As they’re driving away from the hotel, Kuni calls Sid on speaker phone.
“Hey Kuni, did he arrive ok?”
“For sure, we found him and delivered him to the hotel as required. Poor kid, he thought we’d send an intern for him.”
Beside him, Cullen snorts. “As if we’d do that. I don’t know what was happening in Edmonton.”
“It’s his first trade,” Sid replies. “It may be just what he expects, not how things worked in Edmonton.”
There’s a short silence at his words as they contemplate it.
“He’s like a whipped puppy,” says Cully thoughtfully. “Expecting nothing but bad things, waiting for the blow to fall.”
Geno sighs, on the other end of the call. “Easy to worry after the media. Fucking Simmons.” He pauses. “Did you tell? How did he take?”
Kuni laughs. “Astonished but asked good questions and seemed pretty accepting. Looks like he’ll fit right. May even.. “ he trails off. “I don’t know. Let’s see what happens. But yeah, doesn’t seem like that’s a problem. It’s his lack of swagger which is the problem. Never seen a NHLer so withdrawn. And not in a good way, as Cully said.”
There’s another silence. It’s Sid’s turn to sigh. “I’d wondered when I called, but hoped it was just the usual being traded thing.”
“And having Sidney Crosby call you out of the blue,” interrupts Kuni.
“That’s not a thing,” protests Sid, but the other three are loud in their disagreement. “Anyway,” Sid persists, “Even if it is a thing, it’s not important right now. What’s important is getting him in, getting him settled and getting him made welcome and like part of the team. If we can’t do that, he can’t rebuild. I’ll let Flower and Tanger know what’s up. Be as supportive as we can be. Make sure the mongooses don’t bug him too much.”
“Hey, they won’t. They’ll be inquisitive but friendly and could be good at pulling him out of his shell,” defends Cully. “They’re good kids.”
“Sure. But maybe also Olli?” suggests Geno. “He’s been kind of lonely, especially after that thing.”
Kuni hmmms. “See what happens organically there I think, don’t try and force it. I just have a feeling… “
Geno laughs. “Old man Kuni’s feelings!”
“Fuck you Geno,” replies Kuni forcefully and with meaning. “But hey, also remember we can only do what we can do. It could be he isn’t good at hockey, that he’ll flounder here. We can be supportive, we can give him a positive experience in the team, but he just might not be any good. That’s not on us if he isn’t.”
Cully agrees. “We can make sure we’re not down on him, have the team be there for him, but he’s going to have to want it too, be willing to listen to the coaches, understand their message. Not all guys would be able to after what we’ve heard about Edmonton. Hear that Sid? If it doesn’t work out, then it may not be us!”
“For sure,” Sid agrees - at least on the surface, but Geno is obviously understanding he’s just agreeing to stop the lecture, from the noise he makes. “Yeah, ok I get it. Or at least I’ll try to. But he seemed like a good kid in a shitty place, so I hope we can help him make it work out.”
“Ok, let’s see how it goes then. See you at the rink tomorrow guys, I’m just about to drop Cully off!” Kuni is pulling up as he speaks.
“No problem Kuni, Cully, we can talk later if necessary. Thanks for collecting him for us. Stops us scaring him stupid with Geno’s driving. “
“Hey!” protests Geno as the call disconnects.
“See you tomorrow - thanks for coming Cully,” Kuni grins.
“No problem. But now I have bed time stories to do!”
“Bet mine involves more pink,” grumbles Kuni, as Cully gets out, waving as he does so. Kuni watches him getting engulfed by a wave of small boys as he reaches the door, before shaking his head and driving off.