Anderson was a tall kid, towering over his classmates at around 6’3”. His brown hair flowed like wheat in an overgrown field and his deep blue eyes appeared to carry soft ocean waves to shore. Though he felt like just another average kid he always believed that he was getting attention he didn’t deserve. The girls in school flocked around him, mustering words like “model” or “singer”, while the guys were much more direct asking why he didn’t just join the basketball team. The problem was he didn’t find himself to be much of a model, he couldn’t sing, and just because he was taller than everyone else, he didn’t want to play basketball. All Anderson really wanted to do was play hockey.
Hockey wasn’t a very popular sport in his small Midwestern Kansas town. They did not have a team at school or a local team he could join. He did his best to fill his hunger by watching games, reading the latest hockey news, and daydreaming of the day he would be slamming the puck into the goal. Anderson fiddled around on his computer, bored again on another Sunday afternoon. The autumn breeze blew through his open window, catching his hair as it moved by. He sighed as he watched yet another video of Wayne Gretzky scoring an incredible goal.
“Anderson? Are you up there?” he heard the familiar voice call from outside.
“Yeah, I’m here. What’s up?” he yelled back, not even budging from his computer.
“You up for some inline hockey?” another familiar voice hollered.
A smile immediately crept across Anderson’s face. It was Josh and Mike, his two best friends. They all related on their love of hockey even if they all admitted Anderson’s obsession extended a bit further.
“You bet! I am on my way down now, just let me grab my bag!” Anderson shouted back to them, grabbing his gear bag on the way to the door.
Inline hockey was the closest thing he could get to playing actual hockey. The rules were similar, though there were some variations. Instead of being on ice and using ice skates, they played on pavement and used inline skates.
When Anderson arrived outside he pulled out his skates and laced them up in a flash.
“Ready to go!” he announced as they started off toward the park.
“Let’s go somewhere new today,” Josh offered.
“What did you have in mind? There aren’t many places around here to go,” Anderson replied.
“How about the parking lot of that warehouse they’re building on 17th Avenue?” Mike suggested.
“Sounds good to me,” Josh quickly interjected before Anderson could have a say in the matter.
“Alright, I guess I have been voted out! Warehouse it is, let’s head that way,” Anderson responded.
They skated to the nearby warehouse that was being constructed. It was supposed to be housing a new factory coming into town but no one was quite sure what it was yet.
As they arrived they noticed that the parking lot was mostly empty sans a few cars speckled across the black top. They set up their game as quickly as they arrived. Though they did not have the 5 normal members required by the sport, they made due. They would rotate the goalie and the other 2 would play opposing sides.
The game was off to a great start with Anderson knocking every ball past Mike and Josh who had both taken turns being the goalie.
“Alright, Anderson, it’s your turn to be the goalie! We need to score some too,” Josh said with a laugh.
“It’s not my fault you suck as a goalie,” Anderson replied, poking at him with the end of the hockey stick.
“Excuse me!” Was all the boys heard calling out with a booming voice from behind them.
All three boys jumped around quickly in fear; after all, they had not asked to play there and were sure it was private property.
“We’re sorry, sir! We’ll get going,” Mike said in a cowering voice, beginning to pick up the equipment around them.
“Now hold on a minute here! “ The man said in a deep southern drawl. He was a heavyset gentleman, partially balding, probably in his 40s. His peppered hair and rough hands made it seem like he had been working a hard life for a long time.
“I saw you playing out here. You really wiped those boys out!” the man said with a soft chuckle, the first time they had seen him smile yet.
“Yes, sir, thank you, sir.” Anderson quickly spoke in reply.
“Relax! No need for all of the formalities, I just wanted to see if you would be interested in signing up for tryouts for the junior hockey league.”
“The hockey league?” Anderson echoed in disbelief.
“That’s what I said. This building here is going to be where we can practice, keep it real cold for the ice.” The man mentioned.
“Ice!?” Anderson repeated.
The man looked quizzically at Anderson and then toward Josh and Mike. “I thought you said he was a huge hockey fan?”
Anderson immediately whipped his head over to look at his two friends. All they could produce was a small smile and shrug.
Josh spoke up, “we found out they were building a hockey dome here and talked to the owner about you. He said he wanted to see you play.”
At this point Anderson was speechless. He genuinely thought he would be playing on pavement the rest of his life.
“I liked what I saw, son. My name is John Withers. I’m trying to get a hockey team together. Are you interested?” Mr. Withers asked Anderson directly.
“Hell yeah I am interested!” he yelled out before even thinking, placing his hand over his mouth in an apologetic manner.
All Mr. Withers could do was smile. He walked over and put his hand on Anderson’s shoulder and said, “Be here Monday at 5 o’clock sharp, after school, and don’t be late!”
“No, Mr. Withers I’ll be here early! Don’t worry!” he replied.
As Mr. Withers patted his back and began to walk away, Anderson couldn’t help but to think about his two great friends that had set this up for him. They really believed in me, he thought. A permanent smile began to creep and expand across his glowing face as he whispered under his breath, my dream, hockey; I get to live my dream.