“Aw coach,” Colby said. “How long is a long practice?”
“Colby do you ever write things down?” Hallsy asked.
“Tomorrow’s the day that chick’s coming,” Max chimed in.
“That chick’s name is Isabella Hardy and you will be nice to her, okay?” Miriya asked looking over the entire team. “I know you’re a great group of guys who like to joke around, just don’t scare the girl. She’s a year older than I was when I first met you guys so she’s probably going to freak out, I mean you guys are the greatest people on the face of the earth.” She looked around the room to see the guys giggle. “See you guys in the morning.”
Everyone went to the locker room and then to the showers. Miriya headed to her office where she was going to be meeting with Ray to work out the final details for the next day. After spending about an hour in her office Miriya went to the locker room where she got a surprise. The white board which normally displayed the message ‘Let’s Go Pens!’ now displayed a new one, ‘Welcome Isabella,’ and all of the guys had signed their names.
“Oh I love being coach,” Miriya said to herself while lacing up her skates. The ice hadn’t been cleaned after practice ended so it was choppy but it still felt good under her skates. She rounded the corner quickly and quickly switched to skating backwards from the hash to the bench. With a spray of snow she stopped and grabbed her water bottle. The banners that hung in the rafters drew her attention and she gazed admiringly at the three that read, ‘Stanley Cup Champions’.
“Impressive.” Miriya turned to see Jordan skating to the bench from the runway. “You’re such a good skater.”
“Thank you,” she said as his arms wrapped around her. “I thought you were going home.”
“I was going to but then I decided that I needed to work out.”
“You, need to work out?” She ran her hand down his arm. “Babe I think you’re good. Where’s Scotty?”
“Nik and Erin took him home.”
“We owe them,” she reached over the boards to open the door and sat down on the bench.
“Baby we let him live in our house rent free, I think we’re okay. Besides its good practice for if they ever have a baby.” Miriya smiled picturing Nik and Erin with a baby while taking another sip of water. She stepped out onto the ice and took Jordan’s hand. They skated that way for a while until Miriya let go and skated full speed, one time around the ice. When she got back to Jordan she stopped, spraying his legs with snow. They had ended up by the bench again and Jordan picked Miriya up, placing her on the boards. Planting his skates firmly in the ice he pressed his lips to hers. Even after all the years they had been together Miriya’s heart still began to race every time Jordan so much as touched her. His tongue slid into her mouth and battled with hers, he pushed more of his weight against the boards. The time quickly past and soon their romantic ‘get-away’ was interrupted by the sound of a Zamboni engine.
The next morning Miriya arrived at the arena before everyone else, just like every other day. “Good morning Jacob,” she said pulling into the parking lot. Jacob was a fan who stood at the parking lot before games and sometimes a practice if he didn’t have school. He wasn’t there for autographs, just to support the team and the guys appreciated it. She pulled up to the guard’s station where she signed in. “Hey Dave, remember we have a guest coming today. She has a pass but could you bring her to my office?”
Miriya made her way to her office and soon there was a knock on the door. “Come in.”
“Your guest coach Staal.”
“Thanks Dave. Hi you must be Isabella, I’m coach Staal but you can call me Miriya or Staalsy, all of the guys do.”
“Nice to meet you, you can call me Bella.”
“Well Bella it’s nice to meet you too, the guys should be getting here soon and I’ll introduce you to them when we’re all out on the ice.”
“Okay,” she said nervously.”
“Don’t worry the guys are just a bunch of goof balls, they’re all very nice but like to joke around. You’ll be fine.” Bella smiled, she had a very pretty smile, she was a pretty girl. She was taller than Miriya but just about everyone was. Her brown hair was pulled into a messy bun and her bright blue eyes, which were much like Brooksy’s, were outline in light eye-liner. She also wore jeans, converse and a Penguins’ hoodie. “That reminds me, you’re gonna need skates. What size do you wear?”
“Sweet you can use a pair of mine. Alright, we’re gonna be cutting it close but Ray wanted to meet you before practice.” She got up from her chair and led Bella to Ray’s office where they spent no more than five minutes.
The guys still had ten minutes before practice was set to start but they had all abandoned the locker room by the time Miriya and Bella got there. “Let’s lace up and we’ll hit the ice.” Bella stood there awkwardly holding a pair of Miriya’s skates. “Just sit down at any of the guys’ stalls.” She sat down at Ben’s stall while Miriya sat down at her own. Once their skates were laced Miriya grabbed two sticks and the two girls made their way up to the runway. There stood the guys, to Miriya they all looked like little boys, very tall little boys, but to Bella they were her heroes.
Miriya blew the whistle once causing the boys to quickly shut up and line up along the boards.
“Wow,” Bella said quietly.
“Guys this is Bella Hardy, Bella I’m sure you know all of the guys. Kay boys don’t think that because she’s here I’m gonna go easy on you.”
“Staalsy I don’t think you’ll every go easy on us,” Max said.
“In that case, suicides.”
As practice went on Bella became more comfortable with being around the guys. Miriya handed her a stick and het her participate in some of the drills. On one of the passing drills she had been standing along the boards and counted backwards in the line across the ice to find that she was matched up with Sid. “Yes I got Sid,” she said realizing who she was matched with causing all of the guys to laugh.
After a good hour and a half Miriya blew the whistle to end practice. “Hit the showers guys. Be in the lounge in twenty minutes so Sid that means actually go to the locker room,” she said with a laugh. The guys went to the locker room while Miriya and Bella went to the lounge. “You’ve gotta be hot with that hoodie on after an entire practice.”
“I am kind of warm,” she said taking her hoodie off. “Can I have a bottle of water?”
“Of course.” Bella turned to go to the fridge and for the first time showing the back of her Pens’ t-shirt. The number sixty-five and the name ‘Clarke’ were written in white with a gold outline. “Ben is going to love your shirt.”
“Really? He’s my favorite and I kind of have a thing for him if you know what I mean.”
“Oh believe me I know. I think I saw him checking you out on the ice.” Bella’s checks now turned a deep shade of red. “When the guys come in here you should talk to him. I’m gonna go check on them, you should probably stay in here; you never know what goes on in that locker room. Bella giggled at the thought of what could go on in the locker room as Miriya made her way there.
Ben had apparently just gotten out of the shower since he stood at his stall in just his boxers talking to Jordan. “Maybe I should have let her come in here.”
“Huh?” Ben said pulling on a pair of light wash jeans.
“Bella likes you,” she whispered so that none of the other guys could hear it. “Hurry up guys, pizza’s gonna be here soon.”
“Pizza, did I hear pizza?” Michelle asked running in from the training room.
“Yeah, go wait in the lounge.” She pulled Michelle closer. “You should go talk to Bella, she’s a lot like me and she might be part of the team soon.”
Ben quickly threw on a t-shirt and pair of converse before walking into the longue. “Hi,” he said sitting down next to Bella on the couch.
“Hey, good practice,” she said shyly.
“Thanks, you were pretty good out there too.” Bella smiled. “So I couldn’t help but notice that you were wearing a Clarke shirt, not many people wear the rookie’s shirt,” he paused. “Especially not the rookie who’s scratched half the time.”
“Aw, well you were amazing when Jordan was out,” she moved over to make to room on the couch as the rest of the guys had started coming in. She talked to everyone on the team, but mostly Ben as the day went on.
“So I know that all you wanted for Christmas was to spend the day with the team, but we got you something,” Miriya said standing up from the arm of the couch.
“You guys shouldn’t have, this has already been so much better than I thought it would be. I seriously though t I would sit on the bench while you practiced and maybe sit here while you all talked.”
“Staalsy wouldn’t let that happen,” Nik said causing the team to laugh.
“Cass bring it out.”
Cassie went to the locker room and quickly returned with a box. Bella opened the box and a wide grin spread across her face. She pulled out a white authentic jersey that had been autographed by the entire team. “Look at the back,” all of the guys said. She turned it around to show the number one and the name Hardy. If it was possible her smile grew upon seeing this. “Thank you all so much.”
“Okay guys I’ve kept you here long enough. Bella if you want a tour of the arena I would be happy to show you.”
“That would be great,” she said still looking admiringly at the jersey.
“Any of you guys who can to stay can.”
“Love you Staalsy but I’m gonna go home,” Eats said giving her a hug. “It was nice meeting you Bella; I hope to see you again at a game sometime.”
“It was nice meeting you too,” she gave him a hug.
All of the guys who left said good-bye to both Miriya and Bella and gave them both a hug. Most of the team left but Nik, Jordan, Kris and Ben had stayed. Miriya led the tour around the arena showing the boys and Bella some of her favorite places. When the tour had ended everyone went out the parking lot but Miriya, Bella and Ben.
“Erin thank you so much for watching Scott, I owe you and so many people so much. I’m always having people watch him for me.”
“It’s okay you’re busy and we all understand that. I’m glad today went well.”
“Do you have an extra ticket for tomorrow’s game?”
“I might, who needs it?”
“Bella, I want to get to know her better, I like her.”
“A Pittsburgh goal scored by number sixty-five Ben Clarke assisted by Miriya Staal and Ray Shero. You’re welcome kid; I’ll find you a ticket.”