Archive for October, 2010

Dom the Dago Part I: Stanley Cup in Paradise

October 26, 2010

Dominick was just as much Italian as he was Irish but since he had an Italian last name, he became known as Dom the Dago.  Back in the old days, Irish and Italian marriages were practically interracial.  Family members might have asked why they would want to mix.  Being Catholic helped but other than that, Irish and Italians were from different ends of the earth.  Today the world is much smaller.

            Dom is close to fifty years of age but as the old folks say, he is well preserved.  Dom stands about six feet of height, has a gray flat top and a serious look on his face at all times except when he’s telling a story and Dom always has a good story. 

            I played with Dom early on a Sunday mornings for years at a  rental of some really old school, blue collar guys.  If you ever longed to hear racist or misogynist jokes, that locker room was a throw back to the days when men wore feathered hair, parted in the middle and Tom Selleck moustaches.  Dom had a job as a supervisor for a delivery service and since he had worked for the same company for close to thirty years, Dom was close to retirement age.  Dom was friends with firemen from Windsor and was forever playing in Firemen tournaments all over North America.  Dom always came back with stories and they were usually good.

            I wouldn’t say that Dom had an open marriage in the sense that his extra marital relationships were fully divulged and overtly discussed with his wife.  His wife discovered through word of mouth that Dom had been seen here or there with a woman or two or more.  Dom may not have been husband material but he was a good involved father to his children.  Nobody that I know ever had the fortitude to ask Dom why it was he married a woman that looked like an ugly British man with a wig on.  A few of us joked that the missus looked like an old English comedian named Benny Hill but never when Dom was around.

            Dom had promised his wife and kids that they could go on a tropical vacation in the Caribbean and so they went.  Dom’s wife asked her sister and their family to vacation with them so that she would have some companionship since Dom would take off to scuba dive and snorkel and aquatic things like that.  Dom’s wife sat on the beach reading tabloids, sipping mai-tai’s and keeping an eye on the children while chatting with her sister.

            During the course of a week vacation, Dom was the model husband and father.  Dom did tourist things with his family as well as lounged and jet skied.  Everything was going well until the Stanley Cup finals began.

            Dom loved playing hockey as much as he loved watching it and it didn’t matter to him what teams were playing in the final.  As an amateur hockey player that played on oodles of men’s league teams, Dom understood how difficult it was to emerge as a finalist.  As much as Dom was enjoying himself in paradise with his family, finding the Stanley Cup finals on at an open air, thatched roof bar was the best of both worlds.

            Dom told his wife that he would catch up with them at a restaurant down the road after taking a shower.  Dom dressed and began to walk down the road towards the restaurant that his family and his sister-in-law’s family had decided upon for dinner.  An open air bar had one television that hung from the ceiling.  Dom could hear the announcer calling the Stanley Cup final game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins.  It was too good to be true.  A rum stop had a bored bartender that washed glasses while intercom played steel drum instrumental covers of Bob Marley tunes and the television displayed an ice hockey playoff game.

 At the bar sitting on a stool, was an attractive woman who was watching the game intently.  She had brown hair pulled back in a pony tail.  She was tall and fit and had toned arms like Madonna.  Dom asked the woman who was sitting alone sipping a margarita, what the score was.  It was late in the second period and Detroit was up by a goal.  Dom and the woman both commented on the play.  Dom was impressed how much the woman knew about the intricacies of the game.  He came to find out her name was Sharon and she was alone on vacation from Winnipeg.  Dom bought Sharon another margarita and moved over to the stool next to her.  They discussed what they each did for work and what things they both liked to do for recreation.  Sharon was divorced and Dom told Sharon that he wasn’t married but his wife was.

            The chemistry between Dom and Sharon was very good.  They joked and laughed and commented on the play during the third period.  Sharon felt as ease to lean over and kiss Dom on the lips.  Dom kissed Sharon back and began to caress her bare arm as they kissed.  Sharon, who lifted weights and ran to stay in shape, had stronger than average arms for a woman.  There was no flab or jiggle to her arm in the least.  The thought suddenly came to Dom that possibly Sharon was actually a Steve or Sean.  It all made sense to Dom.  A strong female who understood the subtle nuances of the game of ice hockey?  Of course Sharon was a dude.  Dom took his hand and ran it up Sharon’s leg to check the equipment and was relieved to find that the parts he felt were all female.  Dom was about to explain why he put his hand up her dress when Sharon lead Dom to the beach.

            Dom sat upon a rock with Sharon on top of him as he watched the sun dip below the horizon out over the ocean to the right of Sharon’s shoulder.  Dom thought to himself that life at that moment was perfect.  He got to watch hockey, share some drinks, conversation and laughs with a beautiful woman who was making love to him in paradise.  The whole scene was perfect except for the fact that about the distance of a football field away, collecting sea shells on the beach was Dom’s wife, sister-in-law and their kids.  Dom did his best to hide behind Sharon as his two boys tried to look at the display of sex on the beach while their mothers did their best to cover their eyes and escort them away from the indecent couple.  Dom was screened by Sharon who faced him and bounced away on his lap as her summer dress covered what was transpiring.

            Dom stopped telling me the story at that point and took a sip of his beer and smiled.  I had to ask if that was the end of the story.  It wasn’t and so Dom continued.

            At the breakfast buffet the next morning, Dom’s sister-in-law was giving him the stare down.  Her lips were pursed and her body tense.  When the boys went up for seconds on pancakes and bacon at the buffet table with Dom’s wife, Dom’s sister-in-law posed a question.

            “You didn’t happen to be sitting on a rock last night with a woman, did you?”

            “Not me…”

            “Huh…  You don’t happen to have a green Hawaiian shirt do you?”

            Dom said he coolly shook his head no and took a sip of his coffee.  Again Dom stopped the story, took a sip of his beer and scanned the bar for talent.  I had to ask again how the whole episode concluded.

            “Oh…  I excused myself from the table, went to my room and got that green Hawaiian shirt and buried it at the bottom of the dumpster…”

I didn’t get a chance to see Columbus win over Phily although the highlights looked good.  I watched Montreal beat Phoenix in overtime and then Los Angeles win in a shoot out against Minnesota.  Did Brown’s check warrant a game misconduct?  It looked clean to me.  Gotta keep your head up.

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The Jewish Prodigy

October 15, 2010

I took some time off from non-fiction to finish and work on some fiction but now I’m back to write about an actual person that stands out in my mind that I feel is worthy of more than what I can offer him but nonetheless, a person I think you should read about.

                If you took all the Jewish ice hockey players that have made it to the big time and placed them side by side with those that are of African ancestry; blacks, bi-racial, mixed race, Afro-American, Afro-Canadian, Haitian, and Jamaican, it would surpass those that identify themselves as Jewish. 

                Growing up, it was sort of interesting that the Catholics were Italian, Irish, and Spanish by way of Mexico, South America and so on but a Jewish kid was just Jewish.  Not one of them came from Israel or anywhere near it but they were just Jewish.  I’m not certain of the lineage of the player that I’m going to tell you about.  I suspect they were once from some Slavic country whereby his predecessors wound up at a place like Ellis Island and were promptly given an Anglophile name that stuck with them through the years.  What I do remember of this child when I saw him first take the ice as a six year old boy was how complete of an ice hockey player he was at such a young age.  His skating was very fluid, his stick handling skills were well developed, his knowledge and intelligence to pass when he should instead of when it was absolutely a last resort was impressive given that most six year olds congregate around the puck like dogs in the yard with a tennis ball.  The child at the age of six could have easily competed alone against a team of five his own age and done well.  Some children can sing, some can paint and some have that ability to put all the tools necessary together to compete in ice hockey before they can write their names in cursive.  This child was one of them.

                It was some years later when I had an opportunity to speak to this prodigy’s father.  I was getting dressed to play ice hockey with a bunch of Chicago Board of Trade guys who rented the ice on Wednesday afternoons.   I was getting dressed to get on the ice as was the father of the young Jewish player.  We were both late and were rushing to get dressed and join the group that had already finished warming up and were already playing.  The silence was almost uncomfortable and so I asked the man whom I had seen at rinks for a number of years how his son was doing.  He went on to tell me that he was able to scrape together a house league team of orthodox/religious Jews so that his son could be on a team.  The orthodox Jews need to be in by sun down on Fridays and cannot engage in many things such as ice hockey until sun down on Saturdays.  I jokingly told the father that if he were willing to have his son join my team, I would observe the Sabbath myself.  The father took me up on it.

                At the time, I was coaching a travel/all-star team at a neighboring rink.  The team I had was mediocre at best.  The players were really not above average as much as their parent’s bank accounts provided the organization with the ransom demanded so that the aspirations of the parents, who live vicariously through their little men, could somehow be met.  I apologize for that little rant.  Having  just wrote about parents with the ways and means to get their children onto a team that they really don’t have any business being on, this father although he had ample money, did not need to buy his son a spot on my team or any team.

                From the point at which this player joined my team, my wins began to surpass my losses.  My players began to think more about what they were going to do rather than reacting when it was already too late to make a decision.  My players followed the example of this player and all were better for it.  Many people who take up a sport that are great at what they do, get recognized and idolized.  Many egos are fed off of the money and attention that they receive.  I am almost certain that had this player made it to NHL or a higher level minor league team, the success would have been taken in stride.  This boy never bragged about his points, hat tricks and high plus/minus statistics.  When targeted on the ice for cheap shots, he understood that it was not personal as much as a sign of respect due to his ability to win a game and control a game.  He was respectful and courteous at all times. I truly believe that the young player, who played on teams that I coached for over six years, had the tools necessary to compete at the highest level.  The choice to be religious took him out of the running.  It is god’s gain and fandom’s loss.

                The boy I coached is now a man.  He quit organized hockey after playing midget AA.  He is finishing at Yeshiva University in New York City and may go into accounting.  He currently plays in New Jersey on a high level men’s team.  I had the chance to play on a summer league team with this young man this past summer.  It is rare for anyone that coaches any sport to find someone who is an outstanding player and a superior human being. One usually has one attribute or the other.  I suspect this young man will do as well in the world as he does on the ice.