Sunday, July 3, 2016

WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR - SAINT PAUL (A)

Continued from WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR – HOUSTON (PART D) in June, 2016.]

Before this matchup against the Fighting Saints, the Selects had participated in a few other games such as a 5-2 victory over the Birmingham Bulls. That game gave Mekkar some fisticuff headaches for defending his teammates. The next one was a 4-3 score, in the Selects favor, against the Cincinnati Stingers. In that tilt, The Native from the North won a tussle against a now well-known TV hockey analyst – who has a far different image today. Of course, the self claimed World-Wide Leader in Sports Television neglects to mention anything regarding hockey player service in the World Hockey Association. Today, NHL avoids anything WHA like the plague, even to the point of stripping all in their 1979 merger. All despite, the WHA teams won the series vs. NHL teams 34-22-7. [whahockey.com/whavsnhl.html] Hey, the NBA accepts ABA stats and experience.

In Mekkar’s different from the norm thinking, the National Hockey League should be ashamed of their bad behavior. But, who is the Arctic Warrior to judge. However, Mekkar highly dislikes any double-standards of any kind. In addition, no one was eager to get Mekkar going regarding the Hockey Hall of Fame selection process. The last undertaking before arriving in Minnesota, the travelling team lost an uneventful game versus the Indianapolis Racers & their boisterous crowd 2-5. The Selects were looking tired and were thoroughly outskated that evening.

As per his normal routine on a game day, Mekkar usually like to ponder the opponent. Their strengths, weaknesses, and possible strategy for a bit. After the last few matches on this journey of the North American continent facing off against a host of widely different squads, Mekkar routine would be interrupted. The ritual would have to be changed on this particular day since he just wanted to enjoy some extra rest instead.

The teenager was young and in tip-top physical condition with about three and a half percent body fat content just like his papa. But, he was playing for his fourth different team within the last eighteen months or so combined with a full slate of games for each squad. It was an equivalent of two full seasons worth of matches along with the maximum compliment of playoff tilts crammed into that time frame. Mekkar had gone non-stop for that whole time with no break from injuries either. At this point during games, the Arctic Warrior’s mind began to wander more often due to fatigue. Sometimes, it became noticeable especially in the third period.

A state of fatigue can result in more mental and positioning awareness mistakes on the ice. Which contributes to more physical affliction and errors that could cost his team victories at the same time. Maybe it was that brutally, punishing match against Birmingham that occurred earlier on this tour, Mekkar thought to himself. Mekkar was trying as hard as he could to rationalize his tiredness away, but he knew the truth. He could just not accept the fact the real reason why exhaustion was setting in but it was obvious to others on the team. However, stubborn to a fault Mekkar still refused to admit it. After all he was a hockey player and nearly indestructible as his deceived mind told him.

Later on, when the Selects exited the transport that brought them from their lodging to the rink, Mekkar went straight away to check out the ice surface. It was his general custom upon arriving at an arena, especially ones he had never visited before, prior to a match. It was then that he remembered his inquiry that he conducted back home poring over various written materials such as The Hockey News, etc. Prior to this barn-storming tour his study and research included any information that he could gather. It included anything odd or peculiar about the opponents he would encounter on this trip – teams, arenas, leagues, fans, and more.

All of sudden there was a sense of dread on the part of Mekkar about this evening. He thought back to the ancient Romans and how his team could be more meat fed to the hungry lions. Mekkar thought silently, here we go again. He speculated that he, along with his team were in for another long night.

A few games before, the Selects team had been terrorized by a virtual goon squad as one of Mekkar’s teammates put it. Mekkar recalled that the home fans of the (Birmingham) Bulls loved every minute of it. That earlier opponent tried every tactic in the book to intimidate Mekkar’s squad and they pretty much accomplished that goal. It was a style adopted with other teams in their own league as well, plus it helped to fill the stands. In the past that approach was used against other touring international touring clubs, like the Selects, that previously visited North America. Despite the scoreboard, the Bulls conducted themselves in the same manner when they went overseas too!

The Selects’ earlier adversaries in Birmingham had been designed and built for their fans’ tastes. The paying customers in football country loved the violence and quickly adopted the team and ventured to the rink there to get their evenings fill.  [billsportsmaps.com; hockeyfights.com] Mekkar felt that was probably an indicator of a similar scenario waiting here in the capital of Minnesota, as well. [Wikipedia; billsportsmaps.com]

After the required morning skate by the coaching staff, Mekkar wanted to get his midday meal finished quickly. His plan was to get back to the hotel a little bit earlier and catch up on some extra quick recharging rest. He wanted to be on his A-game both physically and mentally, but even more so pugilistically this night. Just in case it would be needed come game time that evening.

Mekkar was one of the players expected to help prevent manhandling of his more highly skilled teammates. Even due to his lack of size he could fight like a beast. The Arctic Warrior has whipped adversaries in scraps three times his size, when necessary. A test as part of the regimen for Mekkar was putting his fist through various objects like bone. Lasse, Alf, and some other buddies and fellow teammates back home were witnesses to this display. However, the punching prowess paled in comparison to the non-stop, unforgiving flow from Mekkar’s mouth.

So, Mekkar had the ability to defend those Selects team members from paying the price toll that could be extracted from them during a game. However, the question was regarding desire of whether The Native from The North wanted to accept physical punishment on his part. Mekkar was aware of this too when he stated prior to the match that night, “Guess who’s going to get stuck with the bill of sticking up for these guys?” Mekkar knew that part of the fighting currency would be paid by him and few others on the squad. Thus, Mekkar resigned himself to prepare for the upcoming pugilistics, he saw in his mind.

There was an odd observation by Mekkar upon seeing the rink despite reading about it before. It now dawned on him right there. There were see-through clear glass dasher boards around the rink all the way down to the ice surface. Well, there was a white stripe around the outside of each piece. It was one of a kind and it made it easier for those fans to follow the play close up. The boards were designed to help visualize the puck in play due to the arena’s roundish structure. [Wikipedia; thirdstringgoalie.blogspot.com] Well, that is how Mekkar interpretated in his mind after curiously asking one of the individuals employed there.

During his previous reading beforehand, he had seen some photos of this unique aspect of the place. By what he heard and investigated the constructed clear boards did not exist anywhere else in the world.

Later on that night Mekkar would get a firsthand connection with those one-of-a-kind rink boards by having his head driven into them on a number of occasions. Of course, no boarding penalty was called during the matchup. It was a case of the parable if you live by the sword you die by it also. Mekkar was very familiar with that.