The theatrical performances filled my young head with visions of glory via pee-wee hockey. I imagined myself, all of 13-years old, being picked up by a random coach whose "semi-pro" career ended tragically when he hurt his knee, who, frighteningly, claims his greatest achievement was coaching a pee-wee hockey team to a state championship- once. I then, of course, would become best friends with Julie "The Cat" Gaffney, flirt with the "Bash Brothers", barely skate in the game and win the Junior Goodwill Games, go on to fame and glory, marry Wayne Gretzky, and live happily ever after.
What did happen, you ask? Well, I started playing, ruined my knees, my back, and any semblance of metabolism I may have had before I began skating more than 100 times a year for 13 years. I fell in love with hockey, a love that has found no equal (husband, dog, and hunting included) so I continue to subject my body to the rigors of skating, still partially hoping to make it to the Junior Goodwill Games.
In my adult hood, I've found, in terms of levels of counterfactualness, nothing comes close to the Mighty Ducks, which, in turn, applies perfectly to my sad deer season- an apt post to craft today, for it is the last day of season here in North Dakota.
If you haven't watched Mighty Ducks: D2, this post will make no sense to you (as does the information above, surely). Hence, you should, with the swiftness of a figure skater on a hockey team (another D2-inspired jab, you really should watch it sometime), procure the DVD or borrow it from the kid down the street who continually plays street hockey by himself, and settle down for an evening in with one of the most inaccurate representations of pee-wee hockey on the planet.
While your cinematic adventure unfolds, you may notice one, or many, of the following points that barely coincide with the goings on of a regular ice hockey team-you may want to print this page for reference:
1) Hockey teams, especially ones that represent the nation, have tryouts. Just because your team won a state championship last year doesn't necessarily mean you'll qualify to play in a wold-wide tournament the next.
2) As a rule, one must be able to stop in order to make it on any team. (Yes, I'm talking to you, Luiz Mendoza.)
3) As a rule, one is unable to change the national colors of the national team for a national tournament. (Come on, Charlie, we realize you cannot play hockey if not under the Duck's moniker, but changing the national colors? You do realize you're playing for America, right?)
4) Coaches, especially pee-wee ones, are generally not picked from obscurity, after playing semi-pro for half a season, to coach a team, partially of his own choosing, on the national stage. It didn't happen to any of my coaches, but then again, we didn't win a state championship in Minnesota. (And what's with the pile of skates needing sharpening in Hanz's shop? Do you supply sharp skates for the whole of the state?)
5) Rosters, or lists of players for big tournaments on the national stage, have to be written in stone before teams are allowed to play. To my knowledge, once cannot simply walk on to a team after playing "street puck" for 45-minutes with team USA. (Oh, and the nuckle puck? Not that fast, believe me, I've tried.)
6) The triple deke just isn't that cool, nor would it ever really work because the goalie would notice where you were shooting when you wound up, 15 feet from the net.
7) The FLYING V is offsides.
8) The FLYING V would never actually work in hockey because everyone is in the wrong position. (Yes, I'm applauding you, random Icelandic team, for cracking the mystery of how to get around 5 people in a clump, slowly passing the puck to one another.)
9) Ducks, on the whole, do not sound like kazoos. (Enough with the horrible duck call already, Bombay.)
10) Ducks, on the whole, do fly, occasionally, in a V. However, so do tundra swans, who make a cameo at the end of the movie, representing a team that DOES NOT call themselves "The Mighty Tundra Swans".
The list goes on but we have to get to the moral of the story, and since I'm sure you have better things to do than read "A Guide to Hockey Inaccuracy: 100 Ways D2 Stomped On The Dreams of A Generation of Wide-Eyed Pee-Wee Hockey Players", I'll get on with it.
Four tags we had between us for this year's deer season. We have gone the last four seasons with venison in the freezer, much to my joy and the joy of my full belly. The seasons in North Carolina are unnecessarily long, which made for a luxuriously lengthy time in order to obtain wild game. The deer seasons in North Dakota are equally as long (if you shoot archery, that is) so I figured not only would I make it to the Goodwill Games, but I would also have a ton of time to fill my tags.
However, just as we've learned, in hockey as well as in hunting, your successes in years prior have no baring on present or future pursuits, especially if you hunt 1700 miles from last season or switch to a new team.
If you read this blog or my blog with Deer and Deer Hunting, you know I've had my chances. The does who simply meandered by my stand, taking no notice of the shivering girl with the Hoyt Bow, the bucks who came entirely too close for comfort, who were quick in their retreat. I've seen more deer this season than I ever have so one would assume our tags would be filled.
And one would be correct, if I hadn't reverted back to the huntress who lived in awe, who knew not how to wield stick and string, the hockey player who knew not how to top-shelf that wrist shot.
I could blame our fruitless deer season on wearing the wrong colors, failing to execute the right plays, not having the right players on my team, or forgetting how to stop, but I can't because I know it is because I am so overwhelmed, and thus, unprepared, as I predicted, of actually being in North Dakota.
North Dakota. Where a flock of snow geese flew 10 feet over my blind and then began to feast upon it moments after they landed. Where the curvature of the earth rose from the blackened sky, welcoming the sun and our hunting party every morning. Where I arose at 3 a.m. more mornings than I care to count to lay in a blind, hike a trail, and enjoy a stand sit. Where deer surrounded me like a peaceful mob. Where a doe kept a watchful eye on her offspring and her companions trained an eye on me. Where I shot my first limit. Where the badlands filled my soul with wanderlust. Where I saw many firsts; pintail, mallard flying full-bore into a Mojo, a buck at 3 yards who passed by my back at less than 1. Where I realized I hate ground blinds, love the sound of flapping wings, cupping the air underneath their fascinating appendages, and cannot stand the silence that accompanies a clandestine buck arriving too soon, too late to be prepared.
Just as The Mighty Tundra Swans stared in awe (the only real reaction in the movie, I hope) at Gretzky, so do I towards my new home, the place I barely believe existed. We've had hunts that only happen in the imaginations of hunters locked in cubicles on opening morning, the kind that make you happy to be alive. We've had hunts that are so reminiscent of North Carolina, we hang our heads in shame for not thinking ahead, not getting to the spot early enough. Through all this, I refuse to mourn the burning of these tags four. We gave this season a go, the best go we could've, and while our freezer stands empty (another misstep as we ate all the duck and goose as quickly as possible, the devilish, delicious mounds), I shall rejoice for it was a season that I'll never be able to forget.
The sun has begun to rise, the first time it's been seen in days. A small pile of snow and ice has formed on the windowsill, freezing both sides of the pane. The street is silent, for it is Sunday- businesses don't open 'till noon, all of their patrons besides are warm in bed, preparing for church, cuddling with their loved ones, ignoring the eager thumping of a canine tail, begging to be let out- into the cold.
This place is magic- it beckons hunters the world over to enjoy its fruits, taste its beauty. Fortunately for us, it does not fabricate it's tales for it is not a fictitious pee-wee hockey team.