We may bring the funny, but it is really the MYFO readers who make the site. We are lucky enough to have some extremely savvy and well-connected readers, who bring us important tips like this one. I was on the receiving end of yet another reader tip, and this one was the Mother Lode: I was given a lead to the next great hockey prodigy, this time an American.
It was an epic journey to meet and observe this prodigy. The full story of this top-secret mission is after the jump, but let me just say upfront that my source was not nearly glowing enough in his praise. The kid you are about to (virtually) meet will not only make Sid the Kid seem like an overhyped mediocrity, but will also change the way the game of hockey is played.
My source warned me that there would be some very strict ground rules. The prodigy’s parents are extremely protective–they are smart enough to realize what they have, and don’t want 24-hour coverage from TSN and VERSUS (and possibly even a 15-second mention on SportsCenter), with satellite trucks cluttering up their lawn. Only the fact that my source was a family friend was getting me this short meeting. I was not permitted to
take pictures, or even identify the prodigy other than by the initials A.C.
Wed., Sept. 26
8:30 a.m. I drop the LeNoceur spawn at school and grandma’s, respectively, and begin my lengthy journey. Mrs. LeNoceur has forged ahead as an advance scout, and to lay in an adequate supply of donuts for my arrival.
1:00 p.m. My plane lands in Detroit. I hit the rental car place to prepare for the journey North. I spring the extra $4/day for a Mitsubishi Eclipse (don’t worry, guys–that came out of my pocket. The budget is safe.). All of Michigan’s state police appear to be on vacation this afternoon.
6:00 p.m. I come to the literal and figurative end of the road. My source meets me at the docks, to get on the boat that will take us to our ultimate destination: the Les Chenaux Islands, a long swim through Lake Huron away from Canuckistan. Mrs. LeNoceur (LaNoceuse, as I like to whisper in her ear) is waiting with a donut. It’s only a glazed, but it serves to clear my head.
6:45 p.m. As we trudge up from the dock in the rapidly fading light, I hear the sound. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. It sounds like someone is chopping down a tree with an extremely large sledgehammer. The sound is getting louder and louder. Finally, we round a corner and I get my first glimpse of the prodigy. The sound is A.C. firing puck after puck after puck at blinding velocities into the side of a small barn that creaks and rocks with each impact.
Three things immediately strike me. Not any of the deadly missiles pelting that poor barn, thankfully. The first: the stick. Initially, it appears to be an ordinary wood hockey stick, until I notice that it is devoid of any logos whatsoever. As I get closer, I am stunned. The stick is home-made. Later, I am allowed to photograph this specimen:
The second thing I notice about A.C. is that, well, she’s a girl. A twelve-year-old girl. With blonde pigtails. Rocketing 100-mph slap shots off the dirt with a home-made hockey stick. “I need another donut,” I mumble, and the marvelous Mrs. LeNoceur immediately slaps a custard-filled into my extended palm. God, I love that woman.
Finally, I am dimly aware that A.C. isn’t wearing any shoes.
Thursday, Sept. 27
5:00 a.m. Rise and shine in the Great Lakes darkness. I scarf a couple of powdereds as I hop into the boat with A.C. and her mom as we cross the water for some before-school ice time. Needless to say, there aren’t any rinks on the island; we have to cross to the mainland to use the facilities of the St. Ignace Youth Hockey Association.
I sit in the bleachers, wishing I had stuck a spare donut in my pocket (I left Mrs. LeNoceur slumbering peacefully back on the island) as A.C. hits the locker room. After a few minutes, she zips out onto the ice with that prehistoric stick. This time, though, my eyes are immediately drawn to her feet: she isn’t wearing any skates.
Or at least, that’s what it looks like. Her bare feet flash and pigtails fly as she zips about the rink at Niedermayer speeds. Impossible. Her mother sees me goggling, and explains: A.C. is wearing special skates, again hand-made. Basically, they consist of a boot sole and a blade, with no upper. “She just can’t stand to have her toes hemmed in,” mom explains. “Been like that since she was a little girl.”
For the next hour, this “big girl,” all 78 pounds of her, runs stickhandling and skating drills under the tutelage of the local youth coach. He then dons some goalie pads, and she shows off the pinpoint accuracy of her wrister by calling out her shots and whipping them by the poor coach. Granted, he’s no Patrick Roy, but he knows what’s coming and he still can’t stop her.
She spares him any slap shots; I ask mom about that. “He hasn’t let her shoot slappers at him since she was 8. Hit him in the mask, knocked him out cold.” The coach has taken on this task of private tutoring because A.C. had to stop playing on the local youth team after the rest of the coaches in the league threatened to quit, due to the fact that none of their players would play goalie.
7:00 a.m. Time to pack up and drop A.C. at school. I shake her hand as we leave, and thank her for letting me stop by. Her grip manages to be crushing, despite hands half the size of my own. She smiles shyly, but says nothing.
1:00 p.m. Time to go. Despite Mrs. LeNoceur’s stockpiling, I have nearly eradicated the donut supply. I have been stuffing them in nonstop since returning from the rink, my mind reeling and trying to get a grip on what I’ve seen. I keep seeing those bare feet, flashing along the ice as wrist shot lasers rip into the top corners of the net. The trip back across the water to the mainland does not go well; I lean over the gunwale and feed the whitefish some recycled donut.
4:00 p.m. We arrive at another nearby island. I had planned to return home, but I need some R&R to recuperate from the revelation I witnessed. Besides, Mrs. LeNoceur deserves a reward for her yeoman baked-goods-gathering work. We spend the next several days at a lovely resort. A somewhat expensive resort, actually. The new island does not feature a single donut shop, but there are fudge shops on nearly every corner.
Sunday, Sept. 30
10:30 a.m. A quick stop at a local casino on our way back down to the Detroit airport, as I feverishly attempt to make enough money to restore the MYFO bank account to good graces after somewhat impulsively charging the hotel. It’s not embezzling if you put it back right away, is it? Thankfully, Mrs. LeNoceur is a slot machine wizard, and I take advantage of some tourists from North Carolina at the poker tables, and it’s all good.
Where was I?
Just remember in a few years, when some lucky team drafts a young woman with the ugliest stick you’ve ever seen and skates with no laces: don’t laugh, and move her to the top of your fantasy hockey draft board immediately.