm around Katherine shoulder, escorted them both out of the entrance way and down the concourse to the nearest elevator.
Paul shut the trunk of the Uber car and looked up at the front door of what was Katherine’s old townhouse. She bought the townhouse during the summer of 2013 after she was offered the permanent position in Pittsburgh and the last memory he had of the townhouse was when they called it home for the last weeks before their move to San Jose. Those weeks were filled with anticipation and anxiety over the move to the West Coast and for both it was a bittersweet way of saying good-bye to a city where their relationship started. They took their time visiting their favorite spots before packing their belongings and handing over the keys to the person who would be renting the townhouse.
Paul picked up the small travel cooler that he had retrieved out of the trunk of the car and walked towards the front door. The first thing noticed that the flower pots that Katherine left there had freshly planted geraniums in them and a new University of Colorado welcome mat replaced the Penn State mat that was left for the new occupants. Paul just chuckled and pressed the doorbell thinking that there certainly was an unexpected feminine touch to the front door. Paul didn’t have the chance to push the doorbell button before the front door flew open and a very excited Beau Bennett came rushing out.
“Where’s Donnell?” Beau asked as he tried to peer around Paul.
“Nice to see you too, Sunshine.” Paul handed the cooler over to Beau. “She’s over at the arena, but she did send you this.”
Beau gave Paul a classic Beau Bennet goof-face, opened the cooler and proceeded to run back into the house.
“She had to smuggle those on to the plane, you know.” Paul followed Beau, closing the front door behind them and walked through the house into the kitchen.
“Holy shit, she had them packed to go!” “Totally deconstructed and ready for me to heat up, put together, and eat!” Beau sounded like a little kid at Christmas as he spread out bags and bags of food all over the kitchen island.
“And FRIES too!!” Beau was beside himself with excitement.
“I guess you can’t take the Cali out the kid, can you.” Paul just laughed as Beau admired the In-N-Out bags that Katherine had brought cross county for him.
“Swear to God, if I didn’t see Donnell when she puked, I would have married her.” Beau dug around to cooler to see what else was packed in it. “Any woman that brings me food from home is a keeper.”
“Well, enjoy them because she almost had to beat Burnsie off with one of my sticks just to get them on the plane.”
Beau put the paper bags and walked over to give Paul a bro-hug. “Thanks, man.” “It’s been kinda rough season.”
Paul knew exactly what Beau was talking about. He had been injured for most of the season and from what Katherine told Paul about some of the texts that she got from Beau, he assumed that this would be his last year as a Penguin. He played for a few minutes in Game 5 against Tampa Bay and the next day Beau texted Katherine saying that management wanted him played so that he could be used for “trade-bait” in the off-season. Katherine knew it might happen and she talked to him for over an hour about what options he would have and how a fresh start with a new team may be the thing he needed the most. Paul felt for the kid because he had gone through the same thing more than once.
As Beau re-assembled two of the Double-Double Burger and readied for the microwave, Paul looked around the townhouse admiring that Beau or what Beau’s girlfriend, Georgiann had done with the place. They were college sweethearts and after being apart for a few years, they rekindled their relationship over the summer while Beau was in Colorado for a college teammate’s wedding. Beau had watched Rob Bortuzzo and Katherine, two of his best friends, leave Pittsburgh within two months of each other and having Georgiann back in his life was savior he needed. He always told Katherine that if it wasn’t for Georgiann moving to Pittsburgh, he probably would have left hockey and moved back to California.
“So does my landlord approve of the upkeep of the digs,” Beau said noticing Paul checking out his surroundings.
“Where is Georgiann?” Paul asked. “This is definitely her doing, not yours?”
“Spin class with Conner and Brian’s girls.” “They are all trying to keep up with Vero and Catherine on the hotness level,” Beau talked as he buzzed around the kitchen. “WAGS gotta represent.”
“So, where do they have you guys staying?” Beau asked as he pulled the hot burger out of the microwave. “The Marriott or somewhere else?”
“The team is over at the William Penn, but Katherine is staying over at the Marriott,” Paul said as he pulled out a stool from the island. “She wanted some time away from the team and me so I could focus on the game.”
“The Marriott, huh?” Beau just raised his left eyebow. “Nealer’s not in town, is he?”
“Fuck you, Bennett,” Paul shook his head well knowing what Beau’s innuendo meant.