Christmas was on its way. Lovely glorious beautiful Christmas, around which the entire kid year revolved.
Nick Kemp, Kyle Schmidt, Chad Huttel and I were down at Stewart's Bikes and Sports, noses pressed against the glass, staring at their window displays. There it was, the holy grail of Christmas gifts: the Red Ryder one piece 200-shot Iron Range model hockey stick with multi-rib blade construction and a Kevlar-wrapped shaft. For weeks I had been scheming to get my mitts on one of these fearsome opponent-obliterating beauties. My fevered brain seethed with the effort of trying to come up with the infinitely subtle devices necessary to implant the indelibly into my coach's subconscious.
At practice, I struggled for just the right hockey stick hint. "Sharpie said he saw some grizzly bears near Grandma's Sports Garden!" Sandelin looked at me like I had walleye coming out of my ears. I quickly changed directions. "Coach, I bet you can't guess what I got you for Christmas?" Coach Rohlik asked me, "Jacky, what do you want for Christmas?" I don't know what came over me, or why I blurted it out despite all my subtle scheming, but I loudly proclaimed, "I want a Red Ryder one piece 200-shot Iron Range model hockey stick with multi-rib blade construction and a Kevlar-wrapped shaft." Coach Sandelin looked at me and shook his head. "You'll shoot your eye out!"
At class the next day, my professor announced we had to write a paper. I hated writing papers, but then I saw a golden opportunity. "The topic of the paper will be 'What I want for Christmas.'" A paper! Here was my chance. I knew when my professor read my eloquently crafted and devastatingly convincing paper outlining why I wanted and deserved the Red Ryder one piece 200-shot Iron Range model hockey stick with multi-rib blade construction and a Kevlar-wrapped shaft, how could she possibly resist giving me an A++++++++, which I could then show to Coach Sandelin, and then he would be powerless to deny me.
I went right from class to practice, so that I could get started on my paper right away. I thought of what I would write. "I want a Red Ryder one piece 200 shot iron range model hockey stick with multi-rib blade construction and a Kevlar-wrapped shaft." Hmm... what else?
As we were getting ready for practice, Coach came into the locker room waving a paper in the air, as excited as the day he won the Spencer Penrose award. "I won! I won! A major prize!" "What is it?" we all asked. "Well... well... I don't know! It could be anything! It... it could be a bowling alley!"
A few minutes later, a guy came into the locker room wheeling a large crate on a dolly. "Oooh, Fra-gee-lay. it must be Italian!" Coach exclaimed excitedly. "I think that says fragile," Gergen commented. He pried it open with a pocket knife and dug through the avalanche of packing peanuts to find... "A leg?" asked Coach Larson. "A leg!!!" Sandy exclaimed, clearly not bothered by its peculiarity. Then he dug a little bit deeper and pulled out the other piece. "This is a lamp!" It was indeed a lamp. The old man's eyes boggled.
"And I know where we're going to display it! In the corridor, right in front of one of the windows overlooking the arena!" He set it up and we all went outside to admire it, basking in the soft glow of electric sex in the window. Passerby looked puzzled, but Coach proudly announced to all of them, "It's a major award!" It could be seen up and down canal park, the symbol of the Coach's victory.
While we were all gathered out there, we saw a short and very cute looking girl walking up to the DECC, and we realized it was our beloved and revered blogger, Runninwiththedogs. Very few of us had ever seen her in person before, but of course everyone knows what she looks like. She stopped short when she saw us and tried to duck away, but not before she realized we had spotted her, and she let fly with "Oh fuuuuuuuuuuuuudge." But she didn't say fudge, she said the big one, the queen mother of swear words, the f dash dash dash word, and Sandy heard her. She had a look on her face like she knew she was dead. What would it be? The guillotine? Hanging? The chair? The rack? The Chinese water torture? Hmmph. Mere child's play compared to what surely awaited her. Sandy was on the phone to her grandfather in Florida within moments. "Do you know what RWD just said?" he asked, and then whispered something through the phone, and we could all hear the yelling as if Gramps had been on speaker. "Where did she hear that word?" Everyone had heard it 10 times a day from Coach Sandelin, who worked in profanity the way other artists worked in oils or clay. She must have panicked, because she blurted out what only could have been the first name that came to mind. "Donald!" "That's it," Coach shouted, "come with me, young lady!" and he marched her back inside.
I felt her pain. Over the years I got to be quite a connossieur of soap. Though my personal preference was for Irish Spring, I found that Ivory had a nice, piquant after-dinner flavor - heavy, but with a touch of mellow smoothness. Dial, on the other hand... YECCHH!
The next week in class, I anxiously awaited the return of our papers. "Overall, I was somewhat pleased with these papers, although some of you could really work on your spelling and grammar." She stopped by my desk and I could barely stand the excitement as I turned the cover page and saw... A C+? And she had written "You'll shoot your eye out?" Was there no end to the conspiracy of irrational prejudice against Red Ryder and his playmaker?
I knew I had only one last resort, so I headed up to Miller Hill Mall to see Santa. The line stretched all the way to Hibbing, and I was at the end of it. Finally, finally, I was next in line, and then there I was sitting on the big guy's lap. "What do you want for Christmas?" he asked me.
But my mind had gone blank. I tried to remember. I was blowing it! "How about a nice football?" he asked. I stuttered, "Uhhh... a football..." and then Santa said to his elf "Ok get him out of here," and they shoved me onto the big slide. Oh no! What was I doing? Wake up stupid! I grabbed onto the end of the slide.
"I want a Red Ryder one piece 200 shot iron range model hockey stick with multi-rib blade construction and a Kevlar-wrapped shaft." And then, horror of horrors, he uttered those dreadful words: "You'll shoot your eye out, kid!"
I knew there was no hope when I woke up Christmas morning. As the whole team opened up presents in their PJs, I saw nothing that would look like a Red Ryder one piece 200 shot iron range model hockey stick with multi-rib blade construction and a Kevlar-wrapped shaft. Instead, I had gotten a horrible gift from Mrs. Ciskie that everyone insisted I try on, and since I was a freshman, I had to comply.
Andrew Carroll yelled at me from the other room, "Show everyone what Mrs. Ciskie made you!" Bruce's wife labored under the delusion that I was not only four years old, but also a girl. Immediately my feet began to sweat as those two fluffy little bunnies with the blue button eyes stared sappily up at me. I just hoped that Jordan Schroeder would never spot them, as word of this humiliation could easily make life in the WCHA a living hell.
"Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas, Jacky?" Coach Rohlik asked me. I shrugged and said "Almost." "Almost?" Coach Sandelin asked. "Huh. Well... what's that over there? Behind the zamboni?"
And there it was, a Red Ryder one piece 200 shot iron range model hockey stick with multi-rib blade construction and a Kevlar-wrapped shaft. Wow! Oh it was beautiful, I ould hardly wait to try it out. I hurried to put on my skates, with Suz yelling after me "Put on your helmet!" and I barely remembered to grab it as I hit the ice, skating up so I was standing in front of one of the nets. I imagined Richard Bachman in the net, a tie game in the WCHA Final Five championship game. "Okay, Bachman, now you get yours." And I wound up and let a slap shot fly. "CLANNNG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" I heard the puck hit the crossbar and then it flew back at my face. OH MY GOD! I SHOT MY EYE OUT!
After I recovered, I realized that I had not, in fact, shot my eye out, but had caused a huge dent in my cage, not quite as bad as what happened to Kyle Schmidt against North Dakota, but still, Hoagie was going to kill me. I immediately started crying, and everyone came running. On the fly, I came up with a story. "The puck... it hit a pane of glass that was out of alignment!!!" I knew that, as crappy as the DECC is, there had to be one out of joint somewhere. "Oh, poor Jacky," everyone cooed as they led me back to the locker room.
That night, next to me lay the greatest Christmas gift I had ever received or would ever. Gradually I drifted off to sleep, dreaming of triple dekes and spectacular wrist shots.
Merry Christmas to all of the RWD reading audience, and everyone who stumbles in here by mistakes.