“Come on Lovejoy! Get in there…” I shouted as I swung back around towards the other end of the ice. Vitale sent the puck spiralling backwards at me; and I was lucky to get enough of it that I could push it up to Tangradi. Shot down in front of the net, Tangradi turned the puck over and once again Lovejoy let one of the Pirates past him. Don’t send a man to do a woman’s job, I sighed as I hopped back into the bench.
I watched as the Pirates got a lucky shot past Thiessen; tying the game up at 3-3. I let out a sigh as I turned around and looked up towards the box.
Even though he was an owner, it wasn’t very often that Mario Lemieux came to watch our games; needless to say, I wanted to do good. I wanted to win.
It had been projected that I would be selected in one of the top three slots; but apparently being the first girl in the NHL had some liability issues. After all the hoopla, the media frenzy and the statistics were in; I had been selected 120th overall, at the end of the 4th round - by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Jake had gone first overall to Tampa Bay, Consti had gone second to the LA Kings. After a few Swedes, Russians and Canuks, Rennie had gone 11th overall to the Hawks.
After everything was finished; I had sat through another hour of interviews - nodding my head and masking any emotions that I felt. “I had no expectations coming into the draft… I’m just glad that I’ve been picked by such a great organization and I hope I don’t let them down… No I don’t feel that being selected so low will effect the way I play if I make the Penguins team… I hope to make the team this year, but who knows; they’re an amazing group already so I’ll just have to wait and see.”
The Penguin representatives, on the other hand, had other ideas. “If there’s a need throughout the season then Carlie will be the first person that we will be calling up. We would love to have her out there now but we think the best transition for her will be to spend a season or two on our Scranton team. There is a major size and experience difference when you get into the NHL, the Penguins organization believe that Carlie Simone will become an asset to the team; but we want to let her excel in the AHL first.”
I had tried to hide my disappointment, tried my best to smile and be happy for my friends; but it was hard.
It was hard sitting in the auditorium and watching guys that I knew I could dominate be called, over and over again, to their respective teams; while I was overlooked.
I had tried my best to hide my disappointment; and for the media, my best had worked. With the end of the first round, I was old news. I was a has-been before I ever was. The fans of the NHL and the collective hockey world had watched me under a microscope for months; and had decided that I was nothing more than a wannabe; a little girl trying to compete in a man‘s world.
In private, hidden from the world, Geno had said he believed in me, believed that I would make it; and more than I deserved, he waited diligently for my name to be called - then hugged me like I’d gone first.
Harder still, was to let him go; remind myself that I couldn’t hold onto him.
I had flew home from Ottawa that night - packed my things and left my parents house the next day; moving into a 4 bedroom house with Lovejoy, James, and Grant.
“Not so bad… 9 games; 11 goals, 8 assists.” Mario chuckled as he came up behind me in the dressing room. I nodded my head, giving him a smile over my shoulder and I grabbed my purse out of my stall. “Think you’ll be ready for the big show next year?”
“That depends, are you asking, or offering?” He smiled and followed me out into the hall; away from the reporters that were still milling around.
“Both I suppose… there’s been a lot of injuries this year. I might need you sooner.” I stopped walking and turned around, staring at him incredulity.
“Don’t joke about that…”
“I’m not. I’m not saying for sure either; we’ll see how it goes. I just wanted to let you know… keep up the good work. Vindication is a hard thing to do, but it’s worth it - I promise you that much Carlie.” I nodded slowly as he walked away and Lovejoy took his place in front of me.
“Out tonight, Carlie?” I shook my head, causing the grin on his face to fall.
“You guys go ahead, I’ll see you at home tonight.” I turned away from him and headed down towards the parking lot, before he could stop me.
We only lived about 20 minutes away from the rink; the perfect distance. Long enough that you could belt out a few tunes on the way to practice, but not long enough for you to freak out before the game.
Lovejoy, James and Grant were all great guys. Lovejoy was the party-boy, the one that was always getting himself into trouble; and not caring about it at all. James was like the fixture I never had; he was patient and caring - not to mention a natural born leader (why he made such a great Captain). Grant was just a regular everyday guy. He had a girlfriend back home in Nova Scotia; and when he wasn’t on the phone with her he was playing Xbox or working-out.
I saw the light of the answering machine flashing as I came through the door and chucked my keys down on the table. I walked towards it and hit the button. “Hey CC! Great game, I watched it with Marty… he said to tell you that you played awesome. Give me a shout whenever you get in.” I smiled as Mattie’s voice filled the room.
He really was incredible; there was no hint of animosity or bitterness in his voice at all as he spoke. I knew I wouldn't be as accepting as he was.
I hit the speaker button and dialed his number; letting the phone ring as I walked around the kitchen, making some food. “Hey!” He exclaimed excitedly after only 2 rings.
“Geesh, sitting on the phone much babe?”
“Just waiting for you. Feeling good about that one?”
He was eager, as always, to hear about the game, the team, the way the ice played. It was good to talk to him; he was better than re-watching the game on a tape. He pulled out the good and the bad, gave suggestions, and talked plays out with me.
I told him about what Mario had said to me after the game, and we analyzed what it could mean, from every possible angle; before saying goodnight.
I fell down onto my bed and sighed. Trying to fall asleep quickly, before I allowed any bad thoughts to pour out.
My body was exhausted, but my mind was wired. I was awake for so long, that I could hear the boys coming into the house. I rolled over and watched the door, as two shadows passed by my door; another stopping just outside. I smiled slightly as I watched my wonderful distraction push the door open.
Connor James gave me a smile as he closed to door behind him. “Room for one more?” He asked softly as he crossed the room, not waiting for a response as he pulled off his shirt and climbed in behind me.
I wasn’t in love with him, and he wasn’t in love with me. Anything I did with James, was under a strict ‘no strings’ condition. With were friends and team-mates, who also just happened to be each others distraction.
His girlfriend of four years had broken up with him the summer before; and I spent my free time trying to remind myself why I needed to stay away from Geno and Mattie - in the relationship sense anyway.
We were the perfect match of abandonment and destruction, and for right now... that's all I could allow myself to have.
I hung up the phone with Carlie and called Marty back into the living room. He flopped down on the couch and we continued our game of Halo. He didn’t ask me how the conversation had gone; because we both knew what I’d say - the same thing I said every night.
Things had changed so much in the past 6 months. From the accident, to the draft, to my friends moving away…
Sure Carlie was only an hour away but; it would never be the same… I would never be the same.
I tried to push the thought out of my mind but I couldn’t. I hated this; what I had become mentally, emotionally, physically.
As far as the guys said; Carlie was single now… which was good. It meant that she still loved me. I, unfortunately, knew better. Carlie was single because she wanted to be single… because she couldn’t make up her mind. Maybe she had made up her mind, and she just didn’t want to tell me.
The only reason she wasn’t with him, as far as I could tell; was because she felt guilty about me every time she thought about him. She wasn’t with me because… well… who would want me now?
Carlie could have anyone. She was going to play in the NHL; and even without that she had guys tripping over themselves to get to her. She could date NHLers for crying out loud. So why me?
I was suppose to play in the NHL too; I was suppose to have a normal life, a normal existence - and now what?
Now I’ve got nothing to offer. Mediocre at school, mediocre at life. The only thing I was ever good at was hockey… and I would never play it again.
No, I didn’t hold it against Carlie, I didn’t hold it against anyone. All my friends deserved to be where they are in life now… I just wished that I could be with them.
Carlie was on the up-and-up. She was worried, scared, confused; but she was heading in the right direction; even if she didn’t realize it.
I was done. Why would someone want me? A stupid, faulty, good-for-nothing paraplegic.