Chapter 1: 2002
They’d brought Dicky to Salt Lake to watch his mom play hockey, but when George and Suzanne took him along to a family skate, it was clear that their little forward’s head had been turned. Now instead of muttered self-commentary and fast dekes he was all long, graceful one-legged glides and as many twirls as he could manage.
“Well,” George sighed, “I guess we’re going to have to put him in figure skating. I know there are coaches in Georgia, I saw their flyers at the rink.” This Olympics was her last tournament as a hockey player; now she was ready to take on a professional coaching job. It was out of the way, as hockey teams went, but the obscurity of the team was balanced, in her opinion, by getting her partner closer to her much-missed family.
Suzanne was quiet for a little bit as they circled the ice, keeping an eye on their little man, but then she said, “Don’t you think that people are going to notice if he’s… like this… and think that it’s because of us?”
“I think they’re going to think a lot of stupid things about us,” George said evenly.
“I just… we’re moving back to the South, Georgie. I’m so worried about whether we can keep him safe.”
George squeezed her partner’s hand. “It’s not forever, Suzie. Who knows? The whole league might fold and we’ll be back up north before you know it. And… at least he knows he’s got parents who are behind him no matter what.”
Chapter 2: Meta: Bitty's Childhood
Some of Bitty’s life would be really different with gay hockey moms… but some of it wouldn’t, at all.
When he was seven his family moved back to Georgia so George could take on a Head Coach position with the Southern Professional Hockey League. He’s still a jock’s son, but out of the mainstream of his culture: his family isn’t just visibly different because he has gay moms, it’s different because they’re hosting the only Stanley Cup watch party in town. They fly a number of different flags.
So while Bitty’s little nucleus of a family loves and supports him, it’s them against the world. It’s parking around the corner and texting his friends so they know when to sneak out of the house for the two-hour drive to Pride in Atlanta. It’s Suzanne dyeing his hair blue with a drugstore kit because he might as well own who he is. It’s Coach Hall telling him he’s in a contact league now, so he has to take the piercings out of his ears or risk getting them ripped out. It’s being so used to being an outsider that moving to Samwell, watching his mom move up to the NHL, is bizarre because since when is hockey known, talked about, any kind of big deal? (Let’s not mention the culture shock of his summer camps in Toronto.)
Meanwhile Jack Zimmermann is like… who are you, to decide you don’t love a sport you’re good at? To casually turn down a professional career? To not know what you want out of life, when the NHL is right in front of you? To be gay like it’s a challenge, like it’s the bite you’ve decided to take out of life?
Chapter 3: 2013
“Oh, Dicky,” Suzanne sighed happily. “This NHL job means we’ll be moving north with you! We’ll be barely an hour from Samwell. And you won’t believe the house we just made an offer on. I’m so happy. Oh, your mother wants a minute, I’ll hand her over. Love you.”
“Love you too, Mama,” Bitty said, and George came on.
“Hey, kiddo,” she said. “How’s training camp?”
“Hey… Assistant General Manager,” Bitty said, because Coach didn’t quite fit anymore. “It’s… not bad.” He shifted the phone to his other ear as he started whisking his eggs. “Zimmermann presumed to give me diet advice, but I think that’s just him tryin’ to be friendly.”
“Mm,” she said noncommittally. “That kid is an object example in why I’m glad Suzie and I brought you up in the South.”
“Given the way some of these boys act? I’m darn grateful for it myself, Coach.”
Chapter 4: 2013: Shitty
“I grew up around hockey players, you know?” Bitty says as he stirs the filling. Sweet steam makes his hair stick to his forehead. Shitty, in briefs, leans against the back of the chair he’s sitting in. “But not anyone who got rich or famous doing it. I mean… it’s a minor-league team in Georgia. It’s pretty much either… people who love hockey so much they don’t care where they do it, or who’re still chasing the dream that they’re gonna make it big some day. That pretty much killed the mystique for me.”
“Brah, that’s real,” Shitty says.