Saturday, July 16, 2016

WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR – WINNIPEG (C)

Continued from WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR – WINNIPEG (PART B) in July, 2016.]

The last period of this game still gave Mekkar incentive that with a few breaks here and there the Selects could still be competitive in this match. Well, if Mekkar or someone else on his team could draw some man advantage opportunities by way of penalties on the Jets. However, Winnipeg was loaded with talent such as Bobby Hull, Anders Hedberg, Ulf Nilsson – the Hot Line (Mekkar instead called it the International Line), Willy Lindstrom, Veli-Pekka Ketola, Lars-Erik Sjoberg, Heikki Riihiranta, and more. During this third period the Jets got hot & lit up the scoreboard like a pinball machine. There was a hope in his brain of an outside possibility to win this matchup. It was not to be however. A Break was the correct term, but not in a manner that Mekkar expected.

Some minutes later in the final stanza and toward the latter part of the game, Mekkar was on another man-down situation because of a stupid penalty on the part of a teammate. He was just glad it finally wasn’t him this time since he was so well adapted to the confines of the sin bin. Mekkar became fatigued and this started to affect his judgment during play. Unfortunately, it was not quite time for him to be replaced either.

As he was drawing near to the shooter at an angle, Mekkar slightly lost his balance during a sharp turn. This while chasing the movement of the puck on the Winnipeg player’s stick. The Jets’ player was winding up to take a slap shot. Mekkar began falling at an odd angle and going down to the ice quicker than he normally did to half-heartedly attempt to block a shot from that point (Problem was, shot blocking was much less common in those days). He thought that he might have hit a rut in the ice or something similar. Yet, he discounted that thought because the ice here is known as pretty good for the most part and there was still too much time to go for that.

Anyway, he was more concerned about hindering the potential shot on goal. As Mekkar was going down he put his one hand up to protect his face, jaw, and neck region. Problem was that it was turned palm side open towards the shooter. On this occasion, Mekkar forgot to turn his hand the opposite way so that the back of his hand with all the padding was facing forward instead. He was tired and not thinking straight out there and probably should have been already off the ice.

The hard shot was taken and the rubber disc hit the unpadded palm at full bore. Instantly, the cracking and crunching sound of bone being broken was heard by anyone nearby the bench. Some of his teammates that close by at the bench heard it too and cringed. There was also damage to the ligaments and tendons, as well as the wrist area. Mekkar knew it was bad right then and just tried to tough it out and finish his shift, which still had about twenty more seconds to go. At this point, those twenty seconds seemed like an eternity to The Arctic Warrior.

Soon after the puck was successfully whisked out of the Selects own zone. The Native from the North finished his shift and went directly to the dressing room area. He heard the news about his injury and found out after the x-rays about a number of broken bones in his hand and wrist from that episode.

Mekkar received treatment and showed his toughness by having his hand heavily taped to get back out there to help his team. Of course, the medications and alcohol helped a bit. He ended up only missing a total of two shifts on this tour. Both were during this time as he was being tended to in the locker room for this particular injury. Mekkar’s hand was badly impaired. He was unable to even hold a pen to sign his name. The teenager would now have to wear a removable soft cast or brace when not playing. The brace was not allowed to be used during matches, so the continued practice of heavy taping would be required if he wanted to soldier on.

Fortunately, he could eat and carry out some functions with his healthy left hand. The rub was that his minutes per game went significantly southward as determined by the coaching staff. Mekkar was a right side defenseman with a right hand shot. Now the injury affected his grip on the stick in his fingers and in turn greatly reduced the effectiveness to shoot the puck with his stick in the desired direction. Mekkar’s wrist shot was in effect fairly negated at that point. The key was not letting the opposition know to avoid exploiting that shortcoming. After the match, he was really starting to feel the effects of the all the things he was given.

Alf’s older brother began to be a wise guy and tried to conceal the seriousness of his injury to his teammates. Mekkar came back with the comment to Alf and Lasse, “Do you know who broke my hand with his famous slapshot? At least, my hand was shattered by a wicked shot by the great Golden Jet, Bobby Hull!” Alf spoke up again to his older sibling, “Everyone, who is familiar with the game, knows who he is! You are at fault because you were star gazing instead of being in the correct position.” Lasse and Alf and a few others on the squad then just shook their heads in mock disbelief at the jest. They thought it was the mix of medication and alcohol doing the talking.

This incident changed the tour for Mekkar and made it less enjoyable. The main reason was it limited his peak performance for awhile until the affliction fully healed. Even to this day one can still hear the cracking and popping sounds from numerous movements by Mekkar’s right hand and wrist. He describes it as if there is a spring or something resembling that in there.