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Authors: W. C. Mack

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BOOK: Hat Trick
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Chapter Twelve

When the ref blew the whistle, we skated over to the team box and leaned against the railing. I was a little out of breath, but I could tell how much my summer conditioning had paid off. After all, Colin and Patrick were both panting.

“Good playing out there, guys.” Coach said. “Good hustle, nice teamwork. I like what I’m seeing.”

It was exactly what I wanted to hear, what we all wanted to hear. The five of us made an awesome starting lineup, and I was relieved Coach could see that right off the bat. And if I continued to prove myself (which was exactly what I planned to do), there would be no stopping me. Short or not, I’d finally be able to convince Coach to let me play against the Shoreline Sharks. Those monsters wouldn’t know what hit them, and even better than was the fact that it was going to be my best season ever.

And Eddie Bosko was stuck on the bench.

If he’d looked my way, I would have smiled or something, but his eyes were glued to Coach. For a second I wondered if Eddie’s family was up in the stands,
wondering why he wasn’t on the ice. I pushed the thought away, because I had other things to think about.

Like playing.

The most I’d ever scored in a single game was three goals, but what if I scored four? Five? Or more? I was about to become a statistic worthy of
Shoot! Third Edition
, as soon as —

“I’m going to mix things up a bit,” Coach said.

Mix things up?

“McCafferty, you take over for Chen.”

Too bad, since Patrick had been making some sweet passes. But David “Bedhead” McCafferty was a pretty good replacement. He could feed me the puck and when he did —

Coach interrupted my thought. “Bosko, I want you in for McDonald.”

“What?” I practically croaked. He was taking me out? I just
scored
! Twice!

It didn’t make sense.

Eddie Bosko stood up and grabbed his stick. He walked toward the ice and there was only one thing I could do. It might not have been fair, but I needed to get back on the ice as soon as possible, and that meant one thing. It was time for the kryptonite.

As I passed Eddie Bosko on my way back into the box, I looked up into the stands and shook my head. “Oh man,” I groaned, “I hate it when my sister comes to the games.”

Eddie spun around to see where I was looking. “She’s here?”

“Yup,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Just great.”

When he looked for her, I watched his face for signs of the flounder.

I saw nothing, so I gave it another shot. “Wendy McDonald, our number one fan,” I sighed.

“Cool.” Eddie Bosko smiled and stepped onto the ice.

What?
Cool?
He was supposed to get all weird and nervous, like he did during our study session. He was supposed to flop around on the ice like he’d never worn skates before. He was supposed to screw up, not
smile
.

I frowned and sunk down on the bench, disappointed. Usually I saved my miscalculations for Math class.

Kryptonite?

Yeah, right.

Eddie Bosko was
happy
my stupid sister was watching him play.

The ref blew the whistle, Eddie Bosko raced toward the puck like his life depended on it, and I was the one left with the flounder face. He shoulder-checked the Turtles centre and stole the puck in less than two seconds, then maneuvered around two other players to take a shot on goal. He scored.

Nuts!

The crowd leapt to their feet, cheering, and my stomach sunk toward my skates.

Eddie Bosko glanced up in the stands to where my family was sitting, smiled, then re-focused on the game.

What had I done? Wendy was supposed to ruin his game, not
improve
it!

For the next six minutes, I watched Eddie Bosko steal, pass and shoot until the score was Cutter Bay Cougars, 8, Turtles, 2.

The worst part was that I didn’t even care that we were winning. After all, Eddie Bosko was playing me right out of the starting lineup. My whole stinking plan had backfired, big time.

Coach didn’t put me in again until second period, and when he did, I played harder than ever before. I had to undo the damage! I fought for the puck and managed to score another goal.

Take that!

I assisted David for another point, but I knew it wasn’t enough and I started to panic. Suddenly, I couldn’t get my head or anything else into the game.

That’s when the ref called me for high-sticking.

High-sticking!

I had to spend two precious minutes in the penalty box.

Come on!

With only four of us on the ice, the Turtles were taking advantage of a power play while I was practically drooling to get back in the game.

When they finally scored on us and my penalty ended, I shot out of the box like a tornado. Right away, I skated behind a Turtle and tried to swerve around him to steal the puck, but I accidentally tripped him with my stick instead.

Back in the box for another two minutes!

I couldn’t believe it! I
never
got penalties. Dad had always taught me to play by the rules, and somehow I was blowing it!

The Turtles didn’t score, so I had to spend the whole stinking penalty sitting in the box with a red face, knowing I was going to get an earful from Dad on the way home. And I was pretty sure Coach would have some choice words for me too.

Eddie came out for a breather, but sat at the other end of the team bench, focused on the game.

Kenny was sitting closest to me, but whenever he tried to talk over the wall of the penalty box, I stopped him. I
didn’t need someone to make me feel better. I needed to get back onto the ice.

When my second penalty was just about over, I was on my feet, ready to get out there and rock the rink.

“Sit down,” Coach O’Neal said.

“What?” I asked, totally confused.

“I’m putting Bosko back in.”

“But —”

“You need to get some control over your stick, Nugget.”

I couldn’t believe it!

“I was just —”

“We can’t keep handing them power plays.”

I didn’t even look into the stands, because I knew that all I’d see were the disappointed expressions on Mum and Dad’s faces. I didn’t think I could feel any worse, but when third period rolled around and Coach left Eddie Bosko in, I knew I was done for the day. Aside from the Shoreline games, I’d never spent two full periods on the bench!

“Man, you’ve got to watch the penalties, Nugget,” Kenny said.

I was so ticked off, I didn’t even think before asking him, “What do you know about it? You’re a benchwarmer, Kenny.”

My best friend on the team stared at me for a second, and I felt my stomach drop even lower.

“You’ve spent more time on the bench than me today,” he said quietly.

I felt like a total jerk.

He turned away from me to watch Eddie Bosko score yet another goal.

“He’s awesome,” Jeremy said.

“Best right winger we’ve got,” Kenny added, nodding
slowly.

Ouch!

Eddie Bosko skated backward to centre ice, like a big showboat. Was he waiting for people to throw him flowers or something?

It was hockey, for Pete’s sake, not figure skating.

* * *

We won the game, 14 to 6.

It was our highest score ever and the guys were thrilled. Everyone but me, anyway. I was the last to head for the locker room. I didn’t want to listen to everyone congratulate Bosko on his awesome game, so I walked really slowly.

How had my master plan turned into such a disaster?

“Have we got a problem, McDonald?” Coach asked, from behind me.

Oh, brother. “No.”

“Something you want to talk about?”

“No,” I sighed.

“An issue with Bosko?”

“Yes!” I said, turning to face him. “He’s stealing my position and —”

“No one is stealing anything.”

“He is. I was just —”

“Nugget, you’re giving it away.”

What?”

“No I’m not. I was playing —”

“Sloppy,” Coach finished for me.

I started to argue, but knew he was right.

“Two penalties in what, four minutes? That’s not like you.”

“I know.” I frowned.

“You’re a much better player than that.” Coach
scratched his forehead. “Do you understand why I kept you out of the game?”

“Yeah.”

“We can’t afford to play four against five because of stupid mistakes.”

“I know.”

“This isn’t Atom anymore. Sure, I need guys who play hard, but they also need to play by the rules.”

“The tripping was an accident,” I told him. It was true.

“But the high-sticking wasn’t,” Coach said, quietly.

Also true. “Sorry, Coach,” I said, feeling my face turn red again.

“So,” he said, patting me on the back, “lesson learned?”

“Yeah.”

“Good, because we need you when we play the Thunderbirds next week.”

There was something I desperately wanted to ask him, but I was scared of the answer. I took a deep breath and asked anyway.

“Am I starting?”

He looked at me for a moment. “We’ll see how things go at practice.”

“Oh.” I couldn’t hide my disappointment.

He frowned. “That isn’t a ‘no,’ Nugget.”

“I know.”

“It just means you have to show me what we both know you’re capable of.”

“Okay,” I said, nodding as I opened the locker room door.

As soon as I did, I could hear the excited voices of my teammates. I walked down the hallway, thinking about what Coach had said. It was all about proving myself, and I could
do that. I hadn’t been playing hockey for my whole life just so I could ride the bench. I wanted to start.

And if I did my best, there was no reason I couldn’t.

Right?

Chapter Thirteen

“So, that was quite the game,” Dad said, glancing at me in the rear-view mirror on the drive home.

“Yes, it was,” I agreed, quietly. I didn’t want to talk about it.

“You were a goon out there,” Wendy said, shaking her head. “A total goon.”

“I was trying to win,” I muttered.

“You should have been trying to play well, Jonathan,” Dad said.

“I
was
.”

“We were there, honey,” Mum said. “You were reckless.”

“They were minor penalties,” I reminded all of them. You’d think I’d tried to run someone over with the Zamboni!

“You’d better be a little more careful at the next game,” Dad said. “Winning is great, but so is fair play.”

“Do we have to keep talking about this?” I asked.

“Not if we’ve come to an understanding,” Mum said.

“We have,” I told her, then stared out the window.

* * *

I spent the rest of the day cleaning my room. Mum said I had to, or else, and I didn’t even want to know what that meant.

After dinner, I tuned in to Big Danny Donlin’s show at just the right moment.

“Tomorrow is the big night, folks,” he said.

“What big night?” Dad asked, coming into the kitchen for some milk.

“The grand prize. They’re giving away the shot from centre ice tomorrow,” I whispered.

“Wow,” he said, leaning against the counter to listen.

“Tonight’s question, for a stick signed by none other than Sergei Federov —”

“Holy smokes,” I whispered. Now that was a prize!

“Do you want to go for it?” Dad asked.

I shook my head. “You’re only allowed to win once.”

“What if you know the answer today, but not tomorrow?”

That would stink, one hundred percent, but it was the risk I had to take. “I want the shot more than anything, Dad. I have to go for it.”

“Are you ready?” Big Danny Donlin asked his listeners.

“Yes,” Dad and I said, smiling at each other.

“We’re looking for caller number seven to tell us which team Mark Messier scored the most goals for?”

“The Rangers!” I shouted.

For a Sergei Federov stick? Was Big Danny Donlin
crazy
? It was way too easy!

“I think it was the Oilers,” Dad said.

What? “But Gretzky —”

Dad looked down at the floor while he thought it out. “Gretzky may have scored more goals than Messier for the
Oilers, but they’re asking where
Messier
scored the most. He played for three or four teams during his career, and …” Dad scratched his head. “It can’t be the Canucks.”

“No way,” I agreed.

“Who’s on the line?” Big Danny Donlin asked.

“Paul, from Kitchener.”

“Ontario?” Big Danny sounded shocked.

“Yeah, I’m visiting my sister.”

“Okay, then. You’re caller number seven, Paul. What’s your answer?”

“The Oilers?”

“That sounded more like a question.”

“Sorry. The Oilers.”

“You are correct!”

I had to admit, Dad really knew his stuff. “You’ll help me tomorrow night, right, Dad?”

“Of course,” he said. “No guarantees of a win, though. I’m betting the final question will be tough.”

He was probably right.

* * *

The next night, I grabbed plates so I could get the table ready for dinner. It was my turn to set and Dad’s turn to cook sloppy joes, which I loved.

“I think we’re missing some food groups, here,” Mum said, eyeing the pot of bubbling goodness and pulling some vegetables from the fridge. “Can you put together a salad, Wend?”

My sister got to work, slicing and dicing celery, tomatoes and cucumbers.

“So, tonight’s the big night, eh, Jonathan?” Dad asked, sprinkling some salt and pepper into the pot.

“What big night?” Mum asked.

“The final question from Big Danny Donlin.”

“Are we supposed to know what you’re talking about?” Wendy asked.

“It’s a radio show with a trivia question every night —”

“Like history and stuff?” Wendy asked.

“No, hockey.”

“Oh, brother,” she said, rolling her eyes.

“What do you win?” Mum asked.

“They’ve had some good prizes every night, but tonight they’re giving away tickets to a Canucks game and —”

“In Vancouver?” Wendy asked.

“Duh. That’s where they play,” I told her.

“He gets to go to Vancouver?” Wendy gasped at Mum.

“He hasn’t won anything,” Mum told her.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” I muttered.

“I meant
yet
, honey.” She winked at me. “So, a Canucks game would be exciting.”

“Exciting? It would only be the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen,” I told her. “And that isn’t even the best part.” I took a deep breath, since the idea of it had me practically hyperventilating. “During the game, the winner gets to take a shot from centre ice and —”

“With a goalie?” Wendy asked.

“Empty net,” I said, without looking at her. “And when I score, I get signed stuff and $5,000!”

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, little brother,” Wendy said.

“What?”

“You haven’t even heard the question yet, so you don’t know if you’ll have the answer, and even if you do, you’ve got to be the phone call that gets through.”

“I will be,” I told her. “Caller number seven. It’s my destiny.”

“Destiny?” Dad asked, raising his eyebrow at me, then Mum.

“Destiny,” I said again.

“Well, until the big moment, you’re destined to finish setting the table,” Mum said, pointing toward the dining room.

“I’m on top of it,” I told her, grabbing extra napkins for our sloppy joes.

* * *

All the way through dinner, while Wendy was talking about some new hair place she wanted to try, I was repeating Big Danny Donlin’s phone number in my head, over and over again. I couldn’t believe the grand prize day had finally arrived. I was nervous and excited, but mostly excited. My emotions didn’t affect my appetite though, and I ended up going back for seconds.

I glanced at the clock in the kitchen.

One hour and twenty minutes, and counting.

While Mum and Dad told Wendy that her taste in expensive salons might mean she should start thinking about a part time job, I tried to think of the MVP for every Stanley Cup, beginning with last year and going backwards.

I thought it would be easy, and it should have been.

One hour and eleven minutes.

I cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher to kill some time, and it wasn’t even my turn.

Back in my room, I flipped through
Shoot! Third Edition
, but whenever I came across a fact I didn’t know, it totally freaked me out. I should have spent more time studying!

Forty minutes to go.

I slowly turned the pages, trying to memorize them. What if the information I needed wasn’t even in
Shoot! Third Edition
? What if it was in the
fourth
edition, which was
still
on backorder at Chapters? I’d seen the cover, but nothing else. How much information had they added?

Twenty-three minutes.

My palms were sweating.

The Hockey Hall of Fame is located in Toronto
.

Alexei Kovalev was the first Russian player to be drafted in the first round for the NHL
.

The Detroit Red Wings were the first team to put numbers on their jersey sleeves
.

Sergei Federov wore number eighteen when he played in Russia
.

How would I ever remember it all?

I glanced at the clock.

Six minutes.

It was almost time!

I ran downstairs and climbed up on a kitchen chair to grab the radio, so I could put it on the table.

“What are you doing?” Wendy asked, just as I lifted it, totally surprising me.

I lost my grip and tried to grab at the radio, but it slipped out of my hands.

“No!” I screamed, as I watched it fall to the ground, like slow motion, and explode into about twenty-six thousand pieces.

“What’s your problem?” Wendy asked, just as Mum and Dad ran into the room.

“What happened?” Mum asked.

“Let’s just say Nugget lacks a kung-fu grip,” Wendy said, smirking.

“It’s not funny!” I shrieked. “The contest is in, like four minutes!”

“Relax, Jonathan,” Mum said. “Let’s get this cleaned up.”

“There’s no time right now,” I gasped, running toward the stairs. “I’ll clean it up after the big question.”

“The big question,” I heard Mum ask, “is how he’s going to pay for a new radio.”

With my $5,000 grand prize, of course.

I raced into Mum and Dad’s room and turned on Dad’s alarm clock radio. He had it set to stupid CBC! I turned the dial as fast as I could to Big Danny Donlin’s station and caught him going to a commercial break.

Whew!

I ran to my room to grab
Shoot! Third Edition
and raced back to Mum and Dad’s, where I jumped onto the bed, messing up the quilt.

I had everything I needed. I gulped. Except a phone!

No!

I jumped off the bed again and ran downstairs. In the kitchen, Mum was already cleaning up the smashed radio.

“I promise I’ll do that as soon as the contest is over,” I told her, reaching for the phone.

It wasn’t there.

Just an empty charger!

That was when I heard Wendy’s voice in the living room and I knew she’d taken it. Getting her off the phone was always a challenge, but I was ready to tackle her, if I had to.

I ran into the living room, with my hand out, ready for her to pass it, like a baton in a relay race. Instead, she covered the mouthpiece and scowled at me. “What?”

“The contest! I need the phone.”

“I’m in the middle of —”

I snatched the phone from her hand before she could
finish. “She’ll call you back,” I told whoever it was and hung up on them.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Wendy shouted, chasing after me.

“Getting my chance at centre ice!” I called over my shoulder as I ran up the stairs at top speed.

I leaped onto Mum and Dad’s bed just as Big Danny Donlin came back on the air. “Let’s get this grand prize rolling,” he said.

Yes!

My hands were shaking and sweaty but I dialed the number I’d memorized. Well, all but the very last digit. As soon as I heard the question, I’d hit number four, and hopefully I’d be caller number seven. I’d been planning my strategy from the very beginning and if I was caller three or something, I was ready to hang up and hit “redial” right away.

I crossed my legs, then straightened them, then tugged at the neck of my sweatshirt.

Why was it so hot upstairs?

Penguins. Bruins. Flames. Leafs. Ducks
.

I took a deep breath.

Hull. Lemieux. Brodeur. Orr. Roy
.

The dial tone started to beep from waiting so long.

Nuts!

I hung up and dialed again, all but that last number, then turned to get more comfortable on the bed. I was surprised to see my whole family was in the doorway, watching me.

“This will only take a minute,” I whispered.

Mum nodded, leaning against Dad.

Wendy was silent, but I could tell she’d have a lot to say
later.

“And tonight’s big question is all about goaltending,” Big Danny Donlin said.

“Do you know anything about goaltending?” Wendy asked.

“Shh,” I told her, as my brain practically exploded with facts.

The Canucks goalie is also their team captain
.

A puck is made of vulcanized rubber
.

Terry Sawchuk had the most career shutouts
.

A goal judge, not the ref, decides when a goal is scored
.

And, of course, scoring three goals in a single game is called a hat trick
.

“Here we go,” Big Danny Donlin continued. “For two tickets to a Canucks game and the chance to score from centre ice and win $5,000 —”

“Five thousand dollars?” Mum gasped.

“I already told you that.” I smiled, picturing a wallet so fat it wouldn’t fit in my pocket.

“When’s the game?” Wendy asked.

Me, Mum and Dad all said “Shh!” at the same time.

“We’re looking for caller number seven to tell us which goalie had stitches painted on his mask every time he was hit in the face.”

I let out a shaky breath.

“Good grief,” Dad sighed. “Sorry, kiddo.”

I wasn’t sorry at all. I was stunned. “I know it,” I whispered, hitting 4 as fast as I could.

“What?” Dad gasped.

“I know it,” I said, louder.

“No way,” Wendy said.

The phone was ringing.

“How on earth do you know it?” Mum asked.

It rang again and I could barely breathe.

A third ring.

“This is Big —” a voice said in my ear, then the radio screeched.

“Turn it off,” Dad said, reaching past me to unplug the clock radio. “It’s interfering.”

“Yowzers!” Big Danny Donlin said. “I’m definitely awake now. Who do I have on the line?”

“Nugget … I mean, Jonathan.”

“And where are you from, Jonathan?”

“Cutter Bay.”

“Is he on?” Wendy whispered.

“Shh,” Mum told her again.

“And you have an answer for me?” Big Danny Donlin asked.

“Yes.”

“So, caller number seven, which goaltender wore a mask covered with stitches?”

I cleared my throat. “Gerry Cheevers.”

“Jonathan from Cutter Bay, you are one hundred percent correct!”

I couldn’t believe it. “I won?” I gasped.

My whole family started jumping up and down, waving their arms in the air.

“You won, and I’m going to put you on hold so one of the guys can fill you in on the details.”

There was only one detail I cared about, and that was scoring from centre ice.

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