Friday, September 2, 2016

WORLD WIDE HOCKEY TOUR - DOWN THE NILE (A)

The next tilt for the Selects was in the most unlikely of places, Cairo Egypt. It wasn’t explained to the players as to who their actual opponent was. Just that an ice rink had been set up for this exhibition match. The coaching staff passes the word from the tour organizers that this game was for the benefit of international relations. Mekkar mocked them after delivering the news to the team. He joked, “It is just some politician speak phrases to cover for the freshly arranged match against probably some scrub club. After that, who knows what is next!”

Since the beginning of the worldwide hockey journey the team members had been informed of current and possible developments only on a need to know basis. At least it seemed that way when Mekkar, Lasse, and other players were discussing this subject together. Mekkar snapped, “Those individuals at the top are just toying with us and think it is hilarious.” He also audibly expressed himself, in his original bold manner, regarding the player’s frustration of the fact that anything was subject to change at any moment. Unfortunately, for them it usually did without warning. Mekkar had the inkling to find and beat a few answers out of one or more of those pencil pushers as he referred to the Selects management.

Nevertheless, there was a perception that the coaching staff was much better informed than were the players. It gave off an impression that the coaches didn’t always tell all of what they knew regarding the behind the scenes activities and shenanigans related to the tour. A few of the other athletes tried to wring more details from members of the Selects staff but it was unsuccessful. Mekkar scoffed out loud in the dressing room prior to this matchup, “To somebody else’s whim we go!”

Mekkar pondered several thoughts before this game. It was due to his belief that when you are not familiar with your opponent it is hard to judge their skill quality and abilities. He never underestimated anyone. Thus, the reason why the Native from the North always gave his full out, maximum effort every game. Part of it was the abhorrence of being part of a team that might suffer indignity and become a footnote in history. He didn’t want to be on the wrong side in the list of great sports upsets, ever. He figured no one wants that shame, especially him. Otherwise, Mekkar would dish out an extensive physical whipping among his own teammates to go along with the embarrassment on the scoreboard. His distaste of losing was quite clear to everyone who knew him.

Sirga and Henrik had advised Mekkar on a few occasions that it is okay to do a psychological job on your enemy for whatever reasons. For him to look at it like marketing similar to hyping a boxing match or any type of event. They also strongly infused their son to never disregard or underestimate any opponent or combatant. It is foolish to do so they would expound. Just when you think you know your foe, they can surprise you with something new they learned recently was maintained to the teenager.

Due to the last match and the Selects injury situation there was only six defensemen for this game, less than normal. So, Mekkar would be suited up even though the staff wanted to scratch him from the lineup. The wanted to hold him out for this match to let his hand heal more, so he could be more effective later on. The Selects felt they didn’t really need him for this matchup. Healthy game time scratches are usually known in hockey as Black Aces. [blackaceshockey.com/origin.htm] The problem was there were no more forward or defensive reserves left to insert into the lineup for tonight. The travel time ensured that none could arrive on the horizon in time for the game either. There was an exception, a non-dressed third string goalie. Trouble is, netminders have their own unique standards and rules that most other players don’t fully understand, including Mekkar.

After realizing how bad the opposing squad was skill-wise the Selects would face on this night in comparison, the travelling team offered the use of one of the Selects’ goalies for this clash. Since the netminders were of a much lower quality than any of them on Mekkar’s squad. The rivals on this evening were even given a choice of goalie selections to choose from, but the Selects’ generous offer was refused. They figured that this way even the backups could gain some more playing time and help provide a competitive tilt. The Selects starting number one goalie was already scheduled to sit this match out, so the other two on the roster could split the duties.

Mekkar himself was not expected to be available, but he was needed so he was given minimal playing minutes. The members of the team, on the non-top lines, who normally received less in-game shifts & time substantially had theirs increased. The situation was similar to when a club has already clinched a playoff spot near the end of the regular season. With the second or post season seedings already set, top players get a break with reduced minutes or complete rest to nurse injuries. That is, before the ramp up of more grueling playoff action soon after.

No matter, the Selects non-top athletes clearly outclassed the other team and were far superior on this night. To avoid humiliation upon the home side and in the context of positive international relations the coaches were instructed to have Mekkar & his teammates change strategy. The Selects were commanded to work on puck passing skills and shoot less frequently on the enemy net. The reality was the Selects would have had a more competitive atmosphere between themselves in one of their own practices. The match itself was still a total rout of great proportions.

During a stoppage in play toward the end of the game due to an icing call, Mekkar perceived that the fans in the building must have realized that their team was being thoroughly crushed. The players on the ice understood that the homeside had no chance of catching up on the scoreboard to make it a competitive game again. Mekkar wondered while sitting on the Selects bench if anyone in this crowd actually grasped the game of ice hockey. Much less how many of them had ever seen a hockey match live before. He questioned whether this adversary was a local one or a team brought in to face the Selects on short notice. Mekkar also inquired just how much of each of the individuals in the restless crowd’s wages had been used to purchase tickets to this sham of an exhibition.