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When Prince, the Wolfbay Wings' only black hockey player, is aggressively recruited to play for the basketball team, he is torn between the sport he and his grandfather know and love and the sport that everyone else thinks he ought to play.
I am panting like a dog running from a rainstorm as I barely make it to the bench and bang through the next line of players going out, and they make it all the more bangy because they have to try to clang us on the shoulders and helmets and say nice things and stuff. I finally reach my spot and flop down on my pants and hang my head, sucking at the air. It was a long shift. Best shift I ever had, but long.
Dooby, however, seems fresh as a new puddle. He drops down next to me and shoves the butt end of his stick, all nasty with black-edged adhesive tape he hasn't changed since our first tie-up, against my face mask.
"And — yes, Phil, am I —?" I sneak a look up and see he's holding his other hand to his off-ear the way those color-guys on the Deuce do, "— yes, okay —" He puts on a big fake grin and turns to me. "We're here with the man they call Prince," he says, "and, heh heh, I don't think I'd be stretching it to say he just had himself a king-sized shift out there against this highly favored Squirt-A team from Montrose. Now, just for the record, Your Highness — I maycall you Your Highness, may I not?"
"You better," I pant.
"Right!" He fake-smiles. "Now, as I say, just for the record — howmany assists didyou amass during that single shift? The princely number of two, was it not?"
It was three. "Four," I say.
His eyebrows shoot up and he makes as if he's hearing something over his earphone. "My statisticians must have missed one, heh heh. They have you down for three and since that's the number of goals your team actuallyscored —"
"But I got two on Cody's second, see. Two assists on one goal." You can't get two on one, of course.
"Two on a single goal?" He frowns.
I nod. Before I can start to speak, Woodsie hipchecks Montrose's star center Kenny Moseby and jacks him a foot off the ice, pins him up there long enough for the puck to skitter back to our winger backchecking, then pulls away to let Moseby fall in a heap. Dooby and I both holler at Woodsie. Moseby doesn't fall in a heap very often.
"Where were we?" Dooby says, shoving his stick back at me.
I passed it to Cody. He passed it back to me and I shot, but Cheerios got it with a pad and Cody snapped in the 'bound. Now, the rules say the last two men on the scoring team to passthe puck —"
"Is it your Canadian heritage that allows you to collect such a gaudy statistic as three assists on one shift, Mr. Prince, sir? You areCanadian, yes? Even French-Canadian, if I am not mistaken?
"Does this give you that little extra edge — ha ha, skates have an edge, see, ha ha — over your relatively latecoming American counterparts watch the cherry picker!"
Moseby was hanging out at the red line and his defenseman knew it and flung the puck up the boards behind our D and it should be a breakaway, except Woodsie was playing pretty far back and gets enough of an angle on Moseby that he can mess with Kenny's stick from behind, and Moseby only gets off what is for hima half-decent shot. That is to say, a ripping high one, looks like a speeding dime, headed for the very edge inside the far corner but Zip throws up his blocker and Woodsie beats Moseby to his own rebound.
"Not thatparticular American," I say, pointing to Kenny.
"Yes, well, Kenny is what we down here call 'special,'" says Dooby. "Speaking of which — how can you read defensemen so well, Mr. Prince? You seem to know how they are going to move, what passing lanes they are going to open up for you, before — ha ha! — they themselves do! Now is thatperhaps where your hypersensitive rhythmic African-American naturally-improvisatory instinctoathletic voodoo jazz-from-New-Orleans gift comes, into play?"
"Yassuh," I say. "It sho' be."
"Thank you." He pulls the stick-end back. On the ice, Moseby almost picks off a sloppy pass to break in alone on Zip, whom he usually eats alive. If K weren't being double-shifted he would have had the legs. But if he weren't being double-shifted he might not have been out there to try.
"This politically sensitive interview with our international . . . "
I let Dooby fade out. I am in fact tired. It is the third period of an away game against our most hated rivals and we didjust get three goals on one shift, two by Cody and one by Dooby himself, to stun everybody and take a three-goal lead. The fact that we had been tied, with only four minutes left in the game, was shocking enough. Montrose is an awesome hockey machine, put together player by player with keen loving care by their coach, Marco, who stole our best four or five players from last year — including Kenny — as part of his scheme. They have lost only one game, to a team from Philadelphia, in OT. They beat us by one goal the first time we played them, a great showing for us that was the turnaround in our season. Frankly, even though we've only won a handful since then, we knew we'd kick their tails today.
It's my line's turn, out for the last shift of the game. Marco has rested Kenny for a shift but now has him at left wing, where he is playing opposite Boot, our slowest player, but one of our smartest.Prince. Copyright © by Bruce Brooks. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.