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COMMENTS

13.05.2018 / ~ Troy Hurtubise /
Six on Six for Sixty Midnight fell over the base of the mountain with a full moon rising as a north wind sent pocketed gusts of rage straight down the throat of the narrow valley that held the cold thermals to a dead south direction. A forlorn, high pitch scream sistered the wind as it ripped through the thick stands of Jack Pine lining the west and east sides of the open valley sending staggered veils of snow from the needled branches out over the exposed ice that swallowed it whole. An alien stillness held the players upon the rink of black ice complete, the call of nature utterly quiet. Seconds bled like years into yesterday until the howl of a wolf ricochet off the mountain walls and hard rubber kissed ice, wood and carbon fibre. Six on six for sixty began, its first breath giving life to the greatest game of hockey ever to be played within the sports history with victory holding consequence over millions. The rink was NHL regulation in size, its black ice surface sweet smooth with an exactness to detail for the games zone lines, face-off circles, dots and goal creases that shone a mirror blue with a puck of gloss white. Precise were the boards and glass in height and though neither obstacle could be seen - well could they be felt however, when impact with player or puck was made. Pure moonlight, radiant in its cause of purpose lit up the two hundred feet of ice alone, outside the zone of play - obstinate darkness. The greatest players of all time - playing out of time. “Bobby!” Shouted, Gretzky who broke hard for centre ice, the Rocket on the, Great Ones right wing, Lemieux on his left. Three abreast comin hard to centre. Orr released the pass over black ice with a stick-to-stick precision that belied explanation as white rubber threaded its way through a maze of blades and sticks finding Gretzky’s tape. Crosby held, Orr’s stride dead even as the Kid stationed his defence partner as though born to the position itself. Roy to net, found his skates again as the tall man came back up from the butterfly to a relaxed stance, his goal stick sweeping left and right as it tapped hard iron with a superstitious thank you. 99 found, Lemieux who was full out two strides ahead of him and eight feet to his left a stick length from the opposing teams blue-line with a float pass that just cleared Jagr’s stick. 66 crossed the line and found the, Rocket before he met a wall of Russian defence that put the big man on his ass. The, Rocket timed his shot with practiced ease and the puck found cold air at speed. Rubber met the leather of Tretiak’s glove and a whistle cut the night air for a face-off to the goalkeepers left in the circle of blue paint. Period one, 1:37 of play with no line changes to come. There needn’t be, for this was six men against six men for sixty minutes of play within a plain of existence not of the world of Man. Of the twelve players to ice, none knew why or how they’d arrived at this place of unknown origins save for the fact, that each man was acutely aware of this singular games importance. Fear did not shadow the games elite players, rather - an inner calling that seemed to beg them to play their greatest game, to push beyond the threshold of one hundred percent .... to bleed for Eternity’s sake alone. “Let’s drop some rubber, boys. Enough with the small talk - let’s play hockey,” voiced, Scapinello the linesman half bent forward anxious to drop the puck to the face-off dot. “Keep it clean, gentleman - I’d hate to bounce ya from the circle for another,” finished, Scampy, his nickname by all players. He was alone upon the black ice, a single officiator for this game of providence who had been gifted with supernatural sight enabling him to see every moment of play from every angle. A single Referee was thought to allow more open ice for play and Ray Scapinello was the best. His famed career had seen him call four hundred plus Stanley Cup Playoff games, the best of the best as voted by the games players, coaches and hockey pundits. Scapinello had an innate feel for the games nuance and rhythm. Mario Lemieux set his stance low, skates wide and body tense - coiled for release. Alex Ovechkin squared off against the games most gifted natural talent ever. Two opposing giants with hands of velvet. Lemieux replayed the pucks fall and the play to follow within his minds-eye, slowly and with acute exactness. Magic Mario had attempted the near impossible move only once in his storied career. It had found success then and was never gifted to chance again by himself or another. Something far away whispered to the big man, that now was the moment for a repeat of the impossible. The puck found air and time itself appeared to slow for, Lemieux, his honed mind already anticipating the exact moment his stick blade would make contact with the puck to ice. It’s what confronted his left side peripheral vision however, that made the move approach legend status. Valeri Vasiliev, Russia’s greatest defence-man, an eight time Soviet all-star, with two Olympic Golds and eight World Titles backing his stance, was in position a mere foot off, Tretiak’s angle to goal. Only, Vasiliev’s stick blade could be seen blocking the pucks chances of making it on goal. 66 took note and adjusted his shot to follow. He would use the defence-mans stick as a blind, his target of entry to the back of the net - Tretiak’s left stick side, two feet off the ice with only a five inch pocket of open space. The shot of shots. Wood met cold rubber and a fifty mile an hour snap shot cleared, Vasiliev’s blade finding five inches of open net before, Tretiak even moved. The red light cut the sheen of the moon and 66 pumped his fist to open air. Ovechkin stood stupid not knowing what the hell just happened with both, Tretiak and Vasiliev following suit. The impossible shot. 1-0 for Team Blue. A queer, unrecognizable sound drifted over the valley, as though a hundred million voices in cheer intermingled with the slapping of wings lost its cadence to distant echoes unheard by the players to the game, but alive with hope - expectation. The, Rocket, Orr, Crosby and Gretzky swarmed, 66 and Scapinello blew his whistle signalling a face-off to centre ice. “Best shot I’ve ever seen, Mar,” complimented, Scapinello patting, Lemieux on the back. “Bet ya a years pay you couldn’t make the shot again.” “You’d lose, Scampy,” returned, Mario with a half smile as he made his way to centre ice. He knew he’d made that exact play before, yet, the memory was faded - unable to be recalled fully to memory. “Damn, but I swear someone else made me a similar bet,” whispered, Lemieux under his breath. “Sweet shot, Mar. Nice call to take the face-off,” said, Gretzky as he positioned himself to the face-off dot. Centres usually took the face-offs, but, 66 had asked for the opportunity. His right hand shot helped make the impossible a reality. “Easy, boys - settle it down,” warned, Scapinello to the oppositional wingers vying for ice space. “Let’s play,” and the puck kissed smooth ice. Malkin beat, Gretzky clean and the puck slid clear to, Pavel Bure holding defence with, Vasiliev. Though a natural right winger, Bure, like, Crosby was gifted to the role of a rushing defence-man if required. Both players were adept to playing two hundred feet of ice. “XOA! XOA!” Shouted, Vasiliev to, Bure in Russian. Scapinello knew it to mean - “MOVE! MOVE!” As he glided backwards awaiting the inevitable. “This should be good,” he whispered to himself with expectation. A finger of lightening cracked visible to black sky a mile out from the valley and Pavel Bure broke stride. There was no cleaner, faster stride of blade than the, Russian Rocket. Bure’s speed was deadly. What made him lethal, was his one on one skill. Few in the game of hockey could stop, Bure’s end to end rushes. His ability to skate through an entire teams defence was legendary. Within three full strides, the man was near airborne and coming up fast on, 66 to centre ice. “Bobby!” Screamed, Crosby as the Kid broke for, Orr’s right defence position. “He’s comin too fast, Bobby. Take em!” And Bobby Orr moved to intercept the incoming juggernaut. Though an able defence-man, Crosby was no fool. Something called to him of the importance of the game and he knew only one man to ever lace up skates could stop the, Russian Rocket in full flight - Bobby Orr. Number 4 was in position now, his mind in awe at how, Bure sidestepped, Lemieux like the big man was standing still and dumb. He’d cleared the blue-line at top speed, blood and oxygen pumping energy to thigh muscle that screamed for more speed .... the mind obliged and Bure found another gear. Full out, a blur now with the puck a step ahead of his stick and his eyes on, Patrick Roy. “Damn, the kids fast,” spoke, Orr to himself as he held to his patch of ice, his instinct for the game and his position heightened - adrenaline peaked. His move balanced on the edge of a razor, its timing without equal to any in the game. This was, Bobby Orr and no one sidestepped, Orr. No one. Bure cut to his left in full stride, Orr three feet the distance, front facing and at half stride as he quarter turned his upper body, shoulder forward and caught the, Russian Rocket mid-chest. Orr played the man, not the puck. His timing was flawless and Bure left the ice in a hurry and found hard board and glass five feet off to, Orrs left. Bure’s eyes on the way down to black ice stared stunned into, Orr’s who held the Russian for a heartbeat before turning to catch, Crosby pickup the loose puck. Orr’s stare had said it all. “My patch of ice, Mister.” Crosby found, 99 to centre ice with the, Rocket and Lemieux dead even at his sides. All three legends broke the enemy blue-line three abreast. Gretzky threaded a pass through, Vasiliev’s skates to find the, Rocket who faked a slap shot then smacked a hard pass to, Lemieux who ripped a wicked shot for, Tretiak’s blocker side. The famed goalkeeper deflected the puck with the very nob of his goal stick and hard rubber ricochet off the high glass to his left bouncing staggered just out of the reach of the, Rocket. Ovechkin corralled the bouncing puck and snapped it to, Jagr at centre who spun and flipped a pass over, Crosby’s stick to, Bure now at left centre having recovered from, Orr’s thunderous check. Bure hadn’t broke a full stride before he found black ice, face first by the stick of, Lemieux back-checking the Russian Rocket. A whistle cut cold air. “Tripping!” Called out, Scapinello who signaled the call with a snap of his hand. “Come on, Scampy! That’s a fuckin dive and you know it,” accused, Gretzky at a shout. “Really, Gretzk? Kinda hard not to call it when, Lemieux’s stick is still imbedded in, Bure’s skate now isn’t it?” Countered, Scapinello with a fictitious smile. “Calm yourself down before you have a heart attack, Gretzk. Face-off to, Roy’s left circle. Lemieux - your gone for two,” finished, Scapinello and 66 disappeared. Literally. Not a man to the ice thought, Lemieux’s disappearance out of the ordinary. Nor had any players thought it odd that every skater was twenty four years of age - Scapinello as well. The powers to be thought it best that each legend play the game at their highest peak of excellence - their core youth prime. Weariness of the rush did not befriend any player upon the black ice, their skill of game to be executed at the highest level for sixty full minutes, devoid of injury, tiredness or excuse of physical impediments. Rolling thunder without pause. “Look for me, Geno,” whispered, Ovechkin as he glided back to his wing position from atop the face-off circle. “Here we go, boys,” voiced, Scapinello as he half snapped the puck to ice. Malkin won the draw and the puck skipped to, Vasiliev who passed it to, Bure. The defensive pair played the puck to one an other allowing, Ovechkin, Jagr and Malkin to get set. Orr, Crosby, Gretzky and the, Rocket formed the box to, Roy’s front who watched the puck alone with deadpan focus. Malkin’s huge frame took up position just outside, Roys blue ice awaiting the shot. It was over in a breath exhaled. Bure passed off to, Jagr who played the puck on a string for long seconds gliding from side to side waiting for an opening for the cross-ice pass to the, Great Eight. He laid a crisp slap shot right through the, Rockets stick and skate and between, Gretzky and Orr to find, Ovechkin open and set for the shot. The distinct sound of a tree snapping under winters bite ripped through the air currents as Ovechkin hammered a hundred and two mile an hour slap shot past, Orr’s extended stick to find, Roys inside blocker arm and chest that tore through the closed space with force and found the back of the net. The red light shattered the moment complete with, Roy stunned and Orr pissed. Lemieux reappeared to centre ice. “That won’t happen again, eight,” swore, Orr under his breath. He’d never witnessed such a release, his mind calculating the pass across and Ovechkin’s wind up and distance needed to adequately block the shot on release. “One time only, eight .... just once,” affirmed, Orr to himself as he watched the Red Team celebrate the goal. “Didn’t even see it, Bobby,” spoke, Roy a few feet out from his crease. “I did, Patty. Won’t happen again,” replied, Orr who tapped, Roys pads with stick and moved to centre ice. “Get that son-of-a-bitch in the head and tomorrow ain’t comin, Patty,” half joked, Gretzky who passed, Roy bent over at a glide. “Ya fuckin think!” Countered, Roy dead serious. “Throw yourself in front of it next time, Gretzk!” Shouted, Roy to 99’s back. “They don’t pay me nearly enough for that shit, ya crazy fuck,” uttered, Gretzky to himself. “Sorry bout that, guys. Didn’t mean to draw a damn penalty,” apologized, Lemieux as the big man huddled at centre ice with his line mates. “It’s done, don’t sweat it, Mar,” returned, Gretzky. “Fuckers lightning, I’d have done the same.” “Next time let him come to me, guys. Avoid the penalty - I’ve got his number,” put in, Orr in a matter of fact tone. “Ya, kinda saw that, Bobby. Think you could of put the poor bastard any deeper into the boards?” Voiced the, Rocket with a grin to hard features. “Tretiaks solid. His glove hand is flawless, but he’s a stand-up goalie and weak to the stick. Shoot low and make him work for the save,” advised, Lemieux staring down ice. “Hey, Sid -“ “Ok, ok. Let’s form up, men - this ain’t a social,” interrupted, Scapinello who followed with a quick whistle. “Halfway time to period one, boys. Let’s play some hockey.” Crosby looked high to the low moon and spied the time held bold and black to its white surface. [10:08] - [Period One] - [Blue 1 | Red 1] The puck dropped and Orr took possession. “Sit back, Bure and watch how an end to end rush is really done,” spoke, Roy fanning the ice with his goal stick. A hallow quiet seemed to hold the moment lazy as Orr felt the rhythm of the game, his mind taking in the eb-an-flow. The steady breathing of the players, the cut of blade on ice and the positioning of the opposing players. Massive thighs began to spasm and Orr hit his top speed in a mere two strides spent. “Comin to you, Rocket,” voiced, Orr as he blew past, Richard. It wasn’t, Orr’s speed that caught the eye, it was his pure grace of stride - easy, effortless and without flaw. Number 4 swung wide round, Ovechkin a half foot off the boards that weren’t visible to sight, but ever present. He’d already checked their distance from his earlier hit on, Bure. As he came in behind the, Great Eight, Vasiliev was up next catching only a whirlwind of blue jersey as Orr did a one-eighty and bypassed The Russian all together with every eye of Team Red on him alone now. It’s what he wanted as he slid a no-look pass behind him to the awaiting slap shot of, Rocket Richard just now breaking the blue-line with speed. The shot beat, Tretiak clean but rang iron as the puck shot out to, Crosby after deflecting hard off the boards. The, Kid opened up with a laser to the stick side top corner but the Russian net-minder was quicker with a ten-bell save from his blocker. The rebound found, Bure who back passed it up to, Malkin who broke for centre full out. “Trailer! Trailer!” Shouted, Roy, his goal stick thrust forward and shaking in the direction of, Pavel Bure fifteen feet behind, Malkins lead. It didn’t matter, Crosby was already there on the back-check. A slick stick reached deep with, Crosby in a full out dive to black ice knocking the puck clear of the Russian sniper who was forced to jump the prone body underneath him. The, Kid was back up on his skates and able to deflect, Malkins pass out to, Bure who cursed aloud but followed with a smile as he watched, Jagr wind up for a shot on net. Roy kicked out a left pad from the butterfly and the puck went back out to, Malkin who shot a cross-ice pass over to, Ovechkin who faked a wrist shot due to, Orrs presence and found, Jagr again who unloaded on, Roys high glove side. The hundred mile an hour shot found leather through a split save for the ages and a whistle cut cold air. Ovechkin glided past, Roy the, Great Eight bent over with his weight on his stick to knees. “Lucky bastard.” Roy simply winked - the gesture said it all. “Damn, the Kids faster than he looks,” said, Orr of, Crosby’s back-check. “See the fuckin thighs on the man? Goddamn tree trunks!” Returned, Gretzky without missing a beat. “Nice back-check, Sid,” complimented, Roy with a stick slap to, Crosby’s behind. “Thought he had me there for a second,” replied, Crosby who lined up for the face-off to, Roys left. “Let’s drop rubber, ladies. Fastest glove-hand I’ve ever seen, Patty. Don’t let it go to that swelled head,” said, Scapinello who dropped the puck to the blue dot. Malkin won the draw back to, Bure who tore a shot high to, Roys upper chest. The puck fell limp to ice and Roy went to clear it to the side boards but his grip slipped and the puck went high. A whistle blew. “Delay! Scampy. Delay!” Screamed, Ovechkin pointing a gloved hand high to his right. “I’m not blind, Ovechkin - I can see,” returned, Scapinello with a call for delay of game. “FUCK! FUCK ME!” Cursed, Roy, his back turned as he leaned hard on his crossbar. “Pick a player to sit the two, Gretzk. It’s your call, cap,” ordered, Scapinello. “I’ll sit it out,” answered, 99. “Hell, I’m lousy at blocking shots anyway,” the, Great One disappeared. “Bobby,” whispered, Roy in close now to, Orr. “Watch that son-of-a-bitch. I can’t see the fuckin shot comin off his stick.” “I got your back, Patty. Mind your blue ice, the black is mine,” replied, Orr. “Tight box, boys,” voiced, Lemieux who turned back to face, Jagr for the face-off. White rubber met black ice with the puck bouncing between, Scapinello’s skates and finding the boards. Lemieux battled, Jagr in close with, Crosby, Orr and the, Rocket holding to a three man triangle to, Roys front. Jagr got the better of the big man and as the Czech wonder turned to break fast from the boards - Lemieux’s stick came up high and blood found sweat. A whistle blew. “Blood! That’s a fuckin four!” Shouted, Ovechkin lost to near euphoria. “Fuck me, Ovy - you wanna play ref? Does it look like I need help on the call?” Returned, Scapinello with the call for high-sticking. “Sorry, Mar - you drew blood, big man .... that’s four.” Lemieux disappeared. Orr, wearing an A called for a timeout and Scapinello obliged. “Goddamnit. We’re in neck deep shit now,” said, Roy to the middle of blue jerseys. “Call it, Bobby. It’s your play,” voiced, Crosby with apprehension. “Damn, but we’re in tight, guys. It’s bad enough trying to fend off, Ovechkins howitzer - but,” Orr turned to spy, Bure. “it’s another thing all together when it comes to, Bure’s speed and moves. Are only defence is a lock tight three man triangle. Don’t allow them to coax you out of position. Let them dance all fucking day long with the puck if that’s their game. Get into the shooting lanes but by no means stick-block any incoming shots, Patty has enough to worry about just seeing the son-of-a-bitch, he doesn’t need deflections. So if you can’t block the shot properly - let, Patty do his job. We can do this, guys. Six minutes of hell - it’s ours - let’s eat it,” finished, Orr who tapped his stick to ice followed by, Roy, Crosby and the, Rocket. A whistle blew and Scapinello moved to the face-off circle to, Roys left side. “Let’s play this one out, boys. Watch your sticks and try not to get killed blocking shots, Blue,” the puck dropped and Crosby won the draw to the backboards with, Orr in on it first as a quick snap of the wrist sent it high and down ice. Vasiliev went back for the puck unaware that, Crosby was in full flight. The, Kid blew past the Russian and retrieved the puck with, Tretiak screaming loud in his Native tongue. “Can the man skate or what?” Voiced, Orr to the, Rocket on his right to centre. Both men watched the unbelievable unfold before them. Tretiak expected what all from Team Red had - Crosby to make a play. He didn’t. Like a dog with a bone, Crosby ragged the puck behind, Tretiak’s net with, Vasiliev a half stride behind. The, Kid was breathtaking as he held hard to the puck, his stance set low, his massive thighs and hard ass like an impenetrable wall to any trying to take his prize. Seconds fell to a minute and still, Crosby held possession of the puck, dragging it out from behind the net, right side out for a fifteen foot skate then back behind the net again and left side out for another fifteen feet of ice. Tretiak screaming bloody murder in Russian with, Bure now in pursuit to aid, Vasiliev. “My, God! The mans incredible,” uttered, Orr soft and low to cold air, his mind stunned by the exhibition of raw tenacity and lower body strength to blade being displayed within thirty feet of waring ice. “Never seen power like that,” put in, Richard. “Look at his angle of blade. Jesus, I’d break both my ankles if I tried that shit.” “Hold em, Kid! Fuck em all!” Screamed, Roy smashing his goal stick to ice repeatedly. “Goddamn but that man can skate.” A full minute and eighteen seconds passed before, Crosby lifted a backhand pass the length of the ice to, Orr. With a quiet demeanour, he eased his stride up ice with the echoes of Russian curse words bouncing from, Ovechkin to, Tretiak and back to, Vasiliev. Bure was too damned awed to complain. “Finest display of puck control I’ve ever witnessed, Kid. My fuckin minds gonna explode,” offered up, Scapinello who stationed his stride along, Crosby’s. “Ice that fucker, Bobby!” Shouted, Roy. “Less ya wanna go for a skate like the, Kid?” “Not likely,” replied, Orr who flipped the puck high down ice. “Craziest shit I’ve ever seen, Sid,” said, Orr to Crosby who came up on his left with a grin that could not be contained. “Thought I’d kill some time,” returned, Crosby. “Here they come!” Shouted, Richard set to stance at the tip of the three man triangle. “Hold the wall! Goddamnit. Hold the wall!” Warned, Roy at a shout as a line of five red jerseys broke the blue-line, five abreast with speed. The first shot came in low and fluttered off the stick of, Malkin. Roy to the butterfly, kicked out a left pad and the rebound found, Bure who immediately slowed things down - the, Russian four and a lone Czech circling like sharks in bloody waters. A hard pass made its way to, Ovechkin cross ice and Roys right pad kicked out another rebound from a bullet shot. Vasiliev lowered the boom on a third shot from the point that just caught, Roys skate toe sending the puck low to the corner. Vasiliev slammed his stick to ice, angered over, Roys butterfly style that seemed imperviousness to low ice shots. The Russian had not seen the style before. 99 appeared to centre ice and found the zone of play with two quick strides. The three man triangle evolved to the four man box and now, Lemieux’s four minute high-stick counted down. “Nice! Way to hold the fort, guys,” voiced, Gretzky who looked high to the moon for the score in his absence. “Did I miss much?” “You wouldn’t believe me if I told ya, Gretzk,” answered, Orr as he tightened his corner of the box. “Watch the passing lanes, guys. Force them to shoot from the point.” “Can’t feel my fucking toes!” Hollered, Roy back up standing from the butterfly. “I’ll rub them soft like, come intermission, Patty,” said, Gretzky with a smile. “Fuck you, Gretzk,” countered, Roy. “Could be worse, Patty. Mighta been your nuts!” Returned, 99. “Their loadin up again, boys. Watch your corners and lanes,” warned the, Rocket. “Somebody get this Russian wall in front of me outa my Goddamn field of vision. I’m fuckin blind here!” Said, Roy as he went low to the butterfly for a better look outside the box. “It’s, Bure’s shot! Watch your sticks,” shouted, Crosby as the, Russian Rocket let one fly just inside the blue-line. The puck had eyes as it bypassed sticks, wormed it’s way under, Malkin’s left arm and over top, Roys shoulder to find the back of the net. Red light cut into white and the whistle blew. The absence of distant cheers and wings slapping was evident to the stillness of the valley. “Goddamnit! Fuck. I can’t see shit past this fuckin Russian,” cursed, Roy as he went for a short skate to clear his head. “Easy, Patty, if we can hold the bastards to just one goal in the six minutes we’re doin good,” put in, Gretzky who checked the clock for the penalty time remaining. “A minute twenty to go.” “Suck it up, guys - we can’t let in another,” said, Crosby moving up to the blue-line for the face-off. “Come on, Patty - get mean and close that fuckin door.” “Keep the fuckin big Russian off my doorstep then! Fuck. All I can see is ass!” Returned, Roy now back in his crease and set to stance awaiting the next wave of red. “Simmer down, boys. Let’s not loose our minds - it’s just a game,” said, Scapinello ready to drop the puck. Team Blue knew different however, an inner voice warning them of the consequences to follow defeat. “Fuck you, Scampy! You try smellin Russian ass for a while - see how you like it,” hollered, Roy. “That’s why I wear the stripes, Patty. No Russian ass for me,” replied, Scapinello who dropped the puck at centre ice. Gretzky won the draw and the puck found, Orr who flipped it high down ice. The, Rocket and 99 held centre ice while, Orr and Crosby retreated to a defensive position. “Force them to shoot it in. We’ll kill the clock in the corners,” voiced, Orr as the red wave came up ice at speed. “Now! Move up, Sid - force the shoot in,” said, Orr as he broke stride for centre ice. Malkin sent a wicked shot to the corner and Roy left his net to play the puck. Few goalkeepers handled the puck as well as Roy who found, Richard with a long crisp pass to right wing. The, Rocket was gone blowing past, Ovechkin as he hugged the boards and hurdled the Russian sniper finding open ice. Vasiliev was a mere stride behind, Richard but could not know of the raw fury to the Frenchman’s eyes. It was, Richards viscous will that set him apart from all others to the game. His eyes were terrifying and Tretiak looked deep to their heart as the, Rocket bore down on him. He was putting the puck in the net and the, Devil be damned. Tretiak played the shooter perfectly as he set himself low to stance and to the top of his crease - the angle for a straight shot cut down to a fraction. The, Rocket had other ideas as he swept left drawing, Tretiak to open up his pads then tucked a sweet soft tap-in between the Russians legs. The red light found life, the whistle blew and wingbeats sistered cheers out over the dark valley. “Short-handed and fuck you too,” spoke, Gretzky to himself as he made his way to, Richard with the others in celebration. “For fuck sakes, guys - it’s, Patrick Roy,” warned, Ovechkin to the gaggle of red shirts now at centre, his eyes holding, Malkin however. “You can’t shoot the fuckin puck in on, Roy - the man can handle the puck as good as a player. Think, Goddamnit! It’s our power-play .... not theirs.” “Can your eyes get any meaner, Richard? Hate to meet you in a fuckin dark alley,” quipped, Scapinello who set his stance for the face-off at centre. “Twenty eight seconds left on, Lemieux’s double-minor, boys. Add two more seconds to that and period one is yesterday. Let’s finish the first up clean. Here we go,” announced, Scampy as he released the puck from hand to black ice. Gretzky won the draw back to, Crosby who played tick-tack-toe with, Orr who slid a soft pass to, Roy who shot the puck the length of the ice. Lemieux appeared at centre, breathed once and the buzzer sounded signalling the end of period one. “Let’s change ends, boys. Keep the skate-by civil, lads - there’s still a whole lotta hockey yet to be played,” cautioned, Scapinello who glided to centre for the face-off as both teams crossed his left and right sides on their way to new territory. An ancient wind, alive in memory and purpose swept over the two hundred feet of black ice and in its passing - left the surface gloss-clean without blemish. A silence, wanting in its veil of hidden fears and protracted indifference walled the opposing players as they drifted by one another in single file at an easy glide, each players eyes holding to a long standing enemy, yet, their minds unable to bring to bear the reasons why. Atop the high mountain shrouded by a curtain of snowfall and quiet to voice, sat the two architects of the game below - both infinite Epochs resting nervous upon twin thrones of hard granite woven from the core of the great mountain. Their immeasurable minds of age and knowledge acutely aware of the games consequences following a victory or defeat to either supreme entity. A hundred million voices twined to a sea of wings stayed their voice upon a two-two tie unsure of the games final outcome and the trials of soul to follow a loss to Team Blue. Hard rubber found cold ice and six on six for sixty picked up the rhythm of the game. Malkin won the draw back to, Vasiliev who was mindful to flip a half-pass up to, Ovechkin breaking down the left wing boards fighting for position on, Orr. Number 4 snuck a pass out to the, Rocket from between his skates with, Richard finding, Roy calling for the pass. Few goalkeepers had the nerve to enter open play but, Roy was a special breed of net-minder who believed a sixth man to the game was an edge without equal and thus practiced the skill of puck handling on a religious level. Three Conn Smythe wins backed his play. “Patty!” Shouted, Gretzky already two full strides ahead of, Vasiliev just breaking centre ice. Roys open ice pass was clean and stick-to-stick. 99 was alone and Tretiak tensed to position on the incoming shooter. No one read the game better than the, Great One. No one. Gretzky’s mind operated on a sixth sense level knowing where every player to both sides were without looking. His ability to judge distances and the lay of the ice was terrifying. In full stride now and exactly thirty four feet from, Tretiak’s crease position, Gretzky knew, Vasiliev’s speed was greater than his and would overtake him within another fifteen feet of ice gained, thus a deke on, Tretiak was moot. 99 broke right and at seven feet to his new position of ice forced the Russian net-minder to a less comfortable angle on his net. He had but a half stride on, Vasiliev now and chose his move within a heartbeat. He judged the distance to the net to be twenty two feet, his only opening, a two inch wide, half foot strip of top corner, glove side. The shot could not be made, puck-flat. Gretzky compensated on the fly flipping the puck on edge before winding up for the one in a million chance. Though his slap shot was moderate to power - none to the games history had a more accurate one. 99 could light a match head at forty feet full out on the fly. The shot came with a sharp crack as wood bit ice and hard rubber sending the bullet high at ninety miles an hour for the top corner, puck-end up, as it snuck through the two inch opening and found loose netting. The red light smiled with moonlight, a whistle cut frigid air and voice melded with wingbeats out across the dark valley in applause. Newfound hope. Gretzky was swarmed by his teammates lost in the moment, Roy screaming bloody joy while smashing his goal-stick to ice. Tretiak stood studying the opening he’d left the shooter still dismayed that any puck could have beat his position of play. “I could practice that shot for a lifetime and never once find the sweet spot,” said, Bure to, Ovechkin as the Russian snipers skated to blue ice. “I’d bet my life it was bullshit luck - but even I’m not that brave,” replied, Ovechkin still stunned to mind over the slap shot. “Anyone but you, Gretzk - and I’d call bullshit,” voiced, Scapinello making his way to the centre ice circle. “Betcha no one but, Tretiak saw ya flip the puck edge up before taking the shot. Fuck me, Gretzk, do you even know how good you are?” “My dad always said - no shots impossible if you see it, Scampy,” answered, Gretzky with a smile. “Might be, Gretzk - but ya have to see the Goddamn shot first!” Countered, Scapinello. “Ok, Red, shake that fucker from your minds and let’s get back at it. 3-2 for Blue and here we go again,” Scampy laid the puck to black ice with a quick snap of his wrist and wood battled carbon fibre for possession. Carbon fibre won the draw and Malkin fed, Bure on defence who flipped the puck high over, Lemieux’s head to the corner were, Crosby fought, Jagr for control of six ounces of vulcanized rubber. Roy screamed out to the, Kid of the incoming giant to, Crosby’s back as Malkin entered the fray. Big, Lemieux obliged the scrum and sticks, muscle, will and skill battled for slow seconds to, Roys left side crease as Scapinello watched the on ice battle with a keen eye. “Off the glass high, Sid!” Hollered, Orr protecting, Roys crease against, Ovechkin waiting for the puck to find his stick. Crosby sent the puck high off the glass but, Bure jumped up with an outstretched hand to bat it down onside and then sent a quick pass over to, Vasiliev who rifled a low shot stick side on, Roy who kicked it out from the butterfly with a pad. Orr, anticipating the rebound was already on the puck in the corner as he scanned the ice for an open man. “Goddamnit, Vasiliev! High! Shoot high! You can’t beat the son-of-a-bitch low to the butterfly. He invented the fucking position!” Screamed, Ovechkin breaking hard back up ice a half stride behind, Orr who found the, Rocket with a snap pass. Richard broke centre ice with, Gretzky, Lemieux and Crosby. Four abreast and coming fast on, Tretiak who had but, Vasiliev and Bure back. 99 found his office behind the net and the play slowed to an even rhythm as Team Blue found position on, Tretiak while Team Red held to their man save for one - Gretzky. Vasiliev, to, Tretiak’s front left side motioned to advance on, Gretzky when, Ovechkin’s shrill scream held the Russian to a standstill. “Fuck! Are you mad? He’ll bleed you dry, Vasey,” voiced, Ovechkin holding position with, Richard just outside the blue paint of, Tretiak’s crease. “Just hold to the post and cut off his passing lane. Christ, man - it’s called his office for a fucking reason.” Every player to Team Blue was positionally covered, both, Tretiak’s left and right posts walled by Russians, the point men too far for the long pass and slap shot to follow. Gretzky breathed cold air, his mind balanced, his eyes taking in every player as he played the puck side to side without sight. Like a high end computer, 99 broke down the stats of each player to his side, their pros and cons, the distance of open ice to, Tretiak’s top crease and the height and elapsed time of the puck in free-fall. All within the span of a breath exhaled. Crosby was his man, an inconspicuous nod affirming his choice while the puck went high overtop the net, three feet out from the blue paint. It seemed to hover as though awaiting its deliverance before centring itself just under crossbar height for, Crosby to bat into the stick side high corner. The, Kid had moved in from the blue line at speed without notice, his eye-hand coordination ugly good and the red light bit deep into moonlight once again. The valley echoed with voice and wing and a whistle called for centre ice as Scapinello awaited the legends to assemble. Blue seemed to float atop the black ice - Red cut the mirrored glass with deep laboured strides. Scampy knew different however, he’d reffed too many big games to be fooled by a mere two goal lead with half a game still to be played and skilled elite pissed and hungry to even the score. The game of hockey was constant and unforgiving in its balance and predisposition to surprise. “Enjoy the moment, boys .... it’s fleeting and smiles from two faces,” whispered, Scapinello to himself as he leaned into the draw. “Hey, Kid - if you get bored of hockey, there’s always baseball,” he joked before dropping the puck. Malkin beat the draw clean and the puck found, Bure already to stride. The, Russian Rocket left, Lemieux standing still and moved against, Crosby who wasn’t sure what the hell, Bure was doing as he skated straight for him. Vasiliev was open just inside the blue line, straight centred to the net and that’s where the puck found him as his slap shot went high to, Roys glove side with big, Malkin blinding, St. Patrick completely. The puck was in the net with, Roy still to the butterfly unaware the red light had even sistered white. The set-play was a masterpiece of misdirection. A whistle sounded carrying out over a quiet valley. “Fuck ya! Goddamnit! Told ya to shoot high, Vasy,” exclaimed, Ovechkin with a raw fury to his eyes. “Sweet blind pass, Bur - fuck yes!” “Whata play! Nice call, Ovy,” congratulated, Malkin to the huddle of red jerseys. “Like I said - she smiles from two faces, boys,” said, Scampy to himself floating back to centre ice. “What the hell was that, Bobby?” Asked a bewildered, Lemieux as the big man came up along side number 4. “Fuck! I’m blind to everything outside my crease with that Goddamn Russian wall in front of me. Come on, guys! Keep him outa my line of sight or fuckin warn me of the shot comin in,” roared, Roy from his crease. “Fuck! This is gettin old, guys.” “It was a set play, Mar. Damn, we’ve gotta find a way to shut down, Bure’s speed of rush - he’s gonna kill us,” returned, Orr as Lemieux found left wing centre. “How bout we cross over, Bobby?” Suggested, Crosby across ice to, Orr. “Won’t make a difference, Sid - they’ll just switch, Bure to left side defence,” replied, Orr setting himself for the face-off. “Buckle up, boys - cause save percentage is goin out the window,” voiced, Scapinello with the drop of the puck. It was déjà-vu following the draw and Lemieux bit hard with a blatant trip on, Bure who had already beat the big man stupid. An arm went up and a whistle broke to sound as 66 disappeared leaving Team Blue silent and numb. “What? No pre-call, Ovy?” Put in, Scapinello with a grin as he made for, Roys left side face-off circle. “You the man, Scampy - just paying my respects,” countered, Ovechkin with an open smile as he set himself to position with a heads-up to his teammates. The, Great Eight had a pocket full of set-plays in the making and a newfound skip to his stride of blade. “Call the shot, Bobby! You gotta be my eyes when that Russian tanks on my doorstep,” pleaded, Roy angling his crease. “I hear ya, Patty. Watch, Bure’s cross passes, Sid and let’s keep the box tight but aggressive to the shooter, boys,” finished, Orr now set to position. “Gonna go hoarse, Patty with all that screaming,” jibed, Scapinello who snapped his wrist and the puck slapped ice. “Fuck you, Scampy!” Shouted, Roy as he watched, Malkin win the draw back to, Bure. “Son-of-a-bitch!” Cursed, Roy to himself seeing the Russian wall glide over to the front of his goal crease. The Russian four with, Jagr as the counterweight put on a clinic of precision passing that left the mind in awe and dizzied at the same time - the Canadians four man box unable to break the flow with a lucky stick. Roy, low to the butterfly was blind to the play and stepped into stupidity as he laid a two handed chop to, Malkin’s back calf’s with his goal-stick. The huge Russian went down and Scapinello’s arm went up with a whistle following a breath later. “That’s two for slashing, Patty. Pick your poison, Gretzk,” called out, Scapinello stunned inwardly over, Roys blatant stupidity. “I’ll sit it, Cap,” voiced, Richard who disappeared. With no timeouts to lend Team Blue a reprieve, Gretzky moved in quick to, Roys blue paint with hell shadowing his mindset. “Goddamnit, Patty! This ain’t you - it’s Junior B bullshit. If you can’t stand to net like a pro .... then get the fuck out and we’ll play the ice with an empty net,” scolded, 99 who turned and skated for the face-off dot. A tangible silence fell over Team Blue as the puck found the point and Bure’s shot found, Malkin’s stick for the redirect. A forlorn whistle drifted out over the still valley with the low moon reading a 4 - 4 tie and Lemieux appearing to centre ice still down a man to his Team Blue. Red jerseys huddled in a raucous embrace to, Roys left, the warrior goalkeeper silent to blue ice as his front four lined up at centre embittered, but not broken. “She’s a wicked bitch, this game of hockey at times, boys - but if ya kiss her just right, she’ll not forget the gesture,” voiced, Scapinello in a low even tone as he awaited Team Red to take centre. Malkin skipped the puck between, Gretzky’s skates and then put the Great One on his ass as the big Russian rubbed shoulders with, 99 on his way by to open ice. The contact was clean and Scampy’s whistle stayed silent but not the fallen, Gretzky who tore a strip off, Scapinello from ice level. Orr moved to intercept, Malkin who feathered a crisp pass to, Ovechkin who had a straight line of open ice to, Roy but opted for the one-timer instead. The quick decision and even quicker release was dead-bang on as a hundred and four mile an hour slap shot beat, Roy clean to the blocker side sending Team Red over the edge of euphoria with a 5-4 lead and Team Blue to hell in a hurry. A whistle bled the valley of hope and Rocket Richard reappeared to centre ice stunned as the Frenchman held the moons laughter that belied explanation. Scapinello called for the face-off and both teams lined up for the draw when thunder rolled north of the valley and Patrick Roy skated to centre ice. Every man to blade stood confused, their full countenance on, Roy who cut ice at the centre line with a sharp stop, removed his goal mask and bore, Gretzky a wicked stare. Legends are borne from gut-hard brawn and defining moments - Roy cast the mold himself. Every game has a turning point, some .... have moments of legend. “No more. You wanna wall?” Roys hard stare, cold like winters grip, past even from, Gretzky to, Lemieux to, Crosby the, Rocket and Orr, then back to, Gretzky. “I’ll give you a Goddamn vault. No more,” and the tall man drifted backwards to his goal crease, winked once, replaced his mask and set his stance to play. High atop the mountain, an unfamiliar smile, millennium in its coming - found its place amidst a throne of stone. “Seems you pissed, Patty off, Gretzk,” said, Scapinello from the unnerving silence as he readied himself to drop the puck. “Good luck, Red in putting one past him now. Might be why he’s the only player to the games history that holds three Conn Smythe wins,” and the puck slapped black ice. 99 got beat again and Bure was already in zone Blue facing, Crosby. The Russian Rocket slid a pass to, Jagr filling in at the point who found, Ovechkin with a hard pass cross ice that left carbon fibre at speed but met worn leather as Roy got his blocker on the high shot with a split-save to be remembered. The rebound deflected back out to, Malkin in front of the net who got off a quick shot to, Roys five-hole before, Orr put the big Russian on his ass but, Roy was the better with an incredible stick save deflecting the puck back out to the point. Vasiliev stepped into his set shot and cold rubber left his stick just under a hundred miles an hour with, Malkin back up to his skates and screening the goalkeeper. The puck was labelled for the high left corner through a thick screen when, Roy came up out of the butterfly with a lethal glove hand to snag the puck a mere inch from crossing the goal line. The whistle blew for a face-off. “Pricks playin with us now,” spat, Ovechkin under his breath as he made for the blue circle. “Fucking incredible, Patty fuck me,” complimented, Crosby on his skate by the goal crease. “You ain’t seen shit, Kid,” returned, Roy setting himself for the drop of the puck. “Hey, Bobby!” Half shouted, Gretzky a few feet out from the face-off circle. “Ya, I know, Gretzk. Figured it out ten minutes ago. Your bein beat nine for ten on the face-offs and it’s killin us,” returned, Orr in a matter of fact tone. “Sid?” Questioned, Gretzky. “Kids ferocious on the dot,” replied, Orr. “Sid! Take the face-offs from here in,” hollered, 99 finding his new place on the ice. “Find me, Kid,” whispered, Gretzky as Crosby glided past him. “Already there, Gretzk,” confirmed, Crosby who bent low for the puck drop against, Malkin. “Lookin mean, Patty,” voiced, Scapinello who snapped the puck to ice. The, Kid beat, Malkin stupid and found, Gretzky who skated to the back of, Roys net. The, Great One eyed the low moon - fifty four seconds remaining to period two. He smiled inwardly knowing he’d need only fifty two as his mind drew a map to, Tretiak and his route to be taken. “You talk a big game, Gretzk, but I ain’t seen shit of late,” announced, Roy with his back to, 99. “It’s comin, Patty,” returned, Gretzky who caught, Malkin at his left approaching at speed. 99 flipped the puck through the giants skates to deflect off the back boards then sidestepped the Russian to retrieve the puck. He took a deep breath of cold air, centred his mind, aligned his sight - then broke stride. Everything went quiet, drawn out seconds called each smooth stride of, Gretzky’s forward momentum. His team jersey, it’s right side tail tucked into pants came to life as the powder blue sky and bright yellow sun logo rippled and flowed to front and back as though holographic - the numbers, 99, hard black and alive with warning. Gretzky’s position to ice was queer if not unorthodox, his centre of gravity too low, his stride elongated as though a water spider moving across a tempered surface. It misdirected his true speed and it cost the opposition on nearly every occasion in his career of legend. “Hit the fucker! Hit em!” Screamed, Ovechkin to, Bure having just watched, Gretzky sidestep, Jagr ugly. “Fuck!” Cursed, Bure aloud as, 99 left the Russian Rocket alone to black ice. “I’m tryin - Goddamnit! He’s there .... and then he ain’t!” Returned, Bure as he watched, Gretzky break for the blue line at the end boards confused. “Why the hell ain’t he moving on net?” Spoke, Bure to himself. Gretzky’s stick found blue paint with the puck exactly fifteen feet from, Tretiak’s right side to net. An absolute impossible angle for a shot on net. It was .... but this was, Gretzky. 99 motioned for a pass out front to, Lemieux with his eyes, drawing, Tretiak off his goal post a mere half foot. It was all, Gretzky needed. None, but, Crosby in the game of hockey could make such a shot, however, Gretzky had patented the shot long before the, Kid was ever born. It was, 99’s alone and he made it look easy as he let fly a quick snap shot high along the impossible angle that caught, Tretiak between the shoulder blades through the six inch gap and found black ice behind the goal line. The red light screamed through moon light, a buzzer sounded along with a whistle and voice with wingbeats rolled out over the dark valley. 5-5 shown on the scoreboard with a final period yet to be played. “Fifty two seconds. Sweet!” Voiced, Gretzky to himself as he braced for the incoming swarm of blue ecstatic with the goal and 5-5 tie. “Let’s switch ends, boys! Centre ice in thirty,” called out, Scapinello as he made his way to centre. “Nobody does it better, Gretzk,” said, Roy coming up on, 99 alone now to his new ice. “I get fuckin hard just watchin you dance.” “Let’s keep that to ourselves, Patty,” replied, Gretzky who tapped, Roys pads with stick and made for centre ice. “You ain’t bad either, Patty - fuckin wall in net you are when pissed.” “Just wanna say, boys,” Scapinello went quiet, his eyes sweeping the players before him to centre ice, a humbling half smile to face. “it’s been an honour sharing the ice with ya. Finest Goddamn game of skill I’ve ever witnessed .... Goddamn finest.” It started slow and easy at first, the echo drifting out over the valley, distinct, yet shallow - soft. Within seconds it picked up its rhythm and held the low valley complete. Sticks tapping ice - twelve sticks tapping ice in unison. Scampy was brought to tears as he leaned into the face-off circle, right hand shaking. “Your killin me, boys - but I love ya. Now let’s play hockey,” said, Scapinello and white rubber kissed black ice. Something different, unique in its desire for providence seemed to take over period three - a silent calling striving for excellence .... more. Each player gave more than they had, the hundred percent threshold shattered and left to lessor men, mere athletes. The end-to-end rushes were mind numbing in their simplicity of skill and accountability to excellence. By the eight minute mark, fifteen shots apiece had found both net-minders who had made saves not thought possible - near superhuman. Tretiak and Roy at their most brilliant, utterly magnificent. .... and still they came. From end to end and five abreast. “Sid!” Called, Gretzky who took the thirty foot aerial pass two feet to his front in full stride with, Lemieux at his left and only, Vasiliev between them and Tretiak. Vasiliev played the shooter relying on his goalie to make the save if he missed the cross-ice pass. This was, Gretzky, the Russian acutely aware of the mans elite skill set and he’d be damned to play him any other way. His back skating was flawless as he hedged left to, Gretzky’s angle of shot eliminating all possible avenues or opportunities but one, shoot long and covered or pass. 99 passed. The pass across was perfection, a half foot off the ice just clearing, Vasiliev’s extended stick as the Russian dove fully stretched out sliding backwards on his stomach towards the goal crease. Time slowed and the crack of wood on hard rubber split the cool air as the puck lifted high for the top right corner. Tretiak was better. The very tip of the goal sticks inside blade deflected the seventy mile an hour snap shot as Tretiak went into full splits to make the impossible save. The puck went high over the glass and a whistle blew the play dead. “One of the best saves I’ve ever seen, Trech,” complimented, Lemieux who tapped the goalie to pad. “That was mine and ya stole it,” the big man said as he turned for the blue dot. “You can miss your chance for havin kids makin a save like that,” said, Scapinello with a grin as he thrust the puck to ice. Crosby beat, Malkin clean with the puck finding, Gretzky who passed the, Kid on their way back to their rightful positions. Ovechkin screaming aloud to watch for the pass across and Tretiak shouting in Russian to watch his lanes. Orr took, Crosby’s long pass hard to stick and found the, Rocket who slammed a shot off the iron only to watch, Bure pick up the deflection and break hard for centre. The puck had taken a crazy bounce off the post that had left, Orr and Crosby standing flat footed as they pushed their strides full out trying now to catch, Bure and Ovechkin breaking with speed over centre on a two on nothing breakaway. Neither man could reach the play as both players to Team Red had too much distance of ice between them. Roy crouched low to the top of his crease and awaited the inevitable. “Lots a time, Bur. Tic-tac-toe and we’ll spread the bastard wide,” voiced, Ovechkin reading the play to follow. Roy pivoted left to face the shooter, but knew damn well the pass across was coming as he hedged his bet and moved a full foot back in his goal crease, his left skate blade dug deep to ice readying himself for the quick transition to his right which came as expected and then the gamble. Roy knew the percentage of the double pass from players when in a two man blind against a goalie. He gambled everything on, Ovechkin holding his shot to pass back to, Bure who was the real threat. He was dead right. Ovechkin drew him wide with the fake shot only to pass back to, Bure who had the open net. So it appeared. Roy was 6’5 on skates with long legs and had anticipated the double pass as his right leg compensated for the monumental push-off needed to give him that single extra foot of ice imperative for the split-save to work. Steel bit deep to black ice as the body overextended itself, crotch touching ice, left arm stretched full nearly popping the shoulder socket. Two more inches. Roy saw it - knew it. Two more inches of glove and he’d have it. The fingers relaxed their tension on leather and the goalie glove slid down the wrist. The puck slammed the inside top pocket of leather, the force enough to remove the glove altogether as it found air and then ice, sliding just outside the left goal post - puck intact. The whistle blew and awe enveloped two hundred feet of ice. Roy lay to his back - exhausted. Ovechkin broke his stick over the crossbar, Bure smashed his to glass and Orr near collapsed. Crosby glided in mind fucked. “You alright, Patty?” Asked, Orr with an extended hand. “I’m good, Bobby. Did it go in?” Returned, Roy from the seat of his pants. “Fuck no! Jesus, Patty - your killin us here,” put in, Crosby just now to blue paint. “Blew my catcher clean off, boys. Was scared it found the back of the net,” exclaimed, Roy who found his feet with, Orr’s help. “Goddamn, Patty - God Himself stood to watch that save!” Voiced, Gretzky who patted, Roys shoulder with the rest of Team Blue huddled stunned around, St. Patrick. “Here ya go, Patty,” offered, Scapinello who passed the goalie his missing glove. “I’ve called games in the thousands, Patty .... never seen a finer save. That one will pass through Eternity itself, ya crazy French bastard.” “Can’t go no better, Patty,” said, Lemieux who tapped leather and broke off for the face-off circle. “French pride, baby!” Voiced, Richard who stepped in to, Roy and kissed his forehead. “Goddamn vault, Rocket. I gave my word,” returned, Roy tapping, Richard on the rump. “Ok, boys - let’s drop some rubber,” said, Scampy set to the play. “Let it go, Ovy. A save like that can haunt a man,” advised, Scapinello who snapped the puck to ice. A wolf howled in the far distance, the moon showing - 5:18 left to play. The shots were forty seven apiece and the score, a 5-5 tie. The two Epochs atop the mountain clenched hard their stone armrests and the play opened up to black ice. Six on six for sixty drew to a close with both teams unable to solve the greatest goalkeepers to the game. It would take a miracle - a five man execution of pure poetry. It would come at the eighteen minute mark with a passing play for the ages. “Bobby!” Shouted, Lemieux breaking for centre ice with the, Rocket to his right, Gretzky the trailer and Crosby behind the blue line. Orr broke right centre and then snapped a no-look pass back to, Crosby breaking fast up the left wing bypassing everyone. The, Kid swung right past, Bure and found, Lemieux to the zone who put three more strides of ice behind him before finding, Gretzky as the trailer. 99 floated a pass over, Ovechkin’s stick to find the, Rocket at speed breaking right on, Tretiak’s angle to goal twenty feet the distance now. Richard faked a slap shot forcing, Vasiliev to his side as the Russian went down to block the shot that never came, it found, Gretzky instead who fired a misleading slap shot that hit, Lemieux’s angled stick for the deflection to, Tretiak’s blocker side five feet out from the blue paint. The puck found net and red light tore into the white of the moon. Five blue jerseys swarmed, Tretiak’s crease as the Russian net-minder went for a short skate with his teammates quiet and lost to themselves. Scapinello held centre ice awaiting the drop of the puck, but mindful of the goal scored and its importance. Roy held to his crease, quite himself. He knew the opposition would be coming hard now with under two minutes to play. He was locked in to the zone and for now, it’s where he needed to stay. There was no voice or sound of wings to the far valley - fear of the unexpected kept hope trapped within a sphere of stillness. A second call of the whistle sounded to centre ice with, Scapinello waiting. “Ok, boys - let’s finish this game.” Ovechkin glided over to, Scapinello, his stare even and holding a nervous reframe. “At the one minute mark, Scampy, we pull, Tretiak - win, lose or draw.” “Your call, Ovy .... consider it done. Now let’s do this, gentleman,” said, Scapinello who readied his stance, then snapped the puck hard to black ice. Crosby won the draw back to, Orr who retreated behind his net, his honed mind formulating a play up ice - calculating the odds to victory and the five on four to come. “We need your best, Bobby. Your best, you sweet son-of-a-bitch!” Voiced, Roy with his eyes still to the play. “I’ll give you more than that, Patty. You got my word on that. Your a vault, Patty - a fucking vault,” replied, Orr who broke stride to open ice. “Bobby!” Called out the, Rocket who took the pass clean and was gone. “Get it deep, Rocket! Keep em hemmed in their zone!” Hollered, Roy as he watched, Richard blow past, Ovechkin down the right wing. “Gretzk! I got it!” Screamed, Crosby who broke for the loose puck behind, Tretiak’s net with, Vasiliev coming hard to intercept, Richard’s dump in. “I’m there, Kid!” Answered, Gretzky who took up, Crosby’s defence position at the blue line. Crosby ragged the puck for long seconds to the end boards, Vasiliev and Malkin both in on the play trying to strip the, Kid of the puck. Crosby battled with ferocious intent, something warning him of the consequences of failure. With just over a minute remaining, Crosby fed, Gretzky with a back pass that left, 99’s stick with speed and found, Tretiak’s left pad that kicked out a huge rebound to, Ovechkin who turned on a dime and broke for centre ice. Bure and Jagr flanking him - three abreast and coming fast. Tretiak disappeared along with, Lemieux. Five on four now, the goalie pulled for the extra attacker to Team Red with forty eight seconds remaining. Eternity held its breath - eyes wide shut. “Extra man! Extra man!” Screamed, Roy smashing his goal-stick to ice. “Bleed Goddamnit! Bleed!” Announced, Roy to his teammates. They all knew well it’s meaning. Everything now. Blood, brawn and sacrifice - no matter what. Hold the line. At thirty seconds to play, every man was back to, Roys front in a tight box, Team Red positioned and in control of the puck. Red jerseys ablaze with lighting strikes amidst dark clouds, alive to a holographic image. “Eat the puck on any shot that comes in, boys. Hold the lanes at all cost,” warned, Richard, his eyes afire - dark relentless pockets of conviction. The passes came from all angles searching for a clear opening to the net. Jagr to, Ovechkin and then back to, Bure and Vasiliev on point. Malkin played the screen to, Roys outside crease. Ten seconds to play and Ovechkin called for the shot, stick set, body coiled for the release. “Watch that son-of-a-bitch, Orr! Goddamnit! Hold the shot!” Screamed, Roy from the butterfly stance trying in vain to read the play through, Malkin’s screen. Time yawned and the play went slow motion. The puck drifted in to, Ovechkin’s line of fire - sweet and settled. Carbon fibre flexed ugly and blade met rubber. The slap shot left the, Great Eights blade at a blistering hundred and five miles an hour - fifteen feet from, Roys open top corner, stick side. It had, St. Patrick beat clean. A familiar, distinct sound rang out over the pitch black valley. A recognizable sound that brought utter joy to goalkeepers - crushing pain to the shooter. Cold rubber kissing hard iron. A buzzer sounded awakening, Eternity and a hundred million lost souls and a hundred million, Angels let loose their voices that echoed long over the valley. Lost souls who’d won their freedom from utter darkness and Angels who would never have to know such despair. .... a hundred million, Angels singing. “That’s why we make love to the iron, Ovy. She’s a pretty bitch when she’s treated right,” voiced, Roy to, Ovechkin as he skated by to join his warriors in celebration. Thunder rumbled low to the valley and a lost wind swept the ice clean of all life. Simply a frozen pond now, lonely and snow covered. Atop the high mountain the forces that be vacated their thrones of stone, the winner of the bet, leaving behind a token of appreciation. Sitting still and inconspicuous to the very edge of the highest bluff of granite, was hard white rubber - its call to the low moon and silent valley a remembered nuance of six on six for sixty.

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