From Here to There
At the morning skate the next day, everyone noticed her. Right in the center of the rink, in the center of the seats, there was a girl in jeans and a hoodie just sitting there and watching the team. She had her hood pulled up, but a few long strands of straight dark hair poked out. Both her feet were resting on the seat infront of her with her knees bent.
“Any idea who that is?” PK asked me quietly.
“Someone’s girlfriend?” I shrugged, glancing up at her again.
“No one seems to know her.”
“All right boys, gather round.” Coach Martin said, stepping down onto the ice.
We all turned away from our circles on the ice to make a wide circle around Jaques Martin. He waited until we were all still to speak again.
“Now, we have a game against the Rangers next week. I want everyone to be in their best shape. Price, how’s your leg?”
I grimaced as I thought of the injury that kept me off the ice the week before. “Better.”
“You better not be lying to me boy, I’d rather have you off the ice than on it and injured.”
“All right, no serious practice today. I want you all to rest up. I want you all here bright an early tomorrow. And, oh, there’s one more thing. John quit.”
A murmur ran through the team. John was our manager. Without him, no one would be capable of booking all the hotel rooms, flights, personnel management, as well as weekly equipment checks.
“Well, he didn’t quit. He retired.”
“Why didn’t you tell us earlier?” Andrei asked solemnly.
“We didn’t want to worry any of you while we searched for his replacement. Who, I’m happy to say, we’ve found. Sarah, come down here.”
The girl who had been watching us all morning was coming down the stairs. She pulled down her hood to reveal a face that was too familiar to me. It was the girl from the bar last night.
“Boys, this is Sarah.” Martin said. “She worked for Chicago before coming to us. She comes with the highest recommendations.”
“Hey guys.” She said with a small smile, and right then I could tell she had the entire team’s heart. No formality, no stiffness. It was like she had been our best friend from the very beginning.
“You boys take care of her, you hear?” Martin said. “Who wants to take her for lunch?”
Sarah burst out laughing as the entire team raised their hands.
“All right.” She said, still laughing. “I need to sort a few things out, you boys don’t mind waiting, do you?”
“No, we’ll change.” Team captain Brian said. “Come on, guys.”
Everyone headed towards the changing room, and I found myself walking next to Sarah as she headed towards her new office.
“Long time no see.” She smirked at me.
It struck me again how tiny she was.
“Why didn’t you say anything?” I asked.
“It would ruin the surprise. Besides, I prefer to be mysterious.”
She split off and walked down the hall to her office.
In the locker room, it became clear that the entire team wouldn’t be able to go for lunch as many already had plans. In the end, it was just me, PK, Brian, and Andrei. We all changed into street clothes before the four of us headed over to the Team Manager’s office. Inside, Sarah was typing on her laptop. She looked up at us and smiled.
“One sec, I’m trying to finalize the plane tickets for this weekend. It’s difficult when you’re taking up half the cabin.”
We nodded and stood awkwardly in the office, looking around. There was a photo of Sarah with and older couple hanging on the wall, next to a diploma from McGill University.
“You went to McGill?” PK asked, impressed.
“Hm? Oh, yeah. School of sciences, biology.”
“How did you get from there to here?”
Sarah shrugged. “I guess I’m better at organizing things than I am at lab work.” She closed her laptop and stood up. “So, where are we going?”
“How do you feel about diners?” Brian asked.
“Good, we’ll take you to the team’s favorite.”
“It’s not that the rest of the team doesn’t love you.” I explained as I held the diner door open for Sarah and my teammates. “It’s just that they didn’t know that they’d love you.”
Sarah laughed. “It’s okay. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d be getting lunch in the first place.”
The five of us sat in a booth in the back, and our friend Debby came over with a smile. “Hey guys.”
“Hi Debbs.” PK smiled at her. The girl almost melted. “This is our new manager, Sarah. She’ll probably be in here a lot.”
Sarah smiled at Debby.
“The usuals for everyone?” Debby asked. “And Sarah, I’ll get you a menu.”
“Actually, do oyu have grilled cheese?”
“Yes. Served with your choice of fries or rings and a pickle.”
“Perfect, I’ll have that with fries and a coffee. And if you don’t mind, a boat of gravy for my fries.”
“Spoken like a true Canadian.” Debby smiled.
“You’re having coffee in the middle of the day?” Andrei asked as Debby walked away.
“Well, yeah. Unlike you guys I have to stay at the Bell Center through the afternoon.”
“Still, it’s probably not the best thing to drink all day.”
“Vodka isn’t the best thing to drink either, but your people seem to do it all the time.”
We spent an hour eating and talking, before Sarah announced that she really had to get back and attempted to pay her share. We wouldn’t let her, and insisted that she not worry about it. After all, our salaries were much more than hers.
“I liked her.” Andrei said as the door shut behind her. “She’s nice and easy going.”
“Not like the other girls you find working for the league.” PK agreed. “I’m glad she came to work with us. John was a little stuffy.”
Brian pulled a face that was supposed to make him look like an old man. “I want you all in bed by midnight. No excuses.”
We all snorted.
Debby walked over. “How was it?”
“Good as always.” I smiled at her. “You watching the game?”
“Of course I am.” She grinned. “I have the night off and everything.”
“What would you do if I told you I’d save a goal for you?” PK asked her.
Her cheeks were red but she rolled her eyes. “You couldn’t save a goal in the first place, Subban.”
PK brushed it off as the rest of us snickered. “You’ll see Debbs. You’ll see.”