Friday, August 26, 2016

WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR - SOUTHERN EUROPE (A)

The Selects had a record of two wins and five losses against the WHA squads and no victories in the seven matches they faced off against NHL teams. Actually, they did better than expected by winning a couple of the earlier games against the pro teams. It was expected that they would lose them all, even get crushed in most of them. The Selects’ club did meet the forecast by prevailing in the next eight games without a loss versus the collegiate plus a couple of Canadian major junior clubs. Mekkar and teammates showed dominance in those matches except the last one due to the fatigue factor. This despite having a roster that was younger overall than all of the squads so far on this portion of the hockey tour.

Mekkar recalled that the coaches and team officials still always expected more from the team. At the same time, the Selects’ players were being constantly reminded to be on their best behavior and frequently told, “You are goodwill ambassadors representing your country”. Mekkar joked to some of his teammates, “If that were true, those in charge would have sent the real top tier national team instead of us. The one that plays in the annual World Championships, the Olympics, and big tournaments like that! Our squad was sent to fulfill previously made exchange agreements.” All of his teammates that heard the rebellious native’s comments laughed as they knew he was absolutely correct in his assessment.

This travelling circus as Mekkar referred to it still had other stops to play more matches after the stint in North America. The schedule was supposed to be very packed and have the team arrive in quite a few cities all over. Yet, the reality of the daily news passed onto to the players became a running comedy of errors in their minds. The whole farce seemed to Mekkar that whoever was arranging the different matches to be played was ill-prepared. The lack of organization of the tour was turning out to be more like a continuing gag. The team members didn’t know from one to the next if the schedule match would take place that day or not. Cancellations and changes in the calendar would at times be discovered the very morning of that particular game day. It was frustrating to say the least for Mekkar and many of the others.

Maybe, Mekkar figured it was just an absence of finding quality opponents for the Selects to face off against. Of course, neither he nor any of them really knew for sure. Sometimes the players were informed with excuses of arena scheduling changes along with a host of other justifications. Mekkar thought many of those admissions were untrue. He knew better through what he learned about prearranging playing time and space availability planned far in advance. He did just recently help manage, along with teammates, a team and home facility while performing on the ice at the same time. There were matches already cancelled on this tour that would have taken the Selects to Brazil, Australia, Japan, Thailand, France, Germany, England, and South Africa. At least there still a few games left thought Mekkar. Anyway, the Selects next game on the docket was in Switzerland and they now had no idea what to expect.

Well, Mekkar was notified that he is now not welcome from participating in some engagements and cities in Canada. This was due to some altercations with opposing fans, coaches, and players. From what even a few of Mekkar’s own team members considered as over-the-top taunting, swearing, and object throwing in retaliation to having items poured on him in the sin bin. Mekkar didn’t care what they said about or how they labeled him. As a pest, Mekkar was not about to let up with respect to his behavior either. His attitude was if management wants to send me back home then do it otherwise shut up and move on. As for the objects thrown back at the crowd Mekkar now admitted he might have went too far in his reaction because it incited the fans even more against him.

On one occasion, Mekkar went to his bench to retrieve one of the two of his heavier twigs encased with a thicker layer of fiberglass. He called them his special fighting sticks and proceeded to engage another combatant in a stick fight by the home bench. Mekkar thought of these fights while wielding the lumber as like a dual between medieval knights aiming their lances. In this case he was on sharp blades on frozen water instead of on horseback. Mekkar had practiced this type of one-on-one battle back home. He became extremely adept at it. This time he knocked the other guy’s wood club from his grasp.

In Mekkar’s fury he swung his stick at the fellow willing belligerent’s head in a downward chopping motion. The adversary ducked out of the way and one of the homeside coaches received a vicious slash across the face instead. It goes without saying that Mekkar was kicked out of the game and then later reprimanded by his squad’s officials for his violent conduct. Mekkar later felt that someone in the Selects management must have appeased another important individual in that city. He was lucky that no assault charges were filed against him in a court of law. It was a different time and place, but he would not be able to escape in the same manner today. Mekkar got to continue on the rest of the tour and was not sent back home at this point. Still, Mekkar was on a very short leash.

The panorama in Switzerland to Mekkar was so beautiful in some areas of the country he thought they should put them on touristy postcards or for sale paintings. Since the Selects came into town early the day before Mekkar got to check out some of the surrounding sights. Yet, he was really tired and the rapid travel time zone changes affected his body today. He learned from working at the airline with his mama, well dragged along by her, that a good rule to follow was one day of rest for crossing every three time zones travelled. Utterly the recovery time was going to be shortened in preparation for this matchup and its 2pm local start time.

Arctic warrior that he is, Mekkar thought that it was a weird time to begin a hockey game. He attributed it to some type of local media broadcast reasoning or cause. Mekkar would soon learn why this oddity was in effect. When his squad arrived at the rink about an hour prior to game time, Mekkar went to check it out. Wow, he quickly noticed the differences and then went directly to the visitor’s lockerroom area to change and get ready. Mekkar described what he saw to a few of other teammates. Most of the Selects’ players were already into their pre-game rituals and ignored him. A few others on the team didn’t believe his story at all.

Mekkar didn’t even bother to converse with any of the netminders, just because to him they are aliens or from space. He felt that goalies are the only individuals crazy, weird, or stupid enough to accept a position where they received rapidly firing discs at themselves. Plus, other players coming at them too! Mekkar has performed netminding duties in the past but only in practices. Additionally, the assignments were by his coaches under duress and desperate to fill a need. The net duties taken by him were always against his better judgment and wishes. Even though it was to help the team, he thought who in their right mind would be crazy enough to play this position as a regular job.

No wonder the goalies are all nuts to accept hard solid rubber pucks flying at them at dangerous speeds. Only recently the last of the maskless guardians of the net had retired. At least by carrying this function outside of formal games Mekkar gained an appreciation of what he personally knew what the netminders go through. However, Mekkar was not about to change his game because he believed it would render him less effective on the ice.

As the team came out onto the ice Lasse discerned that yes there was a roof, but no building walls around the outside the stands and the arena. The overhead lighting was not the brightest either. Fortunately there was some day light that contributed to the atmosphere there. Mekkar had earlier tried to warn his teammates but they did not listen or rebuffed him altogether. So, he didn’t speak anymore about the conditions and would let them find out for themselves.