SPORTS : BLUE DEVILS MAKE MOVE FROM VANCOUVER TO PURGATORY
Story By Jeremy Chetri
After years of struggle, the Vancouver Blue Devils of the Canadian Elite Women’s Hockey League (CEWHL) have moved to Purgatory. The deal was officially finalized just over eight months ago, when local millionaire Bunny Loblaw purchased the club when its previous ownership cut ties with the franchise. Loblaw has tabbed Xavier Dolls as the team’s GM. Dolls will also serve as Director of Hockey Operations for the team, which will play at the town’s oldest arena, The Wyatt Earp Memorial Coliseum.
Despite the team’s past struggles, new head coach, Purgatory hockey legend Randy Nedley has high hopes. “It’s an opportunity for a complete turnaround,” says Nedley, “a fresh start for the girls.” Coach Nedley, better known by his nickname “The Sheriff”, says he expects a lot from his team, but knows that success is earned in this league, not given. With the team finishing at the bottom of the league table for each of the last six seasons, it appears that the team can only go up from here.
The Devils’ most prominent player is Shae Pressman, who finished second in the league in scoring a season ago, with 42 goals and 31 assists, for 73 points. The right winger accounted for nearly eighty percent of the team’s point production a season ago. This year’s draft class looks promising according to Nedley, who notes the franchise’s focus on playmakers and scorers. Among these newcomers is this year’s number one overall pick, Jenna Boardman, the star left winger who played last year for the Minnesota Golden Gophers (NCAA).
Purgatory will get its first look at women’s professional hockey when the Blue Devils play their first game outside of Vancouver against the Victoria Tigers in three weeks. Tickets are available now and the first game will be broadcast on GRTV, Tuesday, October 8 at 7:00 pm.
“Whatcha readin’ there babygirl?” Wynonna asked, grabbing the newspaper from her sister’s hands.
“Hey!” Waverly grumbled at the loss of her reading material. “I was reading Jeremy’s article.”
Furrowing her brow and reading the paper, Wynonna scoffed.
“This new team has been such a pain in the ass. As if we needed more to do around this shithole.”
“Would you quit your whining? This is your job, and a professional team has got to be better than cleaning up after snot-nosed kids at public skate.” Waverly chastised playfully.
“Yeah, but we still have to do that on top of running the rink for the team.” Wynonna rolled her eyes sitting on the counter in front of the ticket window. “And, you forgot wrangling the demons after Wednesday night beer league.”
“Well, I for one, think that the pro team will be fun. And just what this town needs.” Waverly wasn’t fazed as Wynonna scoffed skeptically, and she continued, “New publicity, more revenue for the town, all the local businesses will benefit…”
“More drunk hockey fans ransacking the town, taking over the motel and overcrowding Shorty’s. No thank you.”
Waverly rolled her eyes at her sister and mouthed her a so grumpy as Wynonna left to find some way to shirk her rink responsibilities, no doubt.
Today was the first day in town for the new club, so the public skate that would normally be going now was cancelled, and the Blue Devils were scheduled to practice shortly. Waverly knew that Wynonna had been in charge of stocking the locker room with towels and making sure water bottles were filled for the team today. Waverly hadn’t been assigned to anything team related today, but was currently in charge of making sure all the rental skates had been cleaned, disinfected, and properly organized in their cubbies. After practice, she’d empty the bins around the rink and then be in charge of supervising the public skate later on tonight.
Their duties around the rink mostly rotated between her, Wynonna, Robin and Champ, though the latter was hardly ever assigned to do anything but drive the Zamboni. Waverly was truly fond of her boyfriend, but she didn’t disagree that he left a lot to desire in the responsibility department.
“Waverly Earp,” she heard as a voice interrupted her organizing. The gruff, but kind voice belonged to one Randy Nedley.
“Sheriff.” She smiled and tipped an imaginary cowboy hat, earning a hearty chuckle from the mustached man in front of her. “Excited for the new season?”
“Glad I have a real excuse to pull the skates out again. Chrissy isn’t too keen on skating. Not sure where I went wrong with that one.”
Waverly chuckled at Nedley’s comment, knowing the girl on skates was comparable to Bambi learning how to walk.
“Have you met any of the girls yet or is this gonna be like the first day at camp for them?”
“I’ve met a good fair few of them. We’ve had a couple meetings with the captains, Pressman, Saunders, Wilson plus a few others. I think the only ones I haven’t met are the rookies. I’m excited though. Just hope that they’re ready to work.”
“Are you trading your Sheriff title for Drill Sergeant?”
“No, not anything like that…as long as they don’t push me to it.”
The coach checked his watch and upon noticing the time excused himself up to his office to finalize his practice plans and get himself ready.
Returning to her own job, Waverly smiled to herself with excitement. Hockey season’s rapid approach meant that fall and winter were just as close and that meant snow and hockey games and Christmas. She couldn’t wait. And she hoped that the added publicity for the town would add more to the seasonal cheer.
She had put the last pair of skates in their place when she noticed Wynonna leaving the team locker room with a large, empty laundry basket.
“Dude, you will not believe the amount of money they pumped into upgrading the locker room. It looks like MTV Cribs in there.”
Waverly nodded, making a mental note to check it out later, seeing as most of the team was now filing through the doors.
“I gotta go drop this off in the laundry room, come on.” Wynonna said, as she dragged Waverly in that direction.
“You know,” Waverly grumbled at the sudden and involuntary removal from her post, “you’re a big girl Wynonna, I doubt you need a buddy to go to the laundry room.”
Wynonna rolled her eyes, but continued anyway.
“Yeah, I know that, but the new team doctor and trainers are here and I’m nosey. Team doc’s got this crazy mustache. I just wanna pop in and say hi."
“Why does that involve me? I have a job I’m supposed to be doing.”
Wynonna didn’t answer and kept dragging her sister along.
It had been like that their entire lives, really. Wynonna had always been the one to drag her baby sister into adventures, though Waverly had always managed to avoid trouble, unlike Wynonna who’d had more than her fair share of scrapes and run-ins with the law.
The two skidded to a halt in front of the training room door.
Inside there was a man (who Waverly had to agree, did have a crazy mustache like Wynonna said), as well as two other women. The man seemed to notice the girls first and walked over to greet them.
“How may I be of assistance?” He said with an old-timey twang in his voice. He tipped the brim of the cowboy hat he was wearing toward them.
“Just in the neighborhood, headed down to the laundry.” Wynonna answered. “Figured we should introduce ourselves. Wynonna Earp.”
“Of Wyatt Earp fame, no doubt?”
“The one and only. Great-great-grandpappy.”
“Pleasure to make your acquaintances Wynonna,” he answered, extending his hand, which Wynonna shook. “And you are?”
“Waverly. My sister.” Wynonna answered for her.
“Lovely to meet the lovely Earp sisters then. My name is John Henry Holliday.”
“Like Wyatt’s best friend?” Waverly asked, a bit amused at the coincidence.
“It would appear that way.” John Henry agreed. “Though most people call me Doc, on account of my occupation.”
Wynonna tried to hide an amused smirk, but this was Wynonna, and she hadn’t really ever been known to hold back snarkiness.
“Of all the places and all the jobs, John Henry Holliday becomes a doctor and works for a team that bears Wyatt Earp’s name. It’s like kismet. Perfect, really.”
“Yes ma’am.” Doc shared in Wynonna’s amusement. By now, the other two women had joined the conversation. “These lovely ladies are my colleagues, whom I will allow to introduce themselves.”
The trainers beside Doc introduced themselves as Kate (the taller and darker of the two) and Rosita (who reminded Waverly of the Mexican women in the old Westerns she’d watch with Uncle Curtis before he passed).
They spoke for a moment longer before a few of the players came in to get treatment before practice, the Earp sisters seeing themselves out politely.
“Okay, is it just me or could every single one of those girls kick the shit out of me?” Wynonna asked in awe of the athletes they saw enter the training room.
Waverly could only nod in agreement, sharing her sister’s awe for the strong-armed women. She’d always felt small, because well, she was, but seeing those girls only intensified that.
“Probably a prerequisite to be a professional athlete.” She shrugged.
“You know, I could’ve been a professional athlete if—”
“—if you hadn’t gone to juvie the third time?” Waverly joked, no malice in her tone at all.
Wynonna laughed with her sister and waved off the comment.
“Yeah, that time was a misunderstanding though.”
Waverly sent her a disapproving look before heading back upstairs to her post in the ticket office. She’d have a few hours to herself before practice got out and she’d have more responsibilities to fulfill. She loved her job, but she always looked forward to her free time. Today, she’d especially been looking forward to cracking open the ancient Greek history book Curtis had left to her that she hadn’t gotten to yet.
Once returned to the office, she grabbed her water bottle and headed over to the water fountain to fill the metal container before finally sitting down and pulling the book she’d been dying to read from out of the cabinet beneath the desk.
She loved this. There was something about being at the rink that was magical to her, but really, her happy place was anywhere she could learn something new. Engrossed in the words of the past, a new language, some obscure mythology…it didn’t matter, it kept her attention all the same.
Unfortunately, just as quickly as she had dived into the new book, she was interrupted, just as rudely as she had been with the newspaper earlier.
God, she could kill Wynonna for interrupting her aga—
“Babe. Come on, we’ve got some free time, we should uhh…you know.”
Of course it was Champ. All muscles and tattoos and boyish idiocy. All suggestive eyebrows and nefarious implications in the workplace. Damn it all to hell if he wasn’t cute though.
“I don’t know Champ.” Waverly sighed, not really in the mood. She had just gotten into a really interesting part of the chapter and wanted to continue into that.
“Come on.” Champ persisted, now burrowing his face into Waverly’s neck, pressing kisses at the base of her ear.
“No, baby. Not now.” She wiggled away, really hoping Champ would get the message. And thankfully, he did. She was grateful for that, although she didn’t miss the disgruntled murmuring of “You’re never in the mood anymore” as he walked away.
Waverly returned to her book, using the ambient sounds of Nedley’s whistles and pucks hitting the boards in the background to settle her back down after her mild annoyance with her boyfriend.
After she had bookmarked her page after chapter three, Waverly had put her book away and checked her watch. If on schedule, the Devils’ practice should be ending, and the sounds of the bench doors opening confirmed that.
Waverly now had to empty the bins by the doors of the seating area and bring the water bottles the team used down to the training room for cleaning.
Entering the main part of the arena, she took the lids off the bins and started to change the bags out. It wasn’t glorious, but it had to be done.
Indistinct chatter came and went, picking up especially when the players had started filing out of the locker rooms after changing, half heading toward Doc, Rosita and Kate, and the others heading out from the rink for the day.
Opening the bench doors, Waverly spotted the bottles that the team had used during practice, placed neatly in the caddy they had come in. In fact, the whole bench had been tidied up, towels and stick tape rolls picked up and brought to the locker room with them. At least these gals were respectful. Waverly shuddered at the thought of the state of these benches after beer league nights.
There were four caddies, each holding six bottles. If she were Champ (or Wynonna), she’d take two of the caddies at a time and make two trips to the training room—wasting time was a favorite hobby of theirs—but she was neither of them, and stubborn at that and decided to take all the bottles at once.
She had managed to get out from the benches with the caddies stacked awkwardly and balancing precariously on top of each other, making it as far as a few steps past the locker room door before she was served the consequences of her determination to make only one trip.
The top bottle caddy had started to teeter and in her attempts to rebalance the awkwardly shaped tower, the whole thing came crashing down on her and the tops of a few bottles came loose, soaking the whole front of her shirt. If Wynonna were here, she’d laugh her head off.
Waverly groaned and started to bend down to pick up the mess.
“I didn’t know the rink had wet t-shirt competitions.”
She froze at the voice, considering it hadn’t belonged to Wynonna, Robin or Champ. She was mildly mortified at the thought anyone had seen her mishap.
“Uh…yeah.” She tried to laugh it off, however awkwardly it was. Looking up she saw a flash of braided red hair and brown eyes, bag slung over her shoulder and two sticks in hand. The girl—woman—had to be about her age, maybe a year or so older if Waverly had to guess. “These bottles, I need to let them know they might be faulty.”
The girl had dropped her sticks and bag, coming to help Waverly clean up. Bottles returned to their caddies, Waverly sent her a grateful smile.
“Thank you. Guess that’s what I get for trying to take them all in one go.”
“Let me help then. Down to the training room, right?”
“Uh yeah,” Waverly nodded, “but if you’re heading out, I can do it, really. It’s my job.”
“No, by all means. I normally avoid the training room like the plague, but I can’t let you spill on yourself again.” The girl flashed a dimpled smile, and showed off perfectly white teeth.
It was a relatively short walk to return the bottles, but she was grateful for the help nonetheless. As they entered the training room, the girls getting ice baths and rolling out on the training room tables booed as their teammate ducked out without doing so, causing Waverly to quirk a brow at her in confusion.
“What was that about?” She asked the redhead as they walked back out to the main area.
“Like I said, I hate the training room, always have. So, unless I’m dying, I won’t go in there. The other girls basically live in there. Like they hang out in there and they’re like best friends with Rosita and Kate. Doc likes to act all grumpy with them, but he’s friendly too. At least that’s the dynamic I’ve gotten so far.”
“Yeah, I’ve only been with the team for a couple days. Haven’t loved the hazing, but I love the team.”
“You’re the new girl, huh? Where’d you play before?”
“Just drafted from college in Edmonton this year.”
“So, it’s the whole welcome to the team, rookie deal?” Waverly asked, not understanding much of the team dynamic, but gathering it couldn’t be too dissimilar from Champ’s experience on the hockey team when they were in high school.
“Yup.” The other girl nodded her confirmation.
The reason for their conversation had made a reappearance into Waverly’s consciousness when she shivered from the combination of the low temperature of the arena and the wetness on her shirt. She silently cursed herself for not bringing a spare long-sleeved shirt or her jacket that she usually wore to supervise public skate. It was going to be a long, cold night at work. She shivered again at the thought.
“Hey, you’re shivering.” The redheaded girl pointed out to her. I hadn’t even realized, Waverly thought to herself. The comment seemed like it was adding insult to injury until she saw the hockey player bend down to reach into her bag. “Here. Take this.”
She had pulled out a navy-blue hoodie with the Devils’ logo on it. If she had anything else, or wasn’t working on the ice, Waverly would’ve refused politely, but she didn’t really have a choice, now did she?
“Uh, thank you. For this, and for helping me pick up the mess.” Waverly said as she accepted the garment, suddenly hyper-aware of the blush forming on her cheeks. “I’ll uh…wash it and give it back to you tomorrow.”
“Alright.” The other girl nodded with her infectious smile that lit up her big brown eyes. “See you tomorrow then.”
She picked up her duffel and sticks and made her way to the door, waving goodbye to Waverly, who had put on the hoodie.
“Hey! I never got your name.” Coming to a realization, Waverly called out. Her sweatshirt donor turned around to face her. Then, for a reason she couldn’t name, she added, “How will I know who to look for to return this to?”
It was a stupid addition. Waverly doubted there was anyone else on the team with flaming red hair, or eyes that could suck anyone in…but she had said it anyway.
“Nicole.” The girl answered. “Nicole Haught.”
“Waverly, Earp.” Waverly answered.
Nicole gave her one last smile before backing into the door, pushing it open.
“I guess I’ll be seeing you around then, Waverly Earp.”
And like that, she made her way out.
“Of course.” Waverly said to herself, watching the girl leave, taking in the scent of the hoodie. (Vanilla-dipped donuts—her favorite).