There are thirty-two seconds standing between Georgia Martin and Olympic gold, and she's never been more determined to win a faceoff in her life. It's been tied almost all game, call-and-answer scoring in the first and second. Georgia got the assist on the go-ahead goal just a minute ago, but she's back out with the second line because she's the best they've got in the faceoff circle. The crease at the other end is empty for the sixth player. If she doesn't get this puck, they're going to hammer the net with everything they've got, and this could easily head to OT.
"We've got this," Coach says during timeout. "Feel that last one. Ride that momentum to the end."
Georgia wins the draw. Gets it back to her D, takes off into the neutral zone. She's supposed to book it back to the bench for a fresh body, but she finds herself wide open, so she taps her stick one-two-three and there it is on her tape. It's her and one defender, no one else near enough to catch them. Georgia pulls up short high in the slot, lunges left and flicks it backhand.
Net. Noise. Hugs. Nineteen more seconds. And gold.
The kid's got potential, though he definitely has some development left to do. Georgia's trying to nail down whether he's looking at one or two years in the farm (in which case she's interested) or more (in which case she's not) when the guy two seats down turns to her and says, "That one right there with the puck, number 16, he's headed to the NHL for sure. He's projected to go first or second round. You know what that means?"
Georgia doesn't look at him. "Yes."
"It means some team is gonna pick him either first or second. That's a pretty big deal." He leans into her space, apparently not noticing or caring that the home team is on a power play. "Lots of NHL scouts at these games lately, checking him out."
"Yeah?" Georgia makes a note on her clipboard at a stoppage in play.
"Yep! He's on a scoring streak right now. If he keeps it up, that momentum will put him in a real good position in the draft. He's had a goal every game for five games in a row now."
"Three," she corrects him. "Five-game point streak."
"Oh, you know all about him, huh? Is that why you're here all by yourself?" He raises an eyebrow. "Little young for you, don't you think?"
Georgia ignores him. There's a penalty being called against the kid, canceling out the power play. She watches the linesman check for blood and nod to the ref.
"Whoa, are they sending him to the box?" The guy leans forward to watch the replay on the jumbotron. "Bullshit! Barely touched him! See, if you watch right here--there, they're saying that's cross-checking."
"It's not cross-checking," says Georgia.
"Fucking right it's not! BOOOOO!"
"It's high-sticking," she finishes. "It'll be four minutes."
He smirks at her. "Honey, cross-checking is when one guy--"
The arena PA booms out the call, and he shuts up.
"--holding onto it behind the net, just winding down the clock now... and there's the buzzer."
"Boston takes it 4-2, and that will put them at number two in the conference. Excellent late push by the Rangers there."
"You have to wonder, Joe, if they'd scored on that man advantage in the middle of the period, what the end of this game would have looked like. If New York keeps dropping in the standings as they have been, we might be looking at a playoff matchup between these two teams, and wouldn't that be fun?"
"I'm with you there."
Joe tracks her down after the broadcast is over and shakes her hand. "Very nicely done, thanks so much for filling in. I hope we'll see you again."
She squeezes his hand firmly and releases. "Thanks, Joe, I appreciate that. I might be joining the Falconers front office soon, but if that doesn't pan out, I could see myself sticking with this long-term."
"Really?" He shakes his head, dubious. "You know I think you've got what it takes, Georgia, and people like the novelty of it once in a while, but I'm not sure the hockey world is ready for a play-by-play lady on the air every game."
She shoots him a big smile. "Only one way to get 'em ready. Anyway, if it's not me, it'll be someone else. Women in broadcasting are getting a lot of traction these days. Someone's going to take advantage of that momentum eventually."
He shrugs. "Hope you're right. Good luck with the Falconers!"
Georgia's dress is scratching her like it's made out of burlap, and she's going to have "Uptown Girl" stuck in her head for a month. Weddings are not her style. But it's for her favorite cousin, so she sucks it up and has a good time.
She takes a break from dancing when some guy from Kevin's side of the aisle starts trying to grind up on her. Becca collapses on the chair next to her a minute later, flushed and grinning. "George! God, I'm so glad you could make it."
"Congratulations, Becs!" Georgia gives her a haphazard sideways hug with one arm.
"And to you too, I hear you're celebrating a promotion? Tell me about it!"
Georgia explains, for the fourth or fifth time today, what an assistant GM in the NHL does. Becca props her chin in her hands and her elbows on the table, listening with a crinkle in her forehead.
"Man," she says when George is done with her spiel. "I like hockey and all, but this behind-the-scenes stuff, drafting and trading and sending guys down to the minors... it seems so impersonal. Like the players are objects. Doesn't it bother you that you're uprooting people's lives every day?"
Georgia picks up a glass of champagne she's pretty sure is hers. "You can't let that get to you. They know what they're signing up for."
"I guess." Becca slaps her hand on the table. "Okay, I have like sixty more people to say hello to."
"Good luck with that," says Georgia wryly. "And good luck with the whole marriage thing. I'm really happy for you, it looks like you and Kevin have some good momentum going."
Becca laughs at her. "Everything's gotta be a sports metaphor, huh? I've missed you, cuz. Thanks for being here."
She careens off to the next beloved relative trying to get her attention. Georgia drains the champagne flute and surreptitiously extracts her phone from her bra to answer some work e-mails before she braves the dance floor again.
There are some days when Georgia's deepest, most desperate desire is to gather the entire Falconers hockey ops team into a conference room, put her three-year-old niece’s copy of “Mr. Puck’s Big Dream” up on the projector, and explain to them how the game of hockey is played.
“Scoring is not our problem,” she says to the gaggle of middle-aged white guys encircling the table.
Al snorts. “Oh no? Did we all hallucinate getting shut out twice last week?”
There are other days when her deepest, most desperate desire is to strangle Al. "Our problem is getting the puck onto our sticks and into the zone. Once we're there, we can score. We don't need to spend cap space on another scorer. What we need is a better backcheck. You all know how I feel about the importance of defense, but if we're dead set on spending up front this summer, we have got to spend on a solid two-way guy who can get pucks through the neutral zone. And there's one on the market, potentially for a good price."
They're listening. That's the hardest part, getting them to listen. Now she just has to carry it through.