I shook my head and agreed to grab him a soda. He was driving after all. I jogged up the never-ending steps and made quick use of the trash can, dropping my soggy nachos into it. Then I found a men's room and located a booth that sold jerseys. Angus was right; I could buy a week’s worth of food for the cost of an officially licensed Hawks jersey with Ryan's last name and number on it. I bought it anyway. Tugging the oversized jersey over my head made me feel less a noob. Angus just shook his head when I returned, bomber jacket over my shoulder and a soda in my hand for him.
“You're an ass,” he grumbled, eying the cola with distaste. I took my seat and tried to relax for a moment. The arrival of the teams ended my R&R. We were all up and stamping our feet to encourage the Hawks. Ryan went to his goal, determination etched on his features. His mask went on. He slapped the ice with his huge stick. The other players got into their respective positions. A whistle blew and the puck raced down to the Aardvark's end of the rink.
If I thought the first two periods were frenetic, this last one was insanity. The teams were evenly matched in both skills and tempers. Numerous penalties for rough play, fighting, and various other infractions occurred. Blood speckled every player’s jersey. It was madness. It was amazing. In the last forty seconds of the third period, our left-winger Raymond Dupree scored. The place erupted and a countdown began. The final buzzer signaled a mass eruption of hysteria among the fans and Hawks. I was hugging Angus. Angus was slapping my back. After the joy dwindled, we lingered a bit, just sitting and talking while finishing our drinks to allow the crush to go ahead of us. The ice was cleared of players and the Zamboni made its final rounds of the night.
“You know what would be awesome?” I asked, leaning back in my seat with an ankle resting on a knee, “If I could get Ryan to autograph this jersey.”
Angus glanced from the ice to me. “You can. We just have to go to the player's exit.”
I sat up straight. “I'm sorry, there's an exit for the players where we can actually speak to them?”
“Yeah,” Angus ran his fingers though his flat red hair then shoved his screaming Hawk back on his head.
We were up and moving before my buddy could complain. After a few hundred feet, Angus shook me off, grumbling about his big mouth. Outside we went. It was bitter cold now. My nose hairs froze instantly. Around the oval stadium we went. We found a rather small group of fans gathered at one of the double-wide security doors.
“Too damned cold,” Argus said into his cupped hands as we slid through the meager assemblage. “Usually there are hundreds of people here,” he explained and began bouncing to stay warm.
“We'll go just as soon as I get him to sign my jersey,” I promised. The words had no sooner fallen from my blue lips and the doors swung open. The waiting fans engulfed the players. I noticed that there were fans and players from both teams here. I quickly removed my Hawk headgear, jamming it into Angus' chest. I raked my fingers through my hair. It was lying flat to my head. Cursing the stupid Hawk that had turned my usually perky hair to a Moe Howard coif, I looked around when I heard someone cursing lividly. Fingers still in my hair, I saw two enormous men tumble out of the stadium shoving and pushing each other. A dark-haired player with an Aardvark duffel over his shoulder stumbled into me. He ducked. I didn't. Ryan Amirault's right fist met my face and the world went black.
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