Further notes on the drsmatic story of prefessional hockey;s most noted brother act
STUDIOUS observation of the amazing careers of the Patrick Brothers, Lester and Frank, reveals a peculiar strain of contradiction running like a bright thread through the woven pattern of what, lacking it, might have been two quite commonplace lives. They are Easterners, yet they achieved their biggest fame in the West. They were trained as business executives, yet they accomplished their largest financial successes as showmen. They were reared in an atmosphere of strict old-time Methodism, where such comparatively innocent pastimes as cards and dancing were frowned upon as instruments of the Devil, yet their mighty reputations today are founded upon their accomplishments in the essentially worldly enterprise of professional sport. They remained strictly amateur until years after making money by playing hockey was accepted as an entirely righteous vocation, yet they won their greatest public acclaim as paid performers.
It is not possible to measure this spectacular pair by any standard yardstick. Whatever you think they should be bytraining and experience, they turn up the opposite. You cannot figure them because in their lives two plus two has never necessarily made four, but rather what they wished two plus two to make. There is no complaint, for it is precisely this genius for contrariness that makes their story so exciting.
Therefore it is not surprising to learn that, when the Patrick family left Montreal in the spring of 1907 to settle in Nelson, British Columbia, there was no slightest thought of future hockey greatness in the minds of any member of the clan. Father Patrick had extended his business connections to the Pacific Coast. Big things were stirring in the lumber trade, and he was on his way to becoming a captain of industry. Nelson was to be headquarters for his future
activities, and so, quite casually, he closed out his Montreal affairs, and moved the entire family to West Kootenay. He couldn’t have gone to a province farther away from his native Quebec, but such trifles as distance never bothered the pioneering Patricks.
Lester did not join the original exodus. He was captain of Wanderers, proud holders of the Stanley Cup. He was twenty-four years old and his own boss. He had a good job in Montreal, and heavy pressure was brought to bear, urging him to remain at least for another season. His father didn’t like the idea much, but he gave in after several family councils, and Lester stayed behind.
A Turning Point
T—TERE AGAIN arrives in the Patrick saga one of those unusual coincidental happenings which have continually influenced the lives of Lester and Frank Patrick. Playing beside Lester on Wanderers’ defense was Hod Stuart, one of the finest characters as well as one of the greatest players in the history of the game. Although Lester was captain of the team, Stuart was the older man. Between the two there had developed almost a father and son relationship.
During that summer of 1907, Hod Stuart, on vacation with friends at Brockville, Ontario, dived from a boathouse dock into shallow water, struck bottom, broke his neck and died instantly. It was the major hockey tragedy of that period. Even now Lester Patrick cannot tell the story without grief in his voice.
“I was walking uptown, crossing Dominion Square, when I met somebody. I’ve forgotten who he was, but he stopped me and said: ‘Did you hear the news?’ I said: ‘What news?’ and then he told me Hod Stuart was dead.
“I couldn’t believe it. Hod had been like an elder brother to me. We were more than friends. He had taught me a lot about hockey and a lot about life. He had helped me to keep straight. I could hardly have been more deeply affected had a member of my own family been so suddenly taken. It broke me all up.”
After that, Lester Patrick says, he lost all personal interest in the future doings of Wanderers. He refused to listen to arguments and joined the rest of the Patricks at Nelson, just as soon as he could break away from Montreal. Had Hod Stuart lived, the Patrick story might have been vastly different.
Nelson had a team of sorts in the British Columbia League. It was inevitable that Lester Patrick should be chosen for the captaincy. He became a local hero and the idol of the small boys, who followed him, pop-eyed, up and down the streets; which brings up another story.
One of Nelson’s leading citizens, a real old-timer, was named Wright. One fine winter day Citizen Wright stopped Lester abruptly, to speak harshly as follows:
“See here, young Patrick. I’m getting good and sick of this. I didn’t mind that kid of mine coming home and yelping that he wants a sweater like Lester Patrick’s. I got it for him. Next he wants a hockey stick like Lester Patrick’s. Well, I got him that, too. But I’ll be dad burned and eternally hornswoggled if I’m going to stand for him saying he’s got to part his hair like Lester Patrick.”
The long Patrick forelock was famous in those days. The last time I talked to Dr. Jack Wright, ex-tennis champion and Canadian Davis Cup player, he was still wearing his hair in a modernized version of the Patrick part, although Lester’s grey-white locks are now combed straight back from his forehead. That must have been one argument, anyway, that Jack Wright won from his dad.
In Nelson, neither of the Patrick brothers had any serious thought of hockey as a career. They were content to do their bit for the home town team for fun. Their business was the Patrick Lumber Company. Hockey was a game they played in winter, nothing more.
An Amateur By Compulsion
' I TIEN, in December, 1908, the Edmonton team, Western
champions, hurled a pre-season Stanley Cup challenge at Montreal Wanderers, and invited Lester to come along as a guest artist. Residence rules in that era were lax, the Stanley Cup trustees holding to the notion, as a matter of policy, that weak challengers might well be permitted to reinforce their squads with one or two strangers. The idea behind this was sound enough. The trustees wished to avoid farcical, one-sided contests; give the spectators a game for their money.
Lester accepted. He was keen to see his old pals again, and perhaps a bit tickled at the idea of turning out against the team he had skippered two seasons previously. Edmonton lost the series, but that journey led to one of the strangest happenings recorded in connection with hockey, anywhere, any time.
Lester Patrick was a real amateur. He had never taken money for playing hockey, and he had paid out plenty of his own in support of the game. His father sternly persisted in his conviction that the man who was paid for participating in sport was no sportsman.
As Lester tells it:
“I never even saw Edmonton on that trip. I joined the club en route, and I went along for the ride and the fun. But when we got to Montreal I found out that Tom Phillips was getting $300 a game from the club. Tom was worth it, all right, if only for his courage. In the first game he broke a bone in his leg soon after the face-off, never said a word about it, and they didn’t find it out until the period was over. Then they took him to a hospital, and he stayed there for six weeks.
“But that three hundred stuck in my craw, and I spoke a piece. The Edmonton fellows were fine. They gave me a generous allowance over and above honest expenses, and I had a grand time spending the extra jack.
“When I got back to Nelson, father tackled me. He asked me if I had been paid. I said I had taken expense money. He kept after me, wanting to know if I had accepted anything more than my actual out-of-pocket expenses, and I had to own up that I had. Pie made me sit down and figure out to the last cent how much extra money I had received, and when that was done he said :
“ ‘All right, son. Now you write them a cheque for that
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extra money, and send it back to Edmonton, first mail.’
“Well, none of us ever got far with father ’ in an argument of that sort. So I did as I was told. It hurt, but I did it.
“And I was twenty-six years old then,” mused Lester Patrick. “Oh, well. At that, I guess I can claim some sort of a record for that performance.”
Maybe it has happened, before or since, that a hockey player has turned back expense money to a club out of his own pocket. To me, that’s news!
The Great Hockey Hooraw
SO THE Patrick brothers went through the season of 1908-09, playing for Nelson, with their amateur standing still as unsullied as the pure white snow capping the peaks of the adjacent Rockies. But ’way back East, things were happening that were destined to scramble their entire careers.
This was the first year of the Great Hockey Hooraw. Silver discoveries around Cobalt, geld at Larder Lake and Gowganda were making overnight millionaires by the bushel. Wayside stops on the T. and N.O. that only tracklayers knew existed, bloomed suddenly with major-league hockey teams brilliant with stars. Mining men in Cobalt, Haileybury and New Liskeard hired famous players, even whole clubs, to provide them with excitement during the long winter evenings. Down in the little dairy town of Renfrew,. Ontario, M. J. O’Brien was spending money almost as fast as his Cobalt properties could dig it up for him, in a patriotic effort to put Renfrew on the hockey map in a big league way.
The staid, established old-line clubs were being raided into a state of frantic hysteria. Two leagues were operating, and no club manager knew for sure who was playing for what team from game to game. It was a wild, riotous time, a crazy time. It didn’t last long, it couldn’t last long—but, boy ! it was hot while it lasted.
Echoes of this hullabaloo reached Nelson. Strange tales of fabulous salaries paid hockey players in the East came to the brothers Patrick, who remained calm. They had their lumber business to run, they were all washed up as hockey players, and anyway probably none of this was true. That was their attitude until the day when Lester received three telegrams in one hour, each of them begging him to fix his own figure for playing hockey. One was from Quebec, one from Montreal, and one from—of all places —Renfrew. Those wires were dynamite. They blasted Lester and Frank Patrick clean out of the lumber business into professional hockey—for keeps.
“Here’s the way I figured it,” says Lester Patrick. “I’d rather play in Montreal than anywhere else, so I wired them I’d come fora thousand dollars. Quebec didn’t attract me, so I quoted them two thousand. And Renfrew—who’d ever heard of Renfrew? I was quite sure I didn’t want to play in Renfrew, and I asked them three thousand. That, thinks I to mvself, will call their bluff !
“And darned if the first acceptance I get isn’t from Renfrew. I still didn’t believe it, but I was doing some fast thinking. I wired back that I’d come if I could bring Frank along for two thousand. They told me to stop arguing and hop a train, both of us. Frank and I shook hands on it. Then we went in to see father.”
That must have been an epic struggle, but in the end it was Patrick, senior, who threw in the sponge. The lumber business wasn’t so good and winter was the slack time. Five thousand dollars and expenses for a few months of hockey broke down even his stubborn resistance at last, and the Patrick brothers trekked east once more.
They were back again in the spring of 1910, and they brought with them the germ of a Big Idea. Now they were changed
men. They brooded. They went for long walks together with their heads held close, and they talked in low murmurs behind shut doors until far into the night. Other members of the clan began to be worried, fearing that the elder sons had been hit on the head with hockey sticks once too often. But it wasn’t that. They were merely working out the details of the Big Idea. At last with a complete plan they placed the whole matter before Father Patrick. The thing was simple enough. All they wanted was to sell out the Patrick lumber interests and introduce major-league professional hockey to the Pacific Coast.
When that word leaked out, not only Nelson but the whole of British Columbia knew that the Patrick boys had gone nuts. Pro hockey when they couldn’t make the amateur game pay its way ! .There were no rinks. In the big towns'—Vancouver, Victoria, New Westminster—they didn’t even have ice, any ice of any sort, at any time. Where were the players coming from? It was too bad, but the whole idea was plainly the product of a couple of disordered minds, and who’s the best brain specialist you know?
It couldn’t be done, so they did it. Between them they beat down family opposition, talked to bankers, surveyed rink sites, toured the United States studying artificial ice machinery. Auditoriums, arenas, palaces, blossomed in the balmy winter airs of the Coast cities, fully equipped to manufacture synthetic ice by the Patrick system, which incidentally included a new method of feeding brine by gravity, developed by the brothers on their own. Just another smart trick nobody had ever thought of before. These were the first artificial ice hockey rinks in Canada. It had never been done, but it was done—and on the Pacific Coast, too. The three-club league with a sixteen-game schedule opened its first season on January 3, 1912, and lasted for fifteen seasons without a break.
They couldn’t get players, eh? They had Lester and Frank Patrick to begin with. For the rest they drew from the sceptical and snooty East only such nationally famous hockeyists as Bert Lindsay, Walter Smaill, Donald Smith, Tommy Dunderdale, Skinner Poulin, Bobby Rowe, Hughie Lehman, Ernie “Moose” Johnson, Jimmy Gardiner, Harry Hyland, Ran McDonald, Si Griffis, Newsy Lalonde, Sibby Nichol and a few more. That was all. It seems enough.
HTHE HISTORY of the Pacific Coast ILeague, its triumphs and disasters, its financial ups and downs, its shifts of membership to cities across the border'—Portland, Seattle, Spokane—its amalgamation with the Western League which brought the Patrick influence into the Middle West, is well known and I am not going to attempt to write it here. The organization made a lot of money some seasons, lost plenty in other winters. Pacific Coast champions won the Stanley Cup three times against the best the East could offer, and developed a host of young players, many of whom are actively playing the game today in the NULL, and in minor leagues.
There was a lot of good hockey played on the Pacific Coast between 1912" and 1926, the last year of the P.C.L. The organization did a great deal for the development of the game in a general way; but its most important contribution to the advancement of hockey was its spirit of enterprise, its eagerness to try out new ideas, its genius for innovation. For that the Patricks were responsible.
Lester was president of the League and manager of the Victoria club. Frank was vice-president and handled the Vancouver entry. Between them, they were the League. They worked at it; and how they worked at
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it! There wasn’t much time to dope out new ideas during the playing season, but they made it up in the long summer months.
“We used to spend hours talking hockey in the hot weather,” the Patricks tell you. “We were awful pests. It got so that when any of our friends saw us coming they’d remember they’d forgotten something and walk hastily in the other direction; but we didn’t care. As we saw it, we were in the hockey business, and we never let up on it, summer or winter.
“Take the alteration to the old rule that said a goaltender had to remain upright to make a save. We were shooting a round of golf one boiling hot day in midsummer.” This was Lester talking. “The idea came to me that this was a goofy sort of rule, and 1 stopped on the tenth tee and said to Frank, ‘Listen, that rule about the goaltender having to remain upright is the bunk. If a guy’s got the guts to get down there among all those skates and sticks and scramble for the puck, why not let him do it?’ Frank' said there’d be an awful lot of hot stuff in front of the nets, and I agreed with him. Well, isn’t hot stuff, in front of the nets or any place else, just what the fans want to see? We thought it was, and we changed the rule accordingly. It’s stayed that way ever since.”
That sort of thing is typical of Patrick policy. If they thought the fans wanted something they gave it to them. They numbered players, something that had not been done in any competitive sport before, anywhere. .Jockeys and track and field athletes liad carried numbers, but not players engaged in team sports. Baseball and football followed the Patrick number plan. Now' everybody’s doing it.
The Pacific Coast League began to find the going pretty sticky in 1924, although the 1924-25 season was one of Lester Patrick’s big years. His Victoria team won the championship, and then trimmed Montreal Maroons in the Stanley Cup series. Lester himself, at the age of fortyone, was forced to make a come-back as an active player, because of incapacitating injuries to*severai members of his squad. He actually worked in twenty-five professional contests during that hectic season. Pretty good going for a man who thought he had quit the game for good four years before.
Tighter organization throughout the professional game, and the extension of the National Hockey League into the United States, first to Boston and then to Madison Square Garden, convinced the Patrick brothers that the pendulum had swung back to the East. This time, they followed the swing.
Except their real estate properties, which they couldn’t move, they brought their principal assets with them in the form of player contracts by the bagful. Most of the players were sold at good prices to various N.H.L. clubs. Lester was appointed manager of the New' York Rangers in 1925, the Rangers’ first season. He has been with them ever since. Under his leadership Rangers have made the play-offs for nine consecutive seasons, and have won the Stanley Cup twice.
Frank, after a few more years on the Coast managing the Patrick interests remaining in British Columbia, turned the whole shebang over to brother Guy Patrick, and returned east, first as vice-president of the N.H.L., where his special chore wfas to direct referees—and a mean job that is— then, this year, as manager of the Boston Bruins.
THE OLD Patrick urge to do something different is still yeasting. Two seasons back Lester persuaded the Rangers directors to take the rubber band off the bank roll long enough to enable him to establish at Winnipeg a hockey school—the first of its kind in the world. Amateur players well recommended by Rangers scouts take a two w'eeks course, all expenses paid to and from their home towns. Old Doctor Patrick is the professor. Some students flunk out. Some
are sent back for a year’s extra amateur experience, told to return the following season. A few graduates are sent to Philadelphia Arrows, the Rangers minor league farm, with professional contracts.
“Does it work?” said Lester Patrick, laughing and patting his palms together like a man who knows something thrilling and is about to spring it. “Does it work? Say, listen, old-timer. I’ve got eight boys who w'ent through that school playing in Philly right now. They’ve only had one year’s experience in minor league hockey. I he team’s out in front of the CanadianAmerican League, and right now' I wouldn’t sell those eight kids for a hundred thousand dollars. Every one of them is going to be big-time tops in another couple of seasons. I mean tops!”
They call Lester Patrick the Silver Fox. Now you know why.
As a farewell salute to the Patricks and to those essentially (ine and sportsmanlike things the Patrick tradition stands for, I have been holding out one single incident in the spectacular career of the elder brother. By itself this particular high spot was just another thrill for the fans. I was so fortunate as to witness it myself, and I have always thought it splendidly significant as an example of that tenacious courage, that willingness .to face overwhelming odds, that never-say-die spirit which makes hockey the game it is and, I trust, always will be.
The scene was the Montreal Forum on the night of April 7, 1928. Rangers were playing Maroons for the Stanley Cup. Madison Square Garden had been leased ahead and Rangers were required to play the
full series on Forum ice. Maroons took the first game by a 2-0 score. Halfway through the second game, Lome Chabot, Rangers goalkeeper, was struck over the left eye by the puck. Blood streamed from a deep gash as they carried the unconscious goalie from the ice. He was out, not only for that game but for the series.
N.H.L. rules required a team to carry a spare goaltender. Rangers had ducked the rule, and Maroons were legally within their rights when they refused to permit either Alex Connell of Ottawa, or Hughie McCormick, who had had minor league experience, to substitute, although both men were among the spectators, eager to take over the responsibility which Lome Chabot had been compelled to lay aside.
There was a delay of fifteen minutes while club executives and referees wrangled hotly in dressing rooms and a capacity crowd of frenzied fans stamped their feet, whistled through their fingers and yelled for the game to go on.
At last Rangers came out. Tagging the players’ procession appeared a lanky, gangling, grey-haired figure, ungainly in the cumbersome goaltender’s outfit which obviously had been designed for somebody else.
That was Lester Patrick. Forty-five years old, out of training, carrying the whole load of a world’s championship series on his managerial shoulders, he was going to play goal, a position he had never before attempted, because there didn’t seem to be anybody else to do it.
Rangers won that game 2-1, in overtime. They won the series, too.
And that’s what the Patricks are made of.
"XTOW CLARABELLE had class. I’ll admit that. She was a blonde—one of those slim, wistful, soft-voiced little things, very fragile and dainty, who look as if they’d shudder at the idea of a good feed of beefsteak and onions or a good long walk in the rain. We met Clarabelle at some sort of a swank bazaar. The committee had asked us to lend them a few hockey players who would sign autographs and shake hands with the gaping public. You know the gag. I brought Dunkel and Herby Wilson and Harry Masters along, the others all being tied up in a poker game and either ahead or behind so that they couldn’t leave. After the affair was over we were asked to stay for tea, and Clarabelle turned those misty blue eyes of hers on Dunkel and poured him a cup of tea and sat down with her little hands clasped and said;
“Now tell me about yourself.”
Dunkel did. He must have gulped down a gallon of tea before I dragged him away. And Clarabelle said :
“How too, too interesting! I have never seen a hockey game. It must be thrilling.”
“We’re playin’ tonight, ma’am,” said Dunkel. “I could fix you up with a couple of tickets if you’d like to come and see me do my stuff.”
Clarabelle gave a soft little laugh.
“As for the tickets,” she said, “why, I wouldn’t think of taking them. But I would adore to see you do your stuff, as you so quaintly put it. I do really think I’ll go.”
“Maybe you’d step out with me and have a platter of chop suey or something after the game,” said Dunkel, and I tramped on his foot. Then I nearly passed out with amazement when this swell doll laughed again with a little shudder and said :
“Chop suey! Ugh! How funny of you. But if you really mean it, we might go to some quiet little place for supper—if you’re not too tired after the game.”
“Tired ! Me tired after a hockey match !” guffawed Dunkel. “Why, I’ll come out of that game not even sweatin’. It’s a date, ma’am.”
That night we were playing the Eagles and Clarabelle saw her first hockey game. And did Dunkel go to town ! It was mayhem and assault and battery and sudden death down behind our blue line all evening. Dunkel ran wild. They were sending out for extra supplies of liniment and arnica for the Eagle dressing room at the end of the second period. Every time Dunkel saw an Eagle uniform he smacked it. He collected himself a goal, an assist, four penalties, a bawlingout from the referee, a report to the league president and a black eye. Fie got the eye during the riot in the last period when Snap Stoll, a left-winger with more courage than sense, tried to carry the puck through alone and Dunkel smeared him all over fifty square feet of ice.
Clarabelle was sitting near the players’ box. I saw her covering her face with her hands while they were lugging Stoll out to the dressing room with his skates dragging on the ice, and while two cops were trying to bust up the free-for-all.
“Why, it’s so brutal! So primitive!” she gasped.
Yeah, it was primitive all right. I’ll bet Stoll thought one of his Stone Age ancestors had smacked him one with a flint-studded club. But did the crowd love it?
Dunkel strutted to the penalty box like a rooster, along with three other gladiators, after the smoke cleared away, and he sat there looking mighty pleased with himself. It had been all for Clarabelle. But Clarabelle didn’t look pleased. I took a peek at her occasionally and she watched the rest of the game with her eyes like specks of ice and her mouth set in a prim little line.
“No chop suey tonight,” I grinned.
What a dope I was !
I DIDN’T suspect a thing until next game, along about the middle of the first period, when the Blueshirts caught us with a man short and ganged up. It was one of those wild dog-fights inside the blue line and almost inside the crease at times, with everybody battling and scrambling to get a
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slap at the puck, and the goalie turning himself inside out, and players pushing and shoving and seizing the golden opportunity to apply the old butt-end once in a while.
Now if there was anything Dunkel loved it was a ganging attack. It usually ended with at least two of the opposition mopping up ice. Blink Barlow, the Blueshirt centre, broke away from his check and picked up a nice pass-out just as Dunkel loomed up in front of him. The situation was made to order for a bodycheck that would just about tie knots in Barlow’s spine.
And what happened?,
Dunkel made a little lunge at him, then drew back and tried to knock the puck clear with his stick. Barlow hooked it away. Dunkel poked at it. again. Barlow stepped right around him. Even then Dunkel could have given him the old hip and bounced Barlow into the top rows. He didn’t. Fie swung around and made another stab with the stick again. By that time, of course, the puck wasn’t there. It was in the back of the net, with Flerby Wilson sprawled flat on the ice.
It wasn’t until near the end of the period, however, that I began to detect the odor of herring and halibut. A nutty Blueshirt substitute by the name of Weaver picked up a loose puck at centre ice and broke away on a rush all by his lonesome, and headed straight for our defense with the insane idea of splitting it.
I almost laughed out loud as I saw this poor boob, Weaver, skating hell-bent for destruction. No one had ever split that defense since Dunkel joined the team, and blamed few had ever tried it. No one had ever tried it twice. Dunkel and his defense mate would just time it nicely, then close in on the optimist and sandwich him so thoroughly that he would think he had been hit by a couple of earthquakes, a bolt of lightning and a glacier all at once.
In came Weaver. He faked as if to go around, poked the puck ahead of him, and then piled right into that tempting opening between the two defense men. Joe Green, Dunkel’s defense mate, stepped in smartly with his shoulder down all ready to give Weaver the works. And what does Dunkel do?
He gives a little lunge, doesn’t follow through, draws back and tries to snare the puck with his stick. And away goes Weaver like a jittery jack rabbit, scoops up the puck, walks right in on top of Wilson and scores. Ow !
I was in a sort of trance for the rest of the game. All I know is that we took a pasting to the tune of 8 to 2, that Dunkel didn’t hand out one healthy bodycheck all evening, and that when he had one prime scoring chance in the third he missed it because he tried to stickhandle his way through instead of knocking his check for a row of garbage cans in his usual manner. And when there was a knock-’em-down-and-drag-’em-out free fight near the end of the game, Dunkel put his stick down on the ice and helped the referee separate the boys. That nearly finished me. Dunkel the Peacemaker !
On the bench I bawled him out.
“What’s the matter with you tonight? Sock those babies! Knock ’em stiff! Give us a little more action !” I begged.
Dunkel just looked at me reprovingly.
“I guess a fellow can play this game without bein’ a roughneck,” he said.
I couldn’t think of an answer. It didn’t help matters after the game when Alice came along, smiled at me very sweetly, and said: “I told you so.”
“Smart, ain’t you?” I said. “You know the reason, don’t you?”
“He fell down on the job, just as I said he would,” answered Alice. “Those big loudmouths always do.”
“A dame has taken him in hand,” I rapped back. “A dame that turns ill when she sees a player dumped into the boards and faints when she sees a guy get a butt-end in the ribs: She’s tryin’ to turn that big
apple-knocker into a gentleman, reforming him, get it? Reforming him ! And you’re to blame: ' I was burning up, sore because we had lost that game.
“I’m to blame?”
“Yes, you. He was goofy about you from the minute he saw you, but you had to go and treat him like a pickpocket. Why didn’t you kid him along a little, keep him happy? Then he wouldn’t have fallen like a ton of brick for the first smart doll who really went to work on him.”
“But I don’t like him!” Alice flared back. “I detest him, the big, egotistic, long-eared, loud-mouthed—”
“Nobody asked you to like him. But you could have kidded him along a little. You’ve missed the boat now, young lady, and if I can’t kick some sense into that big tramp we’re going to lose a title. Your fault, too.” Afterward, of course, I knew I’d been a little hasty and unfair to Alice. But I was sore and had to take it out on somebody. We were only a week away from the playoffs.
CLARABELLE had a collection of busted hearts and engagements as long as your arm, and I guess she got a big kick out of hooking our headline hero. For Dunkel was hooked, no doubt of that. He had never seen anyone quite like her before, and she had him eating out of her pretty little hand. She had caught him on the rebound, as they say.
Up to this time Dunkel used to wear a cap on the back of his head and a black-andwhite checked suit, and a soft shirt with a yellow necktie knotted somewhere under his ear like a hangman’s rope. Now he blossomed out in a fuzzy overcoat with the belt looped in front, a derby hat, a dark brown suit with the pants pressed, and stiff-collared shirts. And spats! If she had got him to carry a cane, I’d have brained him with it.
But that wasn’t all. Violet—née Oscar— and the kittens were neglected. Dunkel began eating at swank restaurants instead of at the beanery around the comer. Once, in the dressing room, a book fell out of his pocket. A book, mind you! If one of my players had let a bomb fall out of his pocket I couldn’t have been more shocked. And when I picked it up and saw that it was called “Correct Usage of English” I was so disgusted I couldn’t bawl him out.
A sports writer asked Dunkel how the play-offs would come out, expecting Dunkel to say: “Listen boy, it’s in the bag. We’re going to take the Eagles in straight games, and I’ll lay you five bucks they don’t get a goal when I’m on the ice. I never felt better. I’ll check those birds so hard they’ll be shootin’ from centre ice.”
And what does the big dope say instead: “Well, it’s hard to say. The Eagles won’t be easy to beat. I hope we win, but hockey is an uncertain game. Don’t quote me, though.”
She actually had him talking modest ! A lot of copy there was in that line of chatter. The sports writer never used a line of it, although he did say our chances didn’t seem so good because Dunkel hadn’t been himself lately and was probably feeling the strain of a hard season.
Our last two games were terrible. We were in, of course, leading the league and they couldn’t take that from us, but we lost those two games with Dunkel trying to play scientific, gentlemanly hockey and handing out nary a bodycheck.
I talked to him, I argued with him, I threatened him, I bawled him out until my tonsils were sore. No good.
“After all,” Dunkel would say, “just because I’m a little bigger and heavier than those other fellows it doesn’t mean that I have to play like a thug.”
“It’s that blonde!” I yelped. “If I ever meet that dame—”
Dunkel looked as if he was going to take a sock at me.
“That’s enough of that. You’re talking about a lady. If I wasn’t a gentleman I’d poke you one.”
Oh, well . . .
HP HE PLAY-OFFS! We were stacked up -*■ against the Eagles, best three out of five and our first title in sight. We dropped the first two games. Dunkel dropped them for us, rather, and then I dropped Dunkel. We got ourselves a defense man named O’Malley
on exchange from the big time, and I threw him in there to pair up with Green.
O’Malley wasn’t so hot. Hand him the puck in front of an open net and he’d probably hit the goal umpire’s cage, but at least he was tough, and at least he wouldn’t back down from anybody on skates, and at least he could take his bumps and hand out receipts for them. Herby Wilson, who had gone ad to pieces through knowing he had a tissue-paper defense in front of him since Dunkel learned to eat with a fork, steadied down and began playing goal again.
We took the next two. They were tough games, but we took ’em. And that sewed it all up, and I’d have been feeling pretty good if O’Malley hadn’t shown up with a sore throat and a temperature the night of the rubber game.
“The doc said I had to stay in bed,” croaked O’Malley, “but I fooled him. I sneaked out the window.”
Was that promising? Garrity turned pale and hustled out to copper his bets. I said:
“I don’t suppose it’s any use. If a forward comes down with the puck you’ll probably try to kiss him instead of knocking him on his ear. But get into uniform—just in case.”
I didn’t want to use him unless I had to. But O’Malley looked pretty tough.
Hovever, the Eagles were looking like the tail-erd of a hard winter, too. Most of them were patched up and bandaged and labelled with sticking plaster and tied together with string and haywire, just like our lads. And in the first period, when Masters gave our right wing a nice pass-out in front of the net and the light blinked, I began to think we might make it.
Dunkel wasn’t saying a word. He was hunched up in the box with a blanket over his shoulders, looking very solemn. And not fifteen feet away I could see Clarabelle, looking as cute as a magazine cover, giving him the melting eye once in a while.
Second period wasn’t five minutes old when we ran into a barrel of the old grief. Down came the Eagles’ second line, everyone with a forward hanging on to him, but somehow they got in past the blue streak and their centre broke clear. He streaked in for a shot, but Wilson knocked it down. The puck was cleared to O’Malley. He got it and tried to go around the net. But he was a sick man that night, O’Malley was, and not as quick as he should have been. He ran slap bang into an Eagle wing coming around the cage and down they went. O’Malley’s head banged on the upright, one leg twisted underneath him, and he must have heard forty thousand canaries twittering before he went to sleep.
And somehow, in the general confusion, an Eagle poked the loose puck around the upright and into the cage before the whistle blew.
“Get out there,” I said to Dunkel. “Get out there, and for the love of mud forget your manners and slough those babies all over the place.”
He climbed out. But he didn’t forget to wave his stick to Clarabelle as he went. And she blew him a kiss.
I had a faint hope that maybe Dunkel, after being benched for two games, might want to show Clarabelle that he could be a hero if he tried; that he might forget himself so far as to shake the tail-feathers out of a few Eagles or go on one of his old-time slam-bang rushes.
But no luck. Dunkel had given up being vulgar and crude. He blocked well enough, his passes were accurate, he was quick enough in intercepting and he made one nice rush, but the old stuff was gone. The Eagles
didn’t score, but it v’as more to Herby Wilson’s credit than to anything else. They were leading us in shots on goal and coming along fast. The game was still tied at the end of the period.
In the dressing room it was pretty quiet between periods. I think we all knew we were licked. I didn’t bother saying anything to Dunkel. What was the use? I’d said all I could say. He was all washed up and the color had come out of him.
Then I got an idea. It v'as a long chance, but it often pays to gamble on human nature. I went out and hunted for Alice. “There’s a guy wants to see you.” I said. Alice was looking pretty white and strained. She had her heart set on that championship as much as Garrity himself. “Who is it?”
Alice glared at me.
“I wouldn’t even speak to that—”
“You’ll speak to him and like it,” I said, and hustled her out of her seat and up the aisle. In the corridor near the dressing room I said: “Wait here!” Then 1 went in and got Dunkel.
“Outside, you!” I said. “Dame wants to speak to you.”
Dunkel blinked. “Clarabelle?” he said, but he didn’t look any too happy about it. “Who else? Beat it.”
I MADE it my business to be within earshot around the comer. Dunkel came clumping out on his skates, looking about eight feet high. Well, there wasn’t any time for them to find out how I had crossed them up, for the minute she laid eyes on him Alice boiled over:
“Darius Dunkel!” she snapped, blazing mad. “I’m ashamed of you. To think—just to think a player as good as you could be, so —so yellow ! You’ve thrown the team down, and you’ve thrown dad down, and you’ve thrown me down. Making a fool of yourself over a girl who doesn’t give a snap of her fingers for you while I—I—” Alice choked and it sounded suspiciously like a sob with the lid on. “You big ninny, will you go out there and hand out a few stiff bodychecks instead of standing there like a stuffed goose. You’re the best defense man in the world and you know it, if you’d only cut loose and—oh, I could slap you !”
And she did, too. If she hadn’t I think she’d have started to cry. She hauled off and handed Dunkel a beautiful crack on the jaw.
“But—but Alice!” blurted Dunkel. “I never—I always thought you didn’t like me. She said it was because I was such a roughneck.”
“She’s a fool!” said Alice with considerable warmth. “You’re not a roughneck. You’re a man. But for heaven’s sake get out there and be one.”
“Why, Alice,” he said. “I think—why, Alice!” he yelped as it began to dawn on him. “Do you like me?”
I don’t know what she said to that—her voice got kind of muffled—but she was grabbing the front of his sweater and hanging on to him. “Will you please go out there and knock the daylights out of those Eagles?” I heard her say. “I don’t care if your Clarabelle thinks it’s vulgar or not—” “Clarabelle?” muttered Dunkel, as if he was trying to remember where he had heard the name before. I guess he had been a bit goofy about Clarabelle all right before he got a little tired of the educational campaign, but Clarabelle didn’t count for anything right now, with Alice clutching his sweater. “Oh, to heck with Clarabelle ! Why, Alice, if I’d known you felt like this—”
“If you’d had a little gumption and talked back to me instead of letting me walk all over you . . . Oh, I don’t care how conceited you are—and I always said I’d never fall in love with a hockey player—but you go out there and knock those Eagles cockeyed— Darius, the players are going out now—” The boys were already thumping down the side corridor to the runway.
“Oh, boy!” shouted Dunkel, clumping around the comer with Alice hanging on to his arm. “Alice, just you watch this. Watch me smear those babies! Say, there won’t
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be one of ’em get a clean shot on goal. Just watcli me go to town, Alice !”
And away he galloped.
He was wrong about the Eagles not getting a clean shot on goal. They got three, but Ilerby Wilson handled ’em all right. It took the Eagles about five minutes to realize that they couldn’t waltz right in on top of our defense the way they’d been used to, what with Dunkel cutting loose with a flock of bodychecks that he’d kept bottled up for weeks; and by the time he’d softened them up and plowed through for a goal that split the backstop’s pads—why, there was nothing to it, folks. I don’t know what Clarabelle thought about it—they tell me she fainted the time Dunkel split the Eagle defense and knocked them both kicking at
once—but I know the crowd thought it was swell stuff. The score was 5 to 1 at the finish and the sports pages next morning were all Dunkel, just like old times.
Clarabelle Enwright said later it just went to prove you couldn’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear no matter how hard you tried, but at that she did make some improvements on Dunkel. He still makes pre-game statements to the effect that he will knock the opposition colder than eighty icewagons, but on the quiet he’ll tell you it’s just for the sake of the publicity. I’m here to tell you, though, that there isn’t a more colorful defense man in the league as long as you let him play hockey his own way.
At least that’s what his wife says. And Alice knows her hockey.