I found Lanahan sitting in the stands reading a sports magazine. His raised eyebrows pushed down on his nose and the little glasses made him look like he was surprised at what he was reading. He folded the magazine when I approached and stuffed it into his pocket. He stood up and shook my hand.

“Jack Lanahan, Saul. Nice to meet you.”


“Your captain told you what I’m doing here?”


“What do you think about that?”

“Not much.”

He laughed and sat down and motioned for me to join him. I sat a few seats away. “That rush in the third period? You had the puck for forty-eight seconds. You went end to end with it, dipsy-doodled around awhile, then made that pass behind your back to your left defenseman scooting in from the blue line. How’d you know he was coming?”

Lanahan took of his glasses and folded the arms carefully and slipped them into the inside pocket of his coat. He crossed one leg over the other and folded his hands in his lap. When he caught me studying him he just grinned and threw an arm across the back of the seat beside him. Patient. Calm. Didn’t rattle.

“It’s where he was supposed to go,” I said.

“What if he hadn’t?”

I looked at him and shrugged. “He did,” I said.

Lanahan laughed again, and I could hear the echo in the empty arena. “Yes, he did. But why wait to pass? You could have made a shot.”

“It’s a team game,” I said.

“Didn’t look like that for the first forty-eight seconds.”

“Time stops when the puck is in the net.”

He kicked the back of the seat in front of him. “It does, doesn’t it? Saul, I think you could play at a higher level. I think with the right coaching and the right environment you could play pro. You’re incredibly fast. You have a puck sense I’ve never seen before and you can take a hit despite your size. What would you say to that?”

“To what part?”

“The pro part.”

“I never thought about it.”

“Well, think about it now, because I could get you a tryout with the Toronto Marlboros. They’re Major Junior A. The feeder club for the Maple Leafs.”

“We’ve tried higher levels. It sucks.”

“The Marlies aren’t Espanola, Saul.”

He looked at me evenly. He’d obviously done his research and I looked past him to the ice. He waited me out. I leaned forward in my seat. “White ice, white players,” I said. “You gonna tell me that isn’t the case everywhere? That they don’t think it’s their game wherever a guy goes?”

He took his time answering. “It’s not a perfect country,” he said. “But it is a perfect game.”

“Is it?”

“Yes. That’s why you play.”

“How do you know that?”

“I’ve been scouting for a long time, Saul. I could never play the game. I didn’t have the body for it. Bad eyes, bad genes, no stick, no shot. But I love it. God. So I head out on the road every winter and I go to hundreds of games in hundreds of dead-end little towns. The towns and the players are all different. But the game is always the same, its speed and power. Hockey’s grace and poetry make men beautiful. The thrill of it lifts people out of their seats.Dreams unfold right before your eyes, conjured by a stick and a puck on a hundred and eighty feet of ice. The players? The good ones? The great ones? They’re the ones who can harness that lightning. They’re the conjurers. They become one with the game and it lifts them up and out of their lives too. That’s what happens to you, isn’t it?”

I looked right into his eyes and he held the look. “Yes,” I said, finally. “It was like that right from the start.”

“And I can see that when you take the ice. I don’t think you see it like other players do, Saul. I think you see it from a different kind of plane. It takes a while for you to get to that. I’ve seen you sit back and watch, read the energy. You read the game and once you’ve got it, you jump in. Those blind passes? They aren’t so blind, are they?”

“No,” I said.

“You know how to make the ice work for you, Saul. That’s why you should be playing at a higher level. You’re wasted here.”

“I’ve never been anything other than a Moose.”

He turned in his seat to face me. “I know. But they’ve taken you as far as they can.”

“I can’t just leave.”

“Sure you can. And they would want you to.”

“How do you know that?

“Because they love the game too.”