“Welcome fresh meat!” Sharp booms, spreading his arms wide. He is standing at the side of the video room flanked by two tall players at the side. “I’m your alternate captain Patrick Sharp,” he points at himself, “but you can call me Sharpy. That man at the corner,” he points at the right corner of the room to a senior who is crossing his arms, “is your captain Martin Lapointe and these two,” he wraps his arms around the tall players’ shoulders, “these are your other alternates Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith aka Seabs and Duncs,” Seabrook and Keith both shrug his arms off them, causing Sharp to stumble a little. The six freshmen in the room snicker.
Unfortunately, the stumble did not deter his enthusiasm. He plows on, “since we will be teammates for at least a year, we want to do an activity to get you to know each other. It’s a little bonding exercise.”
“The activity is that you will go around the places where the hockey team needs to go throughout the season for a scavenger hunt. You will be paired off and find the clues.”
“What’s the prize?” hollers a freshman.
“Hmm,” Sharp scratches his chin thoughtfully, “how about I don’t prank you for a week?” He says with a wicked gleam in his eyes. “Trust me, I’m a great prankster. I had these elaborate pranks to welcome you to the team but I won’t do it to the winning pair. Don’t believe me?” He looks at the faces of the unconvinced freshmen. “You can ask Duncs and Seabs, they’ll tell you that I’m a great prankster, right boys?” He turns around for confirmation.
“Guys,” Seabs resignedly sighs, “He’s right. You need to believe him. We didn’t either, at first. Learned it the hard way”
“I’ll pair you up now,” Sharp plays with his hands, giving the impression of a villain, “you and you,” he points at two freshmen, “you two,” he waggles his fingers, “and you go with him.”
“Now that you’re paired up. I’ll give you the first clue: it’s somewhere we go where we die and there’s a lot of metal.”
The freshmen raise their eyebrow in bewilderment. Their faces are scrunched up in confusion.
“Chop, chop!” he claps his hands and the freshmen disperse in the room.
“Where is it somewhere we die and has a lot of metal?” Jonny paces around, considering all the places a hockey team needs to go.
“Uhhh…OH MY GOD!” Patrick eyes widen, an imaginary light bulb goes off in his brain. He jumps excitedly then composes himself to not draw any suspicion. “I know where it is,” he whispers.
“The weight room. It’s somewhere we die and has a lot of metal, the weights!” he hisses.
Jonny’s eyes widen. “Oh shit! Yeah, you’re right. Let’s Go!”.
They scramble up the stairs to the weight room and notice a blue piece of paper taped to the bench press. They bolt to direction of the taped piece of paper. Patrick pulls it and reads the paper, “‘All the thing needed to keep an athlete in shape throughout the season.’ Where is that?” “Uh…” Jonny scratches his head, mind going a mile a minute to process the sentence and analyze the clue.
“So…um…you’re Canadian?” Patrick asks after moments of pondering, trying to lighten the mood with conversation.
“Winnipeg,” Jonny replies, “How’d you know?”
“Educated guess,” Pat shrugs. He then clarifies, “accent gave it away.”
“You’re not from here?”
“Ohhhh. Pretty close to Canada.” Jonny smugly points out.
“Yeah, yeah,” he rolls his eyes, “USA’s still better.”
“So, what’re majoring in?”
“Math with stats as minor.” At the mention of math, Jonny raises his eyebrows, impressed. “What about you?”
“I’m…um…,” Jonny looks down and shuffles his shoes, “actually undecided. I took some management courses but…y’know…I’ll…choose whatever I like eventually…” Jonny trails off. An uncomfortable silence hangs in the air which is broken by sudden thuds of people running up the stairs.
“Oh shit,” Patrick frantically notices, “people are catching up.”
In a wonderful moment, they both share a triumphant moment and say in unison, “NUTRITION ROOM!”
They race down staircase with the two groups meeting them halfway. “Hey, you guys were already there?” One of the boys asks.
“No time,” Jonny pants, “gotta go. Good luck. See you soon.” Patrick is hot at his heels.
They thunder to the nutrition room and one of the staff members greets them by holding another piece of paper. “Good luck,” he wishes as he hands Jonny the note.
“Thank you,” Jonny replies. He reads the note, “‘your new home’ The locker room?” He looks at Patrick questioningly.
“Maybe our dorms. No, that makes no sense,” he absently chews his bottom lip. “Oh shit! It’s the rink! The rink!” He grabs Jonny’s arm, hoping he understands his direction of reason.
“Oh fuck! Yeah! You’re right! Let’s go! Let’s go!”
They sprint to the rink, hears voices of two of their fellow freshmen from the hallway, urging them to run faster to their location. As they near towards the rink, no ice yet since it is preseason, they see the familiar faces of Sharp with his wolf-like grin, Seabrook and Keith and their captain. “Congrats, boys you are the first team to arrive at the destination which means you have successfully completed the scavenger hunt. So as promised, I will not prank you for a week,” he laments.
Patrick and Jonny share a quick grin. Jonny claps his shoulder, “Good job. You were great.” “You were pretty good.” Patrick says. His demeanors shifts and he shuffles awkwardly, “I don’t know if you remember. Well to be honest,” he aims for casual indifference but misses it by miles, “we played long time ago but um anyways we played together in Junior Flyers when we were 13.” He utters the last sentence as a question, uncertain of Toews’ reaction.
Jonny gives him a quick smirk. “I think I would be committing blasphemy if I didn’t remember the kid who showed up to practice in a pair flip-flops and had a mess of blond curls on his head. But then again, it’s easy to remember since you haven’t changed a bit.”
“Fuck you! I’m taller now.”
“What are you? 5’7, 5’8?”
“5’9, dipshit. I’m gonna be taller,” raises his chin up in defiance.
“Well good luck, bud. I’m already 6’2,” he casually shrugs. “Hey, did you go to your room yet?”
“No, I was gonna but then I was kinda rushing for this so my parents are probably at my room right now. Why?”
“Same with me. No, I was asking to see if we were in the same building or a different one.”
“Mine is Curran Hall. Room 309…” he trails off as he notices Jonny crack a smile. “Why are you smiling?”
“Because I’m also in Curran Hall and my room is 309 too so that means both of our parents are probably cooking up a storm right now.”
Patrick laughs, relieved. Hey, your roommate is not a total stranger! You’ve interacted with him. Soon Jonny joins in the laughter. It’s not gonna be awkward! You know the guy!
They share a quick grin again, affirming to themselves a start to a wonderful friendship.