We won ten out of the fifteen tournaments we played that second year. We scored goals by the bucketful. Fred Kelly called us “a war party on skates.” He usually put me out on each of our three lines. That meant I played almost forty minutes of every game, but I never lost focus. None of the other players on the team complained. How could they? They would find themselves with the puck suddenly appearing on their stick out of nowhere. They learned to head for open ice at every opportunity. We became a team of skilled passers. Instead of letting the puck lead us around by the nose, as so many other teams did, the Moose began to go where the puck wasn’t, trusting that a teammate would send it there, and they would pick it up with another golden chance to score.

Father Leboutilier showed up at a game in Pic River that winter. It was late November, and we’d been playing for a month already. I didn’t notice him in the crowd, but when we clumped up the ramp to the shack he called to me from the side. I was surprised to see him. He looked different in his civilian clothes. Not like a priest at all. He smiled as if he knew what I was thinking. After I had changed I met him by the boards, and we walked together to his old battered car. We talked about the game and I settled into the remembered feeling of our friendship.

“You make the other players better, Saul,” he said.

“They make me work harder too.”

“That’s what I hoped when I sent you to the Kellys. That the game would lift you higher.”

“They treat me good.”

“The Kellys?”

“And the Moose. The people around the circuit. It feels great.”

We wound our way along the highway and back toward the community hall. “I hope I was able to help you when you were with us at the school,” he said.

“You did,” I said.

“I’m proud of you, Saul.” We were parked in the hall’s lot by then and he grabbed me and pulled me across the seat to hold me close. I could hear his breathing. When he let me go I could feel his eyes on me. “I don’t know when I will see you again.”

“I know,” I said.

“You’re free now, Saul. Free to let the game take you where it will.”

I got out without another word and stood in the snow and watched his old car disappear around the bend. His leaving was an ache that stayed with me for days. I would never see him again.