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D3: The Mighty Ducks: Junior Novelization by Jordan Horowitz

21
Oct 2012

D3: The Mighty Ducks: Junior Novelization by Jordan Horowitz

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D3: The Mighty Ducks - Junior Novelization - Jordan Horowitz (550)

Chapter 1

BRIIIIIIINGGGGG!!!!!!

Startled, Charlie Conway jack-knifed up in his bed and blinked ferociously.

“What the…?” He gazed around his room and groaned. It had all been a dream.

Just a stupid dream, he complained grumpily.

Charlie had dreamed about becoming a professional hockey player. It was all he dreamed about. He knew he had the talent. He also knew how to win. The Ducks had proved that by doing the impossible. They had gone from state chumps of the peewee league to state champs. And Charlie had been an important part of that championship season.

They had learned how to play as a team. But for Charlie the Ducks were even more then a team. They were like his family.

Charlie could hardly remember his own father, who hadn’t bothered to spend much time at home. And the time he was home was pretty much forgettable. It was just Charlie and his mother Casey.

Until Gordon Bombay showed up.

Charlie and Coach Bombay had first met when Charlie and his friends were playing on the District Five team in a peewee hockey league. Bombay was their new coach.

It had not been a glorious beginning.

The first day of practice Bombay cruised up in a black stretch limousine. Charlie and the kids had been suspicious. Suspicious but impressed. Bombay reacted to the kids as if they might be carrying some horrible disease.

Figures, Charlie remembered thinking. He was used to being treated like a loser. Charlie figured Bombay would be just like all the other jerks.

He was wrong. Bombay turned out to be the biggest jerk…by far.

As a hockey player, Bombay had been a lock to make the pros. Then he blew out his knee—and his career blew up with it. He turned his back on hockey and never looked back. He became a hotshot lawyer with a solid-gold Rolex and a platinum attitude to match. The guy was a shark in an Armani suit. He was all business. Shoot first—ask questions later.

Then one day his past caught up with him.

He got himself into a scrape with the law and was sentenced to do community service. His punishment? A thousand hours as peewee hockey coach to a bunch of misfits known as District Five.

It hadn’t gone well. District Five was undoubtedly the worst hockey team of all time. They couldn’t afford proper skates, equipment, or even uniforms. They couldn’t pass, shoot, or play defence. One of them couldn’t even skate. Not surprisingly, they hadn’t won a game all year.

In fact, none of the kids could remember ever winning a game.

But that was a long time ago. And before Gordon Bombay taught them how to fly.


Chapter 2

Charlie griped miserably as he slammed his fist down on the alarm clock. It was still dark outside. He fell back on his bed and stared up at the side. He fell back on his bed and stared at the ceiling where he had pinned posters of some of his favourite NHL players. In the other room he could hear his mother putting out the breakfast dishes.

“C’mon Charlie!” She called out. “Let’s get moving. You don’t want to be late on your first day.”

“Says who?” Grumbled Charlie as he pulled his blanket up over his face.

Today was the first day of the fall semester at the Eden Hall Academy, a prestigious private school in the suburbs. Charlie’s mother worked as a waitress in a diner downtown, and the Eden Hall tuition alone was more then she earned all year.

But Charlie was going on a full scholarship. In fact, the entire Ducks team had earned scholarships. Hockey was big business in Minnesota, and it had been a long time since the Eden Hall Warriors had won a junior varsity championship banner. Figuring the best way to win a title was to get a team that knew what it took to win, the board of trustees had voted to award scholarships to the team.

His mother had been ecstatic. Going to such a ‘fine institution’ was the ‘opportunity of a lifetime,’ she repeated to Charlie over and over.

Charlie already knew what he wanted to do with his life: play hockey.

The best day of his life was the day that his team had won the Minnesota State Peewee Ice Hockey Championship. He had felt like a winner that day—for the first time in his life. And it felt good.

The newspapers had dubbed the victory the Minnesota Miracle.

It had been a miracle. Charlie and his team had gone from losers to winners. They even changed their team name from District Five to the Mighty Ducks.

Bombay said that one of the reasons the Ducks had become winners was because they always flew together.

That was before Bombay decided to leave the flock.

That was before he decided to fly solo.


The day the announcement of the scholarships was made, all the parents and Eden Hall faculty and alumni were in attendance.

Bombay was there too. But he had his own announcement to make.

“I’m not going to be your coach,” he told Charlie. “I got the official word today.”

Charlie was stunned. “You’re joking. Right Coach?” He asked.

Gordon shook his head. “No joke. The Junior Goodwill Committee has named me the director of player personnel. I’ll be in charge of their junior hockey program worldwide.”

“Don’t go,” pleaded Charlie.

“Charlie, I can’t pass up this opportunity.”

“But you can pass us up right?” He shot back. “You dump us in some stupid school…”

Gordon took a deep breath and said calmly: “I’m not dumping you anywhere. Eden Hall is a great opportunity for you.”

Charlie’s eyes misted. “So you’re doing me a big favour by walking out?” He scoffed bitterly. “My dad did the same thing.”

“I’m not your father, Charlie. I’m me. And I’ll always be here for you.” Gordon smiled sincerely and threw an arm around Charlie’s shoulder.

Charlie angrily shrugged it off. “Skip it. I’ve heard this lecture before.”

Charlie walked away feeling cheated. Eden Hall didn’t seem like such a great opportunity now.


Chapter 3

Inside the terminal of the Minneapolis airport a tall boy in blue jeans and cowboy boots strutted down the exit ramp into the reception area.

“Howdy, Minnesota!” He bellowed, greeting no one in particular. He whipped off his cowboy hat and waved it in the air. “It sure is great to be back!”

Just then a tram driven by a young woman in a business suit pulled up to the gate and beeped.

“You must be Dwayne.” The young woman said good-naturedly.

Dwayne smiled and gallantly tipped his hat.

“Why, yes, ma’am,” he drawled. He then gave the woman his most disarming grin. “But you can call me Cowboy. Pleased to meet you, ma’am.” He reached out to shake her hand.

“Oh please,” she groaned. “That makes me sound old enough to be your mother. I’m Angela Delaney. I’m your faculty representative at Eden Hall Academy. I’m here to help you get settled.” She kicked the tram into drive.

“Well then, Cowboy—what do you say we round up the rest of your friends?”

Dwayne tipped his hat. “It’d be a pleasure.”


A boy with a backpack entered the lounge outside the Los Angeles gate wearing headphones. He bobbed his head to the music. An obviously irritated airline steward was hard on his heels.

“Sir!” The steward called out emphatically. “You may not keep the headset!”

The boy turned abruptly. He gave the steward a puzzled look, then removed the headphones.

“Listen here,” the kid told the steward. “I paid four dollars for this liquorice stick with Q-Tips, and all I got was the Kenny G. audio channel and a Michael J. Fox movie.” His tone was swollen with indignation.

He dropped his hands onto his hips and said defiantly: “I’m keeping the headphones.”

“But it was a rental,” whined the steward.

The boy smiled smugly and leaned into the steward’s face. “And I’m extending the rental period.”

Just then the tram with Ms. Delaney and Dwayne pulled up at the gate. Immediately the boy broke into a huge grin.

“Cowboy! Howdy pardner!” He pushed past the frustrated steward.

“But, sir!”

The boy turned around. “Here,” he said, as he flipped the steward the headphones. “I was just messing with ya!”

Russ and Dwayne high-fived.

Two Ducks down.


Outside the Miami terminal a young couple was wrapped in a passionate embrace.

“Hoowee!” Remarked Dwayne as the tram pulled up. “Would you look at that!”

Dwayne and Russ looked at one another and grinned. They both nodded and then shouted, “Luis!”

Luis expertly wriggled free of the girl’s embrace and, at the railing outside the gate, gave her a sorrowful backward glance.

Russ shook his head admiringly as Luis climbed onto the tram. “Man Luis who was that?”

Luis sighed and blew her a final kiss. He looked at Russ. “A girl I met on the plane.”


Not far away at another gate, a passenger was nearly bent in half under the weight of a bag he had agreed to help carry for a young girl coming off the plane from Bangor, Maine.

“What do you have in here, weights?” He huffed.

“Yup.” She took the bag and hoisted it over her shoulder as if it were a bag of feathers.

“Hey, Cat Lady!” Russ called out as the tram zipped up.

Julie Gaffney waved and dumped her bag onto the back. CLANK! The tram pitched like a rowboat in rough seas.


“Just one more stray!” Joked Dwayne as Angela Delaney steered the tram toward the terminal for arrivals from San Francisco. Julie elbowed Russ and pointed. Up ahead Ken Wu was at the refreshment stand. He had spotted them and was running toward them.

“Check this out.” Julie said.

Russ grinned. “The Wumeister!”

Ken Wu charged through the crowd in the lounge like a skier through a slalom course. He gracefully vaulted the railing with an impressive scissor kick and came up alongside the tram. Then he leaped and twirled and nailed a perfect landing inside the tram.

“Judges?” He demanded.

They all pretended to be waiting expectantly for the judges to post his scores.

“A perfect 10!” Announced Julie in a breathless tone. Russ and Dwayne pounded their feet and cheered.

“I guess you guys are pretty pumped, huh?” Asked Angela.

As if on cue, the broke out into a chant. “Quack! Quack! Quack!”


On the morning of the first day of school, Charlie ran into Fulton in an alley behind the bus stop. He was taking slap shots. Charlie cautiously rounded the corner and held up one of the pucks.

“You ever think about shooting into the alley, not into the street?”

“Not really.”

He slammed another puck, which went whistling into the street. Charlie shrugged out of his starchy school clothes and slipped on his old Ducks jersey. He pulled out a pair of rollerblades from his backpack and hastily laced them on.

“I just found out Portman isn’t coming.” Said Fulton irritably. “He’s staying in Chicago. How uncool is that!?” He pulled the trigger on another slap shot. THWACK!

“Oh man.” Charlie said. “Are you kidding?”

“When he found out Bombay bailed, he bailed. He said he didn’t want to leave his family either.”

“What good is one Bash Brother?” Asked Fulton. What am I now? The Bashman? Nah.”

“We’ll think of something.”

Fulton shook his head despondently. “No Bash Brothers, no Gordon, a school filled with preppy snots. Face it—this year is really going to suck.”

A moment later, Gary Goldberg tiptoed into the alley on Rollerblades. He was holding his head and moaning.

“Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” He whimpered. He rubbed his head. “Man that hurt!”

“Sorry Goldberg,” the two boys chanted in unison.

“No problem,” Goldberg said. “I mean life isn’t hard enough already. Now I’ve got to worry about being nailed off the ice too.” He demanded indignantly: “Why am I always being shot at?”

Fulton pointed out the obvious. “You’re a goalie dude.”

“C’mon on, guys,” said Charlie as he gathered up his gear. “We don’t want to keep the preppies waiting.”

Out front of a downtown restaurant, Guy, Connie, and Averman stood on Rollerblades. Guy and Connie were arguing while Averman studied a map.

Goldberg, Charlie, and Fulton soon skated up the street, reciting the familiar Duck chant. They exchanged a round of high fives.

“All right, Ducks!” Charlie said, “Let’s move out. We’re picking up Banks on the way.”

Connie objected. “Why do we have to skate to school on the first day? I’ll be all sweaty and gross.”

Charlie was shocked. “Ducks fly together.”

A few minutes later they skated up to Banks’ house.

“C’mon cake eater,” Guy yelled. “Let’s go to school.”

The front door flew open and Adam Banks—wearing Rollerblades—skated down the walk and joined his friends on the sidewalk.

Guy whistled and hummed, “Ooh-la-la.”

Banks was dressed in neatly pressed khaki pants, a crisply laundered button-down shirt and tie, and a blue pullover sweater. His hair was combed neatly. The part was so razor sharp it might have been etched into his skull with a laser beam.

The kids burst out laughing.

Averman skated up to Banks and peered closely at his tie. “That’s a clip-on?” He asked. He gave it a yank. Banks yelped. “Whoops. Sorry.”

“Hey,” Banks explained defensively as he straightened his tie. “I care about the way I look. What’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing Banksie,” said Charlie as a conspiratorial grin creased his face. “In fact, let us help you.”

Banks back-pedalled, but it was too late. Charlie, Averman and Goldberg converged on him like a wrecking crew, messing up his hair and yanking out his shirt.

“There.” Said Charlie as he stepped back to admire their handiwork.

“A preppy masterpiece.” Declared Averman.

“Banksie.” Observed Connie with mock innocence, “what did you comb your hair with? An eggbeater?”

“Very mature.” He commented sourly.

“Ah Banksie,” pouted Charlie “don’t be mad at us.” The other kids began making slobbery whimpering noises. Slowly Adam’s frown began to crack. He couldn’t help it. A smile emerged. Now they were all laughing and playfully pushing and shoving.

The kids knew it. The Ducks were back!


“I’ve devised the perfect shortcut.” Averman said. “Follow me.” He skated off into the lead and one by one the kids fell in line behind him. Except Banks. He stood with his arms folded across his chest. He waited. A short time later Averman skated back with the other Ducks sheepishly in tow.

Banks grinned. “Which way, Columbus?” He smart-mouthed.

Averman shrugged. “Just a minor course correction.”


Chapter 5

After the kids settled into their rooms they met downstairs. An assembly had been scheduled at the auditorium to introduce the freshman team to the Eden Hall students.

The campus reminded the kids more of an elite university than a high school. The enormous brick buildings were covered in ivy and capped with magnificent domes. The grass was so green it didn’t even look real.

“Wow!” Remarked Dwayne.

“We’re not in Kansas anymore.” Whispered Russ.

And it wasn’t only the grounds that appeared pampered and well groomed—so were the students.

Dwayne sniffed. “Smell that?” He asked. He rubbed his fingers together. “Money.”

Russ looked around nervously. “I think this place is running very low on the brothers quotient.”

“Tell me about it.” Quipped Ken Wu.

“I want to know who this new coach Orion is.” Julie said. “My dad said if I didn’t like him I could come right home.”

Russ snorted. “That’s nice. My dad said I’d better keep my scholarship or he’d whip my butt.”

None of them would admit it, but each was feeling a bit intimidated.

It was that same old feeling.

They’re all better then me.

They came upon a group of students marching in a small circle and carrying signs and chanting. One of the signs showed an Indian warrior with a red circle and slash through it.

Another sign read: “Native Americans are People, Not Warriors.”

Dwayne read one of the signs aloud. “Warrior name unfair and demeaning.”

One of the protesters walked up boldly to Dwayne.

“You can read.” She remarked. She sounded surprised. It was like he was a caveman dumbly mouthing out the syllables. She shot him a challenging look. “Now will you do something about it?”

Dwayne was taken off balance. “Excuse me miss?”

“You’re either a part of the solution or part of the problem.”

“I guess we’re part of the problem.” Dwayne replied. The girl eyed him curiously, and he explained. “We’re the new Warriors.”

Luis seized the moment. He stepped forward and declared earnestly. “But I’m willing to change.” He sidled up to her and peered down into her eyes. “As a minority myself, I am deeply sensitive to your plight. Perhaps you and I could get together later and discuss your worldview.”

He leaned his face close to hers and flashed a pearly smile.

She shook her head sadly, turned, and walked away.


Back on the streets, the Ducks were in full electro glide as they flew down the street in a whipsawing v-formation. Moving to the point, Averman adjusted his glasses and quickly consulted his map.

He motioned right as they all turned and swooped around a corner.

“Whoooooaaa!” Screamed Averman. The level street suddenly plunged into a ferociously steep hill. It was like the ground had dropped out from under him.

One after another they flew down the steep incline, faster and faster.

Goldberg was last in line and he nearly fainted when he felt the plunge.

“I’M NOT A SKATER!” He wailed. Then he barrelled out of control down the hill. He teetered on one leg and his arms flailed like a windmill. “I’M JUST A GOOOWHOAWHOALIEEEEE!!!!!”

All of a sudden Goldberg regained his balance. He breathed a sigh of relief—until he realized he was rolling down the hill backward.

Rolling faster…and faster.

“Uh-oh.”

He flashed by one stunned skater in a blur then another.

“EXCUSE ME.” he called out. “PARDON ME. OUT OF MY WAY…GOALIE COMIN THROUGH!”


Chapter 6

The Varsity welcoming committee was waiting to greet the freshman team as it entered the auditorium. The Varsity players included Rick Riley, the handsome captain of the Varsity hockey team, and Cole Sutherland, his burly thick-necked sidekick. Cole was his enforcer—on and off the ice. The rest of the varsity team loitered at the back of the hall with the cheerleaders.

It was obvious from the look of smug superiority on the face of Rick Riley that he believed he ruled Eden Hall Academy.

With his arm draped over the shoulders of Mindy Pinkerton, the head cheerleader, Rick waited for just the right moment.

As the Ducks walked by, Rick stepped in front of Russ. Cole and the rest of the varsity team followed.

“You don’t belong here.” Rick hissed. “We don’t need you ruining our good name.”

“I’ll give you a new name.” Said Russ pleasantly. “Otto.”

Rick was momentarily confused. “Otto?” He repeated.

“Yeah.” Explained Russ as he pushed his face up into Rick’s. “Like in otto my face before I knock you into the next grade.”

Rick’s face darkened with rage.

“Looks like we got ourselves a real tough homeboy.” Cole told Rick.

Russ responded sharply. “I ain’t your homeboy, punk.”

“Easy, Russ.” Dwayne said in a friendly neighbourly tone as he stepped between them. “These fellers must think we are someone else.” Dwayne extended his hand to Rick. “I’m Dwayne. Nice to meet you. We’re the new hockey team. And you are…”

Rick was seething. “The only hockey team. Varsity state champs. My little brother lost his junior varsity slot when they brought you yo-yos in here.”

Julie decided to make an observation. “He probably wasn’t good enough.” Her spunk brought a smile from Scott Vanderbildt, the Varsity goalie. For a moment their eyes locked.

Luis, meanwhile, had been unable to take his eyes off Mindy. She noticed him staring and gave him a sideways glance. Luis smiled and Mindy quickly smiled back.

Rick was too caught up in the challenge at hand to notice.

“My dad,” he said, motioning to the stage where Tom Riley was conferring with Dean Buckley, “Tried to keep you twerps out of Eden Hall.” He shook his head sadly and held his finger up in front of Russ’s face. “He lost by one stinkin’ vote.”

Russ beamed. “No foolin’? Is that your dad up there? Nice outfit. Did it come with a yacht?”

“You want to go at it right now? C’mon,” Cole threatened. “Where’s the rest of you punks?”

“On their way flathead. And when they get here…watch out.” Russ coolly motioned for his Duck team-mates to follow him, and they marched down the aisle to some empty seats and sat down. When they were out of earshot, Russ leaned over to Dwayne and whispered, “Where are those guys?”

Banks saw the road stop at a dead end and came to a screeching halt. When he turned around he saw Fulton thundering down the street toward him.

“WATCH OUT, FULTON!” Banks screamed. But it was too late. Fulton crashed into Banks at full speed. It was like being body checked by a Sherman tank.

Oooomph!!!!!

The rest of the Ducks stopped suddenly, not sure where they were. Stretched in front of them were miles and miles of thick woods.

Banks turned to Averman. “Nice shortcut.”

“Hey!” Averman said. “According to the map these trees shouldn’t be here.”

“C’mon you guys.” Charlie said. “We don’t want to be late our first day.”


Dean Buckley approached the lectern and the crowd of students in the auditorium immediately fell silent.

“Welcome, students of Eden Hall Academy,” Dean Buckley announced. “Since it’s inception in 1903, Eden Hall Academy has taken special pride in its illustrious tradition of excellence. Yet, as we approach the coming millennium, we dare not shrink from the spectre of inevitable change.”

Dwayne had nodded off in his seat. But at the mention of the word ‘spectre’ he jerked to attention. He leaned over to Russ. “What did he say?”

Russ shrugged and whispered so that everyone could hear: “Something about a shrinking sphincter.”

Ken and Julie burst out laughing.

Buckley glanced over at them. “Thus,” he resumed, “the board, myself, Tom Riley of the alumni association”—he turned to acknowledge Tom Riley sitting behind him—“Have made a change for the future. So today, after much debate on both sides, we proudly open our doors via full scholarships to a truly gifted group of student athletes.”

There was a polite ripple of applause from the students who were still awake. From the back of room where the varsity sat came a smattering of boos.

“Oh no,” groaned Russ. Buckley was about to make the introduction of the Ducks. Russ looked around the auditorium anxiously. “Where are those guys?” He asked Dwayne.

Dwayne shook his head. “I don’t know. But they better get here soon. We’re a few ducks short of a flock.”

“Unfortunately,” Buckley said, “their coach, Gordon Bombay—a former alumnus—will not be with us. But coaches don’t score goals do they?” He asked happily. “So please…”

Russ sank miserably in his seat. “Ohmanohman,” he grumbled. Charlie and the rest of the Ducks were nowhere in sight.

“…join me in a big warrior welcome to the 1991 Minnesota State Peewee Ice Hockey Champs…”

Behind the lectern Tom Riley sat scowling until his attention was diverted to a commotion offstage. It sounded like a bunch of kids on Rollerblades.

“…the gold medal winners of the Junior Goodwill Games…I present to you—“

“WHOOOOOAAAAA!”

Charlie and the Ducks spilled onto the stage as if they had been dumped out of the back of a truck. They tumbled, head over heels, cart wheeling across the stage in a huge pileup. Averman and Goldberg collided head on—knocking Averman into the lap of an outraged Tom Riley, who fell backward off the stage. Meanwhile, Goldberg tried desperately to regain his balance by grabbing at a curtain.

He fell with a THUD and yanked the entire curtain down with him.

At last Charlie Conway crawled out from under the pile.

“Hi,” he grinned sheepishly. “We’re the Ducks.”


Chapter 7

The Ducks were told to report to Dean Buckley’s office immediately after assembly.

Things were not getting off to a terrific start.

The Ducks waited inside the dean’s posh office and gazed around the room admiringly. Then Charlie said suddenly, “Hey! Check that out…antsville.”

They all ran over to huddle around a giant aquarium in a far corner.

“Look at ‘em go,” said Fulton.

“You can learn a lot from ants.” Came a voice. They all looked up startled. Dean Buckley strode across the room and stood for a moment in front of the aquarium.

“Brazilian fire ants.” He said as if in answer to a question. “Even more important, they can teach you a lot about successful societal structure.”

They all looked at one another with a this guy is nuts look.

“There is one queen and the rest are dedicated worker ants. Everyone pulls her weight. Nobody complains and there is harmony and growth. The same is true here at Eden Hall. You,” he said, taking them all in with a sweeping gesture, “are the workers, the backbone.”

“And you are the queen?” Cracked Russ.

Dean Buckley took on a troubled expression. “Kids I need your help. We’ve got a group of alumni and parents who are upset. They think that because they pay tuition their kids should get to play.” He shook his head at the implied unfairness of the idea. “What we need is for you to keep up those grades and keep winning those games. Heck I even expect you’ll beat the varsity in the annual JV-varsity showdown.”

Charlie took the bait. “Those rich boys? Shouldn’t be a problem.”

“That’s the spirit!” Dean Buckley said. He clapped his hands and waved the Ducks out of his office. “Thanks for your cooperation, kids. Remember we’re all in this together.”

Really? Thought Charlie to himself outside on the front steps. ‘Cause it sure doesn’t feel that way so far.


Chapter 8

Charlie figured things couldn’t get much worse. He was wrong. Things could get worse—and her name was Mrs. Madigan, the biology teacher.

Mrs. Madigan stood in front of the class with her back to the backboard. In her hand she carried a pointer. She slapped it against the blackboard.

THWACK! Charlie jumped in his seat.

“EVERY MONDAY YOU WILL HAVE A PRACTICE QUIZ!” She barked. “EVERY WEDNESDAY YOU WILL HAVE A REAL QUIZ! EVERY FRIDAY YOU WILL HAVE AN EXAM!” Her voice dropped to a cruel whisper. “And every time I feel like it you will have a surprise quiz or exam.

The class moaned. “SILENCE!” She roared. She gave the blackboard another THWACK with the pointer. “One more thing: there will be NO calculators NOR any modern calculating devices allowed.”

Russ shot his hand up. “Mrs. Madigan?” He inquired sweetly. “You made a point of stressing modern calculating devices. Does that mean I can use my abacus?” The class broke up in a riot of laughter.

Mrs. Madigan, however, was not amused.

“You,” she snarled with an evil leer, levelling her dreadful pointer at Russ. “Outside. NOW!”

Compared to the nightmare of biology class, music was a dream.

It might have been the teacher, Angela Delaney. She didn’t act superior. She acted like…a regular person.

“Let me know you’re here and tell me if you play a musical instrument,” she called out when they had all taken their seats. She glanced at her list. “Conway, Charlie?”

“Here.” Said Charlie. “I don’t play a musical instrument. I play hockey.”

“Thank you for your enthusiasm.” She said. She read the next name on the list. “Dwayne Robertson?”

“That’s Duhwayne.”

She mouthed an apology and tried again. “Duhwayne.”

Dwayne beamed. “Call me Cowboy.”

Mrs. Delaney put down her list. “Right. But Dwayne is such a beautiful name.”

Dwayne blushed scarlet. “Aw shucks ma’am. It ain’t as…beautiful…as all that.”

“Sure it is.” She said. “I used to hate my name, too. But some of the coolest cats ever have had some really strange names.”

She rattled them off. “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Igor Stravinsky. Thelonius Monk.”

“And I’ll tell you something else.” She said. “You’re going to meet all of them in here. And you’re going to see their names are cool because they are cool.” She paused and smiled. “Just like you.”

No doubt about it. Angela Delaney was cool.


In the hallway Luis was leaning casually against a locker as he watched Mindy glide toward him.

“She’s magnificent.”

Ken Wu sighed. “She’s also the head cheerleader.” He reminded Luis. “And her boyfriend just happens to be captain of the varsity hockey team. And just a short time ago he and his goon promised to rearrange our faces with their fists.”

Luis smiled dreamily. “I am in love my friend.”

“C’mon Luis.” Pleaded Ken. “Snap out of it. If Rick sees you making eyes at his babe he’s going to kill you.”

At that moment, Rick and Cole turned a corner and stopped dead in their tracks. Rick did a slow burn when he saw Luis.

“Hey.” Said Cole. “Isn’t that freshman twerp making eyes at Mindy?”

Rick gnashed his teeth. “Let’s get Chippy!”

They marched up the hallway and came up alongside Luis. “Hey there, Chippy!” Rick greeted him.

At the same time Cole lowered his brawny shoulder and checked him hard into the lockers. Luis grunted and crumpled to the floor.

“Oops.” Cole said in mock concern. “Hope I didn’t hurt…the little twerp.” He and Rick laughed and high fived. Then Cole grabbed Ken’s lunch bag whipped out an apple and took a huge slobbering bite.

“Enjoy your lunch.” Said Rick. Then they walked off.

Charlie turned a corner and bumped into Linda Chavez.

She spun around and held out a clipboard. “Hi! Will you sign a petition?”

Charlie was dazzled. He didn’t know what to say. He stood there mutely, unable to speak. Linda Chavez was gorgeous.

“Hello in there,” she said, waving her hand in front of his face.

“Huh?” Charlie mumbled in a daze.

She laughed sweetly. “The petition?”

“Oh…yeah…sure.” He said after an instant, taking off his backpack. “What’s it for?”

“We’re demanding that the board changed the demeaning Warrior name. It’s an insult to all Native Americans.”

Charlie didn’t understand. “Warriors isn’t so bad is it?” He asked. She eyed him sceptically.

“I mean.” He explained hurriedly. “You got the Indians, the Braves, the Redskins…”

It was as if a light clicked on inside his head. She shook her head disappointedly and yanked the clipboard out of his hand.

“You’re a jock aren’t you?”

Charlie puffed up with pride. “I play hockey.” He beamed. “In fact, I’m captain—“

“Forget it.” Linda Chavez snapped immediately. “You Warrior jocks are all the same. You all stick together.” Abruptly she turned and walked off.

“I’m not a warrior.” Charlie answered defensively. “I’m a Duck!”


Chapter 9

Coach Wilson had just blown his whistle, ending a typically bruising practice for the varsity hockey players. As they skated off the ice, the freshman team was heading up the ramp from the locker room for their first practice.


“So where is this almighty Coach Orion?” Asked Russ as the team waited on the bleachers.

“Who cares?” Said Charlie impatiently. “This is our team. We’ll win no matter who this guy is.” A few of the players muttered in agreement. Charlie jumped up. “What do you say Cowboy? Is it time for a roundup?”

This brought a knowing smile from Dwayne.

“YEEHAW!” Whooped Dwayne as he whipped out a lasso. “ROUND ‘EM UP, DOGGIES!”

Dwayne singled out Charlie from the pack of fleeing Ducks and bore down on him, swinging his rope. Charlie zigged. He zagged. He sneaked a peek over his shoulder just as Dwayne let his rope fly.

Caught! Dwayne jerked the rope tight and brought Charlie up short like a roped calf. He tumbled face forward onto the ice.

All Charlie could see were two extremely powerful legs pumping toward him down the ice. The skates slashed to a stop just inches from Charlie’s face. Charlie peered up at the man with the whistle.”

“My name is Coach Orion.” He said staring down at Charlie.

Charlie wiggled out of the rope and climbed to his feet. He smiled at Coach Orion. “Hi.” Charlie said. “You can call me Charlie.” The rest of the team skated over and huddled behind Charlie.

“That must be what the C on your jersey stands for.” Coach Orion suggested. “It sure doesn’t stand for captain.”

“Sorry.” Russ apologized. “We were just messin’ around.”

”Bombay gave him the C.” Goldberg pointed out.

“I respect that.” Orion answered. He added bluntly, “But that is the past. And I am the present. This is my team and I will select the captain.”

Charlie was wounded. “You’re kidding.” He lashed out unwisely. “You’re the rookie here. We’ve been together for four years.”

“Okay, Charlie.” Coach Orion ordered. “Laps…now!”

Charlie glared at him defiantly. Orion calmly returned the stare. Finally Charlie snapped.

“Fine.” He said briskly. “How many Coach Orion?”

“I don’t recall saying Charlie.” Then Coach Orion gave Charlie a hard-as-nails, point-blank look. “Now GO!”

Charlie skated off angrily to the sidelines.

Coach Orion hard sent them a message. And it didn’t take a genius from Eden Hall to decode it. This was his team. Period.

Coach Orion began coiling the rope around his hand. “Now listen up.” He ordered. “And listen good.” They obediently snapped to attention and huddled up. “We are here for one reason. And one reason only. Do you know what that reason is? It starts with a W.”

“To win, Coach Orion sir!” Suggested Averman.

“No!” Orion shot back. “To work! High school hockey is very hard work. And it all begins with DEFENSE.” He paused.

“You’re not kids or little Ducks anymore.” Resumed the Coach. “I won’t treat you that way. You’re going to learn to play two-way hockey.” He explained what that meant. “Offence and defence. But it’s going to take one thing…starts with a W.”

Averman decided to take another crack at it.

“Work Coach Orion sir!”

“Wrong…WILL!”

“Sheeesh,” muttered Averman to himself. O for two.

“It’s going to take real will if you want to play in my barn.” Coach Orion concluded. Things were definitely going to be different.


Chapter 10

There was at least one important lesson the Ducks would learn from Coach Orion that afternoon. The guy apparently had never heard of the word exhaustion. After about thirty minutes of brutal conditioning drills, the team was dead tired.

And the worst part was that they hadn’t even scrimmaged. No sticks. No puck. No fun.

Coach Orion blasted his whistle and ordered Goldberg and Gaffney into the net for shooting drills.

Fulton grinned at Banks as if to say, finally.

The team lined up outside the blue line and took turns skating one-on-one against Goldberg. Banks was first. He skated straight at Goldberg and faked left. Goldberg lunged and Adam zigged right and easily flicked the puck into the empty crease. Beat him clean.

“Beginner’s luck.” Shouted Goldberg.

Dwayne was next. He scored easily. Fulton too.

Orion was shaking his head. He sighed and looked at his clipboard. “Ken Wu! C’mon! Let’s see what you can do.”

Ken Wu skated up to the line and gave a little bow. As he manoeuvred the puck toward the goal, he suddenly leaped into the air in a graceful, twisting pirouette. He landed with a flourish and threw his hand into the air triumphantly. Goldberg was so surprised he didn’t even notice that the puck had slid right through his leg.

Ken completed his move with an awesome spin move that reduced him to a blur.

The kids clapped appreciatively. A few pretended to hold up scorecards. “Very nice Ken.” Drawled Averman in a refined tone. “A perfect 10!”

Coach Orion blew his whistle disgustedly. “Hey Baryshnikov! Knock that off.” He turned and gave Goldberg a befuddled look. “When was the last time you practiced?”

Goldberg explained. “We don’t really practice per se. We either play or play around. You know, have fun.”

Orion stared at him blankly. “Fun?” Prompted Goldberg. “You know…the thing that makes you laugh, ha-ha.”

“I’ll shut up now.” Goldberg muttered miserably when he realized Orion was not going to crack a smile.

Orion blew his whistle. “Gaffney! You’re up!”

Julie Gaffney quickly took up position in the crease and the team lined up again. Adam Banks’ slap shot was a low line drive from about fifteen yards out. Julie threw up her glove and easily snagged the puck.

Julie ‘the cat’ Gaffney was on her game. Shots came at her one after another, but nothing could get by her.

Even Orion seemed to be impressed.

Everyone but Goldberg. “I don’t see what the big deal is,” he pouted.


Charlie was exhausted. His thighs ached and his lungs ached. He wanted to be with the team more then anything but there was no way he was going to let Orion know that.

Each time he made a lap he glowered at Orion.

The team was in the middle of a stickhandling drill. Orange cones had been set up on the ice. Adam Banks was the best skater of the team by far, and he had no trouble weaving through the cones. Dwayne and Ken looked good, too.

“Conway!” Yelled Orion unexpectedly. “Through the cones! Let’s see it!”

All right! Charlie thought. He was so excited to be back with the Ducks that he forgot about Orion.

The team muttered some encouraging words as Charlie joined the line.

He broke off the line cleanly and neatly negotiated the first few cones. But at the fourth cone caught a blade and found himself leaning steeply, out of control.

He crashed over the cone and sprawled onto the ice.

Coach Orion shook his head wearily. “This is why we drill Conway.”

“The heck with you,” Charlie muttered under his breath.

“What did you say?” Demanded Orion.

“I said I’m doing my best.” Lied Charlie.

Orion upbraided him sharply. “Is that what you call it? Because if it is, there’s not much point in your sticking around.”

Charlie was stunned. Hockey was about the only thing in his life that mattered to him. That made him matter. He bit down on his trembling lip.

“Why are you picking on me?” He asked peevishly.

“I’m not.” Answered Orion. “It only feels that way.”

Charlie swallowed hard as he watched Orion skate away.


Chapter 11

Goldberg collapsed on the locker-room floor. “Somebody get a shovel and bury me right here.” He groaned.

They were exhausted. Drained. Demoralized. They sat around the locker room with their heads down and shoulders slumped, too tired to complain.

The locker-room door flew open. It was Coach Orion. They all jumped suddenly to attention.

“The Eden Hall Academy requires that you maintain a C average to compete. I believe that’s a bad rule.

The team—surprised—reacted enthusiastically. And as it turned out, a tad prematurely.

“I don’t want any C players on my team.” He said. He turned a sour face at the letter C.

“On my team you will be required to maintain a B grade-point average or you’ll be riding the pine pony. You have fifteen minutes after practice to clear the locker room. You have homework to do.”

On his way out he pinned a roster to the bulletin board.

At the door he turned. “One more thing. Stay away from the Varsity team until we play them in December. Is that clear?”

They all nodded as he exited.

“Fifteen minutes?” Russ said in disbelief as he sank groaning onto the bench. “Man, I can’t move!”

Connie wandered over to the board. “Hey, he posted our positions.”

Despite their exhaustion, they all jumped up and rushed to the bulletin board. There was a lot of confusion. The team roster had been completely rearranged!

“I don’t believe it!” Fulton grumbled. “I play left side not right.”

“Third line,” complained Russ bitterly. That is major dis’.”

The uproar continued as Adam turned away from the board. He was as pale as a ghost. “I’m not even listed!” He announced bleakly.

The players fell silent in outraged disbelief.

Adam Banks was the best player on the team. He might even have been the best player in Minnesota!

Adam staggered to the bench and sat down. He looked as if he were going to cry.

“I’m not even listed.” He replied tonelessly.

“Yes you are.” Connie said. “Adam Banks.” She read from the list. “Third line centre…” she looked at Adam wide-eyed. “Varsity?”

Adam blinked uncomprehendingly. “I made varsity?” His shock was suddenly tinged with pride. “I made…varsity?”

A couple of players congratulated him. But Adam responded with mixed emotions. Playing varsity was a dream come true. But it meant an end to the Ducks. At least for him.

Resigned, Averman walked back to the bench and sat down next to Goldberg.

The goalie acted remarkably composed.

“You know what the great thing about goalie is?” He explained. “You always know where you stand. I just mind my own business and take my place between the pipes.”

“News flash.” Said Averman. He put a friendly hand on Goldberg’s shoulder. “You’re riding the pine pony.”

Goldberg jumped to his feet. “I’m backup?!” He demanded incredulously. Averman shrugged. Snorting like an angry bull, Goldberg charged over to the bulletin board. “How could he do this to me?” He moaned as he moped back to the bench.

“Hey?” Asked Dwayne. “Who’s tibid?” They all looked at him curiously and he pointed to the roster.

Guy walked over and took a closer look. “That says Captain T.B.D. It means to be determined.”

“Oh.” Said Dwayne. “I see.” He hesitated. “No I don’t.” That’s your job Charlie.”

All eyes turned to their captain.

Charlie stood up. He noticed the black C stitched on his jersey. He swallowed hard, pulled off the jersey, and flung it across the room. Then he stormed out of the locker room.


Chapter 12

When Charlie slipped in through the back door of Hans’ Sports Shop, he was greeted by a familiar sound. Hans was standing at the worktable. Hockey skates were piled in a jumble at his feet. He was bent over a skate sharpener as he hummed along to a corny Norwegian record on his old 78-rpm record player.

The whirring of the grinder stopped momentarily. “School was not so good today, Charlie.” Hans said matter-of-factly as he tested the sharpness of a skate blade with his thumb.

“How did you know?” Asked Charlie.

Hans shrugged. “Only two people can open a door so sadly.” He sneaked a peek at Charlie over his shoulder. “Gordon and you.” He smiled.

“School’s a nightmare.” Moaned Charlie. “Especially our hockey coach. Have you ever heard of Ted Orion?”

“Yes.” Hans said thinking. “He left the North Stars in his prime. I believe he was involved in a scandal. Gambling maybe. Or was it steroids?”

Charlie said, “We heard he killed a man. Either way, this guy is no Duck.”

Hans looked at Charlie meaningfully. “Perhaps you can show him the way.”

Charlie scoffed. “He doesn’t exactly seem open to new learning experiences.”

Hans paused, then asked, “The question is, are you?”
Charlie was taken aback. Hans was supposed to be his friend. Now he was telling Charlie that it was all his fault?

“All I know is,” he shot back peevishly, “Things used to be great.”

Hans nodded. “Let me show you something.” He said as he picked up a framed photograph from the worktable. It was a picture of Charlie and Gordon and the rest of the team in their old District Five days. Charlie and Hans both smiled warmly.

“Man.” Charlie remembered fondly. “That seems a long time ago.”

“Like yesterday to me.” Said Hans.

Charlie looked away.

“He’s gone.” Said Charlie sourly. “We’re too small-time for him.”

“People leave Charlie. But they are still here.” Hans tapped a finger lightly to his chest. “Here. In our hearts.”

“Yeah, well I’d rather see him still on our bench.” Charlie griped good-naturedly.

“I know.” Hans said as he slid an arm around Charlie’s shoulder and slyly walked him over to the pile of skates. “Can we discuss this while we sharpen the rest of these skates?”

“We?” Charlie grinned.

Hans pretended to be shocked. “Okay.” He admitted finally. “You finish sharpening the skates.”

“No sweat.” Agreed Charlie. “You just have a seat. This should only take”—he noticed the enormous pile of skates and groaned—“a week or so.”

“Good boy.” Said Hans as he lowered himself onto his favourite old sofa and whistled with relief. In a few minutes he was fast asleep.


Chapter 13

Goldberg and Averman were on the lunch line in the crowded cafeteria. Goldberg was trying to make a point. “So what if she’s got a quick glove,” he complained as he grabbed a slice of lemon meringue pie. “Who’s got the better stick?”

“You do.” Repeated Averman tonelessly as he watched Goldberg load his tray.

“Darn right.” Said Goldberg. Meat loaf. Potatoes with extra gravy. Ham and cheese sandwich. Two ho-hos, three cartons of chocolate milk, Cool Ranch Doritos, pretzels.

Averman shook his head disgustedly. He felt sick just watching.

But Goldberg was oblivious. “Who’s got the game experience?” He continued. “Me or the cat girl.”

Averman tried to reassure him. “You do, Goldberg. She’s just faster and quicker. That counts on this level.”

Goldberg had a sudden insight. Do you think I’d be number one again if I lost a few pounds?”

Averman looked down at Goldberg’s tray. “It might be easier to have her gain a few pounds.”

Goldberg considered the thought. All right! He thought.


*

Charlie, Fulton, and Russ entered the cafeteria just in time to see Cole hassling Ken Wu. Cole took a sandwich, crammed it into his mouth, then pretended to gag and spit it back onto his tray.

“Man.” Fulton fumed. “I could maim that big goon. If Portman were here, we could cream all of them.”

Charlie told his friend not to worry. He had a plan that would take care of Cole and his friends.

“They want lunch?” He said. “Let’s give ‘em lunch.”

Julie Gaffney stared at the proffered Twinkies and smiled gratefully.

“No problem.” Said Goldberg humbly. “You’re going to need a lot of energy to play on this level. Carbo-loading, you know. These Twinkies are packed with energy.”

“They are?” Asked Julie.

“Oh yeah.” Goldberg insisted emphatically. “From now on I’ll be your nutritional adviser. No charge.”

“Thanks Goldberg.”


A short time later Charlie re-entered the cafeteria with Fulton and Russ. They marched nonchalantly past the varsity players’ table.

“Not so fast twerp!” Barked Cole as he grabbed Charlie’s bag lunch.

“Aww come on.” Protested Charlie. He made a big play to retrieve the bag. “My mommy made me brownies.”

“Nice fresh ones.” Added Fulton.

The varsity players erupted in mocking laughter.

“By the way.” Rick called out to Fulton. “It’s too bad about your Bash Brother. I guess he was scared to leave home.”

Fulton bristled. “Portman isn’t scared of nothing.”

“Oohhh.” The varsity players taunted. At the same time Cole reached into the bag and grabbed a handful of brownies.

“Hey!” He whined, staring at the brown mess in his hands. “What kind of crap brownies are these?”

Charlie slapped his forehead in mock embarrassment.

“Oops!” He apologized. “I’ve got to ask Mom to stop using horse turds in the recipe.”

Cole stared at the lump in his hand and went pale as a ghost.

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”

Charlie, Fulton, and Russ grinned triumphantly as pandemonium erupted in the cafeteria. A stampede broke out after Cole flung the bag across the room. Generous dollops of horse poop plopped down on the tables like rain. Everyone was shouting and screaming and running for the exits.

Charlie pretended to dust off his hands. “Gentlemen.” He declared. “I believe our work here is done.”

“There’s only one more thing we’ve got to do.” Said Russ.

“And what’s that?” Inquired Charlie calmly.

Russ and Fulton simultaneously pointed to the varsity table, and Charlie gulped.

“RUN!” They shouted.


Chapter 14

If Charlie had any hopes that Orion might have morphed from nightmare coach into Mr. supportive guy, he was sadly mistaken. The freshman team was skating warm-up laps and Orion was riding them hard.

“Work those legs!” He shouted at Julie. “Where’s your energy?” Surprisingly, Julie was lagging behind the rest of the team—including Goldberg. She clutched her stomach and skated to the boards.

“I think I’m going to be sick.” She moaned.

On the next lap, Goldberg skated past Julie and commented innocently. “One ho-ho over the line, Cat Lady.”

Meanwhile, Charlie was grumbling to Fulton about the gruelling intensity of warm-ups. “This is total bull.” Snapped Charlie. “I can’t play for this drill sergeant.”

“Play for us, the Ducks.” Fulton reasoned with him. Charlie noticed that Fulton was struggling hard to keep up.

“Come on.” Charlie told him kindly, slowing down to help him with his skating. “Bend your knees a little more. Let’s go, smooth strokes.” Fulton stumbled and Charlie caught him.

“Thanks.” Fulton blurted and Charlie nodded.

Orion whistled the team into a huddled then noticed Julie by the boards still clutching her stomach. He called over. “Julie the Cat what’s the matter? Eat a fur ball?”

Goldberg erupted in laughter. “Good one Coach. Fur ball, ha!” But Orion shot him a disapproving look.

“Just get in the net, Goldberg.”

“Me?” Asked Goldberg. “Sure thing Coach.” He looked towards the boards and grinned at Julie. “My pleasure.”

Julie shook her head and groaned.

The team was in the middle of a wonder drill. Five players—Fulton, Connie, Dwayne, Averman, and Russ-skated against two defenders, Charlie and Guy. The coach skated in their midst.

Charlie lunged at Dwayne in an attempt to intercept the puck. But Dwayne easily sidestepped him and Charlie twisted, sprawling onto the ice.

“I don’t see a captain out there!” Orion snapped at Charlie. “Make him make the first move, Conway.”

Charlie jumped up and hustled over to where Dwayne and Guy were jostling behind the net for control of the loose puck. He snagged the puck and skated left, but froze when he saw Connie and Russ charging him. He panicked and shot the puck across the goal crease, where Averman swooped in for the easy interception. He had an easy shot.

“Freeze!”

Orion shook his head disgustedly. “Where’s the one place you never—I mean NEVER—want to clear the puck?” He roared at Charlie.

“It looked—“

“Answer the question Charlie.”

Charlie exploded. “I’m not a defenseman! I’m a scorer!”

Orion calmly scooped up the puck. “Follow me.” In instructed Charlie as he led him over to the penalty box. “That’s a misconduct. Ten minutes.”

Orion held the door open and Charlie angrily sat down and slammed his stick onto the floor. Then Orion skated back onto centre ice.

“Anybody share his opinion?” He inquired bluntly of the players. No one spoke. The fact was, Orion had earned the respect of everyone except Charlie and Fulton.


After practice, Charlie bladed alone to the bus stop. He shook his head when he saw Linda Chavez sitting on the bench.

“Oh joy.” He smirked as he plunked down next to her. “Is this seat taken?”

Linda Chavez looked up briefly. She hunched over without answering.

Charlie glared at her. “You’re just like the rest of those snobs.”

She spun around sharply. “I am not a snob.”

“Right.” Charlie scoffed. “You don’t like me because I’m an athlete. That’s a snob. You don’t even know me.”

“I’m sure if I knew you I wouldn’t like you.”

“Try me.” He said. She eyed him curiously.

“Hi!” He began in a fake dating-service voice. “I’m Charlie. I’m a 14-year-old, almost six-foot-tall non-smoking Leo. Turn-ons include hockey, pizza, and music. Turnoffs…” Charlie pretended to think. “Oh yeah. I hate everything about this school and the preppy twerps who go there.” Then Charlie blushed and added hastily, “Except you.”

Linda laughed.

“Now you.” He said.

Linda took a deep breath. “I’m Linda. I don’t like it here either.”

“What about pizza?” Asked Charlie pretending to tick off items on the list.

“I…like pizza.” She admitted.

“Music?”

“Of course I like music.” He nodded approvingly and she smiled warmly. “I like Pantera.”

Charlie slapped his forehead. “No way!” He said. “I love Pantera.” He consulted his imaginary list again and chuckled. “So the only thing we don’t agree on is hockey. What? Is it too violent? You don’t understand the rules?”

Linda grinned sheepishly. “I have to admit that I’ve never really been to a game.”

Charlie was incredulous. “You’ve never heard of the Mighty Ducks? They even named a professional team after us.”

Linda grinned and shrugged. “Sorry.”

“Really?” Charlie said. A plan was taking shape in his mind. “Huh.” It was now or never. “We have a game Friday. Maybe you should come, and after we could you know snag a Coke or something. What do you think?”

Linda considered. “I still don’t know you that well.”

“Did I tell you I’m allergic to nuts?” Charlie asked then added in a rush. “Peanuts—any kind of nut—and I blow up.” He blew out his cheeks to demonstrate. “I like REM, John Woo movies…and I really like talking with you.” He leaned back on the bench, exhausted. He looked at her. “What else?”

“I don’t know. Just keep talking.” Then they both laughed.


Chapter 15

That Friday during the skate-around just before the first junior varsity game, Charlie spotted Linda in the stands. He smiled and waved. It made him feel good to see her there. He knew that Hans would be listening to the game on the radio back at the shop. But it wasn’t the same as having him in the arena. And it wasn’t the same wearing a Warriors jersey, either.

At the same time Dean Buckley was entertaining Tom Riley and several of the board members and distinguished alumni in the pavilion box high above the ice.

Tom Riley sidled up to the dean and clapped him on the back.

“Buckley they better be awfully good.” Riley whispered to him harshly. Otherwise…they’re out. And you, too.” Their eyes locked, and the smile slid from Riley’s face.

“Do we understand each other?” He asked Buckley through a big grin.

Dean Buckley nodded.


The players were in a huddle around Coach Orion.

“Think defence.” He reminded them and tapped his forehead. Then he stuck out his hand. “All right! Let’s do it.”

“Quack.” Said Charlie as the team slapped hands.

The players started and Coach Orion glared at Charlie. “What is that? Knock it off.” He tried again to kick-start their enthusiasm. “Go team on two!” He said rousingly. “One…two.”

They hesitated for a moment, then in a lacklustre display of team unity blandly repeated, “Go team.”

Fulton skated up behind him and tapped him with his stick. He motioned his head to the bench where Orion was giving last-minute instructions to Julie. “Let’s show this guy what we can do.”

All right! Thought Charlie as he and Fulton high-fived.

It was time to show Orion what it meant to be a Duck.


Chapter 16

In the first period, the Warriors played like a team possessed. They out-muscled and outmanoeuvred the smaller and slower Blake Barons.

The blowout that had begun in the first period turned into complete and total annihilation in the second period. The Eden Hall Warriors had piled up a lead over the Barons of 9 to 0.

From his perch on the pavilion box, Dean Buckley gazed out over the ice with a smile of serene triumph.

To the assembled alumni and board members he boasted gleefully, “I think we’re witnessing the birth of a dynasty.”


On the bench, the Warrior team cheered.

Russ twirled his arm and hooted. He looked up toward the pavilion box. “Whoooh yeah! What do you think about that, Suckley. I mean Dean Suckley.”

Despite the lopsided score, Orion was pacing the box like a caged animal.

Fulton nudged Charlie. “Check out Orion. You’d think we were losing.”

Charlie shrugged dismissively. “Who cares what he thinks? We can win without a coach.”

The buzzer sounded for the third period and they hopped over the boards.

The period began in supreme confidence for the Warriors, but soon the Barons took control. After the Barons’ fifth goal, the Warriors cheering section stood in stunned silence.

The Barons were playing balanced team-oriented hockey. The Warriors had completely lost their focus.

Charlie was furious.

He angrily jumped to his feet and smashed his stick across the boards. Immediately a referee blasted his whistle and waved Charlie off the ice for an unsportsmanlike penalty.

From the bench Orion watched expressionless.

Charlie continued to yell at the referee even after a few Warrior team-mates skated over to calm him down. Charlie angrily shook them off. From the stands Linda Chavez looked down and shook her head.

She had learned something else about Charlie Conway.

And she did not like what she saw.

Then the roof caved in on the Warriors. With time running out, the Blake Barons had clawed their way back from a nine-goal deficit. They hustled. They pressed. They body checked. They intercepted passes. They picked up three more quick goals and, with only 30 seconds left in regulation, trailed the Warriors by only one goal.

In the pavilion box, a grim and stricken Dean Buckley and the board members and alumni stared down at the ice cheerlessly.

Tom Riley leaned back in his chair. He wondered aloud. “Are you telling me my youngest boy isn’t good enough for this team?”

Dean Buckley sighed.

Averman took Charlie aside to confirm strategy. “Clear the puck, Charlie. Kill the clock.”

Charlie nodded.

The Warriors controlled the puck at the face-off. The seconds ticked off.

All Charlie had to do was protect the puck to preserve the win. Keep the blade to the ice and his body over the puck. But the empty Baron net stared at him tantalizingly. He wanted that fourth goal!

“No!” Averman yelled as Charlie charged up the ice. Charlie was at centre ice with only one defender to beat when he executed his patented move—the Spinorama!

He could taste that fourth goal.

But this time the defenseman anticipated the move. He hip checked Charlie. Instead of landing cleanly, Charlie caught a skate tip and sprawled, spinning on the ice. The Baron defender stole the puck. Suddenly they had the Warriors in a six on-four power play.

Five seconds to play and the Blake Barons executed the power play to perfection. A slap shot from a forward on the right side bounced off Goldberg’s pad, but a Baron centre was perfectly positioned to tap the rebound under his outstretched glove.

SCORE!

The horn sounded.


Chapter 17

In the locker room after the game, the freshman Warrior players sat on the benches with tier heads lowered. Charlie sat by himself, brooding. He knew the team blamed him for the tie. But what had he done that was so wrong? He wondered.

“The guy tripped me in the Spinorama.” He explained lamely.

“We didn’t need any more goals.” Ken snapped glaring at Charlie accusingly.

Charlie stood up and addressed the team. “What are we playing for?” He asked resentfully. “Some stupid school? The alumni?” He looked down at his jersey and scoffed. “The Warriors? I mean what the hell are we?”

Russ jumped up and confronted Charlie. “We’re on scholarship. And I’m staying.”

“Fine.” Said Fulton angrily. “Sell out!”

Russ lost his temper and shoved Fulton. Fulton shoved him back. They began to tussle and suddenly they were all shouting and pointing fingers at one another.

A puck slammed—BANG—into an empty locker and everyone froze. It was Orion.

“How long does it take to score a goal?” He asked calmly. The players looked at one another uncertainly, then cringed when Orion hurled another puck across the room. BANG!

“Look!” Orion observed. “Less then a second. That means no lead is safe if you can’t play defence. Get this straight! I don’t care how many goals you score. I want one number on your mind—and one number only. Zero. As in shutout. Got it?”

They looked at one another. Could we really have gotten off so easily? Their expressions suggested. They nodded.

Coach Orion paused on his way out. “Oh, by the way. Practice tomorrow…at 5 a.m.” He smiled innocently. “You’ve got to get up early if you want to hunt goose eggs.”

They all groaned.

Later as they stood at their lockers before showering, Guy asked, “Hey who took my clothes?”

“Me too.” Said Averman. “Very funny.”

“Uh-oh.” Said Guy.

They stared into their empty lockers in bewildered silence. In the shower room, however, they could hear the hissing of a shower at full blast. They trooped in and found their clothes piled in a single drenched heap on the floor.

The words “Freshmen Stink” were scrawled on the wall with shaving cream.

“This sucks.” Said Goldberg. And for the first time all day, they all agreed.


Chapter 18

Outside the locker room, Charlie was standing in his wet clothes at a pay phone. He had promised to call Hans after the game.

“What happened Charlie?” Asked Hans. “It sounded like you just quit out there.”

Charlie was in no mood for a lecture. “Whatever, Hans.”

There was a pause on the line then Hans asked. “Charlie what is it?”

Charlie blurted, “I can’t play this coach’s system!” He felt himself losing it. “Listen Hans. I’ll talk to you later.”

He hung up.

Linda had agreed to meet him after the game. She smiled when he walked up, then did a double take.

“I’ve heard of the wet look, but I think you may be taking it too far.”

Charlie tried to act upbeat. “Yeah. A stupid varsity prank.” He apologized for the game. Then he pinned the blame on Orion. “Our coach has no idea what he’s doing.”

“And those refs were blind.” Charlie concluded, shaking his head. ‘They definitely had it in for us.”

“It was only my first game.” Linda offered gently. “But I think you could have used a little defence out there.”

Charlie pouted sullenly. “Great. One game and now you’re an expert.”

“No, I’m not.” Said Linda. “Relax, Charlie. It’s only a game. Right?”

He spun on her and snapped angrily. “Right. And it doesn’t matter if you win or lose. That’s total bull.”

Linda frowned disapprovingly. “Now you sound like a real jock.”

“Maybe I am.”

“I told you I don’t like jocks.” She turned and walked away.


Inside the freshmen locker room several players were sitting on the bench, tediously blowing their clothes dry with hair dryers. The varsity game had just begun and the cheers that filtered through the stands dampened their spirits further.

Goldberg held up a pair of sopping wet jeans. “I should have these dry in about two hours. Noooo problem.”

“It could be worse.” Ken said, and Goldberg looked at him doubtfully. “Really.” Ken assured him. “Ever see what liquid nitrogen can do to your clothes?” All at once they looked at him, intrigued. “I spilled some in science class once. They’ve got this big tank in there.”

Ken smiled devilishly and suddenly the mood in the locker room began to improve.

“How big of a tank?” Asked Russ pointedly.

“Not too big. Very portable.”


“Sssssh.” Russ warned Ken and Julie as they sneaked the nitrogen tank into the varsity locker room. “Okay.” Russ whispered. “All clear.”

They went one locker at a time. As a bonus, Connie and Goldberg squirted a generous dollop of shaving cream into every shoe.

The last locker they came to was Adam’s.

“What about Banks?” Asked Russ.

“He’s one of them now, isn’t he?” Answered Julie.

Russ shook his head sadly, then turned the hose on the locker.

“Okay, let ‘er rip!”


Chapter 19

It wasn’t too long before the varsity team charged into the locker room in a noisy victory celebration. They had crushed their opponents. Even better, they had showed the freshman team how a real hockey team played.

Rick delighted in predicting that Eden Hall Academy had probably heard the last from those jerks.

Then Cole flipped open his locker. His clothes were standing up by themselves. He reached for his pants… which shattered into a million particles of blue ice.

“What the…?”

He looked up and for the first time noticed the message on the wall: “VARSITY SUCKS ICE!”

Adam Banks took one look at his frozen clothes and sighed.


Chapter 20

The next day in the cafeteria Rick and a group of varsity players stopped at the freshman table.

“Congrats on the game last night.” He told Charlie.

“Yeah right. We tied.”

Rick shrugged. “A point is a point. Plus you made it through hazing.” Charlie and Averman exchanged suspicious looks. “It’s hands-off after your first game. It’s Eden Hall tradition.”

“It’s true guys.” Adam said, reassuring them. “I asked.”

“We’re all warriors now.” Explained Rick. “You guys proved you had guts. All set for dinner Friday?”

“Dinner?” Asked Russ.

“It’s an Eden Hall tradition. The varsity treats the freshmen to dinner. So round up your posse and meet us at six at Murray’s Steak House downtown.” He looked around the table his face a portrait of sincerity. “Anybody need a ride, we can take you. You guys do like steak don’t you?”

“Yeah.” Charlie said. “We do.”

Cole grabbed Charlie by the shirt and lifted him out of his seat. “I don’t like you pukes, but this is a tradition. And at Eden Hall I learned to care about tradition.” Then he dropped Charlie back into his seat, and they walked away.

Adam was last to pass by. He smiled, and gave them an okay sign. “It’s cool.”


“Awesome lobster, huh, Charlie?”

Charlie had a huge mouthful of lobster and nodded. Rick laughed. “Hey.” He told Charlie, “You have to show me that Spinorama move.”

Charlie swallowed hard. “Sure. It’s easier then it looks.” He took another huge bite of lobster.

“No way.” Said Rick. “You’re just being modest.”

Farther down the table, Goldberg offered Julie a huge shank of prime rib. She elbowed him hard in the chest, and Goldberg tumbled backward out of his chair onto the floor.

“I’m just trying to help.” He muttered as he climbed up into his chair. Then he took a big bite of the prime rib.

There was a tinkling of glasses, and Rick stood up to offer a toast.

“On behalf of the Eden Hall Varsity Warriors, state champion hockey team, I’d like to welcome the future state champs, the Eden Hall Freshmen.”

“Hear! Hear!” The varsity chanted.

After the toast, Rick announced that there was one final surprise. Another part of the Eden Hall tradition, he explained. All the varsity players stood up and walked out as two waiters wheeled in an enormous cake, complete with sparklers.

The freshmen jumped up and excitedly crowded around the cake.

“The mother lode!” Explained Goldberg.

There was an inscription in red icing: “Thanks for the dinner, losers!”

Just then the head waiter glided up to the table and presented the check.

“Eight hundred fifty-seven bucks!” Choked Averman.

“I think I’m going to be sick.” Said Goldberg.


“I’ve never washed so many dishes in my life.” Groaned Connie on the steps outside the restaurant later that night.

“We’ve got to respond.” Said Charlie. “We’ve got to do something.”

Averman agreed. “It’s like physics. Each action requires an equal—if not bigger—reaction.” They looked at him puzzled. Averman shrugged. “You know what I mean.”


That night inside a varsity dorm room, Rick and Scott were snoring away peacefully as the junior varsity commandos set their plan in motion. Connie, Averman, and Fulton tiptoed down the hallway. At each room they ran a clear plastic tube under the door.

Outside, Luis and Julie performed surveillance. They were huddled high up in an oak tree that offered a perfect view of the varsity dorm. Luis peered through a pair of binoculars. Periodically he radioed instructions into a handheld walkie-talkie to the tube runners inside.

“Little to the left.” He said. “Good. Room b? Four feet straight ahead. How’s it look to you, Cowboy?”

On the grounds outside the dorm, Cowboy sat astride the horse ‘borrowed’ from the equestrian team. He surveyed the scene with a telescope.

“All secure.” He barked into a walkie-talkie. “I’ll go check on the other side.”

Meanwhile, inside the dean’s office, Charlie, Goldberg, and Russ crept stealthily over to the aquarium with a large sack. They smeared a generous slab of honey inside the sack. They positioned the sack over the glass.

‘Be careful.” Warned Charlie as they watched a trail of hungry ants march single file into the sack. “They’re not called fire ants for nothing.”

“Are you sure he’s not going to notice they’re missing?” Russ asked nervously.

“I doubt he keeps a head count.” Said Goldberg.


In the parking lot outside the varsity dorm room, one of the cheerleaders climbed out of Cole’s car giggling mischievously.

“Shhh. I’m late for lights out.” Whispered Cole. “Just go home and I’ll call you…whenever.”

The cheerleader ran off. Cole jammed his hands in his pockets and walked across the lawn toward the varsity dorm. He grew suspicious at one point, however, and peered over his shoulder. He almost screamed. A horse was staring down at him.

“You a stray calf?” Inquired Dwayne.

“What the…?”

Dwayne leaned forward on the pommel. “You know.” He told Cole as he tipped his hat back. “It would be a heck of a lot more fun if you ran.”

Cole finally clued into what was happening and broke into a run. “Hey guys!” He shouted as he ran. “Wake up! It’s a raid!”

Dwayne smiled broadly and scrunched down his hat. “YEEHAW!” He shouted as he galloped after Cole and flung out his rope. He lassoed Cole. The boy struggled and stumbled and fell to the ground. Dwayne sprang off his horse and hog-tied him in seconds flat.

He waved his hat to the imaginary crowd.

In the hallway outside the varsity dorm Charlie was handing out final instructions. Connie looped a cord around each doorknob. Then she yanked the cord tight.

She gave Charlie a thumbs-up signal. Charlie nodded.

Outside Julie spoke into a walkie-talkie. “Release the hungry fellows.”

Luis couldn’t help but admire Julie in her outfit. “You know you look good in black.”

“Don’t go there, Luis.”

Luis shrugged and sighed.

The tube in Rick’s room ran up under his sheets and up his leg. Outside in the hallway Fulton aligned the tube along the funnelled lip of the sack. He grinned and nodded as he watched the hungry ants running along the tube.

The same procedure was repeated at each door.

Inside his room Rick stirred restlessly. He scratched. And scratched harder. He awakened, then threw back his sheets.

“AHHHHHH!”

All down the hall the freshmen could hear screaming and doors struggling to be yanked open.

“Easy Connie.” Cautioned Charlie. He had his hand up as a signal. Connie stood at the top of the hall with a rope held taut in her hand.

“Easy…”

Finally Charlie brought down his hand. “NOW!” Connie yanked hard on the master rope. All the other ropes instantly fell away.

The doors all flew open simultaneously and the jocks tumbled backward into their rooms.

Finally the jocks escaped into the hallway, where the junior varsity was waiting dressed in full hockey gear.

“ARGHHHH!!!!” they shouted as they charged like a herd of stampeding bulls down the hallway. The jocks, hopping up and down, were too busy itching and scratching to protect themselves.

They tumbled like pins in a bowling alley.

“Oomph!” Grunted one player as Goldberg checked him hard into the wall. It was a rout.

Suddenly Scott and Julie were face-to-face.

“Sorry about—“

Julie smiled sweetly. “From one goalie to another? Save it.” She threw a look over her shoulder at Goldberg and shrugged. “Just a little goalie humour.”

Rick managed to tackle Charlie. “You think you’re funny.” He snarled. “You think you’re somebody. You’re just white trash.”

“Who are you calling white trash?” Demanded Russ.

“We’ll take you on anywhere.” Charlie promised Rick. “Anytime.”

“Tomorrow. Dawn.” Then Rick was screaming down the hall, scratching the whole way.


Chapter 21

The next morning at dawn, the freshman team arrived at the rink wearing old Duck jerseys. The varsity team trooped in a few minutes later.

“Hey.” Quipped Averman. “Check out their polka-dot faces.”

There was an exchange of pleasantries as the teams took the ice. This time around it was all business.

Goldberg was warming up in front of the goal when Julie skated over.

“We’ll split the shifts. I want a piece of these guys.” She said. Goldberg nodded okay.

Out on the ice, Adam skated up to Charlie. “They didn’t tell me until it was too late. You’ve got to believe me.”

“Right…preppy.”

Rick and Charlie met at centre ice.

“First to ten goals wins.” Rick said, and Charlie agreed. “Full checks.”

Charlie smiled broadly. “Oh…absolutely.”

Rick easily controlled the opening face-off. He cracked Charlie with an elbow to the jaw.

Charlie winced and immediately tasted blood. He shook it off. There was no way he was going to let Rick know he had hurt him.

The pass went to Cole, who easily slipped by Fulton. He charged hard down the ice just as Connie and Guy converged on him. But Cole flipped the puck back to Rick.

Rick had the puck and an open shot. Score!

Moments later, Charlie led them in a flying v.

Inside the neutral zone, the varsity dropped into a defensive posture. They didn’t appear to be intimidated by the Duck formation. At the centre line, the varsity defender charged and faked a check. Charlie fell for…literally.

The flock clumsily broke formation and tumbled onto Charlie. The varsity centre picked up the loose puck and scored easily.

Julie slammed her glove onto the ice. “C’mon, defence! Let’s go!”

Russ, Averman, and Guy hopped the board for the line change.

Russ was standing dumbfounded when Rick barrelled over him. He was charging the net. Goldberg came out a few steps to cut down the angle. Cole swooped in from his blind side, Goldberg was an easy—and open—target.

Cole delivered a vicious cross-check that caught Goldberg under the chin and sent him sprawling. Rick came to a slashing stop in front of the net and tapped in the puck.

“QUACK, QUACK, QUACK!” He chanted mockingly.

On a breakaway, Connie shovelled a pass to Charlie. On the give-and-go he ducked a brutal check from Cole. The burly defender crashed hard into the boards.

Banks picked up Charlie and shadowed him as they entered the attacking zone. Charlie flicked a pass to Ken…and they scored!

After the play, Charlie skated up behind Adam and cracked him across the back. Banks slumped into the boards.

“Interference.” Said Adam as he jumped to his feet. “You’d be in the box.”

“Go cry to your rich parents, cake eater.”

“You’re just PO’d because your precious coach bailed on you.

All his pent-up anger and frustration suddenly exploded. Charlie threw a punch that caught Adam on the jaw. Adam fought back. Suddenly both teams were crowded around them. Rick and Fulton started to fight. Then everyone paired off. It was pandemonium.

Suddenly Orion ran up and was screaming at them to break it up. He practically lifted Rick off the ground with one hand. “It’s a damn good thing I’m not your coach. Now get your team out of here!”

They hustled off.

The freshman team hung back uncertainly.

“Congratulations. You have just forfeited whatever mental edge you might have had over the varsity. Now they know they own you.”

“This isn’t peewees. Your little Duck tricks won’t work at this level. For the last time, stay away from the varsity. And I want those Duck jerseys off now!”

His order took a beat to register, but they began peeling off the jerseys and dumped them in a pile at Orion’s feet. Everyone except Fulton and Charlie.

Charlie stood with his arms crossed defiantly.

“The Ducks are dead. You have two choices Conway. You take off your jersey right now—or you don’t play.”

Charlie flushed red and looked to his friends for support.

“You’re breaking up the best thing any of us had.” Charlie said.

“It’s time to grow up.”

“Grow up! Like you? A washed up pro who has to show off to a JV team? Gee you’re real tough.”

Coach Orion refused to react. “Good-bye, Conway. Anyone else?”

No one moved except Fulton, who stepped forward defiantly.

Coach Orion stood aside as he and Charlie skated off the ice—and off the team.

Coach Orion turned back to the team.

‘No one is forcing any of you to be here. It’s your lives. You decide what to make of them.” The kids had mixed emotions. Watching two of their friends banished from the team was hard. But the coach was right. They had a choice.

Maybe it was time to put the past behind them.

No one said anything. But it was clear to Orion that each had made a choice.

‘Okay.” He barked. He was back to being a drill sergeant. “Twenty laps, then hit the showers.” They broke huddle and hit their laps.

And this time nobody complained.


Chapter 22

At a food court inside the Mall of America, Charlie and Fulton were munching their fourth hot-dog-on-a-stick.

A pile of empty wrappers and cartons were piled on the table in front of them.

“You want some more fries?” Asked Charlie.

Fulton groaned and shook his head.

“Me, neither. Hey you want to take another ride on the coaster?”

“Nah.” Decided Fulton. “Six times is enough for me.” He clutched his stomach. “Anyway, one more loop and I might barf.”

“Yeah.” Agreed Charlie. “Great, huh?”

Fulton smiled weakly.

Charlie leaned back in his seat and laced his fingers behind his head. “Sure beats school, huh?” Fulton didn’t answer, and Charlie felt disappointed. “Tomorrow will be more fun,” he promised.

Fulton leaned forward thoughtfully. “Yeah but…after that.” He turned to look at Charlie. “I mean, we can’t do this forever.”

“I know.” Said Charlie. “I figure we’ll go to public school for awhile, then go play junior hockey in Canada. You only have to be seventeen to play.”

“Charlie I don’t know if I can make juniors.”

“Are you kidding? With your shot?”

It wasn’t that. Fulton took a deep breath. This was hard to say. “I mean if I don’t know if I want to play hockey all my life.”

Charlie darkened. “You’re going back.”

Fulton nodded. “We can deal. The Ducks are there.”

Charlie felt betrayed. “Just go, then. It’s all right.” Fulton hesitated, and Charlie flew into a rage. “Just go! I told you I don’t need you! Will you just get the hell out of here?”

Fulton stared at Charlie, then stood up and walked away.


Hans was sitting in his favourite chair listening to the Warrior game on the radio. A blanket was draped across his knees. When Charlie walked in he turned down the volume on the radio.

“Your Warriors are having a difficult time.”

“They’re not my Warriors.” Charlie said glumly.

Hans nodded. “I see.” He said as he pulled the blanket up higher. He coughed roughly, and Charlie looked at him concerned.

“You okay, Hans?”

Hans waved off Charlie. “Is nothing. A cold.” He motioned for Charlie to sit down. “Your mother has been calling looking for you.”

“I’m right here.” Said Charlie.

They listened to the game. The Warriors were down 4 to 1 in the third period to the Oak Crest Cardinals.

“It sounds like the team needs you.”

“They don’t need me.” Said Charlie bitterly. “They need a new coach.”

“Coach Orion won’t let you just skate by.” Explained Hans. “He demands more. He wants it because he knows it is there inside you.” He put a hand on Charlie’s knee. “Just like Gordon did. He needs you to lead.”

Charlie looked at Hans appealingly. “How can I lead when he takes away my C, Hans? I was captain.”

“It’s just a letter, Charlie.” He reached into a drawer and pulled out a handful of felt C’s. “Here. Have one. I have hundreds.”

“Don’t make fun of me Hans. It’s not the same.”

Hans tried to make Charlie understand. “He took away the letter, Charlie. He did not take away what was underneath.”

Charlie was confused. “What does that mean?”

“Under the C is you. Charlie Conway.”

“Yeah so?”

Hans leaned back and sighed expansively. “So just be yourself Charlie. Be the boy on the pond, loving the game, learning to fly. Be the boy who became a leader and held the Ducks together through thick and thin.” He shooed him away with his hands. “Now go be with your friends. You are the heart of the team.”

At last Charlie said, “I’ve got to walk. I’ll see you later Hans.”

Hans watched him go. “Good-bye Charlie.”


Charlie walked for hours.

Casey had been waiting impatiently at the diner. At around eleven a bell jingled and Casey turned hopefully to the door. It was Charlie. Her shoulders slumped with relief.

He walked up to her.

Her hands shook and her face was streaked with tears.

“What is it?”

“Charlie,” she said, taking his hand. “Hans is dead.”


Chapter 23

At the cemetery the morning of the funeral a large crowd had gathered. One by one the mourners silently filed up a shallow slope to a grassy rise. There—overlooking a meadow—the casket lay with flowers.

Charlie stood at the edge of the grave alone. His eyes clouded with tears. He remembered the last time he and Hans had talked. He had said things in anger. He had not a chance to say good-bye.

And now it was too late.

Just before the ceremony was to begin, a car approached along the winding drive, and out stepped Gordon Bombay. As he climbed the hill, heads turned in acknowledgment. He approached Charlie.

He spoke as if to himself. “When my dad died, I felt like I was alone…except for Hans. The great thing about Hans was that he was always there for you.” He looked at Charlie meaningfully. “He was there for all of us.” Charlie looked away. “Now Hans is gone, but we can still carry him here.” Gordon tapped his heart.

There was a moment of silence.

“Every time you feel the ice,” said Gordon, “just remember that it was Hans who helped us fly.”

Charlie nodded then walked away. He needed some time to think.


The next morning the alarm banged Charlie awake. It was 6:00 am. Charlie sighed groggily.

“What…?”

Suddenly Charlie bolted upright. He stared at the clock, confused. “I didn’t set the alarm.”

“I know.” A voice answered. “I did.” Charlie whirled to find Gordon sitting at the foot of his bed.

Gordon grinned. “I thought we’d spend the day together. Get an early start.”

“Go away.” Charlie said sulking. “I’m staying in bed.” As if to prove it, he slid back down and pulled the blanket up over his head.

“I know you’ve been going through a rough time.” Said Gordon sympathetically. “I can understand that. There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that I haven’t thought about you and the Ducks.”

“There are no Ducks.” Charlie briefly poked out his head. “Orion split us apart. You left us with a real jerk.”

“Orion?” Gordon asked sceptically. He shook his head. “Maybe you don’t know the whole story. Come on, get dressed.”

“Get lost.”

“Can’t do that.” Said Gordon. He calmly lifted the mattress and Charlie tumbled onto the floor. “Come on Charlie.” He said. “Get dressed.”


“Where are we going?” Demanded Charlie in the car.

Gordon winked. “You’ll see.” After a short drive Gordon pulled into the parking lot at the Eden Hall arena. They entered the arena and Gordon guided Charlie up the stairs into the darkened stands.

“What’s all this about?” Asked Charlie grumpily.

Bombay pointed. A man in street clothes was pushing a young girl in a wheelchair around on the ice. It was Orion. The girl turned in her chair and looked up at him with adoring eyes. Both were laughing.

Charlie looked at Bombay, suddenly understanding.

“That’s right Charlie. It’s his daughter. She was injured in a car accident about five years ago. He was driving. They got sideswiped.” He paused. “I’ve known Ted since peewees. When he quit the Stars he came to me to get out of his contract.”

“So that’s why he gave up playing pros?” Asked Charlie.

“When the North Stars left, he stayed behind. He refused to disrupt her recovery. Her doctor’s and all her friends were here.”

“We all thought he was just a bully who couldn’t cut it.”

“Oh, he could cut it, I assure you.” Said Gordon. “He just made a choice Charlie. And I don’t think he ever regretted his decision for a minute.”

Gordon and Charlie quietly left the arena.

“I just wanted you to see him for who he is.” Gordon told Charlie in the hallway. “Sometimes we put on tough exteriors to hide the pain. I’ve done it a lot in my life.”

They passed a trophy case and Gordon stopped.

“I was a classic overachiever. I was like you, Charlie, growing up without a father. I was angry half the time, and the other half, I felt completely lost and alone.”

Charlie nodded.

“When I played hockey, I was a total hotshot. I tried to take control of every game. I wound up quitting. So I tried law. But it’s the same thing. I rule in the courtroom, but inside I’m a mess. Man I was going down. But then this great thing happened. I got arrested.”

Charlie shot him an incredulous look. But Gordon insisted.

“I got arrested and sentenced to do community service.” He chuckled at the memory. “And as much as I fought it, there you were. You gave me a life, Charlie. You and the Ducks.”

They walked on in silence. Then Gordon stopped and turned to Charlie.

“I told Orion all this when I talked to him about taking over. I told him you were the heart of the team.” Gordon put his arm around Charlie’s shoulder. “I told Orion you were the real Minnesota Miracle Man. So be that man, Charlie. Be that man.”


Chapter 24

The freshman Warriors were waiting in line to board the team bus. Orion was checking off players.

“Wu…Mendoza…Tyler.” He hesitated. “Conway?”

“I want to be on the team, Coach.” Orion stared back at Charlie. “I want to play two-way hockey.” Charlie squared hi shoulders. “Can I come back?”

“No.” Said Orion bluntly. Charlie was crushed.

“You can’t come back.” Explained Orion, “Because as far as I’m concerned you never left the team.” Charlie looked up. Orion smiled. “Have a seat. We’re running late.”

Charlie hustled onto the bus, and Orion jumped on right after him.

“Okay.” He instructed the driver. “Let’s go. We got a game.”

Charlie beamed as he walked down the aisle high-fiving his team-mates.

“Oh man,” joked Russ as Charlie plunked down in a seat next to him. “Coach had you bad! You should have seen your face.” He pulled a weepy face. “Oh Coach I want to come back.”

The bus lurched forward. Suddenly it jerked to a stop. There was a furious pounding at the door. The door swung open and Dean Buckley appeared.

“Hey, hey! I almost missed you!” He beamed cheerfully at the players, then took Coach Orion aside. “Say Coach I wonder if I might have a few words with your boys?”

“And girls!” Piped Julie.

“Yes of course. And girls.”

The team exchanged nervous glances as Buckley began to walk down the aisle.

“We have to think of the long term here. And believe me, this is very difficult for me. The fact is, I think you kids are a welcoming breath of fresh air!”

“Unfortunately the board doesn’t quite see it as I do.” He sighed audibly. “The fact is, they’ve decided to…well…to vote to approve the withdrawal of your scholarships.”

The kids began to protest.

“Now, now.” He said cheerfully over their grumblings. “You’re welcome to stay through the end of the semester. But after that it will be necessary for you to enjoy other educational opportunities.” He concluded by clapping his hands together. “Now get out of there and win that hockey game!”


The players slumped off the bus and then began to protest to their coach.

“We’re just pawns.” Observed Averman philosophically. “Puppets in the big stage show, jesters for the king, barnacles on the underbelly of—”

“Shut up Averman.” Snapped Luis. “I mean don’t we have contracts or something?”

Coach Orion shook his head doubtfully. But his eyes had gone steely and hard.

“We’re going to fight this.” He promised his team. “We’re going to fight this hard.” Encouraged by his determination, the kids broke into cheers.

“Well coach,” said Charlie finally. “Maybe we should seek counsel.” He grinned. “Know any good lawyers?”


Chapter 25

The conference room was packed.

The twelve distinguished members of the Eden Hall Academy Board of Directors sat sombrely on an oak dais at the front of the room. The freshman team, their parents, and a crowd of enthusiastic supporters sat on one side. On the other sat the varsity team and a long contingent of alumni, including a confident Tom Riley.

Coach Orion addressed the board from the podium.

“And so,” he concluded. “I ask you to reconsider your decision to cancel the scholarships awarded to the freshman hockey team. I ask you to let them fulfil their four-year commitment to the Eden Hall Academy.”

His appeal was greeted with a burst of applause from the freshman Warrior supporters in the audience.

At the podium, Dean Buckley obediently turned to his fellow board members.

“Do I have a motion to reconsider?” He inquired unenthusiastically.

The board members sat in mute silence. Not one of them came forward.

Tom Riley smiled smugly.

Dean Buckley shrugged. “I’m sorry Coach,” he announced without the slightest bit of regret. “But without a motion from a board member and a second, the decision stands.”

“I can’t tell you how sorry I am to hear you say that, Dean Buckley.” Said Coach Orion. His tone was weirdly upbeat. He turned to look over his shoulder at Charlie, who smiled slyly and gave him a confident thumbs-up.

Coach Orion turned back to the board members. “You leave us no choice but to bring in our attorney.” He concluded.

There was a confused fluttering from the board members at the head table. Dean Buckley clamped his hand over the microphone and began whispering frantically with the other board members.

The doors at the back of the room flew open. Gordon Bombay—dressed in his most formidable power suit—strode up the aisle carrying a briefcase.

Immediately the freshman team began chanting, “Quack! Quack!”

Bombay acknowledged the familiar greeting with a friendly wink to the crowd. Then he turned into pure steel. His tone was brisk and to the point.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the board,” he began. As counsel for Coach Orion and the freshman hockey team I am here tonight to set forth your legal options so that you might make the best possible decision for all parties concerned.

“Mr. Bombay.” Objected Dean Buckley, “Must I remind you that this is not a legal proceeding?”

“Not yet it isn’t.” Replied Gordon. “But I assure you that it will be.” He flipped open his briefcase and retrieved a folder. “These scholarships.” He argued as he held the folder. “Became binding contracts upon the signature of the recipients to wit an acceptance by the Ducks. They cannot be voided except for cause—which, I guarantee you, you have none.”

The board members were beginning to squirm uneasily.

“Should you pursue the cancellation of their scholarships,” said Gordon to the board, “I will slap you with an injunction within twenty-four hours. I will tie this matter up in court for years, until long after these freshmen have gone off to college. And I will collect damages. I will win because I am very good. And do you know why I am so good? Because I had a good education. You gave it to me, and you will give it to these kids, whether you like it or not.”

He summed up with a flourish. “Accordingly I demand you reinstate their scholarships—for their benefit…as well as your own.”

The Duck fans burst into wild applause. On the other side of the room Tom Riley and his alumni friends looked stunned. Dean Buckley and the rest of the board were huddled in animated conversation.

After a brief sidebar, the board members resumed their seats. The audience held its breath.

“I move the scholarships be reinstated.” A board member declared finally.

Tom Riley was livid. He twisted angrily in his seat.

“I second the motion.” Declared another.

“All in favour?” Inquired Dean Buckley.

One by one all twelve board members raised their hands. It was unanimous.

A huge cheer went up and the crowd broke into a frenzied chorus of ‘Quack! Quack!’ they had won. And it felt good.


Chapter 26

Outside the conference room the players crowded around Gordon, exchanging high fives and patting him on the back.

Gordon turned to Charlie. “I’ve got some business in Chicago.” Charlie nodded. “I’ll be back soon. Call me if you need a lawyer…or a friend.”

Charlie smiled. “Thanks Coach.” He and Charlie hugged warmly.

The team cheered again and Gordon waved, then walked away.

Linda came up to Charlie. “Hi,” she said sweetly. “Congratulations.”

Charlie looked at her. “Thanks.” He said. There was a pause. “Listen,” he said finally. “I’m sorry I was such a jerk. I’m staying in school, and well…” his tone was hopeful. “I still owe you that Coke.”

She took his hand. “I’m just glad you’re back.”

They were about to hug when Charlie was shoved hard in the shoulder.

“Congratulations.” Snarled Rick. “On destroying our school.”

“It’s our school too.” Ken Wu pointed out.

“It’ll never be your school. Don’t you get it?” Rick shook his head and scoffed. “Your fancy lawyer kept you here on a technicality but you’ll never belong.”

“This Friday the varsity takes on JV.” Said Rick coldly. “We’re going to show you once and for all what a joke you punks really are. Then maybe you’ll leave on your own.”

“We’re going to hurt you bad.” Promised Cole. He slammed his fist into his palm.

“You had an unfair advantage.” Objected Charlie. “You had one of us.”

They looked at Banks. “Take him back,” offered Rick. “He didn’t have the heart of a Warrior anyway.”

“C’mon, Adam.” Charlie told him. “You’re with us now.” Adam rejoined his friends. Rick and his crew turned to leave.

“Hey Biff!” Russ called out to Rick. “After we beat you? One more thing.” Rick turned, and Russ pointed to the Warrior flagpole. “The Warriors die and the Ducks fly.”


Chapter 27

The next morning at dawn Coach Orion walked up the arena ramp hauling a large rubber barrel. It was still dark but early-morning light streamed through the windows of the arena and spilled golden rectangles on the ice.

Coach Orion could hardly believe what he saw.

The Ducks—led by Charlie—were already on the ice doing their warm-up laps. He smiled appreciatively as he watched them circle the rink.

Charlie peeled away from the line to meet Coach Orion at centre ice. “We’re ready,” he said. “Coach.”

Orion did a quick double take, but Charlie was smiling. There was no hint of sarcasm—just respect.

“Okay Charlie.” Orion said. “Bring in your team.”

The team huddled around Coach Orion. He drew their attention up to where the varsity Warrior state championship banners hung in the rafters. They gazed at the banners in silent appreciation.

“I’ve been doing my homework on the varsity all season,” explained Orion. “I’m not going to lie to you. They’re good. The way they wiped your faces in the dirt last time was no fluke.”

The team groaned in unison at the humiliating reminder. Orion challenged them. “So if you want your pride back, you’d better be willing to work. There’s nothing glamorous about it. In the pros, we call it blue-collar hockey.”

The Ducks paid close attention as Coach Orion pulled an empty tuna fish can from the barrel. He dropped it onto the ice.

“There’s one thing the varsity does very well,” he continued as he next pulled a stale bagel from the barrel and dropped it, too, onto the ice. The kids looked at each other curiously.

“They’re vultures around the net.” He held up an old soda can. “They find every piece of loose trash. That’s how they beat you. Not with the first shot, but the second…and the third. They bang in the junk. If we’re going to win, we have to pick up the garbage.” He lifted up the barrel and dumped its contents onto the ice.

He waited. “So?” He asked. “What do you say?”

The kids began grunting enthusiastically.

“Let’s do it!” Shouted Fulton. They all picked up the chant.

The freshman team formed two lines on either side of the net and began to slap pieces of garbage at Julie.

Connie controlled an empty soda can. Guy jostled for an old bottle of shoe polish. Ken rebounded an apple core. Luis a rubber toy.

After about twenty minutes of furious drilling, Orion blew shrilly on his whistle. He angrily called them into a huddle around a box.

“You kids aren’t skating like Warriors!” He ranted.

What the…?

“No sir!” He thundered. “You look like something else. You look like…Ducks.”

Huh?????

He reached into the box and pulled out their old Ducks game jerseys. The kids couldn’t believe it.

Orion shrugged. “What?” He asked innocently. He handed out all the jerseys and the kids eagerly slipped them on.

“Okay.” Orion said at last. “Who knows what Ducks do best?”

Charlie beamed. “Fly!”


Chapter 28

The arena was standing room only. The mood of the crowd was electric. When the junior varsity team skated out onto the ice, the freshman fans and supporters burst into a huge ovation.

The Ducks circled to centre ice.

“For Hans.” Said Charlie. The players uncoiled from the huddle and made a turn on the ice. One player after another took off a glove and touched the ice.

From the radio booth, the student announcer explained to the crowd the significance of the gesture. “It looks like the junior varsity team is paying homage to their departed friend and mentor Hans. Touching the ice is a Norwegian sign of respect.”

There was no sign of respect, however, from the varsity team as it lumbered onto the ice and began its warm-ups.

At the horn, both coaches pulled their teams over for last-minute instructions.

“They don’t belong on the ice with us.” Coach Wilson barked to his players. “Now get out there and PROVE IT!”

On the other side of the ice, Coach Orion tried to calm down the players. “Let’s go hunting for goose eggs!” He stuck his hand out. “All right! On three. Quack! Quack! Quack!”

That did it. The tension was shattered immediately. The players picked up the chant as they skated onto the ice. Soon the entire building was thundering with the booming chant of “Quack! Quack! Quack!”


On the opening face-off, Adam slid the puck back to Charlie on defence. Charlie waited for Cole to barrel down on him, then flicked the puck sideways to Fulton, who kicked it into the attacking zone.

A varsity defender stole the puck and passed it to Rick. He immediately charged across the blue line into the neutral zone. At centre ice he was hip checked by Adam Banks. The puck changed hands and was shot back into varsity zone.

“You’re going to wish like hell you stayed with us.” Snarled Rick after the hard check.

“Save the trash talk.” Snapped Adam.

Cole controlled the puck and flew up the left wing. Fulton knocked him hard into the boards. The crowd cringed at the impact. In the scramble for the puck, Rick came away with it and immediately tried to deke Connie.

But Connie shook his fake and squirted the puck free. She kicked it up to Fulton on the wing.

A minute had elapsed in regulation. On the bench, Coach Orion gave his team a thumbs-up. They were playing smart, hard hockey.

After an offside call, Julie whipped off her mask. She was breathing hard. She took a huge swig of water as Charlie skated up and tapped her lightly on the shin pad.

“Way to hang tough.” He told her.

Adam skated up to Charlie. “These guys keep charging. What are we going to do?”

Charlie was pumped. He was a man on a mission.

“We’re going to stand up to them.” He told Adam. “And play a little DEFENSE!”

Later in the period, the varsity centre broke the blue line and slid a pass to his left wing. He made a quick slap shot. Goldberg decided to play a little defence. Standing about ten feet out in front of the net, Goldberg suddenly dropped and took the puck on the hip. The puck dropped to the ice and Goldberg leaped on it before a varsity player could dig it out.

“Thanks, Goldberg.” Julie called out.

Goldberg bowed nonchalantly. “Nothing but garbage.”


The period ended with no score.

Rick slammed his helmet onto the bench. Coach Wilson fumed at his players.

“Pick up the hitting! You’re playing like a bunch of old ladies out there!” He warned his players. “Now get out there and HIT THEM!”

On the first offensive scrimmage, the varsity pushed the puck deep into the freshman zone. Guy circled behind the net. But when he tried to clear the puck, he was clothes-lined with a ferocious forearm. He crashed hard onto the ice.

Orion called a time-out and helped escort Guy off the ice.

From the bench Coach Wilson clapped and gave his team the fist salute. Orion glared at him from across the ice but Wilson shrugged.

On another play Adam was manoeuvring the puck up the right win across the blue line when three players converged on him. A hard body block stopped him cold. He took a sharp blow to the ribs and an elbow to the face. His head snapped back so hard his helmet sailed off into the stands.

On the bench Orion was irate. He jumped up and screamed at the referee.

“Hey ref! That’s not a necklace you’re wearing! Blow the stupid thing!”

Connie and Guy helped Adam to the bench.

“I’m okay.” He said woozily. He begged Orion not to take him out.

“Son.” Orion said. “You’re hurt.”

Adam pushed himself defiantly to his feet. “I said I’m okay. Put me back in.”

Orion nodded slowly. “Okay.”


Coach Orion paced the sidelines nervously. He looked at the clock. Only a few minutes left in the second period. He wondered how much more punishment his players could take before they broke.

“Watch out Ducks!” He called out. “They’re head-hunting!”

Rick made a breakaway move and Fulton and Goldberg double-teamed him. But Rick threw up his elbows at the last second and caught Goldberg square on the chin. Again he went down.

The crowd winced. Orion slammed his palms against the glass in frustration. Averman was next to go down. Then Ken was body checked low.

The seconds ticked off the clock. Orion sighed impatiently as he watched his team take a pounding.

With just a few seconds to go, Julie made a dazzling save of what looked like a sure goal. The Ducks controlled the puck and zoomed down the ice in a breakaway. Charlie slipped through a maze of defenders and took the puck on a flip pass in the slot.

Two seconds to go.

He set up for a slap shot. One second.

The horn sounded ending the second period.

Charlie pulled up and threw up his hands in frustration. Cole roared up from behind him and threw a blind-side forearm to the back of Charlie’s head.

The two benches emptied and a brawl broke out.

“This isn’t hockey!” The radio announcer declared breathlessly. “It’s war! The two teams are really going at it. It’s a bench clearer folks. Well, the refs have just stepped in to restore order. The two teams have headed off to the locker rooms. Two periods down and no score. I don’t know. You’ve got to wonder how long this freshman team can take this pounding. It’s been brutal!”


The freshman locker room resembled an emergency ward. They were bruised and battered and beaten. Guy was sitting on the bench. His shirt was off and his shoulder had been splintered and taped. Fulton was having his badly swollen ankle re-taped.

Charlie had an ice pack to the back of his head.

Averman was limping aimlessly around the locker room. “I feel like my back was being used for a trampoline practice.”

“Better your back then your face.” Muttered Adam. He already had the makings of a nasty shiner under one eye and a badly bruised jaw.

Their morale was dropping faster then a thermometer in the arctic. Orion decided they needed to adjust the game plan.

“That was completely out of line.” He told them. “We can’t win by fighting.”

“We can’t win by shooting either.” Russ observed. “We only got two shots on goal in two periods.”

Coach Orion tried to get them to look on the bright side.

“They’re getting tired, too. You’re playing hard. I’m proud of you.”

“They’re cheap-shotting us to death.” Said Luis.

“I know.” Orion realized he was losing them. They were beaten. He knew. And they knew it.

Averman sat down finally and hung his head in his hands.

“It’s going to take a miracle for us to hold on.”

Just then a miracle walked through the door. The kids looked up.

No way! Dean Portman marched in casually and unfolded an official-looking piece of paper. “Dean Portman is awarded a full athletic and academic scholarship to the Eden Hall Academy.” He fluttered the paper. “I had this lying around the house in Chicago. My attorney thought maybe I should sign it. I agreed.”

“Attorney?” Wondered Charlie. Then he grinned. Of course! Bombay!

Portman pulled out a pen, grabbed Ken Wu, and used him as a table as he hastily scrawled his signature.

“Well, boys, it’s official. I’m back.”

Fulton jumped to his feet and raised both fists into the air. “Viva la Bash Brothers!”

He and Portman cracked high fives.

“All right!” Portman declared. “LET’S GO DANCE ON THEIR SKULLS!”


Chapter 29

The Varsity skated onto the ice supremely confident. They had badly crippled the freshman team. Not it was simply a matter of closing in for the kill.

Above the ice in the pavilion box Tom Riley was ecstatic. There was no way the freshman team would survive another period.

Then he saw something on the ice that gave him pause. He angrily descended to Dean Buckley’s side. “Who is that?” He demanded. “He can’t play!”

Dean Buckley slid a piece of paper out of his pocket. He handed it to Riley.

“The kid’s got a contract Tom. My hands are tied.”


Cole skated by Portman. “Ohhhh.” He moaned. “The other Bash Brother. I’m really shaking now.”

“So you’re the big enforcer?” Portman greeted him. “It’s a real pleasure meeting you.” A big smile. Cole moved his mouth like a fish. He had no idea what to say.

“We’ve got something in common.” Portman continued. “I’m the—“

“Shut up and let’s play hockey.” Barked Cole.

Another big smile. “Whatever you say, Sunshine.”

On the first play of the third period, Cole went head-to-head with Portman. He flew up the ice like a sherman tank. But Portman calmly dropped a shoulder just as Cole crashed into him. Cole was lifted clear off the ice. He smashed against the glass, which shattered as if in an explosion.

The Ducks erupted in cheers. The Varsity was stunned. Cole stumbled to his feet, shedding shards of glass. He teetered woozily and fell.

Fulton skated up. “Now that’s what I call clearing the garbage!”

Portman grinned. “We’re just getting warmed up.”

Portman, Fulton, and Goldberg performed the Bash Brothers. The crowd went wild.

“Okay.” Said Portman. “Let’s take out some more trash.”


The game seesawed back and forth. Every time a Warrior player delivered a hit, a Duck player responded. More important, the Ducks were playing aggressive two-way hockey. Adhesive on defence. Attacking on offence.

With little more then two minutes to play, the game was still scoreless.

Coach Wilson prowled the varsity bench like a man obsessed. The varsity team appeared fatigued. With each second that ticked off the clock their look of panic increased.

For the varsity a tie would be almost as bad as a loss.

On an attacking five-on-four, Rick crossed into the freshman zone just as Portman probed at the puck with his stick.

Rick sprawled onto the ice like a ton of bricks.

Bleeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!

Portman was dumbfounded when the referee whistled him for a tripping penalty! Rick scampered to his feet and grinned as Portman skated to the penalty box.

“So long…sucker.” Rick called out.

“You took a dive!” Shouted Portman. “You want a real penalty? I’ll show you a real penalty.” He lunged for Rick, but Charlie quickly skated over and broke them up.

Portman glared after him as he skated to the penalty box.

“Don’t let down, Charlie. These guys ain’t tough.” He and Charlie high-fived.

“We’re going to try, man.”

But a few short minutes later disaster struck. On a routine line change, the referee whistled the Ducks for putting too many players on the ice.

Orion tried to remain calm. “Luis back on the bench. Wu, go to the box.” He signalled to the referee. “Time-out!”

The Ducks gathered around Orion. He looked up at the clock.

“The pressure’s on them. All we’ve got to do is hold our ground. Conway, Banks, and Goldberg…we’re going with you.”

Goldberg hesitated. “Me, Coach?”

Orion nodded. “You, Goldberg. You earned your spot out there. Okay, Ducks, here we go!”

As the Ducks returned to the ice, the chant of ‘Defence’ built up in a slow tom-tom beat until it reverberated through the arena like a booming kettle drum.

Orion pulled Charlie aside. “Charlie, we’re really backed up into a corner here. We’re outnumbered, out-muscled, and even a tie seems impossible.”

Charlie stiffened with resolve. “We’re up to it.”

“I know you are.” He gave Charlie a small smile. “But you deserve to win.” Charlie brightened. Orion nodded. “That’s right. Not careless, but not too careful. You see the chance, you take it…and make it count.”

“Oh and one more thing.” Orion reached behind him. He picked up a felt C and placed it over Charlie’s heart.

“Go get ‘em Captain.”


Chapter 30

The puck dropped. There was a fierce slashing of sticks. The puck squirted free, and Rick hustled it down. He flipped it back to the point. The varsity probed the defence with a series of passes back and forth.

Suddenly the puck was whipped behind the net. Rick tried to whipsaw it in, but Julie made a great diving save. Still the puck juddered loose in front of the net. Julie dived for the loose puck…and missed!

Adam Banks made a desperate lunge across the crease and batted the puck just wide of the post.

Less then one minute to go.

On a Duck turnover, Rick spiralled out of his zone, caught a flip pass, and initiated a well-timed breakaway that caught the Duck defence off balance. Ahead of the pack Rick charged across the centre line.

Charlie dropped back. Rick threw a fake to his left. But Charlie shrugged it off. Charlie upended him with a perfect hip check. Rick teetered and sprawled on the ice.

Charlie gathered up the loose puck just as Cole charged down on him like a sixteen-wheeler. Charlie had no time to think.

Up in the radio booth the announcer went wild. “I don’t believe it! It’s the Spinorama! Folks, Conway faked that defender right out of his shorts!”

The crowd leaped to their feet. They began to stamp their feet. The arena trembled from the pounding of the ovation.

It was his dream, Charlie thought. The moment. Only this wasn’t a dream. It was really happening.

Charlie had only the goalie to beat.

He held on to the last second. The goalie dropped into his crouch. Charlie jerked back his arm. The goalie lunged forward and dropped. But instead of shooting, at the last possible second Charlie whipped the puck behind and around him. It was a spectacular pass that completely bewildered the goalie.

At the point, Gary Goldberg was amazed to see the puck coming toward him.

He froze.

On the bench the players screamed, “SHOOT!”

Goldberg looked down matter-of-factly at the puck.

“SHOOT!”

The goalie frantically climbed to his feet and was leaning to cut down the angle of the net.

“SHOOOOOOOOOOOOOT!”

Goldberg gave the puck a sharp slap and watched it slide just under the goalie’s outstretched glove and into the net.

The last few seconds ticked away. The horn sounded. The game was over.

Junior varsity 1; varsity 0.


There was a stampede as the freshman supporters streamed out of the stands onto the ice. The freshman players mobbed Goldberg.

“Don’t ever do that to me again!” Kidded Goldberg ecstatically.

“I knew you could do it!” Said Charlie. He thumped him on the back.

Orion came running onto the ice.

“That was one heck of a pass, Captain.”

“Thanks, Coach.”

The ice was crowded with parents and fans, hugging and cheering.

Charlie found Casey and they hugged.

“I’m proud of you, Charlie.”

Buoyed along by the thronging and swaying of the crowd, Charlie looked up into the stands. For a second he thought he saw Gordon Bombay. Then he was gone. Vanished.

High above the ice a homemade sign was unfurled from the rafters. It depicted the Ducks in Warrior colours. The crowd erupted in joyous approval.

Linda huddled up to Charlie. She gave him a big kiss on the cheek.

“Thanks, Charlie.”

Charlie followed the rope that led from the rafters down to the corner of the arena. He beamed. It was Gordon Bombay. He was smiling at Charlie like a proud father.

Charlie fought his way through the cheering crowd to the entrance to the tunnel. Gordon stopped and turned to look at Charlie over his shoulder. He nodded.

Good-bye Charlie.

He continued walking…and was gone.

Charlie smiled. He turned and saw Coach Orion being hoisted onto the shoulders of his team-mates. He threw himself into the crowd.

Charlie was lost in its embrace. And was happy.

The End

Posted in Tagged

D2: The Mighty Ducks: Junior Novelization by Jordan Horowitz

21
Oct 2012

D2: The Mighty Ducks: Junior Novelization by Jordan Horowitz

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D2: The Mighty Ducks - Junior Novelization - Jordan Horowitz (430)

Chapter 1: Bombay Out

Gordon Bombay age thirty felt like he was ninety. He was hunched over on the bench behind the boards of the Duluth Minnesota ice hockey rink, his chest heaving.

He was gasping for breath. Alongside him sat his team-mates. He looked at them. They were all half his age and barely out of high school. They were tired from the heavy action of the first two periods as well, but their breath came out steadily and easily than his.

Gordon looked across the ice at the other team. They were a squad of eager nineteen-year-olds.

Was he one of them, he wondered? Did he have what they had-the determination to make it to the pros?

Gordon shook his head. He felt as if he could be their grandfather.

Coach Blake was furious. “Bombay,” he roared. “If you don’t pick up your game, you’re out of here! I’ll give the roster spot to someone with a future!”

Gordon leaned his head back and sighed. He wondered if it hadn’t been a mistake not going back to his old law firm to ask for his job back. What was he doing trying out with a minor league hockey team at his age? True, he hated the work at the law firm, but he was good at it. Playing professional hockey had been his only dream since he was a little kid. Gordon shook his head. He knew he couldn’t go back to the law firm.

The year before, he had taken over as coach of a ragtag bunch of peewee hockey players who were so awful they could hardly skate in a straight line. But with a lot of practice and hard work, they surprised everyone-themselves included-by going all the way and winning the state hockey championship.

Gordon smiled. It was then that he had decided he had to take a shot at his dream, too. Win or lose.

The buzzer sounded, and Gordon vaulted over the railing onto the ice.

Miles away in the back room of a neighborhood skate shop in St. Paul Minnesota thirteen-year-old Charlie Conway was listening to the Waves minor league hockey game on the radio. An older man sat at a worktable, re-sharpening a pair of worn skates.

“Blake sends out the Bombay line” the announcer’s voice crackled over the radio. Charlie fiddled with the tuner until the voice came through clearly. “I’ll tell ya, Bombay is really showing his age tonight. There’s just no substitute for youth in this game. Great hands but…”

“Shut up and call the game.” Charlie snapped. “I hate commentators.” He told the older man. “They don’t know what they’re talking about.”

“They don’t know Gordon Bombay.” Jan replied calmly.

Gordon leaned over and found himself nose to nose with a giant kid from the opposing team. It was the face-off. Gordon looked through his opponent’s face guard and stared into the kid’s face. He knew this guy. Norbert. Better known as the Wall.

“You ain’t getting around me Grandpa.” Said Norbert.

“I don’t intend to…son.” Gordon replied with a curl of his upper lip.

The ref dropped the puck.

Bam! Gordon crashed into Norbert’s chest. The surprise move worked. Norbert toppled. Gordon scraped the ice with his stick, slid the puck past Norbert and raced toward the goal. Then it was one, two, three-the triple deke – and whack! Gordon rammed the puck past the goalie and into the back of the net.

“That’s his famous triple deke!” The announcer shouted over the radio in St. Paul. Charlie and Jan slapped their palms together in a victorious high five. “What a move! What heart! Don’t count this Bombay out!”

“That’s right.” Charlie shouted at the radio. “He’s a duck!”

“Boy, he humiliated Norbert on the face-off.” Continued the announcer. “Norbert is steaming as Bombay pumps his fist and embraces his team-mates.”

Jan returned to his work. “Be careful Gordon.” Jan mutters softly to himself.

Seconds later Gordon Bombay was back on the ice. He had the puck and was sweeping it past Norbert. As he came up to the blue line, however, the puck wobbled and got caught between his skates.

Then wham!

Out of nowhere two defensemen hit him from both sides.

Gordon struggled to remain standing. But just then Norbert smashed straight into him and slashed his stick across Gordon’s knees. Gordon doubled over and crumpled to the ice. He could feel the cartilage tear in his left kneecap.

A frightened hush came over the arena. Gordon tried to climb back onto his feet, but his leg gave way.

He fell to the ice again. It was the last thing Gordon remembered before passing out.


Chapter 2 Home Turf

On a rainy night two weeks later, Gordon Bombay limped off the greyhound bus at the St. Paul station.

It was cold. Gordon hiked his equipment bag higher up on his shoulder and began limping down the street. A sports doctor provided him with a cane, but the pain in his knee was still unbearable.

After a few minutes he noticed car lights spilling over him from behind. He turned around and saw a station wagon pulling up beside him. The window rolled down, and Gordon smiled when he recognized the driver.

“Welcome home, Gordon.”

“Jan, how did you know I was coming back?” Gordon asked.

“Where else would you go? Get in.”

“Hans couldn’t make it?” Inquired Gordon as he climbed into the wagon and threw his bag into the backseat.

“That strudlehead,” said Jan about his brother. “He went back to Scandinavia for the summer. Left me the shop to run by myself. He said he had to go home, visit momma. She loves him more then you know. I don’t care. You can have his bed. Welcome back. You look tired.”

Gordon sighed. If only he knew how tired, Gordon thought.


Screeeeeeech!

Gordon bolted awake and practically leaped off the sofa bed at the sound of metal against metal. Then he remembered where he was. He was in a corner off the back room of Jan & Hans’s Sports Shop.

Gordon pulled the curtain away from a window and saw that it was morning. Then he grabbed his cane and limped toward the scraping sound.

He thought he would find Jan working at the repair bench, but instead he saw a boy hunched over the sharpening blade. Sparks were flying all around him. The boy heard Gordon enter, and he shut the motor off and turned around.

It was Charlie Conway.

“Sorry.” Said Charlie. “Did I wake you?”

Gordon smiled. Charlie broke into a big grin. They gave each other a warm hug.

Just then Jan came in from the kitchen carrying a tray covered with bowls.

“For breakfast.” Jan announced. “My specialty! Jan’s hasen-”

“Hasenpfeffer and eggs!” Charlie and Gordon said together.

“I see you met my new apprentice.” Jan said as he put the bowls of food down before them.

“Jan told me you did this job when you were my age.” Charlie said to his old coach.

“I sure did.” Gordon smiled. It was a warm memory. “Hope he pays you more then he paid me.”

“You got PAID?” Said Charlie.

“Eat everyone!” Said Jan, quickly changing the subject. “Before the Hasenpfeffer gets cold!”

After breakfast Charlie went back to work at the repair table. Gordon found some framed photographs and newspaper clippings hanging on the wall behind the sales counter. Most of the clippings were yellowed with age. But in the dead center of them all was a newer, more freshly framed clipping. The headline proclaimed MINNESOTA MIRACLE-DUCKS BEAT HAWKS!

“That was a good day.” Gordon told Jan, pointing to the clipping.

Gordon glanced over at Charlie, who was hard at work repairing a pair of skates. “Look at him.” He said to Jan. “Wow, he’s grown.”

“They do that.” Said Jan grinning. “Since his mother remarried he started spending a lot of time here. I had to hire him.”

“I should have kept in touch more.” Sighed Gordon.

“You are here now.” Said Jan. “So what is your plan? Have you talked to Ducksworth?”

“I’m a player, not a lawyer.” Said Gordon, recalling his old job at the law firm of Ducksworth, Saver and Gross.

“But your injury requires rest and time.”

“Time is one thing I don’t have,” exclaimed Gordon. “I was this close to the NHL. I could taste it. I was in the game, Jan. I was alive.

Jan looked at Gordon. Gordon was clutching his cane tightly, trying to look as if he wasn’t in pain.

“Have you thought of coaching?” Asked Jan. “After all you were the Minnesota Miracle Man. You still have the Ducks, in case you forgot.”

“I’m Duck through and through Jan.” Said Gordon. “But I can’t make a living coaching peewee hockey, can I?”

“Where there is a way there must be a will.” Quipped Jan. “For example, my hockey suppliers tell me Team USA is still without a coach for the Junior Goodwill Games.”

“Sounds great.” Gordon groaned sarcastically. “Give them a call for me Jan. Tell ‘em I’m available. I’m sure they’ll be knocked out. I can sharpen their skates.”

“Don’t knock skate sharpening.” Jan gently retorted. “It is a skill. My father taught-”

“I know Jan. I know. It’s a great skill, but I don’t want to stay in this rinky-dink town, sharpening skates my whole life. Heck, even the North Stars moved. I want something better too Jan. Something bigger.”


Chapter 3: Return of the Ducks

Jan eventually convinced Gordon to try his hand at skate sharpening. It had been years since Gordon worked the sharpener and he had lost the touch. It was just one more frustrating that for Gordon to deal with. But he had promised Jan that he would help out around the shop. At least for awhile.

One afternoon, just as Gordon had finished the morning’s load of sharpening, Jan entered the workroom and dropped an afternoon’s worth of skates on the repair bench. Gordon sighed exhausted just at the sight of them.

“You don’t have to do them right now.” Said Jan. “We have customers. Go help them, then come back and do it.”

Gordon scowled and trudged to the front of the store. A man in a very expensive business suit was trying out a hockey stick from the rack. He swung the stick and knocked down a display of pucks.

The man didn’t look like much of an athlete.

“Can I help you?” Asked Gordon.

The man clumsily replaced the pucks on their display table and returned the stick to the rack. Then he approached Gordon with a wide, toothy smile.

“You look even better in person.” Said the man.

“Thank you.” Said Gordon a little confused.

“Don Tibbles.” The man said introducing himself. He held out his hand. Gordon shook it. “Senior vice president, Hendrix Hockey Apparel. How’s the knee? I know a doctor in Los Angeles I want you to see; he’s doing great things with baboon ligaments-”

“What exactly is it you want, Mr. Tibbles?’ Interrupted Gordon.

“You, Gordo.” Answered Tibbles. “I want the next coach of Team USA to be a household name. I want you to be synonymous with winning and winning to be synonymous with Hendrix. As the official sponsor of Team USA Hockey at the Junior Goodwill Games I am here to say welcome. Welcome. Is that how you always wear your hair?”

“Time out.” Said Gordon. Was this guy for real? “Did you say the next coach of Team USA? I’m the next coach?”

“Darned straight, said Tibbles with a flash of his teeth. “Jan has been pitching you for months. What you did with the Ducks was magic. Now we-Hendrix Hockey-the Junior Goodwill Games-your country-need that magic.”

Gordon turned away and saw Jan standing in the doorway of the back room with a broad, knowing smile on his face.

“How did you do it, Jan?” Asked Gordon.

“I have my ways.”

Tibbles took a step closer to Gordon. “Go round up your Ducks, Gordo.” He told him. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.

Within minutes Gordon was out the door.

Charlie Conway was in his bedroom struggling with his American history homework when he heard a strange noise outside of his window. Quaaack! Charlie smiled and ran to the window. Gordon Bombay was sending out a duck call. When they saw each other they both broke into huge grins.

Gordon explained to Charlie about the offer from Hendrix Hockey Apparel and asked Charlie to round up the team. Charlie didn’t have much trouble finding seven of the original Ducks.

Jesse Hall was playing roller hockey on a basketball court not far from his house. At a mall downtown they found Les Averman at his job tearing tickets at a movie theatre. He happily agreed to play. Connie Cascardi and Guy Germaine were rollerblading in the park when the boys tracked them down. Connie wanted to play too. Guy wanted to be anywhere Connie was.

Goldberg was working at his dad’s delicatessen. The kids pressed their faces against the window and Charlie blew on his duck call. Goldberg smiled, gave his father a quick look, then ran out before his father could stop him. Of course he did manage to stop just long enough to grab the leftovers of a fat pastrami sandwich on his way out.

Adam Banks was practicing his stick handling in his driveway in front of the house. The idea of playing international hockey made his eyes grow as wide as saucers. It didn’t take much effort to convince Adam to play. Hockey was his life.

There was one more player to find before the Ducks would be complete. In the park the kids burst out laughing when they saw three Hawks playing floating in a canoe on the lake…in their underwear. The Ducks had beaten the Hawks to win the championship the year before. Only one person was big enough to take on three Hawks. Fulton Reed.

The Ducks were back!


Chapter 4: New Ducks

“Welcome back, Ducks.” Said Gordon, beaming. “I sure missed you guys.”

The seven Ducks cheered. They were grouped around Gordon in front of the old District Five band box.

“All right now.” Said Gordon. “Who’s ready to fly?”

The kids cheered again. “COACH!” They shouted in unison. “COACH! COACH! COACH! COACH!”

While they cheered a white limousine pulled up behind them. The sunroof of the car opened and up popped Don Tibbles.

“Hi.” He said greeting the Ducks, and began to pass out business cards. “Don Tibbles Hendrix Hockey Apparel. Your official sponsor. Good to see you all. You look like a fine bunch. Not so close to the car please. Gordon step into my office.

Tibbles dropped back into the car and opened the back door. The Ducks swarmed around trying to get a peak at the inside of the limo.

“Adults only.” Said Tibbles as he motioned for Gordon. “You kids practice your puck sticking.”

“That’s puck handling.” Smirked Gordon as he entered the limo.

Tibbles closed the door behind them. Gordon settled into the backseat. The plush leather interior with the built-in TV and bar reminded him of the kind of car he used to drive when he was working as a highly paid lawyer.

“Nice.” Gordon commented. “I used to ride in one of these, a little smaller though. How many channels does your TV get?”

“How many do you want?” Quipped Tibbles. “Listen. Before we head to Taylor Falls, we have to talk about your endorsements.”

“Endorsements? I’m just a coach.”

“Just a coach?” Tibbles sounded surprised. “Is Pat Riley just a coach? Chuck Daly? Ditka?”

“Ditka’s out of a job.” Gordon said sarcastically.

“Go down to the bank and you’ll see him laughing his head off. Listen Gordon. Coaches today have images. Images mean dollars. I sell you, you sell the sport. We both get rich. How’s that sound?”

Gordon wasn’t sure. “I’ve got nothing against making money.” He said thoughtfully.

“There is so much more to life, I know.” Tibbles said, finishing his thoughts for him. “You do well at the Goodwill Games and the sky’s the limit. With your legal experience you could move into the front office. Want to coach in the pros? Go from the Games to the minors right into the NHL? Think you can still play? I can get you a priority tryout with any team in the league. It can be easy if you know the right people. Fortunately for you, I happen to be one of those people.”

Tibbles shoved a contract into Gordon’s hands. “Look these over when you have a minute.” He urged. “I’ll see you tomorrow in Taylor Falls.”

“Why are we going there?” Asked Gordon.

“Team USA training facility-two hours north, total boondocks, supposed to limit distractions.” Explained Tibbles as he turned the knob to open the back door. “We train for two weeks, then straight to L.A. my kind of town.”

Tibbles tried to open the door but couldn’t budge it. He pushed a little harder, opening it a crack. A hand pushed through then an arm then a face.

It was Goldberg. Behind him were the rest of the Ducks. They were trying a full frontal assault on the limo.

Tibbles pushed Gordon out of the car and into the flock of kids. It was the only way he could shut the door and prevent an invasion.

Gordon grinned as he watched the limo peel away from the band box. Around him were his Ducks. They were all fired up excited about the prospect of going international and playing against the world.

He looked down at the contract that was folded in his hands. His thoughts shifted abruptly to the pain in his knee.

Maybe there was a future for him in hockey after all.


Late the following week special arrangements had been made to let the kids out of school until the conclusion of the Goodwill Games.

“We train hard for two weeks then it’s straight to Los Angeles.” Gordon explained to the Ducks on the bus ride to Taylor Falls. “Tibbles and the Goodwill Committee have scoured the country and they’re filling in our roster with some new players. I expect you all to welcome them with open arms.”

Hours later the Ducks filed out of the bus and followed Gordon into the Minnetonka arena where they would be training. By the time they settled in and suited up for their first practice, five kids were already on the ice warming up. The Ducks watched them warily.

“Gordo! Kids!” It was Tibbles, dressed in designer sweats a whistle hanging around his neck. He was standing on the side bench. “Welcome to the Team USA training facility. I was just putting the kids through some paces and –”

“I’d prefer it if you left the coaching to me.” Said Gordon as he approached Tibbles.

Tibbles smiled graciously. “Take-charge. Assured.” He smiled and winked. “I like that.”

“I’m glad.” Said Gordon. “Now please get down from there and tell me about my new kids.”

Tibbles pointed to each of the new team members as he described them.

“Luis Mendoza, from our Miami club.” He said. “Clocked him at one-point-one-nine seconds blue line to blue line. One little problem though…”

Luis tried to stop once he passed the blue line but couldn’t. He slammed hard into the board.

Tibbles sighed. “Luis does have a little trouble stopping.”

Next a tall lanky boy skated past Gordon. “YEEEHAWWW!” He yelled. “How’s everyone?” He called out to the Ducks. “Y’all ready to play some puck?”

“That’s Dwayne Robertson.” Tibbles told Gordon. “Best puck handler I’ve ever seen.”

“You mean at his age?” Asked Gordon.

“No.” Answered Tibbles. “I don’t.”

Dwayne danced across the ice, handling the puck deftly.

Tibbles pointed to the goalie protecting the net.

“Julie the Cat Gaffney.” Said Tibbles. “She won the state championship for Maine three years in a row.”

“We have a goalie,” said Gordon. “Goldberg.”

Gordon watched spellbound as Dwayne slammed the puck toward the net. Julie nimbly snapped the puck out of midair like a cat swatting a fly.

“Then again, we do need a backup.” Gordon said impressed.

A skater in a pair of jet-black figure states glided onto the ice.

“Isn’t that the kid from the Olympics?” Gordon asked Tibbles. “The Korean figure skater?”

“Ken Wu.” Answered Tibbles. “What can I say? I convinced him hockey held more of a future. He picked up a stick and now no one can touch him.”

Ken skated gracefully toward the Ducks, then jumped around a startled Fulton.

“Hey you can’t do that!” Shouted Fulton.

“Yes I can.” Laughed Ken. “Anytime, anyplace.” He skated backward, then did a pirouette, narrowly missing bumping into another of the new players as he came to a full stop.

The player was about twice Ken’s size and taller then any of the Ducks. He had a bandana around his head, and his walkman was on full blast. He was playing air guitar as he lumbered past the Ducks.

“He can hardly skate.” Gordon said. “He’s a goon.”

“Portman?” Said Tibbles. “I believe he’s what you’d call an enforcer. And when you play Team Iceland you’re gonna need him.”

Charlie skated out onto the ice to scrimmage and immediately went for the puck. Portman cornered him and lifted him off the ground with one hand. Then he hung him by his jersey on a corner of the Plexiglas window above the boards.

Then Portman calmly skated away with the puck.

Upset over the bullying play, Adam Banks skated over to Portman. “You can’t do that!” He complained.

Portman took Banks by the arm, twirled him around, and sent him twirling across the ice.

Fulton charged up from behind Portman and pulled the headphones off. Portman whirled around.

“Hey.” He shouted at Fulton. “That was the best part of the song, DUDE!”

That was it. Both boys started pushing one another. They growled and they grumbled like two dogs ready to fight. Before long, all the old Ducks began circling their new team-mates, staring each other down as they moved, each side challenging the other.

“Everyone freeze!” Ordered Gordon.

The kids obeyed.

“You are here to play hockey.” He reminded the kids. We’re Team USA. You represent your country now. That means you play hard and you play fair. I want you to –”

“Be all you can be!” Added Tibbles who was becoming fired up by Gordon’s enthusiasm. “Go for the gold! Come on! YES!”

Gordon threw Tibbles a look. Tibbles shrugged apologetically and backed away.

“Leave the egos at the door.” Gordon continued. “We’re all on the same team. Okay let’s start with a scrimmage.”

A whistle blew. It was Tibbles again.

“You heard him.” Tibbles shouted. “It’s do or die! Scrimmage! Let’s-” Once again he was cut off by Gordon’s cold stare.

“You know what?” Tibbles said sheepishly. “I just remembered I have to go meet Ms. MacKay the team tutor.”

Tibbles tried to slip away. Before he could, Gordon held out his hand. Tibbles looked down at his whistle. Reluctantly he removed it from around his neck and returned it to Gordon.

“You’ll get it back at the end of the school term.” Said Gordon, and the kids all laughed.

Gordon broke the squad into two sides. Jesse faced off against Dwayne. Dwayne stole the puck by tapping it through Jesse’s legs. It was too fast of a move for Jesse and he slipped and fell on his backside.

Next Fulton came barrelling across the ice. He knocked Dwayne down and leaned in to take the puck but not before Portman appeared out of nowhere and knocked Fulton down. The scrimmage went downhill from there.

To Gordon it looked as if the old Ducks were out of shape. They were easily tired and gulped greedily for air.

“Haven’t you been training in the off-season?” Gordon shouted as Averman skated by, huffing and puffing.

“I knew we forgot something!” Quipped Averman.

Charlie went after the puck, and he slipped and fell on the ice. Dwayne recovered the puck and passed it to Ken, who passed it to Luis, who picked up speed as he headed toward the net.

There was just one problem: he couldn’t stop. He slammed into Goldberg at the net, and both players went tumbling head over heals.

Gordon took Goldberg off the ice to recover and replaced him with Julie, the new goalie. Jesse tried to shoot the puck past her, but she made a save with calculated precision and agility.

Banks tried his luck. He picked off an errant pass near his own blue line and skilfully began to guide the puck down the ice toward the net. Suddenly he picked up speed and lunged for the face-off circle to Julie’s right. At the last second he veered back to the centre and smashed the puck straight at the net. Julie was caught off guard. He scored.

Banks swerved full around once, then looked back. He and Julie stared at one another.

Later Fulton got hold of the puck and started to wind up for one of his patented cannon shots. Averman, Jesse, Charlie, Guy, and Connie skated clear. They knew how deadly Fulton’s slap shot could be. Portman however stood placidly by on the ice watching Fulton.

SMASH!

The puck went screaming through the air. Portman ducked just in time. So did Luis, Dwayne, and Ken.

The puck smashed into the goalpost and ricocheted like a bullet into the stands. At the very moment, Tibbles was escorting an attractive dark-haired woman into the arena.

“You’re gonna love these tykes.” He told the woman. “Half are from various parts of the U.S. Real ringers. The other half are Bombay’s old team called-”

“DUCK!” The woman screamed as she caught sight of the wayward puck.

Tibbles smiled. “That’s right.” He said. “The Ducks.”

He turned.

It was the last thing he remembered doing.


Chapter 5: The Tutor and the Coach

Tibbles regained consciousness. Gordon helped him to a bleacher seat.

“He’ll be okay.” The woman told Gordon. “Just keep an eye on him.”

Gordon looked at the woman. She smiled at him.

“Hi.” She said. “I’m sorry. He didn’t get a chance to introduce us. I’m Michele MacKay, the team’s tutor.”

“Yes, hi.” Replied Gordon. “I’m Gordon Bombay, their coach. Team, this is Ms. MacKay.”

“I don’t need no school!” Shouted Portman.

“Yeah.” Agreed Banks. “Who said we needed a tutor?”

“The Minnesota State Department of Welfare.” Answered Ms. MacKay. “I have to teach you for three hours, Monday through Friday.”

“It’s the rules, guys. Gotta live by ‘em.” Agreed Gordon. The Ducks let out a collective groan. Gordon looked at his watch. “I need them for another hour, Ms. MacKay, but you can have them, say at two thirty.”

“Oh no.” Said the tutor. “Maybe I wasn’t clear. The hours for instruction must be between ten and three. Sorry, it’s the rules, Mr. Bombay. Gotta live by ‘em.”

Goldberg stepped forward and placed a hand on Ms. MacKay’s shoulders. “Ms. MacKay.” He said sounding very serious. “We’re America’s team. Shouldn’t we just be concentrating on hockey? May I suggest optional school attendance?”

“That’s not a bad idea.” Replied Ms. MacKay. “School will be optional.”

The kids cheered.

“However.” Ms. MacKay continued. “Should you not attend you will not be eligible to play.”

Now the kids groaned.

“I’ll be required to travel with you to Los Angeles.” Ms. MacKay explained to Gordon. “Their education should never be interrupted. Don’t you agree?”

“Absolutely.” Replied Gordon. The kids had finished practice, and Gordon was on the bench working with the playbook. “So, you can teach all the subjects? You must be smart.”

“I am.” Said Ms. MacKay with confidence.

“How’d you get that way?”

“Good teachers and good books.”

“Hey. I just finished a good book today.” Said Gordon. “Three hundred and fifty pages long. That’s a lot of colouring let me tell ya.” Gordon laughed but Ms. MacKay did not. She didn’t think it was funny. “Joke.” Prompted Gordon. “That was a joke.”

“I know.” Ms. MacKay said flatly.

“Are you a big hockey fan?”

Ms. MacKay frowned. “No. I really don’t care a great deal about sports.”

“I could teach you.” Gordon offered. “Once you know how the game is played it-”

“I know how sports are played.” Ms. MacKay snapped. “I grew up with three brothers. Let’s just say I’m not a big hockey fan. It can be a little, I don’t know, barbaric. Toothless guys with sticks.”

Gordon gave Ms. MacKay a critical disapproving look.

“It’s the most beautiful sport in the world.” Gordon said.

Ms. MacKay shrugged. “Opinions vary. I’m just here to tutor the kids and provide them with some adult supervision.”

“My kids are well behaved and responsible.” Said Gordon. I’m capable of providing them with all the adult supervision they need.”

Just then they were interrupted by the roar of a motor. Gordon and Michele turned. The zamboni ice machine crashed into the boards and belched a thick cloud of dark smoke.

Then they saw Fulton, Guy, and Jesse emerge from the smoke. They jumped off the machine coughing and waving their arms.

“Don’t worry.” Fulton cracked. “We’re okay.” The three boys headed nonchalantly into the locker room.

Gordon turned a sheepish grin toward Ms. MacKay.

“I’m sorry.” Ms. MacKay said. “You were saying something about well-behaved boys?”

Gordon’s face turned red.


The Ducks gathered for class in a makeshift classroom in the arena. They sat scattered among folding chairs and groaned as Ms. MacKay wrote out geometry equations on a portable rolling backboard.

Their minds were definitely not on mathematics.

“You guys can’t just come here and be Ducks.” Jesse whispered sharply to Portman, who was sitting in the row in front of him. “We earned our wings.”

“Ducks stink.” Scoffed Portman. “I play for me.”

Guy was sitting next to Luis. Luis was throwing smiles at Connie, just as he had been doing all afternoon. And what was worse, Connie was smiling back. Guy didn’t like it.

“Hey speedy, quit scammin’ my babe.” He warned Luis.

“The name’s Luis. Sorry amigo. Didn’t mean to ruffle your Duck feathers.”

Ms. MacKay looked up from the blackboard. “Okay.” She called out. “Who can tell me what an isosceles triangle is? Dwayne?”

The kids snickered. Meanwhile Guy saw Connie throw another smile at Luis.

“I saw that Connie.” Said Guy angrily.

“You don’t own me.” Connie retorted.

Luis smiled. “She’s right my friend.” He said smugly.

“I’m not your friend!” Shouted Guy.

“Good.” Said Luis. “Then I won’t feel so bad when Connie and I are together.”

“Boys that is enough!” Ordered Ms. MacKay. “I mean it. Okay now. Can anyone tell me what an isosce-”

“NOBODY MOVES!”

All heads turned. It was Portman. “My Nirvana tape is missing!” He turned to face Fulton, in the seat beside him. “You snagged it, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, here it is.” Said Fulton flippantly. He threw a roll of black hockey tape at Portman. Portman ducked. The tape was intercepted a few seats over by Julie. Then Portman and Fulton jumped to their feet and began shoving each other.

At the same time Guy and Luis began poking one another challenging each other to a fight over Connie. Connie was trying to break it up.

Within seconds wads of crumpled paper hurtled across the seats like snowballs. Jesse, Goldberg, Banks and Averman had begun a paper-wad war with Dwayne, Ken, and Julie.

Things were getting out of hand.

“Stop it class!” Shouted Ms. MacKay as a paper ball whizzed past her shoulder and hit the blackboard. “Class! Team USA!”

“Cool it guys!” Shouted Charlie who was immediately pummelled with a barrage of paper balls.

Gordon had been watching the scene from the locker-room doorway. He walked casually over to the blackboard.

“Need any help, adult supervision-wise?” He quipped to Ms. MacKay. She shot him an angry stare.

Gordon smiled knowingly. “You need to treat the children with patience and understanding.” He suggested. Then he took a step toward the unruly class and blasted his whistle.

“ALL RIGHT-KNOCK IT OFF AND SIT DOWN!” He shouted.

There was instant silence as the kids returned to their seats.

Ms. MacKay leaned over to Gordon. “Patience and understanding?” She reminded him.

Gordon grinned. “Patience, understanding.” He began. “And a loud whistle.”


Chapter 6: The Mighty…Team USA?

The following day training began in earnest. Gordon gathered the Ducks, or Team USA, as they were now called into the rink. He hobbled them together into a line, then tied them to each other with a packing cord.

“This is more crowded then a truckload of goats.” Complained Dwayne.

“Yeech.” Screeched Averman. “Somebody licked me!”

Gordon walked back and forth in front of the team.

“I can’t think of any way to make it clearer. You are a team. To win this thing, we’re going to have to work as one. Now be ONE-skate!”

The kids started moving, but in different directions. The rope yanked them back, and they toppled over each other into a confused heap.

“Everyone goes their own way, everyone falls down.” Explained Gordon. “Now get up and do it again.”

After several tries Team USA was able to move slowly, very slowly, in the same direction. When he was satisfied that they were working as a team again, Gordon untied them and handed the rope to Dwayne.

“Okay, Rancher Dwayne.” He said. “Go round me up some stray calf.” Then he promised double dessert to the last player standing.

The kids took off, free-skating in all directions. Dwayne smiled as he tied the rope into a lariat and took off after them. He twirled the rope and easily lassoed Goldberg first. Dwayne guided Goldberg off the ice as if he were bringing a cow in for branding.

Dwayne returned to the ice and began lassoing players as though he were scoring points in a video game. Connie, Luis, Averman, Jesse, Julie, Charlie. One by one Dwayne lassoed them and took them off the ice.

There were only three players left: Ken, Banks, and Portman.

Ken tried to twirl away but was caught by Dwayne’s loop in mid-pirouette. Upon seeing this, Portman decided he had finally had enough. He went on offensive. He charged Dwayne like a mad bull. Dwayne fled across the ice, but when he was a safe distance away he did a sharp about-face. Portman shot past Dwayne and never saw the rope until it circled around his waist and jerked him to a dead stop.

The workout was over.


Everyone was watching Adam Banks start in on his second cup of pudding when Tibbles entered the dining hall. He was pushing a cloth-covered cart into the centre of the room.

I know you athletes need your food.” He said calling their attention. “But let me interrupt you for a moment. Winning the Junior Goodwill Games is more than just a victory. It’s a chance to be immortalized in a time-honoured tradition.

With that, Tibbles ceremoniously whipped the cloth off the cart to reveal a huge, oversize box of USA Crunch cereal. Plastered across the front of the box was a photograph of Gordon and the team.

Gordon couldn’t help but smile.

“Hey that’s us!” Shouted Dwayne.

“Today it’s a cereal box.” Said Tibbles. “Tomorrow it’s video games, action figures, lunch boxes. Maybe they’ll even make a movie about you. Stranger things have happened. Now, just so everybody knows who you are, put away those old Duck jerseys because from now on you’ll be wearing these!”

Tibbles opened the cereal box and pulled out a bunch of beautiful red-white-and blue warm up suits with Team USA embroidered across the front and Hendrix sewn down the sleeves.

Portman, Luis, Julie, Dwayne, and Ken scrambled for their new uniforms. But the old Ducks hesitated. They didn’t like the idea of giving up the Mighty Ducks.

“This stuff has Hendrix written all over it.” Muttered Charlie.

“They’re our sponsors, Charlie.” Gordon explained.

“So what?” Charlie replied. “Why can’t we be USA Ducks or at least keep our Duck colours?”

“Charlie, it’s business stuff.” Gordon said. The fact was, he explained, they weren’t the Ducks anymore. They were a new team. Team USA.

Seeing his picture on the front of the cereal box, Gordon knew he wasn’t the coach of the Ducks anymore, either. He was the coach of Team USA.

As far as he was concerned, the Ducks were history.


Chapter 7: A Team is Born

That afternoon Ms. MacKay arranged to hold class outdoors, along the river. By getting the kids away from the rink for a few hours, she hoped to get their minds off hockey and onto their studies.

It worked. The kids were different away from practice. They seemed less serious and more like kids.

“We were talking about history.” Ms. MacKay reminded the class. “How many of you knew that the first Olympic Games were held in Greece?”

“Must have been pretty slippery.” Quipped Averman. Everyone groaned at the bad joke.

Ms. MacKay continued. “Ancient Greece was the beginning of Western civilization. Medicine, architecture, math, along with the idea of bringing the world together in sporting competition all came from this place and time.

“What about the gladiators?” Asked Portman.

“That was ancient Rome, Dean.” Explained Ms. MacKay. “And gladiators were more like professional athletes. In Greece they didn’t have professional sports or cereal boxes. So the athletes competed for another reason. Anybody?”

“Pride.” Offered Charlie.

Ms. MacKay nodded. “That’s right.” She said with a smile. “The various city-states waved their flags and wore their home colours proudly.”

Ms. MacKay felt energized by the way the kids were participating. She looked up and saw Gordon stroll to a stop behind the group.

“Did America always dominate?” Asked Fulton.

“Well, no.” Explained Ms. MacKay. “America wasn’t around then. Don’t forget that America, compared to other countries, is still young, still forming an identity. America is like a teenager, like you.”

“Like us?” Asked Jesse, his brow twisted quizzically.

“You bet.” Said Ms. MacKay. “A little awkward at times, but always right there on the verge of greatness.”

The kids smiled at that comparison. Gordon was smiling as well.

After class Gordon and the team worked out on some hilly roads. They put on their rollerblades, kneepads, wrist guards, and helmets. Then Gordon took off in a golf cart and ordered the team to follow him into the hills on their skates.

“Left, right, left, right!” Gordon shouted like a drill sergeant. “Minnesota for a climate not so colda! Now we’re goin’ all the way! We’re goin’ for the…”

“GOLD!” The team answered in unison as they huffed and struggled to keep up.

“I said we’re goin’ all the way.” Continued Gordon. “‘Cause we’re…”

“TEAM USA!” Answered the kids.

Just then Portman lost his footing and fell. Fulton, who was just in front of him, turned. He reached out his hand to help Portman up. Portman hesitated. The two boys stared at each other for a moment.

Finally Portman grabbed Fulton’s hand and let himself be pulled up.

Thirty minutes later Gordon led the kids to the docks. While the kids cooled down in the breeze that drifted from the lake, he and Ms. MacKay took a walk along the shore.

“All in all, they’re a good bunch.” Commented Ms. MacKay.

“You’re great with them.” Gordon told her. Ms. MacKay blushed. “I really mean that. I hardly remember any of my teachers. I wish I had you as a teacher growing up.”

‘You never had any good teachers?”

“Well, my dad.” Said Gordon sombrely. “He taught me how to play hockey. He taught me about life.”

“That’s nice.” She said. “My mom was a big influence on me. She was a teacher. Still is actually. She’s been at the same school for thirty years.”

“Where?”

“Duluth County High.”

“The Fighting Tangerines?”

“Wolverines.” Michele corrected him.

“I know.” Said Gordon. “We called them the Tangerines. We played them in football.”

“I know.” Said Michele. “I was a cheerleader.”

Gordon smiled.

“Don’t you say a word.” Michele warned him. They both began laughing.

Suddenly the sound of a motor being revved came from behind them. Gordon and Ms. MacKay whipped around just in time to see Fulton, Guy, and Jesse driving the golf cart. It was out of control and heading right for them. Gordon quickly pulled Ms. MacKay out of the way.

CRASH! SPLASH!

The cart plunged off the dock and into the shallow water. Gordon, Ms. MacKay, and the rest of the kids ran to the dock. The three boys were still sitting in the golf cart.

“Someone has to teach those kids how to drive.” Ms. MacKay suggested.

Gordon giggled. Then she laughed. Soon all of Team USA w as rolling over with laughter.


Chapter 8: The Only Way Back Into the Game

A week later the team landed at Los Angeles International Airport. They were greeted by Tibbles and a special bus with the words Team USA and Hendrix Apparel emblazoned across its sides.

Before they went to the hotel, however, the detoured through Beverly Hills. Expensive sports cars raced past them on Rodeo Drive. And on every street corner, peddlers hawked maps to the homes of the stars.

Gordon and the kids were dazzled.

Finally the bus pulled into the Los Angeles Coliseum, where a special media event had been scheduled to introduce all the teams participating in the Junior Goodwill Games.

Through the windows of t he bus, Gordon and the kids saw a banner stretched out across the road.

Los Angeles-Junior Goodwill Games Welcomes You.

Just outside the main entrance to the coliseum were dozens of local television news vans with satellite dishes on them.

Gordon, Michele, and the team climbed out of the bus and followed Tibbles into the coliseum. The stadium was thronging with all the activity of a major convention. There were welcome booths, administration tents, banners, and flags everywhere.

Two teenage girls excitedly approached Luis and Dwayne and asked them to sign their programs. It didn’t take long for the boys to get into the swing of things. Soon they were signing programs and talking to fans like old pros.

Portman had just finished signing a program when he looked up to see a boy his own age dressed in oversize jeans and a hooded sweat jacket staring at him.

“You want an autograph?” Asked Portman.

The kid shook his head disgustedly and walked away.

Tibbles ushered Gordon and his team into the Team USA press tent. The tent was ablaze with TV lights. Immediately a mob of reporters and photographers descended on Gordon. Tibbles tried holding the reporters back and guided Gordon to the centre of the tent, where an attractive woman in a business suit waited.

“Gordon.” Said Tibbles. “This is Marcy Hendrix, president of Hendrix Hockey Apparel.”

Gordon held out his hand. Ms. Hendrix ignored the gesture. Instead she looked him up and down.

“You have nice skin.” She said bluntly. She had not meant it as a compliment.

“Thank you.” Replied Gordon uncertainly.

Ms. Hendrix turned abruptly to Tibbles. “Make sure you get pictures of him with the bear.” then she pushed past the reporters out of the tent.

Suddenly Gordon felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around, expecting to see a reporter. Instead, he saw a six foot tall white furry polar bear standing straight up on it’s hind legs. It was the team mascot. The bear threw it’s paws around his shoulder.

Gordon blinked as dozens of flashbulbs went off around the tent. Tibbles stepped forward.

“Here they are.” He announced proudly to the reporters as they shoved their microphones and tape recorders forward. “TEAM USA HOCKEY.” He slapped Gordon on the back. “And here’s the man chosen to lead them to the gold. Gordon Bombay formerly of the Mighty Ducks now the youngest man ever to coach Team USA.” He leaned and whispered, “Big smile, Gordo.”

“Gordo” smiled as more flashbulbs went off.

A reporter shoved her microphone into Gordon’s face. “Most people think it would be a miracle for Team USA to grab a bronze.” She said. “Let alone a gold. What do you say?”

Jesse jumped in front of Gordon. “I say most people are fools.” He shouted. “Hi, mom! Hi, dad!”

Another reporter stepped toward Gordon with his microphone.

“The Vikings from Team Iceland are the heavy favourites.” He said. “Their coach all but guaranteed victory. How will you handle them?”

There was a momentary pause. Tibbles watched Gordon expectantly. Gordon pulled the microphone closer to his face.

“We’ll handle them the old-fashioned way.” Gordon promised. “Hard work. We’ll work hard, we’ll play hard, and we’ll stick together. Iceland might be tough, but we’re Team USA and we’re going all the way!”

The kids cheered. Tibbles threw Gordon an energetic thumbs up.

“Team USA is going down!”

A silence came over the room. All eyes turned to the back of the tent. A tall man with slicked back hair was standing alone at the back of the tent. He was wearing a Vikings windbreaker.

“Team USA is going down.” He repeated for the reporters. “That is where they are going.”

Before the reporters could reach him for further comment, he stormed out of the tent.

“That’s just the Icelandic coach, Stansson.” Tibbles whispered to Gordon. “A little high-strung.”

Gordon raised an eyebrow. “Stansson?” He asked. “From the NHL? Wolf ‘the Dentist’ Stansson is coaching? You didn’t tell me that.”

“That guy was a dentist?” Asked Ken.

“That was his nickname.” Charlie explained to the others. “He played pro for one year. He collected more teeth then goals. He even punched out his own coach. They ran him out of the league and the country.”

“I heard he went home.” Said Julie. “But lost his eligibility to play on the Olympic team.”

Charlie shrugged. “I guess coaching is his only way back into the game.” He said.

Gordon overheard what Charlie said. Maybe he and Stansson had something in common, after all.


Chapter 9: Opening Ceremonies

The Ducks may have been exhausted after their first day in Los Angeles, but they were also exhilarated. All the attention-the reporters, the cameras, the fans-had made them feel important. They were being treated like royalty. Now they looked forward to a luxurious night’s sleep in a four-star hotel, complete with pool, sauna, TV, VCR, and room service.

But their happy expressions dropped as they were led to their accommodations by a representative of Hendrix Apparel. It was a dormitory building in an isolated section of a local college campus. The building was low and rectangular and looked something like a grey shoebox with windows. Inside, it wasn’t any more luxurious. The rooms were dark, with thick cement walls and bunk beds with mattresses that sagged in the middle.

So much for the royal treatment, the kids thought.

Meanwhile, miles away on Malibu Beach, Gordon Bombay followed Don Tibbles into the ultra-modern two-story beach house that would be his accommodations. Gordon had only seen this kind of a place on ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.’ But now he was in one. And he was being treated like he was rich and famous, too. Still, he wondered if he shouldn’t be spending the night with the team, wherever they were.

Then Tibbles flung open the drapes. Gordon had never seen so much ocean. Or any ocean for that matter. He opened the sliding glass door on the porch and a wave of cool sea air brushed over Gordon’s face. Minutes later Gordon found himself facedown on a massage table, the gentle hands of a professional masseuse kneading out the knots in his back. Tibbles-and Hendrix-had arranged for it all.

Gordon smiled. “Well.” He told himself. “It’s not like the team needs me twenty-four hours a day.”


When Tibbles barged into Gordon’ room late the next morning, he woke him from the most peaceful night of his life. If they didn’t hurry, Tibbles warned him, they’d be late for the opening ceremonies.

“Where’s our coach?” Luis asked that morning. All the teams were assembled, and the introductory ceremonies had already begun.

“Must be doing business stuff.” Scowled Charlie. He adjusted himself in his new Team USA uniform. It was tight and uncomfortable. He wished he could be wearing his old Duck’s uniform.

Just then Gordon and Tibbles arrived. Gordon was still adjusting his tie when a tall, fair-haired woman approached him.

‘I can help tie you.” She said. She spoke with a Scandinavian accent.

Gordon was too stunned by the woman’s beauty to object. He let her tie his tie.

“I’m Gordon.” He said.

“I am Marria.” She said.

A wide shadow fell over them. Gordon looked up. The huge form of Coach Wolf Stansson blocked the staging area’s overhead light.

“Get back to the team this instant.” Stansson ordered the woman. Marria nodded and obediently left Team USA’s area.

Gordon glared at Coach Stansson. The two men stared at each other.
“We haven’t formally met.” Said Gordon with mock politeness. “I’m Gordon Bombay, coach, Team USA.”

“I know who you are.” Said Stansson. Even his voice was flat and lifeless. “I know the competition. I study them. I know your weaknesses.”

Then he turned and left.

Gordon grimaced to himself. “Nice meeting you, too.” He said, half-aloud.

“WELCOME TEAM USA, COACHED BY GORDON BOMBAY!”

Gordon was startled by the announcement over the loudspeaker. The teams were being introduced.

“It’s show time.” Said Tibbles. “Move it out.”

With that, Gordon led Team USA through the doors of the staging area and into the arena. The audience cheered.

After the opening ceremonies ended, the first in the series of showdowns began. Team USA would play Team Trinidad/Tobago, the Islanders.

Team USA scored a series of easy goals against the Islanders. By the middle of the third period it was Team USA 7 Trinidad 1. Team USA knew it had the advantage. After all, how much practice could a team get in a country where the temperature rarely dips below eighty degrees?

Dwayne, Connie, and Ken passed the puck in and around their Trinidadian counterparts with ease. The Trinidad players were tired. They slipped and fell as they tried to keep up. The puck slid toward a Trinidad player, but Ken spun around him and swiped it away. Then Charlie swooped in and shot the puck into the net.

Team USA cheered and high-fived each other.

In the stands behind the Team USA bench sat the kid who had laughed when Portman tried to give him an autograph the day before. He had been watching the game with a cynical smirk on his face. It was clear he didn’t think much of Team USA’s victory over Trinidad.

“Yo, yo, yo.” Shouted the kid as the team assembled on the bench. “My little brother could score on these guys.”

“Why don’t you go bother him then?” Replied Jesse irritably.

The kid sneered. “I ain’t even got a brother.”

“Jesse.” Called Gordon. “Quit gabbin’ and get out there. Show me you want it.”

Jesse slipped on his face guard and skated onto the ice. He would show this kid. He went straight for the puck, then raced toward the net. Just then a Team Trinidad player swooped in from the side and stole the puck. To everyone’s surprise, the Trinidad player skated all the way past the blue line and netted an easy goal past Goldberg.

Jesse was furious. He raced over to the player who had stolen the puck from him and pushed him from behind. The player went down. The ref skated over and immediately sent Jesse off the ice. Penalty.

Jesse lumbered over to the penalty box and sat down.

“He dissed you bad!”

Jesse turned. It was the same kid. Jesse made a move to leap toward the kid, but the spectator ambled away through the stands, laughing as he went.

At the other end of the bench, Charlie noticed that Banks had been looking anxiously up toward the stands ever since the game began.

“Don’t tell me your dad’s here.” Said Charlie. Charlie knew what winning meant to Banks’ father.

“Worse.” Said Banks without taking his eyes off the stands. “Scouts, man. Look at them.”

Charlie looked up. Two men were sitting a few rows up watching the game. They wore dark suits and were scribbling into small notebooks.

Banks skated onto the ice for a line change. He sliced the puck away after it dropped and began manoeuvring it toward the goal. But his moves were too fast too desperate. A Trinidad player stripped the puck from Banks and scored a goal.

Banks skated back to the bench, his eyes darting up at the scouts and their little notebooks.

“Don’t worry about the scouts.” Charlie told him. “Just play your best–”

But just then Gordon yanked Banks away from the bench.

“What’re you doing out there, Banks?” Yelled Gordon. “That was embarrassing. I want that goal back. Now! Fulton, Portman, Ken. Line change!”

The three players jumped out on the ice and grooved right into play. Ken got the puck after the drop and chipped it to Fulton, who then passed it to Portman. Fulton followed Portman down the centre of the ice, both boys barrelling ahead like a couple of bulldozers. The Trinidad line scattered out of their way.

Portman swatted the puck across the front of the net, but the Islanders goalie made a glove save. Portman then took a swat at the goalie’s glove with his stick. The glove, with the puck still in it, flew into the net.

The buzzer sounded. The game was over. It was 9-3, Team USA.

The crowd jumped to its feet and cheered.

Team USA took a bow.


Chapter 10: Downtime

Being the only girls on Team USA, Connie and Julie had become fast friends. That night after the opening games, Connie and Julie were in their dorm room getting ready to turn in. Julie was brushing her hair, and Connie was reading a book.

Julie looked over at Connie. She was so popular, Julie thought. And beautiful. Julie felt so plain next to her.

“It’s kind of embarrassing.” Julie said as she thought aloud about the last couple of days. “All the attention…”

“I love it here.” Said Connie. “I feel like a movie star or something.”

“You’re used to it.” Said Julie. Then she paused. “What’s it like to have both Guy and Luis in the palm of your hand?”

“I wish they would both just grow up.” Connie answered. “American boys are so immature.”

Julie smiled. She knew Connie was referring to Gianni, the handsome boy who was captain of the Italian team. Before the opening ceremonies earlier that day, Gianni introduced himself to both girls, but it was obvious that he had special eyes for Connie.

“Mi chiamo Connie.” Connie intoned reading from an Italian phrase book. “Grazi, prego, Signorina Connie, si si…pasta!”

Connie looked at Julie, and both girls giggled knowingly at one another.


“The feather, if you please.” Requested Goldberg. He, Ken, and Luis were in the dorm room. They were hovering over Dwayne who was asleep in his bunk.

There was a heaping glob of shaving cream in Dwayne’s upturned palm.

Luis pulled the feather from the brim of Dwayne’s cowboy hat and passed it ceremoniously to Goldberg. Goldberg began gently tickling Dwayne under the nose with the feather. Dwayne stirred then sniffled. The boys grinned.

WHAP! Dwayne slapped at his nose and splattered shaving cream all over his face.

Ken, Luis, and Goldberg doubled over with smothered laughter. Amazingly Dwayne didn’t wake up! Goldberg began rubbing Dwayne’s ear with the feather.

SLAP! This time Dwayne smeared the shaving cream along the side of his face, which was now almost completely covered in foam. The boys couldn’t hold back any longer. They broke out in raucous laughter.

Finally Dwayne woke up. “What the-” he pawed at the mess on his face. In retaliation he picked up his pillow and threw it at Goldberg. Goldberg, Ken, and Luis grabbed for their own pillows. They bombarded Dwayne first, but the fight quickly escalated into a free-for-all. Feathers were flying everywhere.

In the next room, Banks was having a hard time falling asleep. All the laughing and screaming coming through the wall wasn’t helping. He felt miserable. All he could think about were the talent scouts who had been at the game. All Adam wanted was to play professional hockey. His big break had come today, and instead of impressing the scouts, he had played badly. He had blown it. His life was over.

Banks got out of bed and went into the next room.

“Guys, I need my sleep.” He complained. “We’ve got another game tomorrow.”

“It’s against Italy.” Grinned Luis. “No contest. Chill.”

“I have to play well.” Insisted Banks. “The scouts are watching. Please.”

Luis, Goldberg, Ken, and Dwayne put down their pillows and looked at each other. They sheepishly turned to go to their beds.

WUMPH! They made a surprise turnabout and attacked Banks with all four pillows. Banks tried to defend himself. It was no use. He was caught in a blizzard of feathers.

Angry at first, Banks soon joined the others in laughter. For the time being, at least, he forgot all about the scouts.


Chapter 11: New Perspective

As Luis had predicted the Italian team was no match for Team USA, which won 11-0. Team USA seemed unbeatable.

Gordon cut short his after-game hang with the kids and retreated to the beach house with Tibbles and Marcy Hendrix. Tibbles had arranged an afternoon reception in Gordon’s honour. The house was filled with Hendrix executives, sports journalists, and even some movie stars. After a while Gordon found himself on the patio with Tibbles and Hendrix. They were drinking frothy cappuccinos and breathing in the salty ocean air.

“Bet you didn’t know you have so many friends, huh?” Tibbles asked Gordon.

Gordon smiled at Tibbles and Hendrix. “It’s nice to be appreciated for your work.” He admitted.

“You bet it is.” Said Hendrix. Then she opened her briefcase and pulled out a stack of papers. “These are letters of intent that will bind us together should we decide to use you in any and/or all of our product endorsements.” She explained to Gordon. “Here you can see the guaranteed fees you will collect. We trust these new numbers are fair.”

Gordon glanced at the papers. “Those are nice fair numbers.” He agreed. He couldn’t believe how much money they were giving him. “You’ll pay me that much just to endorse sports apparel?”

“What do you say?” Tibbles asked.

“Got a pen?” Replied Gordon.

Tibbles handed Gordon a pen, and Gordon signed the papers.

“Now there’s only one thing left for us to do, Gordon.” Said Hendrix.

“What’s that, Marcy?”

“Enjoy.”

Gordon took another sip of his cappuccino. “I can do that.” He said smiling.


While Gordon sipped cappuccinos at the elegant beach house, Team USA was finishing up it’s daily lesson in a classroom on the UCLA campus. Ms. MacKay was just rolling up the map she used for geography as the kids bolted out of the classroom. It was Friday, and she knew the kids were anxious for some fun before their next game on Monday.

Except for Adam Banks. Ms. MacKay had noticed that he didn’t seem to be enjoying himself as much as the others.

“Adam.” Ms. MacKay called out as Banks headed for the door. “What’re you going to do with your free time?”

“Practice.” Banks said automatically.

“Practice, practice, practice.” Said Ms. MacKay. “You’re a fourteen-year-old boy in the middle of Los Angeles. Maybe you could try to have a little, oh I don’t know…fun?”

“Hockey is fun.” Said Banks.

“Adam there’s more to life then hockey.”

“Not to my life.” Banks retorted. “We win here, then I go to the juniors then the pros. What could be better for a Minnesota boy?”

“What if you don’t become a hockey player?” Asked Ms. MacKay.

Banks didn’t hesitate. “I will.” He said.

Ms. MacKay turned to the blackboard and picked up a piece of chalk. “Let’s do a little math.” She said. “There are how many teams in the National Hockey League?”

“Twenty-four.” Replied Banks.

Ms. MacKay wrote the number on the chalkboard. “How many players on each team?” She asked.

“A team can carry twenty players.” Answered Banks.

Ms. MacKay wrote that number down as well. Then she began to calculate. “Twenty-four times twenty.” She recited as she continued to write. “Four hundred and eighty players. Now junior hockey teams nationwide report forty-five thousand members. Let’s be generous and say only one third of these are serious about hockey. One third is fifteen thousand players competing for four hundred and eighty slots.”

“No.” Said Banks. “You don’t get four hundred and eighty new players each year. Only the top rookies make it into the league.”

“That’s right.” Confirmed Ms. MacKay. “So how many rookies make it into the league every year?”

“About fifteen.” Said Banks.

“Fifteen?” Repeated Ms. MacKay. “Fifteen players out of fifteen thousand? That’s one in a thousand, Adam. Those aren’t very good odds.

Banks stared silently at Ms. MacKay. He felt his heart sink into his stomach. She was right, he realized. The odds were astronomical that he wouldn’t make it into the league. What made him think he was good enough anyway?


“Isn’t that the model from the cover of the swimsuit issue?” Gordon asked, pointing as he and Tibbles meandered through the living room of the beach house. Gordon was overwhelmed. He had never seen so many famous people all at once. In person. In his house!

Then Gordon did a double take and stopped dead in his tracks. Not three feet from him, chatting with a small group of people, was Pat Riley, the coach of the New York Knicks.

“Go over and introduce yourself.” Urged Tibbles. “He’s a coach. You’re a coach. Talk coach stuff.”

Gordon was nervous as he approached Coach Riley. Sure he was coaching Team USA, but Riley was a real coach who coached real players, not peewees.

“Excuse me.” Gordon stuttered. “Mr.-Pat-I’m Gordon Bombay coach of Team USA.”

“Very nice to meet you.” Said Riley. “I hear your team is doing very well.”

“You have?” Squeaked Gordon. He was flattered. “I mean we are. Hey you haven’t done so bad this year yourself.”

Just then Terry, Tibbles’ young assistant interrupted to say that Gordon was wanted on the phone. “He says it’s urgent.” Terry added.

Gordon raced to the dorm, but he couldn’t find Banks anywhere. He finally found him in an empty pavilion shooting pucks against a wall. His suitcases were packed and sitting off to the side. Banks told him about the depressing conversation he had had with Ms. MacKay.

Ten minutes later Gordon tracked down Michele in the classroom. She was seated behind the desk correcting papers.

“I need to talk to you now!” Demanded Gordon angrily.

Michele looked up calmly. “Not in that tone of voice.” She said reprovingly.

“Excuse me.” Insisted Gordon. “But we have to talk.”

“You’re not my coach so I suggest better manners.”

“You’re not my teacher so quit treating me like a child.”

Michele obligingly placed the papers facedown on the desk and waited for Gordon to begin.

“Banks dares to dream of something bigger and you say, No, Adam, dream smaller. My team, all of them, are here because they’re special, and all you want to do is tell them how ordinary they are.”

“I told Banks the truth, and you know it.” Michele said, defending herself.

“The truth is beside the point!” Argued Gordon.

“He was beating up on himself.” Explained Michele. “He was miserable. I thought it would give him a better perspective.”

“A better perspective?” Said Gordon stunned. “Now my number one scorer doesn’t think he stands a chance. You did it on purpose didn’t you?”

Michele shook her head no.

“Yes you did.” Insisted Gordon. “You think hockey is a bunch of guys on skates trying to knock a rubber puck into the net with a long stick!”

“Isn’t it?” Asked Michele.

“Well, yes. It is.” Said Gordon. “But it’s more then that! You don’t know the first thing about sports. You probably don’t even sweat.”

“I do so sweat!” She snapped. Then she sighed and tried to regain her composure. “Look.” She said. “I didn’t mean to discourage him.”

Gordon looked at her dumbfounded. “How naïve can you be?” He asked her. My team is different. Your math does not apply to them.”

“Now who’s being naïve?” Said Michele.

Gordon decided he had heard enough. He wouldn’t let a know-nothing schoolteacher ruin his team, not to mention ruin his chances of becoming a famous coach.

“You were brought here to teach.” He said coldly. “Just do your job.”

He left the room and slammed the door behind him. It sent a shudder down Michele’s spine.


Chapter 12: A Day Off, An Off Day

Most of Team USA decided to spend their Saturday at Venice Beach.

They were awestruck as they approached the beach from a bicycle path. Los Angeles was such a weird place. It seemed as if people spent all their time in bathing suits. All around them were skateboarders, people plying volleyball, and, out on the waves, surfers.

They were walking along a bike path when they looked up and saw a fleet of rollerbladers with hockey sticks headed right toward them.

“Jump!” Shouted Luis.

They leaped out of the way. The skaters whizzed by without stopping. All except one. It was that kid who had been showing up at the games. The one who had been taunting them since they first arrived.

“Yo, Team USA.” He called out. “Hope the hockey isn’t interfering with your vacation!” He wisecracked. The kid skated away laughing.

The players exchanged bewildered glances. Who was this guy? And why was he wherever they went?

The kids found an empty spot on the beach and rolled out their blankets. Connie and Julie worked on their tans.

Ken, Luis, Charlie, and Guy pulled out a flying disk and began throwing it around. There were a few tosses and some acrobatic catches. Then Guy sailed the disk way over Luis’s head.

“You did that on purpose.” Shouted Luis. He knew Guy was still upset because Connie had smiled at him. “You go get it.”

“Go get it yourself.” Retorted Guy.

Ken shook his head wearily and jogged after the disk. He wanted to play, not fight over girls. When he bent down to pick it up, however he was tackled by eight Vikings. They had been jogging along the beach in their uniforms when they blindsided Ken. One of the Vikings then deliberately smashed his knee into Ken’s face. Ken slumped to the ground his nose dripping with blood.

Charlie, Guy, and Luis ran over to help as soon as they saw the attack. But by then the Vikings had trotted farther down the shore.

“Hey you stupid jerks!” Charlie shouted after them.

The Vikings kept jogging.

“You better run.” Warned Luis. “Come back! We’ll kick your butts! COWARDS!”

The Vikings did a sudden about-face.

“Uh-oh.” Said Charlie nervously. “There’s more of them then us.” He said. “And they’re bigger.” He did some quick mental calculations. “I say we –”

“RUN!” Ken, Luis, and Guy sprinted off. Charlie brought up the rear. Kicking up sand as he went. They did everything they could to lose the Vikings.

The kids darted in and around a maze of sunbathers, dashed under volleyball nets, and jumped over some benches. They raced past a group who was filming a movie on the beach. Nothing could stop them…except maybe the dead end as they entered a pavilion.

Before they had a chance to correct their mistake, the Vikings players were on them.

“Who’s the coward now?” Bellowed Olaf the team captain. The huge Icelandic players moved in on the boys.

“Good question.” Came a voice from behind them. It was Fulton. Portman was at his side. Now the odds were a little more even.

For a moment it was a stalemate. Nobody moved. Not the Vikings. Not Team USA.

Suddenly the balance of the Vikings team arrived. The Vikings smiled. Team USA cringed.

“What’s going on?” Asked Coach Stansson.

“They interfered with our workout.” Complained one of the Vikings.

“They started it!” Said Ken angrily. He pulled his sleeve away from his nose. “Look at my nose.”

“This is between you boys.” Stansson said. “I don’t want to meddle.”

Coach Stansson left the pavilion and continued his job. It was Team USA 6, Vikings 14. The odds were not good.

Olaf threw the first punch. He hit Fulton squarely in the stomach. Portman jumped him on Olaf’s back, but two more Vikings pulled him to the ground and pounced on him. Charlie, Ken, Luis, and Guy threw themselves into the mix, but they were quickly overpowered. They were no match for the Vikings.

The fight lasted longer than it should have because the Vikings were enjoying themselves too much.


“What am I going to do with you guys?” Asked Gordon. He was escorting his team, most of whom were badly scuffed and bruised out of police headquarters.

“They were lucky the cops came.” Said Portman. “We could have handled them.”

“Well you didn’t.” Gordon reminded Portman. “And now you’ve given them the mental edge. Therefore, no more beach, no more Beverly Hills. I’m laying down a seven o’clock curfew. So get over to dinner, then straight to the dorms. I want you all to start remembering why you’re here. Now get to the bus. Move it.”

As the kids scrambled onto the Team USA bus Charlie staggered behind.

“They jumped us.” He said facing Gordon. “It wasn’t fair. Where were you?”

Gordon avoided the question. “I had things to do.” He said. He found himself unable to look Charlie in the face.

“Oh things.” Said Charlie sarcastically. “Of course. Sorry I guess I shouldn’t ask.”

Gordon stiffened. “I was attending to important team business.” He said. His tone was anything but convincing.

“You’ve been attending to a lot of team business out here.” Charlie fired back. “Maybe you should attend more to the team.”

“Maybe you should remember that I’m your coach here Charlie.” Snapped Gordon. “And that means you do what I say.”

“Gordon and Charlie glared at each other for a long thick minute. Finally Charlie turned and climbed onto the bus. Gordon stared at Charlie’s back and sighed. We’d been so close once, Gordon thought. Now we’re far apart. When did it happen he wondered. And why?


Gordon couldn’t get Charlie out of his mind, and it depressed him. He was supposed to spend Saturday evening with Tibbles and Hendrix. The Hendrix executives had promised him a big night out on the town.

Instead Gordon went to the gym for a workout. Ever since he dropped the kids off at the dorm, the pain in his knee ached worse then usual. He adjusted a leg-lift machine. Even with the lightest of weights, he could barely bend his knee. The pain was intense.

“I’m sorry for what happened at the beach.”

Gordon looked up startled. It was Marria Coach Stansson’s beautiful assistant.

“Yes.” Said Gordon. “Me too. You’d think they’d know better.”

“It is Coach Stansson.” Explained Marria. “He has them how do you say, so ‘pumped up’ they go too far sometimes. I have spoken with him and he is sorry. Let me make you a peace offering. Do you like ice cream? I’ll buy you a double scoop. For détente.

Gordon happily agreed. He welcomed the distraction to get his mind off the mess with Charlie. And Marria was as beautiful a distraction as he could imagine.

Marria drove Gordon to Westwood a place where many shops and restaurants stayed open late and they could stroll among the students from the nearby college. Marria made good on her promise and bought ice-cream cones for both of them.

“I thought Iceland was covered with ice.” Said Gordon as they walked.

“Not it is very green.” Marria said correcting him.

“I thought Greenland was green.”

Marria laughed. “Greenland is covered in ice.” She said. “Iceland is very nice. I imagine it to be like Minneapolis where you are from.”

“How did you know where I was from?”

“I asked around.” Marria answered. “Are you going back home after the Games?”

“I haven’t made up my mind.” Said Gordon. “I’ve got a lot going on.”

“I’m sure you do.” Marria said. Then she slipped her arm around his.

They turned the corner and passed a bright neon-lit music store. They didn’t see Fulton and Portman, out on the town breaking the curfew come out of the store carrying shopping bags.

They were dismayed when they spied Gordon walking arm in arm with a member of the Vikings staff.

“He grounds us for defending ourselves then he goes out fraternizing with the enemy.” Growled Portman. “Great coach we got.”

They ran back to the dorm to tell the others.


Chapter 13: Romance, Team USA Style

Before turning in that night, Guy, Ken, and Averman decided to have a little target practice. They filled up a bucket of water balloons and tossed them out the window. They were trying to hit players from the other teams as they came back to the dorm.

Connie and Julie turned in early that night. They were exhausted from the events of the day and had to rest up for Sunday practice.

Just as they flicked off the light however they heard music outside their window.

Connie opened her eyes wide. “Gianni!” She exclaimed breathlessly. “I knew he’d come.”

Connie excitedly jumped out of bed and ran to the window. The handsome captain of the Italian team was standing in the courtyard below her window strumming a guitar.

Connie thought back dreamily to the first time she had seen him. It was in the staging area at the coliseum. She was standing next to Julie when Gianni threw her a big smile.

“Halooo.” Crooned Gianni looking up at Connie. “Please…what is your name?”

“Mi chiamo Connie.” She answered in phrase-book Italian.

“No, no.” Said Gianni a bit confused.

“Si, si.” Said Connie nodding. “I am Connie.”

“Not you Signorina.” Pleaded Gianni. “The other.”

Connie was confused. Julie appeared next to her at the window.

“YOU!” Gianni exclaimed gleefully. “Mi amore! What is your name?”

Julie was bewildered. “Julie.” She answered tentatively. Gianni responded to Julie’s quizzical look by breaking into song. Julie blushed. She was embarrassed. She also felt bad for Connie.

Connie lowered her head and moved away from the window.

“Hey Connie.” Called Julie. “Watch this.” She leaned slightly out the window. “Hey Gianni.” She called out. “Please back up into the light. I must see you.”

Gianni obeyed willingly. Soon he emerged into the building’s bright exterior light.

Julie shouted up to the next floor. “Red alert! Major target below!”

Ken, Guy, and Averman heeded the alert and within seconds Gianni was being pummelled with water balloons.

Both girls laughed hysterically. They smashed their palms together in a victorious high five. Connie smiled. Julie was a true friend she realized.

More then that, she was a true team-mate.


Chapter 14: Team USA versus the Vikings

Monday afternoon Team USA was in the locker room preparing for an important game against Team Iceland. Their recent brawl on the beach had shaken their confidence. They weren’t certain they could beat them.

The Vikings had shown themselves to be a tightly knit, well-tuned team. And their coach was with them wherever they went. That was more than could be said about Coach Gordon Bombay.

Lately the only time Team USA saw its coach was when he showed up for a game. And even though he was usually late.

Today Gordon showed up on time. He looked different however. Instead of the relaxed, casual windbreaker and jeans he usually wore to the games, he was dressed in an expensive custom-tailored Italian suit. His hair had been freshly cut and slicked back from his forehead. And he smelled of cologne.

“Nice haircut.” Commented Averman sarcastically. “What happened? You lose a bet?”

The kids laughed uneasily.

“You have a good time Saturday night Coach?” Asked Fulton. By now everyone knew whom Gordon had been with.

“Not bad.” Said Gordon clueless.

Just then another Gordon Bombay popped in through the locker-room door. This wasn’t a real flesh-and-blood Coach Bombay however. This was a full-size cardboard cut-out of Gordon complete with a comic book speech bubble that had him saying “For my players…it’s Hendrix or nothing!”

Tibbles smiled proudly at his creation. The kids roared at the sight of the cardboard Gordon.

Next Tibbles returned carrying a huge trading card that featured a photograph of Team USA. The kids were astonished to see themselves represented larger then life just like their favourite pro hockey players. Then Tibbles displayed another set of cards. Each one featured an individual player.

“Upper Deck trading cards, Goodwill series.” Explained Tibbles. “Collect your favourites. They’ll be sold in every convenience store around the country.”

“Go in for a soda and there you all are.” Said Gordon excitedly. “Every kid in America will look up to you. ‘Hey I’ll trade you a Goldberg for a Fulton!’”

“Every kid in high school will know who you are.” Added Tibbles. “Winners!”

The kids cheered. They were getting fired up now – fired up to face Team Iceland.

“Let’s win this and make it happen!” Yelled Gordon. “TEAM USA ALL THE WAY! USA ALL THE WAY!”

“USA ALL THE WAY!” Chanted the kids. “USA ALL THE WAY!”

They kept up the chant as they left the locker room and emerged under the bright spotlights of the arena. The crowd cheered as Team USA skated to the bench. Team Iceland had already been introduced and was waiting impatiently for the game to begin.

The players looked across the ice to Team Iceland. The Vikings threw back menacing stares.”

Minutes later both teams were on the ice. Portman was on the red line facing off against Gunnar centre for Iceland. They stared each other down waiting for the referee to drop the puck.

“You jumped my team-mates, you pay.” Portman said remembering Gunnar of the recent fight on the beach.

Gunnar sneered and replied in Icelandic. Portman smiled. He couldn’t understand a word Gunnar said but somehow he knew it wasn’t a compliment.

Then the puck dropped. Gunnar moved up for it, but Portman checked him clean, tripping him backward onto the ice. Gunnar lay still. Portman knew it was a fake-out.

A whistle blew shrilly. Portman couldn’t believe it.

“I barely touched you.” Said Portman. “Get up.”

But by then the ref had taken Portman by the arm and was escorting him off the ice.

“You took an unprovoked run at him.” Said the ref.

“Unprovoked?” Grunted Portman angrily. “They jumped us at the beach!”

“This ain’t no beach.” Said the ref. “And you’re out of the game.”

Gunnar slowly raised himself off the ice and skated to his team’s bench. Coach Stansson congratulated him as he sat down. Even so Gunnar frowned. The whole thing had been a fake and he didn’t feel right about it.

The Vikings went on the power play, and within a minute they had scored their first goal. Things went downhill for Team USA from then on. Team USA just couldn’t skate Team Iceland. By the time the buzzer sounded ending the first period, the Vikings were ahead 4-0.

“We’re being blown out!” Yelled Gordon as Team USA sat dazed on the bench. “Sloppy play, stupid penalties. You look like a bunch of chickens without heads running around out there!”

“We’re doing our best Coach.” Jesse mumbled.

“Your best is not good enough!” Gordon shot back. “Blow this game and we’re one loss away from elimination. You guys may want to go home, but I sure don’t.”

Gordon turned and stormed away.

The kids were dumbfounded. What was Bombay’s problem? They asked themselves. Ever since they had arrived in Los Angeles, Gordon seemed different. He was less interested in the team and more interested in himself and his endorsements. He had sold out, they decided. What right did he have to criticize them anyway? He was never around to coach them. They needed more then their picture on a cereal box to win games.

They felt as if they had been wiped out twice. First by Team Iceland and then by Gordon Bombay.

Meanwhile, Gordon stood sheepishly off to the side. He couldn’t even look at his players. He couldn’t. He sensed that they had lost faith in him. His pep talks had degenerated into accusations and put-downs. He felt depressed and dispirited. For the first time he wondered if there really was any hope that they could win.

Dwayne controlled the face-off against Gunnar at the start of the second period. He shouted rodeo-style whoops and yells as he scooted the puck across the ice. Then two Iceland defensemen rammed him into the boards and stole the puck easily and skated toward the net. Dwayne crumpled to the ice like a rag doll.

On the bench Gordon blew out his cheeks and turned to Ken.

“Ken, what can you do for me?” He asked sounding desperate.

“Triple aerial with a Hamill Camel should split the defence.” Said Ken. “Then a pirouetting half toe touch for the goal.”

“Show it to me, son!” Said Gordon as he pushed Ken out onto the ice.

A minute later Ken skated back to the bench doubled over the wind knocked out of him. The Vikings had demolished him.

Meanwhile Banks managed to get hold of the puck and skated down the ice. Luis sped ahead ready to take the pass. His path was suddenly blocked however by a Viking who tripped him and sent him crashing into the boards.

Team Iceland passed the puck easily among themselves. They moved confidently and gracefully. One Viking took the puck straight to Goldberg at the net. Goldberg committed himself and just then the Viking flicked the puck to a fellow winger. Goldberg was completely off balance. The second winger effortlessly sent the puck deep into the net.

Gordon turned to the bench. “Fulton.” He called. “Go out and blast one.”

Fulton jumped out onto the ice and waited for puck. He got a pass from Banks, wound up, and slammed it. It whistled through the air like a bullet, scattering Team Iceland players out of its path.

But the Team Iceland goalie stood his ground. His glove hand went up. WHACK! The puck slammed against leather.

Fulton was stunned.

He caught the puck?

Team USA was incredulous. Their secret weapon had just taken his best shot and come up zeroes. Fulton slumped his shoulders. He skated slowly off the ice.

Nothing had changed by the middle of the third period. Team Iceland was demolishing Team USA. The once mighty Ducks were losing, badly.

From the bench Banks looked around nervously. He saw the scouts put their notepads away and get up to leave.

Banks put himself on the ice. Immediately he hustled to scoop up a loose puck, evaded two defenders, and frantically made his way toward the goal. The fans cheered. The scouts stopped and turned.

Banks was a one-man hockey team zooming across the ice. A defenseman skated to intercept him. Banks let him close, jerked left, then swerved right around him. Fake-out. He was too fast. He slipped by another defender and skated straight on goal. He shot. SCORE!

The fans roared. Gordon and the team cheered. The scouts pulled out their notebooks again and began scribbling.

Suddenly Banks doubled over with pain. Out of nowhere a stick had come down on his wrist like a tomahawk. Another whistle. Banks crumpled to the ice and grabbed his wrist. The Team Iceland player who had hacked him grinned maliciously as the ref pulled him off the ice.

Gordon was beside himself. It was one of the most blatant cheap shots he had ever seen.

Then the buzzer sounded. Game over. It was Vikings 12, Team USA 1.


Chapter 15: Gordon Remembers Gordon

“Ms. Hendrix is very, uh, disappointed.” Said Tibbles diplomatically as he cornered Gordon outside the locker room. Marcy Hendrix was a bit more blunt in her appraisal.

“I’m furious!” She roared. “Bombay did you think Hendrix was interested in backing losers? I was told you were a contender!”

“We just didn’t have magic tonight.” Gordon lied.

“Well get the magic.” She ordered him sternly. “And get it fast. Because if you don’t, you’ll be back in Palookaville shovelling snow for the city. And you won’t work in hockey again, anywhere, ever. I can assure you of that.”

Hendrix turned and marched away, her footsteps echoing down the hall.

“Gordon.” Began Tibbles nervously. He was clearly rattled. “You represent a large investment for Hendrix. If you don’t turn the team around you will be a very bad large investment. Please.” He pleaded. “For both our sakes, don’t let that happen.”

Gordon didn’t know what to say. He had let Tibbles and Hendrix Apparel down. If he let them down again he’d be out of a job. He wasn’t going to let that happen.

There was only one thing to do: work harder. That meant no more Mr. Nice Guy to his players. He had babied them too much already.

The Team USA players were still sulking in the locker room when Gordon entered. They hadn’t even bothered to change out of uniform. They looked depressed and dejected.

“That was pathetic!” Gordon shouted. “You were brought here to play hockey.”

“What about you?” Demanded Jesse.

“What about me?” Snapped Gordon.

“Their coach knew everything about us.” Said Julie. “They were ready for us.”

“You’re spendin’ all your time drivin’ convertibles, talkin’ to those sponsor fools.” Added Luis.

“Or hanging out with the Iceland lady.” Fulton said. Gordon shot him a look. “We saw you two Saturday night.” Fulton added.

“What I do doesn’t matter!” Shouted Gordon.

He read them the riot act, and when the players groaned and complained, he told them he didn’t care whether they liked the new rules or not.

That evening after dinner Gordon ordered the team to the practice rink. He started them at the beginning, working them in everything from basic skating to breakaways. When they were done with the drills, he started them over again.

The next morning the exhausted players were awakened by the shrill sound of Gordon’s whistle. After breakfast they were marched into the weight room.

Gordon worked them hard. Goldberg and Luis were on the treadmills. Portman and Fulton were lifting barbells. Averman was doing chin-ups. Connie was doing step aerobics; Dwayne and Ken struggled in vain to keep up with her. Charlie worked a pull-down bar. Julie was doing stretches on the mat.

Banks was doing leg presses. It was the only exercise machine he could use without taxing his injured wrist. He couldn’t let anyone know just how much pain he really was in.

The next morning Ms. MacKay burst cheerfully into the classroom and opened the lesson plan book. She noticed immediately that the kids were anything but eager to begin. Several students had their faces buried on their desks. The others could barely keep their eyes open.

They were exhausted.


Gordon was in the team locker room waiting for the kids when Michele walked in. He looked impatient and angry.

“Ms. MacKay.” Said Gordon surprised. “Where are my kids?”

“It’s my job to see to the children’s health and welfare.” She said in a businesslike tone. “I made the determination that they needed a day off.

“You can’t do that!” Said Gordon.

Michele explained in no uncertain terms that she could do that. “You’re running these children ragged.” She said. “They call you Captain blood.”

“I’m preparing them for battle.” Explained Gordon. “You don’t have any idea what it takes to-”

“Save it.” Michele cut in. “It’s a game Gordon. You said it yourself. Games should be fun.”

“That was before.” Gordon said suddenly serious. “The stakes are a little higher now.”

“Really? For whom?”

“For everyone. We win, we can go on to bigger things.”

“The kids are all going home after this, win or lose.” Said Michele. “Gold medals or not. They’re going to go back to high school, pimples, puberty, the whole thing. The stakes are higher for you, Gordon. And they shouldn’t be playing to get their face on a box of USA Crunch.”

Gordon was stunned into silence.

She was right.


Before returning to the beach house, Gordon stopped off at Venice Beach and laced up his Rollerblades. He hadn’t been on a pair of skates since his knee injury.

His first strides were weak and uncertain. But soon he noticed that his knee wasn’t hurting as much anymore. His skating became stronger with each stride. He felt like a kid again.

Gordon picked up his hockey stick and threw a street puck on the ground. He guided the puck down the sidewalk, pushing it from side to side with the stick. Then he brought the blade back and took a full slap shot. The puck went flying through the air and into a trash can.

SCORE!

Gordon felt the same way he had all those years ago when his father used to watch him practice on the pond back home. He remembered how much he had enjoyed playing the game back then-how much fun it used to be.

When he arrived at the beach house he noticed that all the lights were out. Gordon stopped in the hallway. “Tibbles?” He called out.

“This is no place for a coach.” Came a familiar but unexpected voice.

Gordon was startled. He flicked on the light. Jan was sitting in a chair, staring out at the sea.

“Jan.” Said Gordon. “What are you doing here?

“I thought you might like some hasenpfeffer.” He said turning to Gordon and smiling.

Gordon smiled too. He put down his gear and sat in a chair next to Jan. “It’s good to see you.” He said. “Who’s watching the shop?”

“We’re closed.” Answered Jan. “First time in ten years. I watched the Iceland game on television. Who was that guy in the suit with the wet hair? Was it raining?”

Gordon sighed and shook his head. “You came two thousand miles to make fun of me?” He said. “You could have done that on the phone.”

‘No.” Said Jan. “I came to see you as a friend. On TV I saw a man who seemed like he needed one.”

Gordon looked away from Jan toward the beach. “I don’t know what I need.” He said softly. “Things are really different out here. All of a sudden I’m wearing nice clothes and people are smiling at me. I’m talking to Pat Riley at a party where the bartenders are actors and the actors want to be directors. Everybody wants to be somebody else and nobody eats red meat.”

“Everything is different out here, yes Gordon.” Said Jan. “Everything except you. You are still Gordon Bombay.”

Gordon laughed. “Who’s that?” He asked with a smirk.

“A coach. A friend. Someone the kids look up to and love.”

Jan got up from his chair and went into the kitchen. A minute later he returned with two bowls of hot food. Gordon smiled.

“Hasenpfeffer?” Asked Gordon.

“Chef Boyardee.” Answered Jan.

Both men laughed as they plunged into their dinner.


Chapter 16: That Belmont Kid

Game day. Normally Gordon would have his players rest up before a match but today he had a surprise for them.

“I can’t believe Captain Blood is going to make us train on game day.” Groaned Connie. She and the rest of the team were assembled at a running track, waiting for Gordon to arrive.

“Hey, yo! Team USA!” A voice called to them. The kids looked over to the side of the track. It was that kid again, the one who had been following them ever since they arrived in Los Angeles. He was wearing Rollerblades and gear.

“What’re you gonna do today? A million jumping jacks?”

Then he burst out laughing.

“I’m getting tired of you.” Shouted Jesse.

“I’m getting sick of seeing the USA represented by a bunch of whinin’ babies.” The kid snapped back.

Jesse stiffened. “Too bad you can’t back up that mouth.” He said tauntingly.

“Me and my boys could take you anytime, anywhere.” The kid shot back.

“I don’t see no boys.” Smirked Jesse.

“I got ‘em waiting. Grab your gear and let’s go play some schoolyard puck. Or maybe you forgot what it’s like to play for pride.”

Jesse was wired for the challenge. But Banks held him back. “We got a game tonight.” Said Banks. “Coach might-”

“Might what?” Snarled the kid. “Get mad at you and make you run laps? Look at you now.”

The players exchanged embarrassed glances. The kid was annoying, their faces seemed to say, but he was right.

Jesse nodded. “Let’s do it.”


When Gordon and Jan arrived at the track ten minutes later there was no sign of Team USA.

“Looking for your team?”

Gordon and Jan turned simultaneously. Marria had just pulled up to the track in a convertible.

“Have you seen them?” Asked Gordon clearly worried.

“I have yes.” Answered Marria. “They boarded a bus to play hockey at Belmont High School. That is where they went.”

“We have a game in a few hours!” Complained Gordon incredulously. “I don’t want them playing pickup.”

“Hop in.” Offered Marria. “I will take you to them.”

“You know where Belmont is?” Asked Jan suspiciously.

“No but I have a map. How far can it be?”

Gordon looked at Jan gave him a what-else-can-we-do look and climbed into the convertible. Reluctantly Jan got in too.

There was something about Marria that Jan didn’t trust. As they pulled out of the parking lot, he sat back and hoped he was wrong.

Team USA stood in the schoolyard facing their opponents: a group of seven black and Latino boys in rollerblades and with sticks. Instead of professional knee guards, however, the Belmont kids had tied magazines around their legs. And instead of hockey masks, they wore modified football helmets.

“Yo thanks for comin’ out.” Said James the leader of the Belmont kids. “Russ has been tellin’ me you guys are chokin’ big time. Thought we’d try to help you out.”

“You’re gonna help us?” Said Luis laughing. “How?”

“We know you can talk to the press and sign autographs.” Said Russ. He was just finishing tying some newspapers around his shins. “We’ll show you something you might have forgot.”

“Like how to play like Team USA.” Said another boy, Hector.

“What would you know about it?” Snarled Portman.

He got his answer a short time later when James pummelled him into the fence and stole the puck. Portman bounced off the fence and vainly tried to retrieve the puck but James roughly checked him again.

“You gotta earn every inch.” James told Portman. “And when you get mad, you gotta keep it to yourself…until the time is right.”

Team USA tried to gain control of the puck. They used all of their best drilling techniques, including the triple deke. But they were no match for this streetwise grunge team.

The Belmont kids seemed to know where the puck was going before it even got there. They glided across the hard blacktop like well-choreographed dancers. They even communicated plays to each other in their own special code.

Most important, they were having fun.

By comparison, Team USA seemed flat-footed. They were out of sync on every play.

Jesse stole the puck and passed it to Luis. Luis zipped around tow defenders and took a shot. It went wide of the trashcan goal.

James hustled in and retrieved the puck so fast that no Team USA player could catch him. He zoomed toward the goal and flicked in an easy score.

Russ noticed that Banks hovered on the periphery and had a weak grip on his stick.

“You too good for us?” Russ asked Banks.

“Nah.” Replied Banks. “Got a bad wrist. Can’t hold the stick with two hands.”

“Then don’t.” Said Russ. “Just use one till the other gets better.”

Russ grabbed his own stick with one hand and showed Banks what he meant. Banks tried it and was surprised that he could deke with one hand. He was amazed. Grinning from ear to ear Banks forgot about his bad wrist and jumped headfirst into the game.

Meanwhile Russ had tapped his stick on the ground and was calling for a pass. Hector sent him the puck. Russ leaned over and set the puck on its side. The players stopped and watched.

Russ took his shot. The puck wobbled clumsily toward the goal. It looked laughable until it landed and scooted past Goldberg into the net. Goldberg shook his head and threw down his stick in frustration.

‘What kind of shot was that?” Asked Fulton, totally amazed.

“That’s my knucklepuck.” Explained Russ. “Hard to be accurate but it drives the goalies crazy.”

After a while, Team USA finally began to get into the swing of things. The Belmont kids played freely, energetically, and without inhibition. That feeling began to rub off on the Team USA players. They soon found themselves dancing around the court and laughing.

By the end of the game, Team USA felt less like a Hendrix franchise and more like who they really were: a group of friends having fun playing hockey.

“It’s getting late.” Said Russ finally. “You guys better get goin’ back.”

“Thanks for the tips.” Said Charlie. “Really.”

“Who won?” Asked Luis.

“Who knows, man?” Said James. “You played solid. Hard. Now take that and kick those Viking butts all the way back to Iceland.


Chapter 17: Coach Mackay

Jan wasn’t wrong. After what seemed like hours of driving through a completely unfamiliar city, Marria finally pulled into the parking lot of Belmont High. Gordon and Jan jumped out.

“Let me go check around the side.” Said Team USA. He disappeared around the corner of the school.

“Jan, maybe you should go look on the other side.” Suggested Marria. He gave her a suspicious glance. I’ll wait here.” She promised.

Jan nodded reluctantly.

But Team USA was nowhere to be seen. Nor, for that matter, was Marria when Gordon and Jan reappeared in front of the schoolyard. They were stranded.

Gordon cursed himself. He had been set up. That much was obvious. Game time was less than an hour away. Team USA was already demoralized. Without a coach they’d be…sitting ducks.

Gordon and Jan started walking. They had to get to the rink, but they had a problem. They had no idea where it was.


Team USA sat on the bench nervously waiting for their coach to show. “The Star-Spangled Banner” had been sung. Their opponent, Team Germany, was about to take the ice.

The ref skated over to the bench.

“I’m sorry.” He said. “Without a coach behind the bench, you can’t play. That’s all there is to it.”

“No.” Argued Charlie. “You can’t do that. We have a coach.”

“Where?”

“There!” Said Charlie pointing. The kids turned around and glared.

“Ms. McKay!” Shouted Charlie. “I mean…Coach! Coach McKay!”

Charlie led the confused Ms. McKay to the bench.

“Charlie, what are you doing?” She asked.

“Pretend you’re our coach or we forfeit the game.” Begged Charlie.

“I don’t know anything about coaching.” Replied Ms. McKay.

“Pretend or we’re out of the tournament.” Insisted Charlie. He duck walked her up to the ref. “Here she is.” Charlie said. “Here’s our coach.” Ms. McKay gave the ref a timid smile. He appeared unconvinced. She looked apprehensively at the kids, then at the crowd filing into the arena. She was a nervous wreck. It’s now or never she told herself screwing up her courage.

“What are you waiting for?” She snapped at the ref finally. “The ice to freeze? Let’s play!”

The kids cheered as the ref turned and skated back to centre ice.

It was game time.


Gordon and Jan waited at a bus stop. They had been waiting an awfully long time and Gordon was pacing furiously back and forth. A car came down the street. Gordon ran over to the curb and held out his thumb but the car zoomed by.

‘Thanks a lot buddy!” Shouted Gordon. “You just let your country down.”

Gordon looked at his watch. His shoulders dropped. It was game time. He walked dejectedly back to the bench.

“That’s it.” Gordon said to Jan. “The game’s started. I’ve blown it. I’m not there for them.”

“No.” Agreed Jan. “But you tried to be.”

“It doesn’t matter.” Said Gordon. “I guess I didn’t try hard enough. Jan, they’re all I’ve got.”

Jan put his arm around Gordon’s shoulder. “It’s not over.” He whispered.

Just then their brooding was interrupted by the blaring of a car stereo. They looked up. A car was cruising down the street. The kids inside the car were staring straight at Gordon and Jan.

“Maybe they will give us a ride.” Said Jan rising.

“Easy Jan.” Gordon said nervously holding him back. “We might have some trouble here.”

Jan stood up. “No trouble.” He scoffed. “You’re the coach of Team USA. People should want to help us.”

“Jan, don’t.” Insisted Gordon but it was too late, Jan had already approached the car and was tapping on its window. The window went down.

It was Russ and the Belmont kids.

“I thought it was you Coach Bombay.” Russ called out. “What’re you doin’ out here?”

“See?” Jan turned to Gordon. “They know you.”

“This is kind of a bad neighbourhood.” Said another kid from the backseat.

Gordon joined Jan at the car. “Can you help us?” He pleaded.

The door flew open instantly. Jan and Gordon climbed in.

“Hit it!” Jan commanded.

Russ laughed as the car roared off down the street.


Amazingly enough Team USA was holding it’s own against Germany. Ms. McKay sat anxiously on the bench where Averman was busy instructing her in the fine points of coaching.

“Go-skate-that’s the way!” Averman said patiently feeding her her lines.

Ms. McKay jumped up. “GO! SKATE! THAT’S THE WAY!” She shouted to the players on the ice.

“Say ‘line change.’” Averman whispered to her.

“Line change.” Ms. McKay requested primly and sat down.

“Shout it.” Averman suggested.

Ms. McKay stood up again. “LINE CHANGE!” She called out.

Five players instantly came skating off the ice as five substitutes noisily vaulted the boards.

Ms. McKay broke into a huge grin. She never knew she could do that.

Later, Ms. McKay was shocked when Luis was sent sprawling onto the ice.

“That guy tripped Luis.” She complained to Averman. “Isn’t that bad?”

“It’s horrible.” Averman agreed. “Let the ref know how you feel.”

Ms. McKay nodded and strode over to the ref. “Luis Mendoza was tripped.” She said indignantly. “That was unfair. There should be a punishment.”

“Penalty.” Suggested Averman mildly.

The ref obliged by blowing the whistle. The German player was pulled off the ice.

Averman threw Ms. McKay a thumbs-up. She smiled and wiped her forehead. She had actually broken a sweat.

Team USA had a power play.

Outside the rink, Gordon jumped out of the car and raced into the arena. Jan, Russ, and the Belmont kids followed as Gordon descended through the stands and reached the Team USA bench.

“I’m here.” Gordon announced. “How’re we doing?”

“Where have you been?” Demanded Michele.

“I’ll explain later.” Answered Gordon. “Right now I want to coach the team. Please.”

Instantly Michele had noticed something different in Gordon’s voice. She wasn’t certain what it was but she liked what she heard. “Be my guest. They’re all yours.” They both smiled.

Gordon huddled around the kids on the bench.

“I’m back.” Gordon explained. “I’m back and ready to coach. For real this time.”

The players weren’t about to be fooled so easily.

“We don’t need you to coach us.” Said Portman. “We’re doing fine.”

There was an awkward moment of silence. Then Charlie stepped forward. “Coach.” He said throwing a quick backward glance at his teammates. “We don’t want you to coach Team USA anymore.”

Gordon lowered his head. He couldn’t blame them. He had acted selfishly thinking only of his own benefit not of the team. “We want you to coach the Ducks!” Charlie said.

Gordon looked up into Charlie’s face. He was smiling. Then he looked at the rest of the kids. They were smiling at him, too.


The score was tied 2-2 when the whistle blew. The third period was drawing to a close. There were only twenty seconds left in the game.

QUACK!

Heads turned curiously in the stands trying to locate the source of the strange sound.

QUACK! QUACK!

The arena grew silent as all eyes fell on the coach of Team USA.

He had a duck decoy in his mouth!

“Quack.” Muttered Charlie on the bench.

“Quack, quack.” Added Averman a little louder.

“Quack, quack, quack!” Even Portman joined in on the chant.

Soon Team USA was quacking together in one huge victory cheer.

The puck was dropped to resume play, but a German winger slapped it into the stands. The ref blew the whistle. Less then fifteen seconds to play.

Gordon gathered his team around him.

“We’re gonna be Ducks now.” He began. “And Ducks fly together!”

“All right!” Cheered Jesse.

“Where do we come from?” Asked Gordon.

“The pond!” Shouted Charlie, Averman, Goldberg, Fulton, Guy, Connie, and Banks.

“What do Ducks do?” Gordon asked.

“Fly together!” They answered in unison.

“Old Ducks show the new Ducks.” Gordon said. “The Flying V! NOW!”

The players from the old Ducks team flocked onto the ice. Jesse controlled the puck, and the team immediately assumed the V formation. Jesse guided the puck from behind the team as the wedge moved down the ice. The Flying V repelled German players as they went. At the last second Jesse flipped the puck to Banks who knocked in into the net with a one-handed stab.

The audience roared as the scoreboard lit up. The game was over. Winner: Team USA!

In the stands Coach Stansson and Marria looked on with dismay. Their plan to keep Gordon away from his team had failed. Without this win Team USA would have been out of the tournament.

“They should not have advanced.” Growled Stansson.

“Stupid Duck nonsense.” Said Marria bitterly. “If we play them again we’ll destroy them.”

“We certainly will.” Said Stansson as he led Marria out of the arena.


Chapter 18: Everyone’s a Duck

In the locker room after the game, Team USA-the Ducks-high-fived each other. They felt hopeful again. Victory was in the air.

Everyone congratulated Banks on scoring the goal. They felt exhilarated. But the only thing Banks could feel was the stabbing pain in his wrist. He sat at his locker and began rewrapping his wrist in sports tape.

“Nice game tonight Adam.” Said Gordon coming up behind him. Banks twisted around startled. He quickly lowered his bandaged wrist trying to hide it from his coach.

“Imagine how you’d do with two good wrists.” Said Gordon.

“It’s fine Coach.” Insisted Banks. “Just a little sore.”

“I should have spotted this right away.” Said Gordon. “I wasn’t doing my job.”

“I’m fine Coach.” Banks insisted again. “Really, I can play tomorrow. I swear.”

Gordon held out his hockey stick and told Banks to rotate it with his injured hand. Banks grimaced in pain. Gordon shook his head.

“I have to bench you Adam.” He said. “You could injure yourself permanently.”

Banks began to panic. “No.” He cried. “Coach, I gotta play. The scouts are all here watching me. This is my shot.”

“Adam.” Said Gordon. “You’re young. You’re going to have a lot of shots. Believe me.”

Banks was nearly in tears. “But Coach.” He pleaded. “My dad is counting on me.”

Gordon sat down next to Banks. “My dad worked a lot when I was a kid.” He said. “So when he made it to a game, believe me, I wanted to score a hundred goals for him. He was proud of me because I was his son and I tried my best. I know your dad feels the same way.”

Banks sighed and slowly nodded his head.

“Come on.” Said Gordon. “Let’s go get that hand X-rayed.”

“Okay.” Said Banks. “But I’m comin’ back the second it’s better.”

“Darn right you are.” Agreed Gordon. “We need you.”


That evening Gordon moved out of the beach house and into the dorm so he could be closer to his players. He knew he had to win back their confidence. He had to show them that he would be there for them, whenever, wherever.

At practice the next day the players smiled appreciatively when Gordon walked into the rink wearing his familiar old bomber jacket and chinos. He was carrying the full-size Bombay-Hendrix cardboard cut-out the trading cards and the USA Crunch box with Team USA’s picture on it. He walked out to centre ice and dumped it into a trash barrel.

To the kids’ nodding approval, he lit a match and dropped it in. The promotional props burst into flames.

In chorus Team USA tapped their sticks against the ice to show their approval.

“New attitudes means new players.” Announced Gordon. Then he blew the duck call. A door opened and Russ emerged suited up in a Team USA uniform.

“With Banks out we have a roster spot open.” Explained Gordon. “Any objections?”

The kids nodded in acceptance of Russ.

“Thanks.” Said Russ. He wobbled unsteadily onto the ice. “But I’m not too good on these ice skates.”

“That’s all right.” Said Gordon. “I got you a private tutor.” He turned toward the bench. “Hey Banks! Get over here.”

“Me?” Banks walked over from the sidelines.

“Yeah.” Said Gordon. “You just got a bad wing. You can still skate can’t you? Teach him to fly.”

Banks looked at Russ, then smiled. “Yeah.” He said nodding. “Okay.”

“All right.” Said Gordon. “We’re coming together Ducks.” Gordon could feel the change in his team already. “Jan is here for us. The magic is back; I feel it. We just need one more thing.”

Once again Gordon blew the duck call. It was aimed at someone standing behind the team. They turned. It was Ms. MacKay.

“We want you to be assistant coach.” Gordon told her. The ducks enthusiastically tapped their sticks and cheered.

“I don’t know anything about hockey.” She said blushing.

“We consider that a plus.” Gordon smiled. “Give it a try.”

Gordon held out the duck decoy. Ms. MacKay shyly took it and put it to her lips. She took a deep breath and blew. The blast echoed throughout the stadium.

It was drill time.

First, Gordon led the team around the rink commando style-on their stomachs-with himself in the lead.

Meanwhile, Jan was working with Luis. He set up a row of soda cans as an obstacle course. Luis skated in and out, trying not to overturn the cans.

Jan did a lot of restacking of soda cans that morning. After a while, however, Luis was skating better. Jan smiled and patted Luis on the back.

The team drilled hard on their breakaways, passes, slap shots, and dekes. With each routine the kids got a bit better, smoother. Gordon couldn’t help but notice that they seemed more confident and self-assured. Watching his players drill, Gordon felt something he hadn’t felt in a long time: pride.

Later Gordon noticed Tibbles sitting alone in the stands. He skated over.

“Hendrix fired me.” Tibbles told Gordon. He shook his head slowly. “Can you believe it?” He tried to smile. “I just came to say good-bye. And good luck. Sorry to put you through everything, but at least you still have your Ducks.” He stood up to leave. “I’ll see ya’ Gordo.”

“Wait Don.” Said Gordon. “I could always use one more in the flock. Let me hear you quack.”

“Quack?” Tibbles asked confused. Gordon gave him a mischievous smirk.

A little while later, a terrified Don Tibbles was on the ice suited up in goalie pads in front of the net. One by one the Ducks gleefully took their positions at the blue line.

“Ready?” Gordon asked his team.

“QUAAACK!” Tibbles screamed as he was pummelled with a shower of pucks. The kids burst into laughter. Even Tibbles joined in.

Later, when the kids hit the showers, Gordon sat by himself on the bench. There were only two more days before the two top teams would be competing for the championship. Only two more days to get his team in top shape. He shook his head, cursing himself for neglecting them these past weeks.

Would two days be enough time?


Chapter 19: Duck Plays

USA BLANKS AUSTRIA 4-0! Screamed the newspaper headline.

Playing flawless hockey Team USA had won a crucial game and now was only one win away from going head-to-head with the Vikings. The old Ducks magic was back Gordon thought. But would it last?

After the game with Team Austria, Gordon and his players gathered in the locker room to watch a videotape of the Vikings’ last game. Charlie stopped the tape after each play while Gordon diagrammed it on a blackboard.

By the end of their session they understood the Vikings’ strategy inside and out.

The next day, as Team USA was suited up for a critical game against Team Russia the locker room door opened and Gordon walked in with a surprise guest.

A hush fell instantly over the locker room as the kids recognized who it was: Wayne Gretzky.

“The Great One!” Charlie shouted excitedly. The team noisily huddled around Gretzky, yelling and cheering.

“You guys aren’t so bad yourselves.” Said Gretzky returning their compliments. “Now that Canada is out, I just wanted to say Go, Ducks.”

“Can you sign my stick, Great One?” Asked Banks awestruck. “I mean Wayne…sir…Mr. Great One.”

“Sure, Banks.” Said Gretzky. He signed Adam’s stick on the blade.

Banks was taken aback. “You know who I am?’ He asked.

Gretzky gave him a ‘duh’ look and pointed to his name stitched onto the back of his jersey. Banks blushed red with embarrassment but everyone laughed.

Thirty minutes later, Team USA took the ice against Team Russia. By the middle of the third period of this tightly contested match the teams were deadlocked 3-3. It was about then that a Russian player missed a slap shot and accidentally high-sticked Averman, who went down hard against the boards. Penalty. Power play to Team USA.

Deciding it was time to introduce their new secret weapon, Gordon sent Russ out onto the ice. After controlling the puck, Dwayne flipped it to Jesse, who passed it to Russ inside the blue line. Russ wound up and let loose with the knucklepuck. The puck skipped the ice and wobbled in a looping arc toward the net. The Russian goalie made a grab for the puck, but at the last second it dropped like a brick and skipped into the net.

SCORE!

Then the buzzer rang ending the game. Team USA 4, Team Russia 3.

Gordon and Michele hopped up and down and hugged each other. It was pure pandemonium. The arena was rocking from fans stomping their feet. Everywhere people were waving flags and cheering. “Go, USA! Go, USA!”

The stands were a sea of happy smiling faces except two notable exceptions: Wolf Stansson and Marria.

Neither one was in the mood to celebrate. At least, not yet.


Chapter 20: Coach Versus Coach

The mood of the team on the night before game day was tense. The next day Team USA would face off against Team Iceland in the championship game of the Junior Goodwill Games. By then it would all be over.

Gordon instructed his players to show up at the rink that evening for practice. But not in uniform, he told them. “In your street clothes.” He said. The kids were confused.

“Shouldn’t we be in our hockey gear?” Luis asked Gordon later when the team had assembled at the rink.

“It will be our last practice.” Replied Gordon. “And that means-”

“The return of Captain Blood?” Suggested Averman.

“Nope.” Said Gordon smiling. “It means let’s have some fun.”

Gordon kicked a huge beach ball out onto the ice. The kids charged after it. They slipped and slid, trying to get control of it.

Meanwhile, Gordon helped Michele lace on a pair of skates. It was her first time on skates, and Gordon guided her slowly across the ice, then let go. She skated unsteadily, lost her balance, and suddenly began to fall backward.

Gordon rushed up and caught her before she hit the ice.

“Nice catch.” She said. Gordon smiled. Just then the beach ball bounced off Gordon’s head and he playfully pantomimed that he was falling.

Everyone was having fun even Tibbles. He was a terrible skater and couldn’t control his direction. He’d keep falling, laugh, and try again.

The players had organized a game of ice soccer with the beach ball. At one point, however, Julie kicked the ball too hard. It flew into the stands, and when a couple of kids went after it they bumped into Wolf Stansson. He had the ball clamped between his hands. Marria stood beside him, and behind her were the Team Iceland players.

“Playtime is over.” Growled Stansson. “We have the ice now.”

With a loud POP! Stansson crushed the ball between his huge hands.

Gordon skated over. “We have ice.” Stansson said. “You and your little rink rats must leave”

“The only thing little was your career in the pros.” Sneered Gordon.

Stansson returned Gordon’s stare and his expression became even more stern. “At least I had a shot.” He said taunting Gordon. “I was there.”

“You were a disgrace.” Concluded Gordon. He turned to address Marria. “Hey, Mata Hari, I never thanked you for the ride.”

“My pleasure.” Marria said nastily.

“Not for long.” Gordon promised. He turned to his team. “Come on Ducks. We’re through here.”

The players hesitated.

“I said off the ice.” Gordon insisted.

Reluctantly the players began skating off toward the runway.

“You can still move on the ice?” Called out Stansson to Gordon. “Well please, play a little with me. Show me you’re not the failure everyone says you are. Show me that famous triple deke your daddy taught you. Or was it your mommy?”

Gordon froze, then turned. His mouth was set in a hard, thin line. Stansson reached behind a bench and produced two sticks and a puck. He tossed one of the sticks to Gordon.

Jan moved up behind Gordon. “Gordon no.” He warned. “Your knee isn’t strong enough.”

Gordon ignored Jan’s warning. “Three bar.” He told Stansson. “First one to hit both posts and the crossbar. Got to take it out past the blue line.”

“I know the game.” Said Stansson. “In Iceland it’s called-”

“I didn’t ask.” Gordon said curtly.

Gordon skated out onto the ice and waited for Stansson behind the blue line. The puck was at his feet. Stansson skated out to meet him. Suddenly Stansson stole the puck! His quick move took Gordon by surprise. DING! Stansson smashed the puck against right post.

The Vikings cheered.

Gordon retrieved the puck after it ricocheted off the goalpost and skated in a wide arc across the ice. Stansson trailed after stabbing at the puck with his stick. Gordon faked as if to lose the puck and Stansson lunged for it. Just then Gordon pushed the puck around Stansson and slapped it against the left post. CLANG!

Now it was the Ducks turn to cheer. It was 1-1.

Gordon and Stansson met each other at the blue line. The puck lay between them. Stansson suddenly swiped at it, missed, Gordon came away with it. Furious, Stansson leaned in and elbowed Gordon hard in the stomach. Gordon crumpled onto the ice.

Smiling to himself, Stansson stole the puck and prepared to shoot. Suddenly Stansson’s stick went flying out of his hands. Gordon had come charging up behind Stansson like a stampeding buffalo. As Stansson cursed Gordon in Icelandic, Gordon hustled to retrieve the puck. With a smooth flick of the wrist, Gordon knocked the puck into the right post.

The Ducks exploded in cheers.

Stansson was lived with rage. Never had he been so humiliated.

“Bad news.” Gordon explained to him matter-of-factly. “That wasn’t even my triple deke.”

Stansson angrily picked up his stick.

Gordon nonchalantly guided the puck behind the blue line and prepared for the next move. Stansson skated in front of him like a panther silently contemplating its next kill.

“One more and it’s over.” Gordon reminded him politely. “Oh and by the way, you owe me a beach ball.”

Gordon grinned and slowly moved in on the puck. Stansson had his eyes glued to Gordon’s every move. He knew what was coming. He smiled meanly as Gordon pulled in the puck in preparation for his famous triple deke.

ONE! Gordon deked left.

TWO! He deked right.

THREE!

“No!” Yelled the Ducks as Stansson deliberately slashed Gordon in the knee.

Gordon screamed in pain and collapsed in a heap on the ice. It was as if a hammer had come down on his bad knee. Jan and Ms. MacKay ran out to him on the ice.

Meanwhile the Ducks had moved in on the Vikings. They were ready for a fight.

“No, Ducks!” Gordon called out, seeing what was happening. “Hold it! We’re better than they are. We know it.”

The Ducks stopped. Gordon was right.

Jan and Michele helped lift Gordon to his feet. He struggled to stand up on his good leg, then waved them off as he stood on both legs.

“Tomorrow.” He promised Stansson. “We prove it to the world.”


Chapter 21: Three-Ring Hockey

The championship game was scheduled to be played in the enormous Anaheim Arena, about thirty miles south of downtown Los Angeles in Orange County. When the Ducks arrived for practice the Anaheim Arena was empty. It was huge-larger then anything the kids could ever have imagined. It was also scary. No one said much. The kids were all thinking the same thing: championship

Gordon limped onto the ice with his cane. We made it! He thought. He sat down on a bench, and Adam Banks walked over. He held out his hockey stick and rotated it. He smiled proudly, and so did Gordon.

“I woke up this morning and the pain was gone.” Said Banks. The rest of the team was huddled around them on the bench.

“Adam.” Gordon said. “We have a full roster.” He looked at Russ then back at Adam. As much as Adam wanted to play, he knew the team needed the knucklepuck.

Then Charlie stepped forward.

“Banks can have my place.” He said. He knew Adam Banks was better player. “It’s what I can do for the team.” He turned to his team-mate. “Just do your best, Adam.”

“Charlie.” Gordon said, patting him on the back. “I need you on the bench coaching right there with me.”

Charlie smiled. There was no place he would rather be during a game.

That evening Team USA and Team Iceland stood outside each other on the ice. It was time.

The arena was packed to capacity with thousands of cheering fans waving flags and holding placards.

Gordon could hardly make himself heard over the noise.

“Okay.” Gordon explained to his team at the conclusion of the national anthems. “Here we are. We made it here as a team, we’re leaving as a team, right?”

“RIGHT!” Shouted the Ducks.

“Now listen.” Gordon reminded them. “I’m standing tall. Forget about yesterday. I don’t want to play that way.”

“But coach they hurt you.” Said Portman. The kids all chimed in in support.

Gordon was touched. “Thanks, guys.” He said. “That means a lot. But I’m your coach right? And I say we play fair and beat them good. Real good. Stand tall! Heads up high!”

Pumped up by Gordon’s enthusiasm, the kids leaped from the bench, and with a collective roar they hit the ice.

The puck was dropped to begin the first period. Guy controlled the face-off skated past a defender, and was about to flip a pass when he was checked hard into the stands by a Viking. The puck ricocheted off the boards and shot like a rocket toward the Team USA net. Goldberg tried clearing the puck behind the net but was tripped by a Vikings player. Dwayne swerved to cut off the winger, but it was too late. The winger flicked the puck to Olaf. The Ducks recognized him as the Viking who had started the fight on the beach. With Goldberg down on the play, Olaf slapped the puck easily into the net.

Team Iceland jumped out to an early 1-0 lead.

“Too slow, big boy.” Heckled Olaf as Goldberg got to his feet. Goldberg lunged toward Olaf, but Ken and Dwayne pulled him back.

“No.” Said Dwayne. “You heard what the coach said.”

“Besides.” Added Ken. “That guy’ll kill you.”

Goldberg realized instantly that Ken was right.

“Well at least hold me back like I’m going to kill him.” He instructed his friends.

Next, Gordon sent Russ and Jesse onto the ice. Coach Stansson retaliated by sending out two Vikings players to “greet” Russ. No way was Stansson going to allow him an opportunity to shoot his knucklepuck.

When play resumed the Vikings cleverly double-teamed Russ until the ref turned his back. WHAP! Russ went down like a ton of bricks. He groggily climbed to his feet and began moving off the ice. But once he was clear of Vikings defenders, Russ suddenly swerved and skated at full speed back down the ice toward loose puck.

The Vikings were caught off guard!

Russ quickly readied himself for a knucklepuck. It looked as if he would have a clear shot on goal. But before he could shoot, two Vikings defenders were on him. In the scuffle the puck squirted free down the ice, and a quick-thinking Vikings player scooped it up and smashed it past Goldberg for another goal.

Gordon knew that Stansson had ordered the two Vikings to rough up Russ. It was dirty hockey but typical of Stansson. Gordon had to concede one thing: Stansson knew how to play dirty enough to win but clean enough to avoid penalties.

Gordon watched helplessly as the Ducks were overpowered by a succession of cheap shots, hooks, and slashes. He would not order his players to retaliate, however. He wanted to win. But he wanted to win fair.

Gordon turned to Adam Banks. “You’re on.” He said. “Be careful, Adam.”

As soon as Banks was on the ice, a Vikings player closed in on him and began hacking savagely at his wrist. Banks tried twisting away from the defender but as he broke free Olaf jumped in and brought his stick down hard on Adam’s arm.

The ref immediately called a slashing penalty. Olaf smiled as Adam skated slowly off the ice.

With Olaf in the box for a two-minute penalty, Team USA had the power play.

Dwayne was first to control the puck. Almost immediately, however, he was sandwiched by two hulking Vikings defenders. The puck went flying. Gunnar scooped it up and skated toward Goldberg. Luis reached in to deflect the shot but just missed. The puck sliced past Goldberg and into the net.

The buzzer sounded ending the first period.

Team Iceland had a commanding 3-0 lead.

It became obvious at the beginning of the second period that Team USA’s strategy changed somewhat. Portman and Fulton went after a Viking who had the puck. The two giants spread their arms and clothes-lined the smaller Vikings player. He went down hard. The crowd cheered. Team USA showed some grit, and the crowd loved it.

Gordon turned to Ken on the bench. “Okay, Ken.” He said. “You got the protection. Now remember the double Hamill Camel with the half twist?”

Ken nodded.

“Well forgot the half twist.”

When ken hit the ice, a Vikings player attempted to check him. Ken leaped up and did a full 360-degree turn. He spun magnificently, his arms above his head, his stick twirling in the air.

Startled, three confused Vikings players jumped out of Ken’s path. When he came to a slashing stop, Ken was right in front of the Vikings goal. He took a quick pass and sent the puck rattling into the net.

The crowd jumped to its feet and cheered.

Team USA had narrowed the deficit 3-1.

Triumph turned to tragedy, however, when seconds later an exuberant Portman and Fulton skated down the ice, slapping high-fives with their Team USA team-mates. As payback they skated past the Team USA bench to Team Iceland’s bench. They slapped all their players too…in the head. The ref immediately pulled them off the ice and threw a major ten-minute penalty on them for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Now it was Team Iceland’s turn. On the next play Olaf went after Connie and knocked her roughly to the ground.

“That ain’t right.” Griped Dwayne from the bench. He was steaming.

Olaf turned and grinned when he saw Luis and Guy stampeding toward him. He calmly spread his arms scarecrow-style and clothes-lined both players to the ground.

Gordon groaned and turned to his players on the bench. “One minute and fifty-nine seconds left in the period.” He told them. “Stand tall. Let me see the Flying V.”

Jesse skated out ahead of the four others he got the puck and fell back as his team-mates fell into the V formation. Unfortunately, the five Vikings charged them from either side and scattered the Flying V like bowling pins. Gunnar grabbed the puck, broke in alone, and made a quick, clean score.

Gordon sneaked a disgusted look at the Vikings bench. Stansson was beaming. He had made a mockery of the Mighty Ducks’ famous Flying V.

Connie had enough. Even though she knew the Vikings were gunning for her, she jumped off the bench and put herself into play. Dwayne tried to stop her, but she wouldn’t listen.

On the next play the puck went skidding into a corner. Connie hustled after it. Big Olaf was charging up behind her like a runaway freight train.

“Get out of there, Connie!” Shouted Gordon.

“Leave the puck!” Screamed Charlie.

Connie couldn’t hear them. At the last second she turned and gasped. Olaf was almost upon her. Suddenly a rope came flying through the air. It tightened around Olaf and yanked him to the ground. Cowboy Dwayne had lassoed Olaf!

The fans in the stands reacted with wild cheers. Nevertheless, Dwayne was pulled off the ice for the obvious penalty.

“Two minutes.” Said the ref. “For…er…roping I guess.”

“This isn’t a hockey game.” Gordon muttered to himself. “It’s a circus.”

Mercifully the buzzer sounded to end the second period.

Team Iceland 4, Team USA 1.


Chapter 22: Return of the Mighty Ducks

“Did you all enjoy that?” Asked Gordon between periods in the locker room.

“YESSSSS!” The kids shouted back.

“Okay.” Said Gordon. “Well so do they. Because they’re still up by three, and we’re one period away from defeat.”

Jesse shrugged his shoulders. “If we can’t beat them, we might as well keep our pride.” He said.

“That’s not pride, Jesse.” Replied Gordon. “Sure, when Dwayne roped Olaf part of me cheered. Believe me, I wanted to cream that guy who busted my knee in the minors, too. And I really wanted to get Stansson back.” He shook his head slowly. “My knee will heal. But if I become someone I’m not, if I sink to their level, I’ve lost more then my knee.”

The kids looked at each other. Gordon was making sense.

“We’re not goons.” Gordon reminded them. “We’re not bullies.” No matter what other people say and do, we have to be ourselves.”

Gordon turned to Portman. “You.” He said. “Who are you?”

“Uh Dean Portman.”

“From where?”

“Chicago, Illinois.”

“Nice to meet you.” Gordon turned to Julie. “You! Who are you?”

“Julie Gaffney from Bangor, Maine.”

“And don’t forget it.” Said Gordon. He turned again. “You?”

“Luis Mendoza. Miami, Florida.”

Gordon turned from one player to the next until he had run through the roster.

“That’s right.” He said finally. “And I’m Gordon Bombay from Minneapolis, Minnesota. We’re Team USA. Gathered from all across America. And we’re going to stick together. Through thick and thin we’ll fly together because…”

“We’re Ducks.” Said Jan, who had been standing in the doorway.

“That’s right.” Said Gordon. “So when the wind blows hard and the sky is black?”

“Ducks fly together!” Shouted the kids.

“And just when you think you’re about to fall apart?” Asked Ms. MacKay.

“Ducks fly together!” Came the answer.

“When everyone says it can’t be done.” Asked Gordon.

“DUCKS FLY TOGETHER!”

“Now.” Said Jan as he walked in from the doorway. “New Ducks and old Ducks must unite under a new banner. I thought perhaps something…like this.”

Jan slowly opened his coat. He was wearing a new-style Mighty Ducks jersey. The kids roared their approval. Jan brought in two boxes of jerseys. The kids went crazy.

“Win or lose.” Said Gordon. “We go out like Ducks. Mighty Ducks.”

The Mighty Ducks skated out onto the ice to begin the third period. They wore their new jerseys proudly. The crowd cheered wildly when they saw them.

Coach Stansson objected to the uniform change, but according to the rules there was nothing he could do about it. To divert attention from the Ducks, he began to lead the Vikings in their team chant. The Ducks replied by quietly intoning their own, whispering at first, but gradually building it into a loud crescendo of “QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK!” The audience enthusiastically joined in, drowning out the Vikings chant.

The stunt had apparently worked. Team Iceland seemed to have lost its concentration. Following the initial face-off in the third period, Portman scored an easy goal. Just like that, it was Vikings 4, Ducks 2.

But just as suddenly the Vikings struck back. Goldberg made a great save on a hard shot but bobbled the puck. It skipped loose in front of the net, and a Viking swept in and flipped it home. The Vikings had regained their three-goal lead.

Gordon called time-out and gathered his team on the bench. They looked beat. Gordon had to do something to get the fire back. But what?

Charlie, as assistant coach, had been observing the Vikings for weaknesses since the game began. He quickly improvised a play on the blackboard. Gordon studied it and looked impressed.

“Check it out guys.” Said Gordon.

The kids studied the play.

“No way man.” Said Averman. The play involved some rather unusual stunts. “It’ll never work. This isn’t the NBA.”

“It’s the perfect teamwork play.” Insisted Charlie. “It can work. I know it.”

Everyone turned to Gordon.

“It’s Charlie’s call.” Said the coach.

Charlie smiled. “Go for it!” He said.

Gordon ordered a line change. Averman, Banks, Jesse, Luis, and Dwayne took up their positions on the ice. Dwayne skated behind the Team USA net, took the puck, and sent a quick pass to Jesse. A Viking charged him. Jesse flipped the puck to Luis. By this time Dwayne had skated to centre ice. Two Vikings defenders closed in on him as Luis sent Dwayne the puck.

The Ducks however, had followed Charlie’s instructions to the letter. It was time for the final move.

“Now!” Shouted Charlie from the bench.

Dwayne swung at the puck like a golfer. The puck sailed almost straight up into the air and nearly hit the scoreboard before it fell back onto the ice.

It landed right in front of Portman, who smashed it into the Vikings net.

Now it was Vikings 5, Ducks 3.

There were two minutes left in the final period.

Two minutes left in the game.

Two minutes left to their dream. On the following face-off Luis found himself on open ice heading toward the Vikings net. If he could get the puck, he thought, he could score an easy goal! Then he panicked. He wasn’t very good at stopping. What if he bungled the play by crashing into the boards, or another player, or the net?

He knew he had to try. A team-mate had already spotted him and was preparing to shovel him the puck. As he flew down the ice he concentrated on a spot a few feet in front of the goal. He had to make a clean spot.

All of a sudden he came to a slashing halt. Ice showered down all around him. He had not fallen! He was standing straight. Luis was so pleased with himself, he momentarily forgot about the puck, which had slid to a stop at his feet.

“PUT IT IN!” Shouted Gordon frantically from the bench. “THE PUCK! PUT IT IN!”

Luis slapped at the puck. SCORE!

The crowd roared again.

The Ducks were only one goal down!

Gordon pumped his fist into the air. He could feel it. Just one more, he thought. Gordon smiled when he saw Stansson stampeding angrily back and forth on the bench. He was so mad, he was throwing hockey sticks and banging the walls.

Gordon turned to his players on the bench. It was time to deliver the knockout, his expression said. “Russ.” He ordered. “You’re on.”

Russ smiled and skated out onto the ice. Stansson countered by immediately sending out three Vikings to cover him. They played Russ so tight he could hardly breathe. “Chill.” He complained to a defender. “I don’t even have the puck.”

“And it will stay that way.” The player answered grimly.

Gordon saw what was happening and called time-out. He motioned Russ back to the bench. He glanced over to see Stansson, who was smiling. Gordon huddled the players, then sent him back onto the ice.

Stansson grinned. Gordon had pulled Russ. Obviously he believed he had outwitted Gordon by triple-teaming his star player.

But the triumphant grin slid from Stansson’s face when he could not see Russ on the Team USA bench. Where had he gone?

Meanwhile the Ducks seemed to have trouble getting the puck out of their own zone. It almost looked as if they weren’t even trying.

“NOW!” Gordon suddenly shouted to his players.

Immediately Jesse passed the puck to Goldberg. When Goldberg took the puck, however, he ripped off his mask. It wasn’t Goldberg at all-but Russ!

Russ tossed away the goalie stick. At the same time, Jesse threw him his shooting stick. Russ whacked one of his famous knucklepucks. The puck hurtled across the ice toward the Vikings goalie. The players froze as they watched the puck wobble in a crazy arc toward the net. The goalie dropped into a crouch, but at the last second the puck seemed to stall out. The goalie put up his glove. And the puck took a quick dip and slid just under it. Score, Team USA.

The buzzer sounded, ending regulation play.

The Ducks had tied the game, 5-5.

The arena erupted into pandemonium.

The ref skated over to both benches to explain what would happen next.

“International rules means it goes to a shootout. Five players on breakaways. Most goals win.”

Gordon turned to his team and picked his best five: Dwayne, Guy, Jesse, Fulton and…

He pointed to Banks.

“I don’t know Coach.” Said Banks, hesitating. His wrist had healed, but he worried that he might not have full motion control.

“I do.” said Gordon. “You’re in.”

The five Ducks skated out onto the ice. Meanwhile, Stansson sent out his five best.

Jesse got the first shot. He took a breath, skated smoothly on goal, then let fly with a confident slap shot. The puck slammed straight into the net.

There was a cheer from the crowd. It was 1-0, Team USA.

Now it was Team Iceland’s turn. Their player circled around the puck, then roared with it across the ice and shot. The puck zoomed past Goldberg and into the net: 1-1.

Guy was up next. He looked over at the bench to Connie who smiled. Guy shot and scored. It was now 2-1.

The next Vikings player tried to score with a deke. But Goldberg saw it coming and made a brilliant save. The Ducks were one goal ahead!

Dwayne pushed the puck ahead of him and glided toward the goal. At the last second he played a backhand deke. The Vikings goalie didn’t fall for it, however. He stopped the puck cold.

Olaf lumbered up to the puck next. Instead of manoeuvring toward the goal, he tried to overpower Goldberg with a cannon shot. It worked. The score was tied 2-2.

It was Fulton’s turn. He reared back and sent the puck screaming. The puck went flying toward the goal. The Vikings goalie didn’t even make an attempt at a save. The only save he was interested in was the one on his life. He dove to the side as the puck smashed against the back of the net: 3-2, Team USA!

Goldberg nearly made a terrific save on the next shot, but he was caught off balance and lost control of the puck. It bobbled out of his glove and trickled into the net.

The score was tied. Each team had one shot left.

It was all up to Adam Banks.

Banks skated in front of the puck. He flexed his wrist one last time. His heart was pounding as he bore down on the puck. The slashing of his skates echoed through the arena as he glided the puck across the ice. Instinct told Adam to deke. He faked once, twice, three times. Then he did something unexpected. He faked again! The Vikings goalie had committed one way, and Adam went the other. He pushed the blade of his stick forward and skipped the puck smoothly into the net.

The roar from the crowd was like an explosion. They jumped from their seats and cheered wildly. One play to go and the championship would be decided.

“Julie.” Gordon called down to the bench. “You’ve got the faster glove side. I know the kid’s move. Triple deke glove side. Anticipate it and you got him.”

Gordon recognized the final Vikings player and knew that he played with a sleek, slippery style. Goldberg was big and strong but wasn’t that fast.

“What if he goes stick side?” Asked Julie.

“He’s fancy. He’ll go glove. Don’t hesitate.”

Averman leaned forward. How can you be so sure?” He asked Gordon.

I’m the coach.” Gordon answered. “I’ve studied the players. It’s our best shot.”

Julie skated out to the net, high-fiving Goldberg as he headed back to the bench.

From behind the mask Gunnar smirked. They were sending a girl out to face him down, he thought. Did they want to lose?

The ref gave Gunnar the signal to begin play. Once again silence descended over the arena. It was as if no one dared to breath. Julie hunched and waited.

Finally, Gunnar skated toward the net. Julie calmly counted his dekes.

One…

Too soon to predict, Julie thought, her eyes glued to Gunnar.

Two…

It could go either way.

Three!

Julie lunged right, committing to Gunnar’s glove side.

Gunnar shot the puck. She had guessed right! She lunged for the puck and felt a slap as it hit her glove. She went down face first onto the ice.

Julie slowly opened the glove and smiled. She fished the puck out of her glove and tossed it back onto the ice.

The game was over. Once again the Ducks had done the impossible. They were champions!

The audience cheered madly.

Gordon, Jan, Ms. MacKay and the rest of the players all ran out onto the ice in celebration.

A throng of reporters mobbed Gordon, asking thousands of questions.

Adam Banks looked up into the stands. Two scouts had put away the notebooks and risen from their seats. They began to applaud. Banks smiled.

A representative from the Goodwill Committee skated out holding the American flag. He gave it to Banks. The flag was passed through the hands of every Duck player.

Gordon was standing with his arm around Michele when a reporter broke in.

“Gordon Bombay.” Said the reporter. “You just coached Team USA to the gold against all odds. What are you going to do now?”

“We’re going home.” He replied.

Then he looked at Michele and smiled.


Chapter 23: The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim

The next day Gordon, Jan, Michele, and the team were waiting in the departure terminal at Los Angeles International Airport for the plane that would take them home.

Finally, the announcement came, and the group headed toward the gate.

“Ducks!” Came a familiar voice. “Ducks! Wait!”

They turned. Don Tibbles was running toward them.

“I have news.” He announced breathlessly. “Great news! I got a job with the new NHL franchise in Anaheim. The owners saw the final game. They really like your style.”

“Well great.” Said Gordon.

“No.” Said Tibbles. “I mean they really liked your style. And your colours, too! They’re going to call themselves the Mighty Ducks!”

Everyone looked at each other. They were astounded. The Ducks in the NHL?

“But they can’t do it unless they have your approval.” Said Tibbles. “They want to be the Ducks.”

Gordon looked at his players.

“Team.” He asked. “What do you say?”

The Ducks looked at each other and nodded. “QUAAAACKKK!” They shouted their approval in unison.

Gordon said his final good-byes to Tibbles and led the team onto the plane. As he took their seat, Gordon wondered what the future held for him. Of one thing he was certain: Even though his knee was completely healed, his days in the minor leagues were over. He was too old for that. But hockey was his life.

He smiled and leaned back in his seat. He would just have to figure out how to keep it that way.

The End

Posted in Tagged

D1: The Mighty Ducks: Junior Novelization by Jordan Horowitz

16
Jun 2012

The Mighty Ducks ~ Novelisations

A friend of mine, Dana, graciously gave her time to transcribe the novelisations for the rest of the fans. I must make it clear that she did this simply to share more “cannon fodder” with the fandom – she was not making any form of money out of this, though I don’t doubt her karma was good afterwards, because I for one was very grateful that she gave her time to do this.

So now, I’m risking lawsuits to put the novels on here. Why? Simply because you can’t get hold of them. I would happily pay for the novels, if I could find them. Ebay isn’t an option for me, I’m English and they only ever seem to sell (very rarely) from Americans, who won’t ship outside the USA. And thanks to my ex, I’m banned from Amazon.com. I simply want to share this with fans of the movie.

At the slightest hint of a lawsuit, I will hurriedly take them down.

Interesting side note, this novelisation is approximately half the length of Shoebox.

Also, I have attached a zip with the html file and a .mobi conversion for use on a Kindle.  Hope you enjoy! –

D1: The Mighty Ducks - Junior Novelization - Jordan Horowitz (496)

The Mighty Ducks: Junior Novelization by Jordan Horowitz

Prologue: Penalty shot ‘73

All eyes were on Gordon Bombay age ten.

It was the final game of the Minnesota State Peewee Ice Hockey Championships, and the score was tied at 2-2. The Cardinals fans were hungry for a win. But the Hawks fans were confident – the Hawks had never lost a game.

A penalty shot, against the Cardinals, had been called just as the buzzer sounded.

Coach Reilly knew exactly whom to choose to take the shot. His best forward. His secret weapon. Number 11, Gordon Bombay.

“All right, Gordon.” Reilly said. Everyone but the Cardinals goalie had left the ice. A hush fell over the crowd. It’s up to you. I don’t want to see any goats out there after the game, you got it? You miss this shot, you’re letting the whole team down, too.”

Gordon looked up at the hulking figure of Coach Reilly and nodded. He skated confidently out to center ice.

The referee skated off toward the boards, throwing a ‘get ready’ signal to the Cardinals goalie. The goalie hunched over slightly. He cleared away some ice dust from the goal crease.

Gordon stared down the ice at the goalie. He glanced sideways to the Hawks bench. His teammates were all looking at him. Coach Reilly was pacing back and forth on the bench, punching his clenched fist in the fist in the air. Soon Gordon began to hear the familiar Hawks chant:

Win, win, win, win, win, win, win, win.

Gordon looked down at the puck and remembered what Coach Reilly had said. From now on his hockey stick would be his eyes. He would keep his sights on the goal. All that mattered was the win – the Big W.

Gordon gently tapped the puck with the blade of his stick as he pushed forward on his skates. Sliding the puck from side to side, he skated toward the goal.

One, two, three –

Gordon let go a blistering wrist shot. The goalie made a desperate dive to his right. Suddenly it seemed to Gordon as if everything were in slow motion. The puck fluttered toward the net. It didn’t look like the goalie would reach it in time. Gordon could taste the big W!

CLANG! The puck slammed into the goalpost…and ricocheted back onto the ice.

Gordon dropped to his knees. He heard the Hawks fans moan. Reilly shook his head in disgust. Overtime would have to decide the championship.

Gordon had had his one shot to win – one shot at the big W.

And he had failed.

Gordon Bombay was a loser.


Chapter 1: 30 and 0!

All eyes were on Gordon Bombay, age thirty.

The small courtroom in the Minneapolis Municipal Courthouse was sprinkled with people. Gordon stood before the witness stand, cross-examining an elderly woman. She had been called by the district attorney to testify against Gordon’s client, Max Tolbert, a man accused of selling fake savings bonds to senior citizens.

It didn’t matter, of course, whether his client was guilty or innocent. All that mattered was winning.

Gordon Bombay, hotshot attorney, was going for the big W.

“All my client did was try to give you what you wanted,” Gordon explained to the witness. “This man,” he said, pointing to Tolbert, “put his neck on the line for your greed. This man sits before you because he took a risk for them!” now he was pointing an accusing finger at the group of senior citizens who sat huddled behind the district attorney. Frank Huddy was outraged.

“Objection, Your Honor!” Cried Huddy.

Judge Weathers agreed. Will both counsellors approach the bench?’

Huddy marched up to the bench, but Gordon ignored the judge’s instruction and eased over to the defence table and leaned over to whisper something into Tolbert’s ear.

“I don’t have anything to tell you,” he explained to him, “but I want to make them wait. Just nod like I’m saying something important.”

Obediently, Tolbert nodded.

“Mr. Bombay,” Judge Weathers called out impatiently.

Tolbert was becoming impatient with Gordon. “Gordon,” he complained. “What are you doing? Get out there and be my lawyer!”

Gordon grinned. “Perfect,” he told Tolbert. “This drives them nuts. I love it.” Finally, he jumped up from the defence table.

He gave Judge Weathers an innocent smile then turned to the district attorney.

“I love that tie, by the way Frank. You wore that yesterday, too, didn’t you?”

Judge Weathers cleared his throat. “Oh, Mr. Bombay,” he said sarcastically. “I’m so glad you could make it. Please restrict yourself to relevant cross-examination.”

Gordon explained to Judge Weathers that in a similar case a higher court had overruled a judge who had not allowed the same kind of testimony that Gordon was using to clear his client of the charges.

“If I’m not mistaken,” Gordon concluded, “that judge was you, wasn’t it, Judge Weathers?”

Judge Weathers sighed, red-faced. “I stand corrected, counsellor,” he said. “Objection overruled.”

Less then an hour later the jury filed back into the courtroom and announced it’s verdict:

Not guilty.

Gordon jumped to his feet and pumped his arm into the air in a victory whoop.

It was thirty wins and zero losses. Gordon remained undefeated. The big W was his.


Chapter 2: “Quack Quack, Mr. Ducksworth.”

Frank Huddy caught up with Gordon outside the courthouse.

“You stooped to an all-time low on that one, Bombay” Huddy said.

A smirk came to Gordon’s face. “I’m insulted by that Frank,” he said. “You have no idea how low I can stoop.”

“I mean, I don’t mind losing,” said Huddy. “I just wanted to lose fair.”

“Losing fair is still losing Frank,” Gordon explained. “You gotta go for the w every time.”

“What about justice? That man should be in jail!”

Gordon stopped and turned to Huddy. “It was your job to put him there!” He said, poking a finger into Huddy’s chest. “Don’t take it out on me. Next time, do your job, Frank.”

As a final insult, Gordon reached out to straighten the knot in Huddy’s tie.

It made him feel good to see an opponent humiliated. That’s what winning was all about. Going in for the kill. Gordon smiled, turned, and walked away.


Gordon arrived at the law offices of Ducksworth, Saver, and Gross to a less then enthusiastic reception. He had hoped that the entire office would give him a standing ovation. After all, he was 30 and 0! Instead no one said a word. Gordon shrugged and walked to his office. Jeannie Davis was coming down the corridor. At last he thought to himself, here was someone who might cheer his victory. After all, as his secretary, wasn’t that her job?

Gordon held out his hand for a high five. Jeannie returned it politely but unenthusiastically. She took his overcoat and briefcase and handed him a stack of phone messages.

“Thirty and oh!” Gordon explained. “I remain undefeated.”

Jeannie smiled blandly. Gordon sighed. “Any calls from the duck phone?” he asked hopefully. At the very least he expected a congratulatory call from his boss, Gerald Ducksworth.

“Not yet.”

“What’s he waiting for?” Gordon asked impatiently. “I saw him in the back of the courtroom. How about some kudos, huh?”

“By the way,” Jeannie said. “Max Tolbert dropped off a couple of rink-side seats to tonight’s North Stars game.”

Gordon stuck his tongue between his lips and razzed the idea. “Hockey?” He said. “Forget it.” He hadn’t been near a rink in twenty years.

A young assistant attorney came lumbering down the hall cradling a heavy stack of manila folders. “Here’s that research for the Pearlstein case, Gordon.” Jane said, depositing the briefs on his desk. “Can we get started?”

“Jane can’t you see I’m revelling here?” Gordon whined. “Today I’m thirty and oh.”

Jane looked at him. “Congratulations,” she said tonelessly.

The phone rang. “Mr. Bombay’s office.” Answered Jeannie. She looked at Gordon. “It’s Ducksworth.” She told him. “You’re right.” He wants to see you.”

Gordon punched the air with his fist.

“Thank you Mr. Ducksworth.” He muttered as he made his way to his boss’s office. “It was nothing Mr. Ducksworth. Quack, quack, Mr. Ducksworth…”

Gerald Ducksworth smiled when Gordon entered, and he motioned for him to sit down. Ducksworth had liked Gordon from the start. He liked the young man’s drive and determination. Like himself, Gordon was a man who set high goals for himself and, more often than not, attained them. But after watching Gordon over the course of the last year, Ducksworth noticed a tendency in the young man to create his own rules in the courtroom. It was as if Gordon were competing in some kind of athletic competition. That was something he did not admire.

“Gordon.” Mr. Ducksworth said pleasantly. “Another fine job today.”

“Thank you sir.” Said Gordon modestly.

“Just one thing.” Added Mr. Ducksworth. “Score don’t gloat.”

Gordon was confused. What kind of pep talk was this? Where was the expensive champagne? The promotion? “I don’t know what you mean, sir.”

“This isn’t a game.” Explained Ducksworth. “A little restraint might be in order next time.” Before Gordon could reply, Ducksworth resumed his examination of some papers on his desk. “That’s all.” He said abruptly without looking up. “You can go.”

A bit bewildered, Gordon stood up and walked back to his office. This isn’t a game, he repeated to himself. He sighed in every court case, someone won and someone lost. If that isn’t a game, Gordon thought, what is it?


Chapter 3: Judgement

Gordon slapped at the stick shift of his brand-new black corvette, revved the engine, and peeled down a street in downtown Minneapolis.

“Thank you, Mr. Ducksworth!” Slurred Gordon as he cranked up the volume on the car stereo. He took another swig from the bottle he kept balanced between his legs.

His meeting that afternoon with Ducksworth was replaying itself in his head. He simply could not understand why Ducksworth hadn’t been more appreciative. It wasn’t how you played the game, it was winning it that counted.

Wasn’t it?

“It was nothing, Mr. Ducksworth!” He shouted angrily. “Quack, quack, Mr. Ducksworth!” Gordon looked into his rear-view mirror and noticed that he was being followed by a police car. The flashing red light suddenly went on and he clumsily pulled the car over to the side of the road. Gordon tried to slide the bottle under his seat.

He tried to calm himself. Don’t panic, Bombay, he told himself. No problem.

The policeman tapped on his window.

“This,” Gordon said, “is not good.”


“The charges against Mr. Bombay,” began Frank Huddy, “are driving under the influence, driving with an open container, and reckless endangerment.”

Judge Weathers couldn’t’ believe his good fortune. “And to think,” He said with a grin, “I almost stayed home this morning. I assume you’re representing yourself?”

Okay, Gordon thought. It was his penalty and their power play. That just meant he had to outmanoeuvre them.

“Let’s talk business,” Gordon said. “What am I facing? Fines? License suspension?”

“Yes,” said Judge Weathers. “Unless the D.A.’s office moves to allow you to plead guilty to lesser charges. But that is solely up to the prosecutor.”

Gordon looked at Huddy. He felt as if he had just been thrown to the lions.

“The city of Minneapolis,” said Huddy, “Would not like to pursue a plea bargain in this case.” He leaned over and whispered into Gordon’s ear. “Gotta go for the big W, Gordon.”

Gordon sighed. His winning streak had just ended. Thirty and one.


Gordon was released on his own recognizance. That evening Gordon pored over his legal books in his office. There had to be a loophole he could use to get himself off the hook. It was late in the game, Gordon admitted. And he was down a goal. But the game wasn’t over.

Suddenly Gordon looked up into the face of Ducksworth.

“Mr. Ducksworth.” Said Gordon, surprised. “What are you doing here?”

“I own the place,” replied Ducksworth. “What about you?”

“I’m reading up on a few cases.” He lied. He didn’t want to let Ducksworth know anything about his arrest.

“Oh?” Said Ducksworth. “I thought you’d be researching your defence against DUI and reckless endangerment.”

Gordon slumped in his chair.

“What a mess.” Said Ducksworth. “Did you think I wouldn’t find out, Gordon?”

“There was no need to concern you with it, sir. They have no case. Frank Huddy just wants my scalp. Now I’ve found a loophole. I’m going to plead not guilty–”

“Gordon, stop it!” Said Ducksworth abruptly. “There will be no loopholes. There will be no trail. I will not have you dragging this firm’s good name through the mud. Now I’ve talked with Judge Weathers. He’s agreed to suspend disposition of your case.”

“Under what conditions?” Asked Gordon suspiciously.”

“Probation. Suspension of driver’s license. Five hundred hours of community service. And a leave of absence from the firm.

“Leave of absence? He can’t do that. He can’t stop me from working.”

“He’s not,” said Ducksworth. “I am. That was one of my conditions. Gordon you need a break. You’re too wrapped up in your work.”

“But, sir. My work is my life.”

“That’s my point.” Insisted Ducksworth. “The community service will do you good. It will teach you about compassion and fair play. It will teach you how to fit in.”

“Community service,” Gordon sighed. “This is horrible.”

“You’ll get used to it,” assured Ducksworth. “Hopefully you’ll come back a better person and a better attorney. That’s why I’m keeping you on salary and arranging a driver for you.”

Gordon knew he had no choice. The buzzer had sounded, and it was time to get off the ice.


Chapter 4: There’s No Business Like Doggie Business

“I found one!” Eleven-year-old Dave Karp shouted, climbing out of a dumpster behind an alley.

Two other boys waited for him near the sidewalk giggling with excitement. Petie, Karp’s dog, sniffed at some spilled garbage.

One boy, Peter, was short and feisty. The other boy, Averman, was tall and gangly and wore a pair of large-framed glasses that he constantly had to push back onto his nose.

“What do you think?” Asked Karp, holding out the purse for inspection.

“Lovely, Karp,” remarked Averman. “It goes with your eyes.”

“You gonna take that from him Karp?” Asked Peter.

“NO,” answered Karp. “Remind me to bust your head, Averman.”

“Thanks Peter,” said Averman. “Thanks very much.”

“Just then Charlie Conway came screeching into the alley on his skateboard.

“Did you get it?” Karp asked Charlie anxiously.

“Yeah.” Charlie pulled out a can of chilli from a grocery bag and handed it to him. Karp pried open the can.

Karp called to his dog. “Here, Petie. Here boy.” He emptied some chilli onto the ground. Petie trotted over, sniffed, and hungrily gobbled up the chilli. Karp scooped out some more.

The four boys grinned at one another. They watched Petie expectantly.

“He sniffs,” said Averman, launching into a running commentary. “He stops. A hush has fallen over the crowd. He sniffs some more. Could this be it? He turns in a circle. Yes! He squats! He SCORES!”


Averman groaned as he bent down to scoop the remains into the purse. Then they carried the purse out onto the street. Charlie slipped a crumpled dollar bill inside the purse so that it looked as if it might be full of money.

The four boys ran for shelter behind a parked pickup truck.

“Here we go…” giggled Averman.

They didn’t have to wait long. Within minutes a souped up red Camaro with flame detail along its side came to a roaring halt near the spot where the purse lay.

The driver, an overweight man in a sweatshirt and jeans, jumped out of the car. After looking around to make sure no one was watching, he picked up the purse and walked quickly back to his car.

“Yeah,” prodded Averman, “there’s more inside. Go ahead. Put your hand in.”

Instead, he got into his car and roared off.

“Hey he’s taking the whole purse,” Peter groaned. “This guy deserves what he gets.”

The boys laughed as they climbed out from behind the pickup truck. Suddenly they heard the squealing of rubber tires and turned. Down the street the Carmaro had come to a screeching stop. The driver screamed, and the boys broke into hysterical laughter as the purse came flying out of the car window.

The boys laughed and laughed until they could hardly breathe.

Something inside the car made Peter stop laughing. “Uh-oh,” said Peter. The man hadn’t driven off yet. “He saw us!”

The boys took off running down the street. The Camaro gunned into reverse, spun around, and roared toward them.

The boys dashed around the corner and zigzagged down the block. But they couldn’t shake the Camaro. Finally they ran down a narrow alley toward a fence at the far end. Averman and Peter quickly climbed over the fence and helped pull Karp up and over.

The Camaro slammed to a stop just outside the alley. “Hurry, Charlie!” Yelled Averman. The man lunged just as Charlie slipped over the top and dropped to the other side.

Breathing a collective sigh of relief, Karp, Averman, Peter and Charlie climbed onto the roof of an old warehouse and congratulated each other on their escape with a round of high fives.

Just another day for District Five.


Chapter 5: A Ride On Thin Ice

Gordon sat in the backseat of the rented Cadillac limousine and glowered.

“It’s got to be around here somewhere,” said his chauffeur Lewis.

“Just look for a sign that says Personal Hell,” wisecracked Gordon. He stared out the window and fumed. “How could Ducksworth do this to me?” Gordon muttered. “I hate kids. They’re barely human.”

Meanwhile, Lewis had finally found the ice pond in Peavy Park. Gordon looked through the window and shook his head slowly. It was the same pond where he used to practice hockey drills as a ten-year-old kid. His father used to pick him up each day after practice. It was the same pond where, one day, his father stopped coming to pick him up.

A ragtag group of kids dressed in rummage-sale winter clothes were skating around the ice chasing pucks with hockey sticks.

“Oh, no,” Gordon groaned. “It’s the hockey team.”

Gordon sighed as four of the kids chased after a loose puck. One swished his hockey stick at the puck, missed it, and crashed into another player. Both players toppled over onto their backs and slid across the ice. Meanwhile, a third player raced after the puck but slid off the ice into a snow bank at the edge of the pond.

Another player was blasting pucks into the net. Instead of blocking the shots, however, the goalie was busily dodging them.

“Come on, Goldberg,” complained Terry Hall, the kid who was shooting. “At least try to stop them. I’m getting tired of chasing pucks.”

“Well, be careful, Terry.” Answered Goldberg nervously. “It almost hit me that time!”

Charlie skated up to the goalie. Averman, Karp, and Peter were practicing on the far side of the pond.

“Goldberg, you’re the goalie,” Charlie said. “It’s supposed to hit you.”

“Does that sound stupid to anyone else?” Complained Goldberg.

From the backseat of his limousine, Gordon grinned. “Drive out onto the ice,” he ordered. Lewis threw Gordon a worried look. It’ll be all right,” he assured him.

The kids stopped playing as the limousine glided onto the ice. They looked at one another nervously. They huddled close together and waited anxiously as the limousine came to a stop and the door swung open. Terry Hall stepped out from the group and confronted Gordon.

“Yo, dude,” he said. “What’s your problem? You obviously in the wrong ‘hood.” He gave Gordon a meaningful look. “This is my dominion.” He said with emphasis. “This is a drug free zone, you understand? We ain’t buyin’ nothin’. Now I’m feeling generous today, so get your sorry vanilla booty outta here or we’ll be using your eyeballs as hockey pucks!”

“Thanks, bro,” said Gordon, reaching into his coat pocket. “But I’m not going home until I take care of business.”

There was a gasp, and the kids jumped back. Karp even muttered a quick prayer.

Gordon whipped out a folded piece of paper. The kids sighed with relief. “The District Five hockey team,” Gordon said. “That wouldn’t be you guys by any chance would it?” The kids stared at one another. “My name’s Gordon Bombay,” he explained, “I’m the new coach.”

The kids broke into laughter. “What?” Exclaimed Jesse Hall, Terry’s younger brother. “No way.”

“‘Fraid so, dude,” replied Gordon, holding up a piece of paper. “I’ve got the roster right here.” He began reading off names from the list.

“Shoot,” said a kid named Guy. “He is the coach!”

“Okay, everybody listen up,” Gordon said impatiently. “Here’s the long and the short of it. I hate hockey, and I don’t like kids.”

“Is this supposed to be a pep talk?” Asked Peter.

“Look,” said Gordon. “I’m sure this will be a bonding experience. And maybe one of you will write a book about it in jail.” He looked around. “Is there a goalie?”

Goldberg reluctantly raised his hand. “Only for a little while.” He said. “I’m going back to Philly.”

“Oh, glad to hear it.” Said Gordon flatly. “Well, get out onto the ice. Let me see what you can do.”

“Just so you know,” Averman warned Gordon. “We really suck.”

“Hey,” Gordon snapped. “I’ll decide who sucks around here, okay?”

The kids skated out to center ice and formed a slipshod circle. They tried passing the puck, but most of the passes sailed wide.

Gordon watched from a spot next to his limo. What he saw was not encouraging.

Next, Peter and Guy stood head-to-head for a face-off. Averman, acting as the ref, dropped the puck. Peter and Guy fought for the puck, but the blades of their sticks became tangled and they toppled over one another.

From the sidelines Averman entertained himself doing the play-by-play. “There’s the Petemeister.” He intoned. “Mr. Rabble-rouser. Taking the face-off against Guy, the little Geester, and ohhhh, down they go!”

Meanwhile Goldberg took his position in front of the net. But as soon as he saw Terry and Karp skating toward him, he dove out of the way. Terry and Karp crashed into him like a bowling ball knocking down the ten pin.

Gordon rolled his eyes. “They really suck,” he muttered.

After a few more minutes of practice, one of the players skated up to Gordon. “Hi coach,” she said sweetly. “I’m Connie. Do you play?”

“No.” Gordon said flatly. “What’s our record, anyway?”

“Oh and nine,” said Connie. “One was pretty close though. We lost by only five. We almost scored a goal too.”

Gordon looked away unimpressed.

The kids finished their practice and skated over to Gordon.

“What do we do now, Coach?” Jesse asked.

“What did your old coach have you do?” Asked Gordon.

“He just yelled a lot.” Said Charlie.

“Yeah.” Added Terry. That’s how he hurt his arm.”

“His arm?” Asked Gordon.

Peter stepped forward. “One minute he’s yelling at us,” he explained. “You little goons, where’d ya learn to play the game! You basket cases-AHHH!’” In imitation of the former coach Peter grabbed his left arm and fell to the ground.

Gordon shook his head and looked away. “Heart attack,” he said. “Great.” He opened the door of his limo. “Look I gotta make a phone call.” He explained as he climbed in. “Just keep scrimmaging. That ought to eat up some community service time.” He haphazardly pointed from one player to the next. “You, you, you, and you against you, you, you and you.”

“Hey we got names ya know!” Said an offended Goldberg.

“I’m sure you do.” Replied Gordon his tone thick with sarcasm. “And I’m sure they’re nice names, to. I might even learn them, but for now I’ll be in my office. Oh, and if you need anything, fax me.”

Gordon slammed the door.

“What a jerk.” Peter said.

“Where do they find these coaches?” Averman complained resentfully. “I mean we’re impressionable kids. Shouldn’t we check his qualifications or something?”

Inside the limo Gordon poured himself a hot cup of coffee from the built in kitchen and phoned his office. He asked Jeannie for his messages. His face went crimson with anger.

“Who told you not to give me my messages?” Gordon shouted at Jeannie. “Ducksworth? Who’s handling my cases then?” He demanded. “Jane!” He exclaimed spitting out his coffee. “Are you kidding me? She’s not qualified to handle–” just then Gordon noticed that the limousine had begun to shake. He put down the phone and looked out the window.

“Hey, stop it!” Gordon shouted. The kids had climbed onto the roof of the limousine. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Get off!” Growled Lewis. “Get off the car.

The next thing the two men knew, the doors of the limousine were yanked open and the kids piled in.

“Hey is that a real phone?” Asked Karp excitedly. He grabbed it out of Gordon’s hands.

“Yes.” Snapped Gordon grabbing it back. “And I’m on it!” Karp smiled sheepishly. “Not anymore.” The phone cord had been slashed by a skate blade.

“Great.” Said Gordon staring helplessly at the phone. Gordon was crunched between Goldberg and Averman. Jesse, Connie, and Karp sat across from him, tossing around a glass Karp had snatched from the portable bar.

Peter and Terry were crammed into the front seat next to Lewis.

“We want a ride!” Connie shouted.

“We want a ride!” The others chimed in. “We want a ride! We want a ride!”

“I could kill one of them to set an example sir.” Lewis suggested.

“Not yet Lewis,” replied Gordon. “Take ‘em for a spin. Anything to shut them up.”

The kids cheered as the limousine pulled out farther onto the ice. Just then Lewis noticed a young woman running across the pond toward them, waving her arms.

“Oh no,” said Charlie. “That’s my mom. She looks mad.”

Lewis brought the limo to a slow stop. Casey Conway stormed to the back door and pulled it open.

“All right, out,” she ordered. “Everybody out now.”

Gordon got out of the car and smiled. Casey Conway was not amused. “Are you out of your mind?” She angrily demanded. “What were you thinking putting the car on the ice? My son was in that car.”

“If you let me get a word in –,” said Gordon politely.

“One crack in the ice, that’s all it would take. One crack!”

“The ice isn’t going to crack,” Gordon explained

“Who do you think you are?” Asked Casey.

“I’m trying to tell you,” answered Gordon. “My name’s Gordon Bombay. I’m the new hockey coach.”

Charlie’s mother was incredulous. “The new coach? They send you to coach the team and you endanger their lives?”

“What danger?” Gordon asked innocently. “I grew up on the ice. I know when it’s safe to drive on.”

“How do you know?” Asked Casey.

“I just know, all right?”

“Well listen Mr. Zen Master.” She said angrily. “You may be in tune with the ice universe, but when it comes to my kid ‘I just know’ isn’t good enough.” She turned away. “Let’s go Charlie.”

Charlie was embarrassed. “Sorry my mom ruined it guys.” He apologized.

Gordon shook his head. “All right.” He said. “Practice is over.”

Charlie stopped and looked back at Gordon. “You going to be at the game tomorrow?” He asked.

Gordon sighed. “By order of the state of Minnesota, yeah.” Four hundred and ninety-nine hours to go, Gordon thought to himself. And counting.


Chapter 6: It Had To Be The Hawks

The next day the Minneapolis Arena rink was filled with anxious fans. On the ice the Hawks circled menacingly, warming up to face District Five. The Hawks looked impressive in their black uniforms. Their skates slit the ice like razors. They skated through a cross over drill in perfect harmony, then fell right into a passing drill.

The Hawks were a smooth, well-oiled machine.

By comparison, the District Five team looked like rank amateurs. During warm-up the players sat on their bench. No one had ever taught them a drill. Instead of snappy uniforms, they all wore red sweatshirts with the words District Five in masking tape across the front.

The only warm-up they knew how to do was watching the Hawks prepare to slaughter them on the ice.

Two Hawks players, Larson and McGill, skated over to the District Five bench.

“Hi girls.” Taunted McGill.

Peter lunged at McGill but Averman and Karp held him back.

Gordon walked out onto the ice and shook his head. “The Hawks,” he groaned. “My first game, and it had to be the Hawks.’ A long row of banners hung from the ceiling. Each banner commemorated a Hawks league championship. Every banner was black except one – 1973. That banner was yellow: second place.

Gordon remembered that year well.

“Gordon?” Came a familiar voice. “Gordon Bombay?”

Gordon turned. “Coach Reilly.” Said Gordon blandly.

Reilly smiled. “We’re both adults now.” He said. “Why don’t you just call me Jack? What are you doing here?”

“Actually,” Gordon said, “I’m coaching peewee. The District Five team.”

Reilly chuckled mirthlessly. “No kidding. You got a kid on the team or something?”

“No.” Answered Gordon. “I’m just doing this because I need to be of service to the community.”

Reilly shook his head and grinned. “How about this,” he said. “Who’d ever have thought that one day we’d be coaching against each other?”

Gordon ignored the remark. “Who’s your hotshot player?” Gordon asked. “Anybody good?”

Reilly looked across the ice to his bench. “I got a kid named Adam Banks,” he said. “Not quite as good as you were but he wants it more. He won’t give up.” Deliberately Reilly looked up at the single yellow banner. “Boy, I wish they’d take that one down.” He lamented. “Don’t you?” He turned to Gordon and smiled. “Well good luck. I think you’re gonna need it.”

Gordon felt as if he were caught in some kind of time warp. He began to relive those final moments of the game of ‘73 in his mind.

“All right, Gordon.” He heard Reilly say. “It’s up to you. You miss this shot, you’re letting the whole team down.”

It was so long ago, Gordon thought to himself. Then again, it seemed like only yesterday.

“WIN, WIN, WIN!” The Hawks chanted.

The Hawks players were gathered around Reilly followed his lead as he conducted them in their victory chant.

Gordon watched from the District Five bench. He turned to his ragtag team. “Okay everybody in here, gather around.” The kids crowded together. “Win, win, win,” began Gordon. He waited for the kids to join in. Instead, they looked at each other in confusion. Gordon tried again. “Win, win, win!”

Now the kids understood. They began to weakly follow his chant. From that point they petered out entirely everyone a bit embarrassed by it.

“Yeah,” sighed Gordon hopelessly. “We’re all fired up.”

A few minutes later the teams took the ice. The starting five Hawks players skated past their goalie and gave him the traditional good luck tap on his pads with the blades of their hockey sticks.

Guy skated past Goldberg and gave him a tap too. Unfortunately the tap was a little too hard, and Goldberg clutched his shins howling in pain.

Then Jesse, Terry, and Peter skated by Goldberg as well sloppily swinging their sticks. Goldberg twisted and turned. Finally Charlie skated past Goldberg and accidentally hooked his blade in Goldberg’s pads, spinning both players onto the ice.

Gordon watched all this and groaned.

Only 482 hours to go, he thought.


“Humm-batter, humm-batter,” chanted Averman from the bench.

“It’s hockey Averman,” explained Gordon wearily. “There’s no batter.”

Averman considered then said. “Humm-goalie, humm-goalie, save-goalie, save-goalie…”

The ref got in position to drop the puck to start the game. Guy and McGill hunched over for the face-off.

The ref dropped the puck. McGill swiped it from Guy then passed it to the Hawks’ star player, Banks, on left wing. The Hawks fans roared. McGill and Banks zoomed down the ice toward the District Five goal, easily shucking defenders along the way.

Jesse skated up to Banks. Banks faked left, then right. Jesse slipped and fell down. Banks made a beeline for the goal. He fired the puck. Goldberg dove to his left as the puck went right. Goldberg had missed by a mile.

Score one for the Hawks. The crowd roared. The Hawks quickly made it 2-0 when Larson took a pass from McGill and slipped the puck easily through Goldberg’s legs. The Hawks were having fun. It was already 3-0 in the first period when Banks decided to try a slap shot from center ice. He scored easily. Gordon looked up at the clock and sighed.

It had already been a long day, and it wasn’t even half over. At the end of the second period the score was Hawks 11, District Five 0.

“How lazy can you be?” Gordon shouted at the team as the players skated over to the bench between periods. “They’re killing us. How many times do I have to tell you? Get those heads up, get those loose pucks, get those rebounds, just…just…” Gordon sighed with resignation. “Just get out of here.” He said.

By the middle of the third period, it was Hawks 15, District Five 0. It was the worst defeat Gordon had ever witnessed. Then as if out of nowhere, Charlie Conway got hold of a loose puck. Gordon instantly jumped to his feet. Between Charlie and the goal there was nothing but forty feet of empty ice. “Way to go, Charlie.” Shouted Gordon. “Way to go.”

Maybe he’d finally get to score a goal against the Hawks – and Coach Reilly.

Karp, who was sitting next to Gordon on the bench, knew better. “It’s Spazway.” He told Gordon shaking his head. “He’ll screw up.”

All eyes were on Charlie as he guided the puck thirty, twenty, ten feet from the goal. He brought his arm back for the slap shot. SWOOSH! Gordon groaned. Charlie missed the puck entirely and slip into the boards behind the goal.

Gordon shook his head as Charlie skated off the ice onto the bench. “Nice miss, Charlie.” He said. “Keep swinging. You might give them a goal.”

The last seconds of the final period were ticking down. Not surprisingly the Hawks had control of the puck and were passing it leisurely back and forth. To Goldberg it looked as if there were a hundred Hawks coming straight at him.

Utterly accustomed to total defeat, Goldberg threw down his stick, pulled off his gloves, and flung his arms up in helpless resignation. He then politely stepped out of the way as the Hawks scored their final goal.

Gordon breathed a sigh of relief when the horn blew to end the game. Final score: Hawks 17, District Five 0.

It was another victory for the Hawks. And another defeat for District Five.

Jubilant in victory, the Hawks gathered around Coach Reilly.

“Don’t go getting any big heads.” He warned them. “Anybody could’ve beaten those pansies.” Then he smiled at Banks. “Nice going Banks.”

“Thanks coach.” Said Banks.

Reilly couldn’t help but smile at the dejected look on Gordon Bombay’s face.

“Good game Gordon!” He called. “I enjoyed it thoroughly.”

Gordon was livid as the kids skated to the bench. “You guys stink!” He yelled. “You stunk up the ice! I thought we came here to play hockey.”

“I knew we forgot something.” Quipped Peter.

“Oh you think it’s funny?” Demanded Gordon. “You think losing is funny?”

“Not at first.” Explained Averman. “But once you get the hang of it –”

“You made me look like a fool out there.” Gordon moaned.

“Hey,” Jesse shot back. “We’re the ones who got our butts kicked.”

“Yeah.” Added Terry. “It’s not like you coached us or anything. I mean, we tried–”

“You don’t listen to a word I say.” Gordon snapped. “I say keep your heads up, you put your heads down. I say hustle, you go slower. That was the sloppiest play I’ve ever seen. Why don’t you listen to me?”

Jesse took a step toward Gordon. “Why should we?” He asked in a challenging tone. He slipped on his shades and skated to the locker room.

The other players stared at Gordon in silence.

“I don’t care,” said Gordon suddenly. “You can lose. You’re the ones who look like idiots out there!”

Gordon turned to walk away but a glance into the stands froze him in his tracks a tall white-haired man in a windbreaker was climbing the stairs toward an exit.

“Hans?” Gordon muttered to himself.

Gordon pushed his way through the crowd toward the doors of the arena. But it was too late. By the time he made it outside, the man was gone.


Chapter 7: Fulton

It was worth more then a million bucks.

It was worth more then hitting your teacher with a thousand spit-balls while his back is turned-and never being caught.

What it was, was a box filled with Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Editions.

Karp had found them in the trash on the sidewalk outside his apartment building.

“I don’t believe it.” Said Averman who was trying to keep his glasses from sliding down his nose. “Who would throw these away?” He grabbed for an issue.

“Hold it,” ordered Karp suddenly the businessman. “First look’s free. Next five minutes cost a buck each.”

Averman ignored him. “Forget it Karp.” He said pulling an issue out of the box. “I can see this every day on MTV.”

Karp tried to get the magazine back from Averman, but Averman passed it to Guy. Guy flipped it open to a page where a scantily clad model was languishing on a Caribbean seashore. Jesse grabbed the magazine from Guy. When Karp tried to grab it back, Jesse tossed it to Charlie.

“Hey this one’s from Minneapolis.” Shouted Peter as he pointed to a model in one of the photographs. “Hey Guy,” he wisecracked, “It’s your mom!”

The kids laughed, and Peter jumped up and ran off down the alley. Guy and the other kids chased after him. “Wedgie!” Yelled Guy as they pinned Peter against the wall.

Just then three Hawks players-McGill, Larson, and Banks-skated up on rollerblades.

“Hi, girls.” Said McGill with a smirk. He grabbed a magazine.

“Hey give that back!” Shouted Karp.

“Does you mommy know you have these?” Asked Larson.

“Those are mine.” Said Karp. “I found ‘em.”

Larson began to skate around Karp. McGill and Banks joined in.

“You don’t even know what to do with them, wuss breath.” Taunted McGill.

Peter leaned over to Karp. “Are you gonna let him call you wuss breath?” He whispered.

Karp’s lips tightened into a thin line, and his face turned red. “NOOOOOO!” He yelled and leapt at Larson.

Larson easily jumped out of the way, and Karp tumbled into a pile of trash. McGill and banks piled on Karp, hammering him with punches. Just as the other kids jumped onto the pile, Larson and McGill were yanked to their feet. It was Fulton. Fulton was so big and powerful he could lift Larson off t he ground with one hand. The three boys scrambled to their feet and stared at Fulton, terrified.

Fulton growled and the boys skated off.

“Thanks,” the kids muttered.

Fulton didn’t smile. He didn’t say a thing. He just turned and walked away.


Chapter 8: The Mighty Cheaters

Gordon Bombay had an idea.

“All right,” he said that afternoon at practice. “A few things are obvious. You can’t skate. You can’t pass. You can’t shoot. But you fall down as well as any team I’ve ever seen. So let’s use that to our advantage.”

“Like how?” Asked Karp.

“By putting a few of their guys in the penalty box,” answered Gordon. “And that’s what we’re going to learn today.”

Gordon broke the team up into pairs and began teaching them how to take dives.

First up was Karp. “Now if you’re going to take an Olympic dive, you gotta make it look good.” He demonstrated with his hands. “One, two three-boom!”

Karp did as he was told. He began swiping at the puck-one, two, three-then tripped over his hockey stick and landed on his face.

Gordon smiled. He was right. Falling down was something these kids did know how to do well.

The next hour the kids practiced a variety of hooks, tumbles, hacks, slashes, and trips. They seemed to take it without much effort.

Next, Gordon taught them a special chant.

“Good, good.” Said Gordon as they recited the chant. “Say it again.”

“Take the fall!” Shouted the kids in unison. “Act hurt! Get indignant.”

“One more time!” Said Gordon.

“TAKE THE FALL! ACT HURT! GET INDIGNANT!”

“Okay.” Said Gordon. “You guys are ready.”


The next day District Five was on the ice of the Minneapolis Arena rink against the Jets. From the first drop of the puck, District Five worked hard. They tripped. They fell. They tumbled. But the ref wouldn’t blow the whistle and call a penalty.

So they tried a little harder.

As one of the Jets broke in alone on the District Five goal, Goldberg decided to take a fall. He dropped onto his back, twisting and writhing on the ice. He groaned as if he was in terrible pain.

The Jet easily pushed the puck past Goldberg into the net.

“Goldberg!” Complained Gordon after the play. “You don’t take a fall while they’re shooting at you!”

“Oh?” Asked Goldberg with a shrug. “Well, I guess you didn’t explain that very well then, did you?”

Just then the ref skated to the bench. He was angry. “Hey, District Five,” he said sternly, “Let’s stop the acting class huh? One more dive and I’m forfeiting for the Jets.”

“What?” Said Gordon innocently. “I’m insulted by that.” After the ref skated off, Gordon sighed. It was hopeless, he thought.

Later in the second period, Charlie was about to take the face-off. Gordon called him over to the bench.

“Look,” Gordon told him. “That guy is twice your size. So next time he gets you in the corner like that, grab your eye like it’s cut. Then hit the ice. Got it?”

Charlie stared at Gordon without saying yes or no, then skated back for the face-off.

The ref dropped the puck. The Jets player slapped it against the boards. Charlie hustled after it. The Jet slammed into him as they both struggled to control the puck.

From the bench, Gordon watched eagerly. “That’s it, Charlie!” He shouted. Gordon waited for Charlie to fake the hit and go down.

Instead, Charlie backed off. The Jet got the puck and flipped it to a teammate, who shot and scored. From that point on, things just got worse for District Five.

“Man.” Said Terry later as they brooded in the locker room after the game, “We can’t even win when we cheat.”

“Stupid cake-eater tricks,” complained Jesse angrily.

Then the door flew open. Gordon was enraged. He headed straight for Charlie. “What’s the matter with you?” He demanded. “When I tell you to do something out there, you do it. You got it?”

Charlie dropped his eyes to the floor.

“Look at me,” Gordon ordered. “You got it?”

Charlie looked at Gordon. His eyes were damp with tears.

“You can’t make me cheat,” he told Gordon. He swiped at his eyes turned and ran from the locker room.

Gordon stood there, unsure what to do next. The kids were staring at him. It was almost a relief when Mr. Hall barged into the locker room.

“Jesse, Terry,” said Mr. Hall, “let’s go.”

Jesse and Terry gathered up their gear and walked out. At the door Mr. Hall turned to Gordon.

“This is what I gave up my overtime pay for?” He said angrily. “To see my kids taking falls?”

Mr. Hall shook his head in disgust.

Gordon was speechless. He wondered how many more hours of community service he had left. Somewhere along the way he had lost count.


Chapter 9: Hans

That night Gordon stood outside a chalet-style building. It was just as he remembered it. Hans’ Sports Shop.

The store was closed, so Gordon walked around to the back and looked through the window. He saw sparks glowing in the darkness.

He opened the door. He could hear the sound of metal scraping metal. Silhouetted in the darkness was Hans.

“Gordon.” Said Hans without even turning around.

Gordon was stunned. “How did you know?” He asked.

“Through the back door at this time of night?” Answered Hans. He had a soft kindly voice. “Just like you used to. You’d stand there for hours watching me do this.”

Hans switched on a light and removed the goggles he wore to protect his eyes from sparks.

“What do you think?” Asked Hans, holding up a pair of skates. “Is that sharp enough?”

Gordon nodded. Hans smiled and ran his thumb across the blade. “Ow!” He exclaimed suddenly.

Gordon stepped forward. “Did you cut yourself?”

“No,” Hans replied with a laugh. “But you always fell for that.”

“You’re morbid, Hans.”

He shrugged. “I’m Scandinavian.”

Both men laughed.

“It’s good to see you, Hans,” said Gordon.

“Sure sure,” said Hans. “You probably thought I was dead.”

Gordon followed Hans into the main room of the shop. The shelves were filled with all kinds of sports gear. Trophies and plaques adorned the walls. One wall was plastered with photographs and old newspaper clippings of local hockey games over the years.

“You were at the game last night,” said Gordon. “Why didn’t you say something?”

“You were so busy screaming at the kids,” Hans said. “I didn’t want to spoil the moment.”

Gordon decided to change the subject. “Everything’s the same.” He said looking around the shop.

“The game never changes,” said Hans. “Why should my store? I heard you became a doctor”

“A lawyer.”

“Oh. Too bad. You enjoy it?”

“I hardly ever lose a case.”

Hans looked at Gordon. “That’s not what I asked.”

“I see you’ve still got that up.” Said Gordon, pointing at a framed newspaper clipping on the wall. The headline read HAWKS’ CHAMPIONSHIP STRING ENDS and showed a photograph of Gordon, at age ten, storming in on the net all alone. “Thanks very much.”

“It’s important to remember the past.” Said Hans.

“Well I’d just as soon forget about it, Hans,” said Gordon sighing. “That was the worst time of my life. Dad died that year.”

“The two were not related.”

“No. But it felt like it.”

Hans moved closer to Gordon. He held a photograph in his hand. “I found this one not long ago,” he said handing it to Gordon. It was a photograph of Gordon as a young boy. He was holding a scoring trophy; his father was standing next to him.

“He was proud of you,” Hans told Gordon.

“I miss him.” Said Gordon.

“You scored one hundred and ninety-eight goals that season,” remembered Hans. “It was a shame you quit. You–”

“– could have gone all the way.” Finished Gordon. “I know.”

“You really loved to play.” Said Hans. “Remember? You used to play on the pond until after dark. Until your father called you in. You really flew on that ice Gordon.”

“It’s all I ever wanted to do.”

“What happened to you? Reilly? I saw what he did to you. Reilly is an idiot.”

“The guy wins.” Answered Gordon.

“It’s not about winning, Gordon.” Hans said. “It never was. Just show them how to play. To have fun. Teach them how to fly. That’s what they’ll remember long after you go back to being a doctor.”

“Lawyer.” Gordon reminded Hans.

“And long after they stop getting skates from me,” said Hans. “Here.” He held up a pair of skated. “Sharpened, laced, and ready to go.”

“What?” asked Gordon confused.

“Your new skates.” Explained Hans. “That’s why you came tonight isn’t it? I figured you’re a size nine and a half.”

“I’m a nine.” Said Gordon.

Hans smiled. “Wear thick socks.” He pushed the new skates into Gordon’s hands. “Enjoy them.”


Chapter 10: An Apology

Lewis parked the limousine in front of the tenement house. Gordon told him to wait; he would be only a few minutes. Then Gordon got out of the car, checked the number over the entrance of the building and went in.

He climbed the three flights of stairs to the Conway’s’ apartment and rang the bell. The bell didn’t work, so he gently knocked on the door.

The door opened slightly. Casey Conway did not looked pleased to see him.

“Hi,” said Gordon. “Look, I wanted to –”

Casey tried to shut the door, but Gordon held it open.

“Please go away,” said Casey. “Charlie doesn’t want to be on the team anymore, and neither he nor I have anything to say to you.”

“Well, I’ve got something to say to you,” insisted Gordon.

“Oh really,” replied Casey smirking. “Door-to-door mistreatment now huh? So your team can feel miserable between games, too.”

“I’d like to apologize.” Gordon said.

Casey was surprised. “What?” She asked.

“Apologize.” He replied shyly.

Casey hesitated. Gordon shuffled uncomfortably. “Well,” she said finally. “You should.”

She opened the door and gestured him in. The apartment was tiny but comfortable – and very cold. Casey Conway wore a thick sweater, and Gordon decided to keep his overcoat on.

“Charlie,” Casey called out. “Somebody here to see you.”

Charlie bounded out of his bedroom and into the living room. When he saw Gordon he stopped dead in his tracks.

“Hey, Charlie.” Said Gordon. “How you doing?”

Charlie looked at Gordon suspiciously. He sat down on the couch.

“I was just walking around,” Gordon continued. “I was thinking and I, uh –” he turned to Casey. “Can we be left alone?” He asked her.

Casey nodded and went into the kitchen. Gordon sat down next to Charlie.

“Listen,” Gordon said. “It was very wrong of me to ask you and the other guys to cheat. I shouldn’t have said what I did to you. I was angry and frustrated and well it took a lot of guts to do what you knew was right. I admire that. And I just want to say that I…well…this is tough for me…I…I…”

“You’re sorry!” Casey prodded from the other room.

“I’m sorry,” repeated Gordon. Then he called back to the kitchen, “I’m sorry all right?” Gordon turned to Charlie. “I hope you can forgive me,” he said. “Tell your mom, that, hopefully, it’ll be more fun then it has been.”

There was an uncomfortable silence. Gordon wondered if Charlie had heard a word he’d said.

“You want to stay for dinner?” he asked Gordon unexpectedly.

Gordon was stunned. “What?” He asked.

Casey came running into the room. “Charlie!” She exclaimed with embarrassment.

“No,” said Gordon politely. “I really shouldn’t…” He looked at Casey. Suddenly Gordon grinned. “What are you having?”


Chapter 11: Scrambled Eggheads

Gordon arrived at the offices of Ducksworth, Saver and Gross early the next morning. Jeannie was stunned. Instead of the usual flashy and expensive Italian suit, Gordon was wearing jeans and sneakers. To Jeannie he looked almost… normal. He even poured himself his own cup of coffee.

Ducksworth was pleased to see Gordon. Community service had been good for Gordon, he decided. He looked more relaxed and more at ease with himself.

“There are two reasons I came by sir,” Gordon explained. “First of all, to let you know that things are going well. I’m learning a lot about teamwork and fair play and all that stuff.”

“Good, good.” Replied Ducksworth. “And the second thing?”

Gordon stopped closer to the desk.

“The truth is sir,” he began, “fair play doesn’t come cheap. These kids-my team-they have no money. They can’t afford skates, or rink time, or equipment, or proper uniforms, which makes it hard for them to compete.” Gordon painted him a picture. “Imagine sir, being ten years old, stepping onto the ice with old copies of newspapers taped to your shins instead of pads.”

Ducksworth gave Gordon a look. “How much are we talking about?” he asked.

“Fifteen thousand.” Said Gordon

“No way,” replied Ducksworth.

“Sir,” Gordon insisted, “Think of the goodwill. We name the team after the firm, and suddenly we’re the good guys. Ducksworth, Saver and Gross: the firm that saved the community.”

Ducksworth paused to consider.

“I’ll get you your own jersey,” added Gordon.

Ducksworth had to give Gordon credit. Gordon really could talk his way through anything.


An hour later Gordon and the District Five team arrived at Hans’s Sports Shop in a brand-new passenger van.

The kids were so excited they piled in as if they had been given a gift certificate to a candy store.

Terry and Karp slipped on some hockey gloves and boxed one another. Goldberg grabbed a pair of thick goalie pants and tried squeezing into them. He had them halfway on, then stumbled and fell over.

Charlie stood in front of a rack of hockey sticks. When he found one he liked, he pulled it out. Suddenly the entire row of sticks came crashing down.

Averman and Jesse tried on shoulder pads, then butted shoulders.

Peter was rummaging through a stack of mesh jerseys when he noticed something on the wall. It was the newspaper clipping of Gordon as a boy on the day he lost the championship for the Hawks.

Coach was a Hawk, Peter thought with surprise.

Meanwhile, Charlie had walked over to a display in the center of the shop. A hockey stick was jutting out of what looked like an iceberg. It had been designed to look like Excalibur, the sword young Arthur had pulled from the rock to become king in the legendary folktale.

Charlie grabbed the stick but couldn’t make it budge. Just then a huge hand reached past him and took hold of the stick. Charlie looked up. It was Fulton.

Fulton slipped the stick from the display with ease.

Gordon was watching Fulton.

“Who’s that kid?” Gordon asked Jesse and Guy.

“That’s Fulton Reed.” Answered Guy. “He’s in our class.”

“Why isn’t he on the team?” Asked Gordon.

“He just plays football.” Explained Jesse. “I heard some preppie college gave him a scholarship as long as he doesn’t play hockey. They don’t want him getting hurt.”

“I heard it’s colleges.” Corrected Guy. “He’s already been excepted to four of them.”

Jesse shrugged and laughed. “I heard he’s got to repeat the sixth grade.”


At practice that afternoon Gordon noticed two kids, a boy and a girl, figure skating on the ice.

The two kids were good.

Darn good.

“Anybody know who they are?” Asked Gordon. He had already decided he needed skaters like that on the team.

“He’s in my class,” said Terry. “Tommy Duncan.” Then a dreamy look came over his face. “And that’s his sister Tammy.”

“You want them to play hockey with us?” Gordon asked. All the kids answered yes. “Go get dressed.” He told them, unable to take his eyes off the two figure skaters. “I’ll do the negotiating.”

Tammy was hesitant about playing hockey. It didn’t seem very graceful, she complained. It was Tommy who convinced her to join.

“Mom isn’t going to like this,” Tammy told him.

“So what?” Said Tommy. “You want me to figure skate then you gotta play hockey.”

“What do I know about hockey?” She asked playfully pushing her brother to the ground.

“More then you think.” Tommy said groaning.

Minutes later District Five was suited up and on the ice. Gordon had placed a row of orange stacking cones along the red line and ordered the team to practice skating in and around them.

“Okay,” he shouted. “Basics! Basics! SKATING!”

The kids did as they were told, carefully balancing themselves so not to knock down any of the cones. Everyone made it through without a hitch except for Charlie, who tripped on a cone and went sailing across the ice.

Next, Gordon took several cartons of eggs from a grocery bag. The kids crowded around him as Gordon held up an egg.

“Soft hands.” Said Gordon. “You don’t shoot the puck to the other guy. You sail it. Karp you send it.”

Karp stepped forward. Gordon placed the egg gently on the ice and tapped it smoothly toward Karp. Karp brought the blade of the stick to the egg. The players laughed as the egg smashed and splattered on the ice.

“And you don’t stop pass.” Gordon explained. “You accept it. You cradle it. Okay everybody. Grab an egg.”

Each of the kids took an egg, and they all formed a blue line facing Gordon. Averman swung first. It was a wild swing that broke his egg to bits.

“Again,” ordered Gordon. “Concentration, not strength.”

“Like in The Karate Kid, right?” Asked Averman brightly. “Wax on, wax off.”

Averman tried hitting the egg again and this time it didn’t break. Gordon scooped it onto his stick and sent it back to Charlie, who was next in line.

Charlie waited for the egg, tensed up, and then received it gently.

“Good job, Charlie,” said Gordon. “Great. Now sail it in.”

Charlie brought his stick back and swung. His swing was a little too enthusiastic. The egg splattered all over Gordon’s sweater.

Everyone laughed. “That’s okay,” Gordon said gently. “We’ll get it, we’ll get it.”

The egg drill continued for the better part of an hour. The kids passed eggs to each other in a pattern. Each time they sent one off, another came from across the way. Most of the kids got the knack of the pass pretty quickly. Everyone that is except Karp.

“I’m making omelets!” Karp shouted in frustration.

Gordon stepped up behind Karp. “Think soft,” he told the boy encouragingly. “Soft hands. Do it.”

Karp tried again. This time he cradled the egg on his stick. “Hey,” Karp cheered. “I got it! I got it!”

“Nice drill, Coach,” said Goldberg. “But when are you gonna work me in goal?”

Gordon had an impish smile on his face. “Do you trust me, Goldberg?” He asked.

Minutes later Goldberg wished he hadn’t said yes. Gordon stood Goldberg in the goal crease and tied his hands and legs to the posts. The rest of the team lined up not far away. It reminded Goldberg of a firing squad.

“My mother would not approve of this Coach,” cried Goldberg as Gordon unloaded a bag of pucks on the ice. “She would like me to live to be bar mitzvahed.”

“This is your bar mitzvah Goldberg.” Said Gordon. “Today you will become a man.” He turned to the team. “Ready?

“I’m gonna die,” Goldberg said fearfully. “I’m gonna die.”

“Aim!” Gordon yelled.

“Nice knowin’ ya Goldie!” called Peter.

“Oh, please,” cried Goldberg. “Please no…”

“FIRE!” Commanded Gordon.

Goldberg screamed as the first wave of pucks hit him in the chest and legs. Surprised Goldberg realized his pads completely protected him. The pucks bounced off him painlessly. Goldberg started to laugh. “Come on!” he coaxed gleefully. “Is that all you got? You wimps! Hit me with your best shot!”

Now Gordon started hitting the ice with his stick. Soon the rest of the team joined in with their sticks.

“I AM GOLDBERG!” He shouted proudly. “THE GOALIE!”

The applause died down, and Gordon called an end to practice.

“You guys tired?” He asked. The kids nodded. “You ache? You hungry?” They nodded some more. “Good. Be proud of yourselves kids. That was some practice.”

Happily the kids skated off the ice-all except Goldberg, who was still tied to the goalposts.

“Hey guys?” Goldberg called out. “Come on, guys. You can untie me now. Guys?”

But the rink was empty.


Chapter 12: “We’re the Ducks?”

CRACK! Lewis hit the brakes and brought the van to a screeching stop. The passenger window had been shattered.

Lewis saw a kid at the back of an alley. It was Fulton. He had a hockey stick in his hands and a guilty expression on his face. He had been shooting pucks into an open travelling trunk he had turned into a makeshift goal. Obviously, he had missed.

“Let me have him sir.” Said Lewis.

“No.” Said Gordon. “I’ll take care of it.”

Gordon jumped out of the car. Fulton suddenly tried to run, but Gordon had him cornered.

“Look it was an accident, all right?” Explained Fulton nervously.

“Never mind the window,” said Gordon. “Where’d you learn to shoot like that?”

Fulton hesitated. “Didn’t learn,” he said. “Just do it.”

Gordon smiled. “Do it again.” He said.

Fulton pulled back his stick and let one blast. It was like the puck had been shot from a gun. Gordon winced when he heard the sound of shattering glass.

“You’re good at hitting windows,” said Gordon. “Ever hit the net?”

“Yeah,” said Fulton defensively. Then he shrugged. “One out of five.”

“Is it true what they say? About the scholarships? And how they won’t let you play hockey?”

“People talk,” replied Fulton. “Don’t mean nothing.”

Gordon got the picture. The scholarship story was a cover-up. Fulton was hiding something.

“Then how come you don’t play for us?” He asked the boy.

“I can’t.”

“I don’t understand. You afraid?”

“No,” insisted Fulton. “I mean I really can’t, you moron. I don’t know how to skate.”

Fulton took another hard shot. The puck slammed into the trunk, knocking it backward about ten feet.

“Wow,” said Gordon.


“The Ducks?” Asked Jesse incredulously. “We’re the Ducks?”

It was the night before the game against the Cardinals. The team was gathered around Gordon in the locker room of the Minneapolis Arena. Casey was there too. Each kid held a green mesh jersey with the names Ducks emblazoned across the front.

“What brain-dead jerk came up with that name?” Asked Peter.

“As a matter of fact,” Gordon began. “I did. But I didn’t have a choice. We’re being sponsored.”

“By whom? Donald and Daisy?” Quipped Averman.

Gordon smiled.

“You don’t want to be the Ducks?” Asked Gordon, sounding surprised. “You’d rather be District Five, some stupid number?”

“Better then being some stupid animal,” said Peter.

Gordon looked at the kids. He suddenly saw them as a jury. He decided he had to defend himself.

“Stupid animal?” He began. “I’ll have you know that the duck is one of the most noble, agile, and intelligent creatures in the animal kingdom.”

“They’re wimpy.” Said Connie.

“They don’t even have teeth.” Added Guy.

“Neither do hockey players.” Gordon joked. Some of the kids laughed. “Did you ever see a flock of ducks flying in perfect formation? Beautiful. Pretty neat the way they stick together, huh? Every winter they leave the pond and fly thousands of miles through sleet and snow. Ducks never say die!”

Gordon looked into the faces of the kids. The jury. All eyes on him now. He had them mesmerized.

“Ever see a duck fight?” He continued. “No. Why? All the other animals are afraid. ‘Cause if you mess wit ha duck, you’re messin’ with the whole flock.”

The kids started to nod. The idea was starting to seem cool to them. Then Gordon ripped open his overcoat. He was wearing his own Ducks jersey.

“Now,” said Gordon, “I’m proud to be a Duck. And I’m proud to fly with any of you. So, how about it? Who’s a Duck?”

There was silence. The kids looked at each other.

“I’ll be a Duck.” Said Fulton.

Charlie stood up next. “Me too,” he said.

All the kids joined in.

“Now you’re the Ducks,” Gordon said. “Proud and mighty. What are you?”

“We’re the Ducks!” everyone answered.

“What are you?” Yelled Gordon.

“THE DUCKS!”


Chapter 13: Warm-Ups

The Cardinals had already begun their warm-up drills when the Ducks took the ice. The Cardinals had formed a circle and were moving in unison, scraping their hockey sticks along the ice as they went.

Several of the players glanced across the ice and broke away from their teammates when they noticed the Ducks’ warm-up drill. Instead of passing hockey pucks to each other, the Ducks were tossing a football around.

“Every time you have the puck, you’re the quarterback!” Gordon told his team. “Make eye contact with the receiver! Let her know it’s coming! Come on! Talk to each other! Talk to each other!”

“Man,” said a Cardinal to one of his teammates. “What a weird team.

Gordon broke away from the team and skated over to the bench where Fulton was sitting alone.

“How you doing?” He asked. “You ready?”

“I think so,” answered Fulton.

Gordon called to the team to clear the ice. Fulton rose to his feet unsteadily, then skated out to the empty Ducks zone. Gordon walked out with him, carrying a bucket of pucks.

Curious the Cardinals took a break from their warm-ups.

Gordon dumped five pucks onto the ice. “Okay,” Gordon whispered to Fulton. “Go ahead. Shoot your heart out.”

A hush fell over the stadium as Fulton pulled his stick back and blasted a shot. WHOOSH! The puck went flying into the net.

Fulton blasted another. CRASH! It slammed into the boards. CRACK! Another smashed into the Plexiglas. He then let go two more blistering shots that went sailing into the stands.

Then it was quiet. Fulton had run out of pucks. The Cardinals were standing stone still in amazement, their mouths agape.

Gordon smiled. “One out of five,” he said to himself.


Gordon pulled the team into a huddle.

“Let’s forget the past.” He told them. “We lost a few games. Tough. Now we’re the Ducks. And the Ducks are undefeated.”

The kids nodded. Then Gordon began to chant.

“Quack,” he chanted. “Quack, quack.”

The kids joined in. “Quack,” they started softly at first, then louder. “Quack! Quack! Quack! Quack!”

It was their own special chant.

Gordon sent Karp, Guy, Connie, Jesse, and Terry out as the starting five. Goldberg confidently took his position at goal.

The ref dropped the puck. Guy playing forward, swooped down on it and passed to Karp, who cradled the puck across the ice and into the Cardinals zone. Connie checked a Cardinals defenseman. The defenseman slipped and fell. As play continued, the Cardinals got the puck and charged in on the Ducks goal. Goldberg stopped a rolling puck from sliding into the net.

The Ducks had definitely improved.

By the second period the score was only 2-0 in favor of the Cardinals.

And it seemed as if the kids were actually having fun.

A roar came up from the crowd, and Gordon glanced up momentarily into the stands. People were cheering for the Ducks – his Ducks. He smiled.

Guy had passed the puck to Jesse, who had dropped it back to Averman. Averman nearly lost the puck but managed to get it to Terry. Terry skated in on the goalie, faked left, shot right, and stared in amazement as the puck sneaked into the net.

The Ducks had just scored their first goal!

Anywhere.

Ever.

The crowd cheered.

“That’s my boy!” Mr. Hall shouted proudly from the stands. Casey patted him on the back.

Midway through the third period the Cardinals brought the puck into the Ducks zone. A Cardinals forward wound up for a shot but Karp swooped in front of him to try to block it.

The Cardinal let go with his stick. The puck went flying and smashed into Karp’s helmet. Karp froze on his skates, then slowly sank to the ice in a daze. The ref blew the whistle, stopping the game. The Ducks surrounded Karp. Gordon rushed onto the ice and knelt next to Karp. He removed the boy’s helmet and held up two fingers.

“How many fingers do I have up?” Gordon asked Karp.

“He wouldn’t know that anyway.” Quipped Peter.

“Shut up Peter,” said Gordon. “Karp look at me.”

Karp looked at Gordon groggily.

“Geez look at this.” Said Guy. He held up Karp’s helmet. It had a dent in it.

Karp was helped off the ice. Gordon glanced up at the scoreboard. Third period was counting down, and it was still Cardinals 2, Ducks 1.

“Okay, we still got a chance here,” Gordon said as the Ducks crowded around him on the bench. “Jesse, Guy, Connie, Terry come here. It’s time for our secret weapon.”

Gordon turned to Fulton.

“Okay Fulton,” he said. “Remember: just like we talked about.

Fulton nodded, got off the bench, and lumbered onto the ice.

The Cardinals looked up in fear as Fulton took his place on the point.

“Oh no,” the goalie muttered to himself.

The starters for both teams took their places facing each other. The ref dropped the puck. Guy swiped at it and passed it to Jesse, who dropped it back to Fulton.

The Cardinals froze.

Fulton went into his windup.

One by one the Cardinals screamed and leapt out of the way. Even their goalie dove out of the crease.

Fulton didn’t shoot. Instead Connie skated past Fulton and took the puck. She flipped a quick pass to Guy, who was waiting at the goal crease.

Guy neatly flicked the puck into the empty net.

The Ducks fans cheered.

Casey and Mr. Hall leapt into the air.

It was 2-2 a tie. The Ducks’ first tie.

Anywhere.

Ever.


Chapter 14: Gordon, The Duck

That evening Gordon watched proudly as Hans updated the league standings on a scoreboard in his shop. Hans put a 1 in the tie column for the Ducks. Though in last place, the Ducks’ record now read 0-11-1.

“That tie of yours might be just what you need to make the playoffs.” Said Hans.

Gordon was stunned. “We have a shot at the playoffs?” He asked.

Hans pointed to the scoreboard. “Remember the Panthers got the measles and forfeited their season,” he said. “So, beat the Huskies and you’re in the playoffs.”

Gordon looked at the board. “Where we’ll eventually have to play the Hawks,” he said.

“So?” Asked Hans.

“So they’re a tough team,” Gordon insisted. “Nothing’s changed since I played.”

“Actually,” corrected Hans. “One thing has changed. You wouldn’t even be a Hawk now.”

Gordon looked at Hans with a quizzical expression. Hans led Gordon over to a map that hung next to the scoreboard. It was a map that broke Minnesota into separate districts.

“They redrew the district lines last year.” Hans explained. “The lake isn’t the boundary anymore. See? If you were playing today, you’d be a Duck.”

A broad smile came over Gordon’s face. “I’d be a Duck,” he said and laughed.


The next evening Gordon showed up at the rink early. The Hawks were warming up for their game against the Jets. Coach Reilly was going over some plays with his team when Gordon and an official from the league board approached the Hawks bench.

“Excuse me Coach Reilly,” the official interrupted. “I’m afraid there’s a bit of a problem. It seems that one of your players is ineligible.”

Reilly was stunned. He called Adam Banks over to the bench. As Banks skated off the ice, his father climbed down from the stands to see what the commotion was about.

“Is there a problem, Coach Reilly?” Asked Philip Banks.

“Just a mistake, Mr. Banks,” answered Reilly.

The official turned to Banks. “Are you this boy’s father?” He asked. “Four-thirty North Hennepin, is that your address?”

“Yes,” answered Mr. Banks.

“Then I’m afraid it’s no mistake,” said the official. “Your boy’s playing on the wrong team. According to league rules, Adam Banks should be playing for District Five.”

Mr. Banks was livid. “The Ducks?” He asked incredulously. “My son is a Hawk, not a Duck!”

Reilly turned to Gordon. “Is this your doing, Gordon?” He asked.

“Hey, league rules,” answered Gordon. “Adam can play with the Hawks tonight, but starting tomorrow he’s a Duck. And I’ll expect to see him at our next game. We’ll have a uniform waiting for him.”

“What?” Exclaimed Adam. “No way!”

“My son would rather not play then play for your team.” Announced Banks.

“If that’s the way you want it,” said Gordon. “But remember: If Adam plays for the Hawks, they’ll have to forfeit all their games for the rest of the season.” He turned to Reilly. “I’d hate to see that,” he said with a devilish grin.

Gordon turned and walked away.

“Gordon!” Reilly called out. “Bombay! You stop when I talk to you, son!”

“What’s the idea here?” He demanded angrily. “Are you out to sabotage me, is that it?”

“The law’s tough when it works against you isn’t it Jack?” Replied Gordon. “Look you’ve got a whole team full of Bankses. One kid won’t make a difference.”

Jesse and Peter had wandered over to the soda machine and found themselves within earshot of the two coaches.

“Even with Banks,” they overheard Reilly saying to Gordon, “What do you think you’re going to prove? F you and that bunch of losers?”

“That’s right,” Gordon answered sarcastically. “They’re losers. And we hate losers. They don’t deserve to live.”

Jesse and Peter were stunned to hear their coach call the Ducks losers. They ran back to the locker room to tell the others.

“Maybe you’re right,” continued Gordon to Reilly. “Maybe Banks won’t make a difference. But at least we’re playing by the rules.”

“Why did you turn against me, Bombay?” Reilly asked suddenly. “For six years I taught you how to skate, how to score, how to go for the W. You could’ve been one of the greats. And now look at you. You’re not even a has-been. You’re a never-was.”

For a moment the two men glared at each other.

Then it was Reilly’s turn to walk away.


Later in the locker room, Gordon was surprised that Jesse and Peter weren’t suited up.

“Why aren’t you guys in uniform?” He asked. “We’ve got a game in half an hour.” Then he turned to the rest of team. “Okay listen up,” he began. “I got some good news. We’re getting a new player-Adam Banks.”

The Ducks threw repulsed looks at Gordon.

“What?” Karp exclaimed in disgust. “He’s a Hawk.”

“He’s a good player,” insisted Gordon. “I think he can really help us.”

“Everybody hates him.” Said Jesse.

“We don’t need him,” added Connie.

“Look we do need him,” said Gordon. “If we can make it to the playoffs, he can be a big help.”

“If?” Asked Karp. “All of a sudden you don’t think we’re good enough?”

“No,” said Peter. “He thinks we’re losers.”

Everybody looked at Peter.

“That’s what he told Reilly,” Peter reported. “We heard what you said,” Peter snapped angrily. “You said we were losers. That we didn’t deserve to live. Right, Jesse?”

Jesse nodded.

“That’s not what I meant,” said Gordon defensively.

“I saw that picture at Hans’s store,” said Peter. “You were a Hawk weren’t you? You guys stick together in the end don’t you? Well, I don’t need your stinking equipment.”

Peter dumped his equipment and his uniform on the floor and stormed out of the locker room.

“Come back here,” Gordon called after him. “Hey I’m talking to you!”

“Forget it sugar daddy,” said Jesse. “If you want to play, play with yourself. Come on Terry.”

Jesse left. Then Terry ripped off his shoulder pads, threw them onto the pile of discarded equipment, and ran after his brother.

Gordon glanced over at the rest of the team. They were all giving him the silent stare.

“I don’t believe this,” said Gordon. “The game starts in half an hour. Now I’m going out to the bench, ‘cause that’s where I’m supposed to be. Anyone who wants to join me can join me. Anyone who doesn’t… well…”

Gordon walked out of the locker room and went to the bench. The Flames were almost finished warming up.

The ref skated past the bench. “Game time, Coach.”

“They’re working themselves into a frenzy,” Gordon lied. “They’ll be out in a minute.”

Finally, Charlie and Fulton came out. They took the ice and began to skate around the Ducks’ half of the ice. The ref skated over to Gordon.

“Not much of a frenzy.” He remarked.

Gordon sighed. “Okay,” he told the ref. “We forfeit.”


Chapter 15: The Truth About Gordon

The next day Gordon wandered aimlessly around the city. He wondered how he could have lost the trust of the kids when they were so close to living a dream come true, so close to going for the W. Maybe that was the problem, he thought. Maybe he was still too consumed with going for the win and not with enjoying the game.

Gordon looked through the window of the diner where Casey Conway worked. She was pouring coffee for a customer. Charlie was sitting at the counter drinking a milk shake.

Gordon went into the diner and walked up to Charlie.

“Can I sit down?” He asked.

Charlie looked up and nodded.

“You talked to the guys?” Gordon asked.

“I tried,” said Charlie. “They think I’m a traitor.”

“I guess they really hate me.”

Charlie shrugged. “Is it true you were a Hawk?”

“Yeah.”

“Peter said you blew a big game once.”

“Well Peter’s right,” Gordon admitted. “Last game of the state finals. Tied two to two in the third period. And I get a penalty shot. I go in, I triple deke, I fake the goalie out of his pads, the puck’s headed in-and then-CLANG! I hit the post. And we lost in overtime. A quarter inch the other way, and it would have gone in.” He held up two fingers. “A quarter inch Charlie.”

“Of course,” Charlie pointed out, “a quarter inch the other way, you would have missed completely.”

Gordon laughed. “I guess I never thought of it that way.”

“Well,” said Charlie, “at least you got to play in a championship game. That must have been cool.”

Casey walked over. “Hey,” she said to Gordon. “You want a cup of coffee?”

“I’d love one,” he replied smiling.

“She has many fine qualities that men find attractive,” Charlie whispered to Gordon.

“I know that Charlie,” replied Gordon. “That fact hasn’t escaped me. So what kind of guys does she usually date?”

“Jerks,” Charlie said. “I mean, most of them like her. But as soon as they see me, warp speed! They’re gone!”

“Don’t take it personally, Charlie,” said Gordon.

“I wouldn’t even care,” said Charlie, “Except it’s not fair to my mom. She deserves somebody nice.” Charlie hesitated. “Are you going to come for dinner again?” He finally asked.

Gordon sighed. “I don’t know, Charlie,” he answered. “I’m not sure it’s a good idea. See that’s what I came here to tell you. I talked to Jesse and Terry’s dad. He’s going to take over coaching the rest of the year.”

“You’re quitting?” Asked Charlie.

“I’m stepping aside to keep the team together,” explained Gordon. “The guys can’t play for somebody they can’t trust.”

“I trust you,” insisted Charlie. And the other guys do too. They just don’t know it.”

“Charlie I’ve done all I can.”

“No you haven’t!” Said Charlie. “You have to tell them. Make them understand. You can’t walk out on the Ducks. We’re your team!”

“No, you’re not.” Said Gordon.

“We are too!” Said Charlie, leaping from his seat. “We weren’t the Ducks until you came along. You made us now you’re stuck with us!”

Gordon tried to answer but Charlie pushed past him and ran out of the diner.


Chapter 16: The Not-So-Mighty Ducksworth

“Thanks for coming on such short notice, Gordon.” Said Ducksworth as he led him into his office. “By the way your court release came. Congratulations. Your community service is over.”

“You’re kidding,” said Gordon. “So you wanted to talk about my getting back to work?”

Just then Gordon noticed a Ducks jersey encased in glass hanging on the wall.

“Oh good,” said Gordon. “You got your jersey. A lot’s been happening sir. The Ducks may even make the playoffs.”

From inside the room, someone laughed. Gordon looked in to see Coach Reilly standing by the window. Next to him stood Philip Banks.

“Gordon you know Coach Reilly and Mr. Banks,” said Mr. Ducksworth pleasantly.

“Sir,” Gordon whispered, “They’re the bad guys.”

“No,” corrected Ducksworth. “Phil Banks is one of my oldest friends. “Not to mention a source for much of our insurance work.”

“That’s great,” Gordon amended.”

“Gerald was kind enough to bring us all together here to try to work out this problem,” Banks said. “You see my son Adam wants to play for the Hawks. His older brother was a Hawk. All his little friends are Hawks. That’s where he belongs.”

“It’s a tradition,” added Coach Reilly. “You played, Gordon. You understand.”

“Sure I do,” said Gordon. “But the league’s already ruled on it.”

“We talked to the league.” Said Banks. “And we’ve worked out a deal.”

Gordon was astounded. “You cut a deal with a peewee hockey league?”

“Yes, Gordon,” Ducksworth said ignoring the sarcasm. “We did.”

Coach Reilly intervened. “The long and short of it,” he explained impatiently. “Is that Adam stays on the Hawks for the rest of the season. And next year they redraft the lines.”

“Correctly.” Added Banks.

“But the league gave one condition,” said Ducksworth.

“What’s that?” Asked Gordon.

“We need you to withdraw your protest.”

Gordon smiled expansively. The power had shifted. “That’s great,” said Gordon grinning from ear to ear.

“Good,” said Ducksworth. “Then it’s settled.”

“No sir,” explained Gordon. “You misunderstand me.” I can’t withdraw my protest.”

“What?” Exclaimed Banks.

“Mr. Ducksworth,” Gordon explained. “You wanted me to learn about fair play. And how to be a part of the team. And maybe I haven’t learned everything yet, but I remember something my dad once said: A team isn’t just a bunch of kids out to win. It’s something you belong to, something you feel. Something you have to earn. I can’t let my team down, sir.”

“Gordon I’ll make this simple.” Ducksworth said flatly. “Are you prepared to lose your job over some kids? Some game?”

“Sir, let me ask you,” countered Gordon. “Are you prepared to fire me over some kids? Some game?”

“Collect your personal things, Gordon.” He said. “You’re fired.”

Gordon shook his head sadly. “Yes Mr. Ducksworth.” He said. Then his voice took on a mocking tone. “Thank you, Mr. Ducksworth. Quack quack, Mr. Ducksworth. Quack quack quack, quack, quack!”

“Stop quacking Gordon!”

On his way out Gordon pointed to the framed jersey on the wall.

“You paid for the jersey,” he said, “but you didn’t earn it. Quack quack, gentlemen. See you in the playoffs.


Chapter 17: I Must Not Quack…

Mr. Altree stood in front of his sixth-grade class holding a red-and-blue model of a molecule.

“That’s right, the red is oxygen,” he said. “And what are the blue balls?” He asked. The class giggled.

“Hydrogen?” Answered Tommy.

“That is correct,” said the teacher. Now put these all together and you have a molecule that makes up ninety-six percent of your body. What is it?”

“Pizza!” one of the students wisecracked. The other students laughed.

Mr. Altree shook his head wearily. There was a knock on the door.

“It’s the principal,” said Mr. Altree. “I’ll be back in a second. Work on H2O! It’s a goodie.”

Karp and Averman turned around in their seats and looked at Charlie.

“How’d the forfeit go, Spazway?” Asked Karp.

“Did you score?” Asked Peter snickering.

“Leave me alone,” said Charlie. “I don’t care about the team anymore.”

“Sure,” said Peter. “Coach’s pet. Everybody knows he likes you best.”

“Likes his mom you mean,” corrected Karp.

Charlie jumped up and pulled at Karp’s shirt.

“Take it back, Karp.” Shouted Connie. She reached over and shoved Karp.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Karp shot back.

“Yeah,” added Peter. “You have no right shoving Karp.” Then Peter shoved Connie.

Guy lunged at Peter. “Don’t shove her.” He said. “She’s a girl.”

Connie responded by shoving Guy herself. “Don’t defend me.” She ordered.

“Cut it out guys,” Averman warned them. “Before Mr. Altree gets back.”

“Yeah,” said Charlie. “Cut it out.”

“Shut up Charlie,” said Averman.

Soon everyone started shoving everyone else. One of the kids grabbed Mr. Altree’s molecule model and started throwing the Styrofoam balls around the room.

“My atoms!” Cried Mr. Altree as he came back into the classroom.

“Sit!” ordered the principal. “Sit down! In your seats now!”

Slowly the children shuffled back to their seats.

“I have never in my life…” she grumbled. “What do you have to say for yourselves?”

They looked at one another.

“Quack,” they chanted. “Quack, quack, quack, quack, quack…”


Gordon found his team in Detention Room 223. They were lined up at all four corners of the blackboard, copying, I must not quack at the Principal over and over again.

Gordon smiled when he saw them.

“What do you want?” Asked Karp.

“To talk to you,” replied Gordon. “Sit down, all of you.” Nobody moved. “Okay, I’ll sit down,” quipped Gordon. “Look what’s done is done. I want to be your coach again.”

“You want to coach a bunch of losers?” Averman asked snidely.

“No,” replied Gordon. “I want to coach the Ducks.”

“What about the things you said?” Asked Karp. “You said we didn’t deserve to live.”

“I was being sarcastic,” Gordon explained. “Do you know what that means?”

“Noooooooo,” replied Karp stupidly.

“Okay,” said Gordon, “you do. I didn’t mean those things the way they sounded. You know what it’s like to be misunderstood?”

“Of course,” said Peter. “We’re kids.”

“So you forgive me?” Asked Gordon. “Can I still be your coach?”

“What about Banks?” Guy asked.

“If he wants, he’s on the team,” said Gordon “He should have been with you all year. It was you guys who were cheated. But I say we forget about all that garbage. We’re a team. I made you and I’m sticking with you. So what’s it going to be? We can play tomorrow night and have a shot at the playoffs, or we can forfeit again and the season’s over.”

The kids considered his proposal.

“Peter,” said Gordon. “What do you think?”

“Well,” he said, “it would help if we practiced first.”

The kids agreed.

Gordon smiled. “Let me see if I can get you guys out of detention,” he said. “You really quacked at the principal?”

The kids nodded and Gordon laughed.

“Are we Ducks or what!” He exclaimed happily.

The Ducks were back.


Chapter 18: Welcome, Cake-Eater

On Saturday morning the Ducks arrived at the rink ready to win. They were in the locker room when Adam Banks walked in.

A second later Gordon entered. He gave Banks a gentle slap on the back.

“I wasn’t sure if you’d show up,” he said.

“I just want to play hockey,” Adam said.

“Well I’m glad you came,” said Gordon. “You all know Adam Banks.”

“On behalf of the Ducks,” Charlie said politely, “I’d like to say welcome.”

Jesse walked up to Banks. He hadn’t forgotten how Banks had gone after him on the ice. “Cake-eater,” Jesse said to him.

“The Jess-man,” clowned Averman. “Dissin’ the new guy. The Jess-ter-”

“Shut up, Averman,” said Jesse. “Just puttin’ on a Ducks jersey doesn’t mean you’re a Duck,” Jesse told Banks.

The two boys stared each other down. The team pushed past Banks as they filed out of the locker room.

“They’re a great group once you get to know them,” said Gordon.

“I bet,” muttered Banks.

“Suit up. I’ll see you on the ice.”


By the middle of the second period, the score was Huskies 1, Ducks 0.

Adam Banks battled in front of the Huskies goal and was in perfect position to score.

“Hey, over here!” He shouted to his teammates.

“Come on!” Shouted Banks. “Do something with it!”

Jesse passed the puck to Charlie on right wing. Charlie guided the puck past a Huskies defenseman.

“In front!’ Banks shouted at Charlie. “Look at me!”

Charlie flipped a pass to him. Banks took the puck, spun, and poked it into the net.

The game was tied 1-1.

With only sixteen seconds left in the game and the score still tied, a skirmish on the ice resulted in a face-off in the Huskies zone. Gordon made a decision. He called Goldberg off the ice.

“You’re gonna sit this one out,” he told him.

“What?” Asked Karp. “You’re pulling the goalie when we’re tied?”

“A tie isn’t going to help us,” said Gordon. “We need the win. Fulton, you’re our extra man. Everybody just get the puck to Fulton.”

“We’re pulling the Statue of Liberty play?” He asked.

“No,” said Gordon. “Take your shot. You might get only one so it’s gotta be good.”

“But Coach,” said Fulton nervously. “One out of one?”

“Soft hands Fulton,” Guy reminded his teammate. “Concentration not strength.”

“That’s right,” agreed Gordon. “Now get out there. Keep it away from the Huskies, no matter what you do. Don’t let them have it.”

The Ducks managed to control the puck on the face-off, and as planned, Fulton took a pass and teed up for a final shot.

The crowd was roaring. “Shoot, Fulton, shoot!” Shouted Gordon from the bench. The clock was counting down rapidly.

Fulton took a deep breath. It couldn’t be one out of five now. It had to be one out of one.

He wound up and blasted away.

The puck screamed between the posts and ripped clean through the back of the net.

The Ducks had won!

Gordon punched a victory fist into the air. “We made the playoffs!” He shouted. “We made the playoffs!”

The Ducks were on their way!


Chapter 19: The Playoffs

“It’s not over folks,” came the voice of the announcer. “The Ducks are still in the game. Here comes their star player, Adam Banks, moving to the right, he shoots-he scores!”

It was nearing the end of the third period of the playoff game against the Hornets. Banks’ sudden goal tied the score at 3.

“Getting rough out there between the Ducks and the Hornets,” continued the announcer. “Here’s Adam Banks in the front now, he takes it past center ice, he shoots-he scores!”

The fans roared. Gordon and the rest of t he Ducks cheered from the bench.

The final seconds were ticking away.

“The puck is dropped,” said the announcer. “Banks steals it and passes to Hall. Hall grabs it, he shoots-he scores! What a shot!”

A moment later the buzzer sounded.

“The Ducks win it five to three!” The announcer said. “That’s it folks! In one week the Ducks will be on their way to the semi-finals against the Cardinals!”

Gordon and the rest of the Ducks raced onto the ice to congratulate their teammates.

One week later the Ducks played the Cardinals in the semi-finals, the game that would determine which team would make it to the state championship against the Hawks. Gordon couldn’t forget that it was against the Cardinals that the missed that penalty shot.

By the third period the game was intense.

“What a game so far, ladies and gentlemen,” came the excited voice of the announcer. “The Cardinals have it in their own zone. They’re trying to clear it out, past the blue line. It’s intercepted by the Ducks. Here’s the Ducks’ star, Adam Banks. Banks has great speed. It’s Banks right down the middle. He’s making great movies as he slips around the Cardinals defence. He shoots-he scores! BANKS SCORES!”

The Ducks took a 3-2 lead late into the game, then scored an insurance goal in the last minute.

“THAT DOES IT! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?” The announcer cried out. “THE MIGHTY DUCKS WIN!”

The fans were delirious with excitement. The Ducks were playing for the state championship!

Gordon had already been thinking about their next game against the Hawks.

And against Coach Reilly. Just like old times.


Chapter 20: Ducks vs Hawks

The atmosphere in the New Hope Arena was tense as the Ducks and the Hawks lined up parallel to each other on the ice.

After singing the national anthem, the teams returned to their benches. Coach Reilly led the Hawks in their victory chant. Hawks fans in the crowd joined in.

“Come on Ducks,” Gordon urged his team. “We can be twice as loud as them.”

“Quack,” they began. “Quack, quack, quack! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK!”

Ducks fans picked up the chant too.

The Ducks broke out of their huddle and skated onto the ice.

Jesse pulled Banks aside. “Hey Banks, don’t forget what side you’re on,” he warned. Banks stared at Jesse.

Gordon approached Jesse. “He’s a Duck, Jesse,” Gordon told the boy. “He’ll play like a Duck.”

Banks was set to face off against his friend Pete McGill.

The ref dropped the puck, and Banks slapped at it. McGill shouldered him roughly and pushed him out of the way. Another Hawks player threw an elbow, knocking Banks down. By the time Banks got to his feet, the Hawks had scored an easy goal.

Gordon glanced down at Reilly on the Hawks bench. Reilly looked like a shark who had just made his first kill.

Banks controlled the next face-off. He charged down the ice towards the Hawks goal, but as soon as he crossed the blue line he was checked hard into the boards by another ex-teammate, Billy Larson.

Charlie Conway skated by and made a sweep for the puck but was knocked down by a rough crosscheck. Gordon screamed for a penalty, but the ref let it go. The Hawks grabbed the puck and moved it ahead. Averman made a play for the puck but got blindsided by a Hawks defender. The Hawks skated in two-on-oh against Goldberg. They scored easily.

As the game went on, Banks was being roughed up on every play. He tried to skate through the Hawks defensemen, but they were keying on him.

Goldberg managed to make a terrific save on one shot but an opportunistic Hawks player flicked in the rebound. The first period ended. The Hawks had jumped to a 3-0 lead. In between periods Gordon gathered the team around him.

“Don’t be scared of them Ducks. That’s what they want,” he told them. “Keep your heads up. Play proud. Let’s fly!”

The Ducks cheered and skated confidently back onto the ice.

Meanwhile Coach Reilly had pulled McGill and Larson to the side. “I want you to drop Banks like a bad habit,” he told them. “I want him out of the game, you got it?”

McGill smiled and nodded. Larson nodded too.

Banks took the puck on the opening face-off, but a Hawks player swiped it away from him. Banks went after it and got it back. He skated hard down the ice.

McGill and Larson raced after him. Just as Banks was about to shoot, McGill lunged forward and knocked him down. Banks fell down hard on the ice but still managed to slip the puck into the net. A goal!

The crowd roared, but then fell silent. Adam Banks was still lying facedown on the ice.

“Adam!” Larson shouted. “Adam, are you all right?” Players had gathered in a circle around him.

Larson turned to McGill. “What did you do?” He yelled angrily.

“My job,” sneered McGill.

Paramedics ran onto the ice and lifted Banks onto a stretcher. Luckily Adam w as not seriously hurt. In fact, on his way off the ice, Banks grabbed Jesse.

“Jesse,” Banks whispered groggily. “Do me a favor. Kick some Hawks butt.”

Jesse smiled. He had been wrong about Banks. This kid was a Duck after all.

“You bet I will,” he promised. “Cake-eater.”

Banks was smiling as the paramedics carried him off he ice.

McGill was assessed a two-minute penalty for roughing. Reilly didn’t care. The Ducks had lost their star player. As long as Banks was out of the game, the Ducks didn’t stand a chance.

Reilly discreetly threw McGill the A-OK sign as the boy stepped into the penalty box. Reilly was startled to see Gordon standing in front of him.

“You got something to say?” Asked Reilly.

“To think I wasted all those years worrying about what you thought,” Gordon explained. He sadly shook his head. “You’re going down Reilly.”

“Let me go after ‘em Coach,” said Fulton as Gordon came back to the bench.

“No,” replied Gordon. He pulled the team into a huddle. “Look it’s time to play smart hockey. Ducks hockey. All right? We got the power play. Let’s hit ‘em where it hurts. He pointed to the scoreboard. “Up there.”

The Ducks cheered in agreement.

“Fulton you’re in,” he said.

“Coach,” said Averman, “They’ll be watching him.”

“Right,” agreed Gordon smiling. “Jesse make sure you give Fulton plenty of time. Let’s go!’

The Ducks cheered and skated onto the ice.

“Wait!” Gordon called out as if he’d forgotten some crucial bit of strategy. “Have fun out there!”

The teams lined up for the face-off. The ref dropped the puck. The Hawks controlled it and set up a play. Jesse alertly lunged between two Hawks players, checking them both at the same time.

This was the break the Ducks needed. Averman swooped in, stole the puck, and passed it cross-ice to Fulton.

Fulton wound up and let one fly.

WHOOSH!

A huge cheer went up from the stands as the puck rattled into the top of the net.

“More fun! More fun!” Shouted Gordon as Fulton and the others skated off the ice.

Coach Reilly scowled at his players.

“Ladies they don’t need our help out there,” he yelled angrily. “Now I want that Fulton Reed covered. You blow this game and none of you makes the team next year, got it?”

The Hawks suddenly were finding it difficult to get any momentum. They were up by only one.

McGill guided the puck against the ice. But his manoeuvres seemed tentative. It was as if he was losing confidence.

Jesse swooped down on him and stick-checked him. McGill went down as the puck squirted free.

A Hawks defender grabbed it and skated down the open ice. He wound up for a slap shot and scored. The second period ended. The Hawks were up by two goals.

“We’ve got to stay fired up,” Gordon told his team. “It ain’t over till it’s over. Tammy, Tommy, let’s show these Hawks something really different.”

Gordon pulled out his notebook and diagrammed a special play.

The third period began.

The Hawks grabbed the puck, but then Tammy began a figure skater’s twirling move in front of the Hawks goalie. She twirled slowly at first, then faster. The Hawks momentarily took their eyes off the puck.

Tommy swooped in on the puck and passed it to Tammy. Tammy stopped twirling and slammed the puck into the goal.

The crowd roared. Now the Hawks were up by only one goal, but time was running out.

“Jesse! Guy! Terry!” Gordon called out. “I want you all to remember what we’ve learned. Ducks stick together right? Let’s see it. Show me the Flying V!”

Jesse, Guy, and Terry leapt over the boards and skated to their positions on the ice. As soon as the puck was dropped, Jesse stole it.

Instead of making a play toward the Hawks goal, Jesse turned back toward his own.

The crowd was confused, as were the Hawks.

Jesse skated behind his own goal, where he joined up with Guy, Terry, Averman, and Karp. The five Ducks exploded from behind the net in a V formation.

The crowd’s surprise turned into cheers.

“Go, Jesse, go!” Shouted Mr. Hall from the stands.

Jesse was at the tip of t he V. The five Ducks pushed up the ice, forcing the Hawks players backward into their own zone. A Hawks defender tried to push Jesse back, but Jesse faked him out with a triple deke.

Closing in on the goal, Jesse let go with a nasty wrist shot that slammed into the back of the net.

The Ducks fans leapt into the air and cheered. “Quack!” They chanted. “Quack! Quack! Quack!”

“Yes!” Shouted Mr. Hall from the stands. “Yes! Yes!”

Coach Reilly lowered his head disgustedly.

The Hawks and Ducks were tied.

There was still twenty-four seconds left in regulation.

Charlie, Connie, and Peter came in as replacements.

Peter managed to control the puck off the face-off but was quickly checked be a Hawks defender. The Hawks player stole the puck and carried it past the blue line and into the Ducks zone. All that stood between him and the goal was Goldberg.

The Hawks player wristed a shot on goal, but Goldberg dropped to his knees and made a great save! He then pushed the puck to Peter. Peter raced to his left and sent the puck past center ice to Charlie.

Charlie zoomed in on the goal as Larson closed in from behind. Charlie crossed the blue line, raced in, and readied his shot. Just as the buzzer sounded, Larson hooked Charlie with his stick, and Charlie sprawled onto the ice. The puck rolled wide of the goal.

“Penalty shot for the Ducks!” Said the ref. He skated over to Gordon. “Anybody on the ice can take it Coach.”

“Let Guy take the shot.” Said Charlie.

“No,” said Guy. “I think Jesse should take it.”

“Jesse wasn’t on the ice,” Karp said to Guy. “It’s either you, Connie, or Peter.”

“What about Charlie?” Suggested Gordon.

“You gotta be kidding!” Exclaimed Connie.

“No way!” Said Karp.

Even Charlie knew that was ridiculous.


Chapter 21: Penalty Shot ‘93

“What about Charlie?” Gordon asked again.

It was as if nothing seemed that ridiculous anymore. After all, six weeks ago they were the world’s most incompetent hockey team. And today? They were playing for the state championship. What the heck? Their expressions seemed to say. Let Charlie take the shot!

Gordon pulled Charlie off to one side. “You been practicing your triple dekes?” He asked.

Charlie nodded.

“Then you’re all set,” said Gordon. “You may make it. You may not. But Charlie look around. We’re here. We’re in the championship. Who ever thought we’d do that? Remember every second of it, every sound. One…two…three…triple deke. Take your best shot.” He put his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “I believe in you Charlie. Win or lose.”

“All right Charlie!” Said Peter.

“You’re our man!” Shouted Jesse.

“Let’s go!” Yelled Connie

Charlie smiled. “Thanks coach.”

Charlie skated out to the red line. The ice was empty except for the ref and the Hawks goalie.

“Char-lie! Char-lie! Char-lie! Char-lie!” Chanted the Ducks.

Charlie skated in a circle around the puck before coming to a full stop. He stared down the ice at the goalie, who had dropped into his crouch.

The ref threw a hand signal to Charlie. The countdown had begun. Charlie took a deep breath, then exhaled slowly. It was now or never as the ref signalled him to start.

Charlie made another circle around the puck, built up some speed, then charged at it.

The puck wobbled unsteadily against his stick.

One…

Twenty feet from the goal, Charlie faked to his left. The goalie shifted a step.

Two…

Fake right, Charlie told himself, back to my forehand. Just like I practiced it. The Hawks goalie committed to his left.

Three…

Charlie shot the puck. The goalie dove throwing his body in front of the puck. Charlie sucked in his breath.

The crowd roared!

The game was over. Charlie couldn’t believe it. He had done it!

Ducks 5, Hawks 4.

The Ducks had won the state championship!


Several weeks later Gordon stood at the bus stop holding a bag filled with brand new hockey gear. Instead of sending resumes to other Minnesota law firms, Gordon had decided to accept an invitation from an old friend to try out with a minor league club.

The Ducks had all turned out to see him off.

“Don’t take any bad dives,” Peter told Gordon.

“Just remember,” added Jesse. “Keep your head up.”

“Yeah, cake-eater,” teased Banks.

“Remember,” said Fulton, “Concentration not strength.”

“And for crying out loud,” said Averman, “soft hands.”

Gordon smiled and shook his head. “Anything else?” He asked.

“Yeah,” Charlie said. “Have fun out there.”

Then Charlie reached up and gave Gordon a hug.

“I must be crazy,” Gordon told Casey as she hugged him next. “A tryout in the minors. I’ll be up against kids half my age.”

“Just have a good tryout,” said Casey. “One step at a time.”

“You’re right,” Gordon agreed.

Gordon kissed Casey. The Ducks whooped and let out a chorus of razzes.

The bus pulled up and swung open its doors. Gordon climbed up the steps and the doors whooshed closed.

Suddenly the doors swung open and Gordon popped out his head.

“No matter what,” he reminded them, “I’ll be back for next season. We’ve got a title to defend!”

The Ducks cheered and waved as the doors closed and the bus pulled away.

And they continued to cheer-even as the bus headed out of the city toward the open road.

The End

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    Welcome to The Mighty Queertet, a fansite for the Mighty Ducks, with a heavy slant on slash fic (though het and gen is more than welcome - I ship Charlie/Linda harder than I ship Charlie/Adam, but not quite as much as I ship Charlie/Fulton, just for context!)

    The site was established on 21st April 2002, so we're pretty old now, and not so much down with the kids, the archive doesn't update much, mostly this is now a nostalgia site, but if you want to add your fic or say something, please do so.

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