TITLE: The Coach
By Mark Bell
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The press called him “inscrutible.” They tried to compare him to a great football coach. He didn’t consider it a fair comparison. His players called him “human.” They said he never failed to admit his mistakes. Frankly, that embarrassed him.
And, here he stood. Watching. Looking for the errors and opportunities of the game—to minimize those of his team and exploit those of the opposition.
“Forwards change,” David, one of his assistants, barked.
The two near forwards raced to the bench. The third managed to bottle the puck in the corner.
“Defense change,” Ross, the other assistant, snapped with authority.
He winced. But it was already too late. Suddenly, everything seemed to happen in slow motion.
The two defensemen raced to the bench. The puck broke loose in the corner. A quick out pass hit the tape of a breaking forward in the Neutral Zone. The nearest opposing forward was left standing still. One defeseman, fresh off the bench, raced after the attacker.
The forward crossed the blueline in full stride with the puck. The linesman slammed to a stop with a cloud of snow, and waved the off-sides. The referee flew past him, keeping pace with the play.
The attacker slowed slightly, preparing his shot. The defenseman angled in. In one instant, he lifted the stick. In the next instant, he leveled the forward with a solid check. They both went down in a heap and slid into the corner. The remaining eight players burst into the zone and began vying for the puck, lying in the opposite corner from the down players.
An attacking player reached the puck first. The referee raised his arm, to signal a penalty. The attacker drew the puck behind the net and tried to wrap the puck around the post. The referee blew the whistle as the goalie smothered the puck. He gave the signal for holding, and pointed to the defenseman in the corner.
Suddenly, everything returned to normal speed. He reached into his pocket, pulled out his pad and made a note. His face never changed. Studying the note pad, he walked to the end of the bench. He lifted his gaze to look at his asistant.
“Sorry, Coach,” Ross said abjectly.
“Next time, wait till the forwards finish the change, OK,” he said quietly. He patted Ross on the shoulder.
“Make sure,” he went on loud enough to be heard along the bench, “that you tell Benning he did good.”
He turned, and walked back to the middle of the bench. The puck dropped. He watched.
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