Our story begins like any other story, with an eccentric millionaire driving lazily southbound through the Canadian Shield. Kyle Diplock was heading home from his trip to British Columbia, back to his native town of Goderich, Ontario. He was nearing the town of Sault Ste Marie, around dusk, when he saw a roadside advertisement.
IHL Regular Season 11: Game 30
SAULT STE MARIE SAINTS VS NORTH SYDNEY BISONS 10:00pm, SSM Arena, $15 a ticket
“Why not?” Kyle thought to himself, “I’m getting tired of driving and a hockey game could be a great way to unwind.”
He was wrong...
The puck dropped with a resounding clash of sticks. The Saints won the faceoff and got off two shots on goal in the blink of an eye. The Bisons fought back with two shots of their own, but the Saints quickly countered. Caroll wrestled the puck off of an opposing winger, passed it to a streaking Larimer, who dropped it just at the tip of the circle for a blast from Laurent Villa… The noise! The crowd of five thousand exploded! The horn! An echoing boat horn, reminiscent of the giant steel tankers that float through the great lakes. The cele! Villa hammed it up for the crowd, pretending his gun was a rifle. He pointed at Kyle and shot.
Kyle’s ears were pulsing with more than just the vibrations of permanent hearing loss. He was hooked! Addicted! This rush was cocaine on steroids. He needed more! A minute later the Saints scored again! Thirty seconds after that, the lamp was lit once more!
The period would end with the Saints up 6-1 over the Bisons. This is how hockey managers are born!
Kyle woke up in his Marriot hotel room the next morning and knew what he had to do. He remembered nothing of what happened after the game, just that he needed to go back and talk to the owner of the Saints, to try and convince them to sell him the team. After a quick bite to eat, he headed downtown. Shortly thereafter, he showed up at the front entrance to Sault Ste Marie Arena, and asked to speak to the team’s owner. The ticket-ripper replied with a quizzical look, “owner? There is no owner.”
“What do you mean? How can a team not have an owner? Who pays for all this?”
The ticket ripper merely shrugged, “I dunno, go ask the janitor.”
Waiving off any further questions from the confused millionaire, he motioned Kyle inside.
The inside of the arena was dimly lit. A slight chill was in the air. Kyle shivered. Walking through the empty halls, he called out to no answer. The offices were empty and unfurnished. The concessions were empty. It seemed like no other living soul was in this building except him. It was a stark contrast to the previous night. When he had gone roughly halfway around the arena, Kyle poked his head into the forum. There in the stands, on the other side of the rink, was a scruffy-looking janitor, pushing papers.
“Hey!” Kyle shouted, annoyed, “why didn’t you answer when I called out!?”
The old, scruffy-looking janitor raised his brow at the commotion, shook his head gently with a slight, playful smile, and replied earnestly, “didn’t hear ya!”
“Didn’t hear me, my left nut!” retorted Kyle, walking over, “I’ve been shouting for the last ten minutes!”
The old man placed his broomstick on his shoulder, spread both hands and shrugged his shoulders empathetically. “Awful sorry ‘bout that, but how can I help you?”
“I’ve come to talk to the owner.”
“Is that so?” the janitor pondered with a twinkle in his eye, “well, there is no owner.”
Exacerbated at this point, Kyle started getting angry, “Now listen here! A hockey team can’t exist without an owner. Travel needs to be arranged, contracts need to be signed, players need to be man-”
“And what would you know about all that?” the janitor interrupted.
“What? Well, nothing to tell you the truth. I was here for the game last night, on my way home to Goderich, and I came here today to ask the owner if I could buy their tea-”
The old man, listening to Kyle ramble on abruptly raised his hand. “Come with me,” he said, “there’s something I want to show you.”
The pair walked back towards the offices, and Kyle noticed a room with a desk and two chairs that he swore had not been there before. The scruffy-looking janitor sat down behind the desk, opened a drawer, pulled out a large binder, and proceeded to drag a finger down a page. “Let’s see, let’s see,” he droned seriously, “oh yes, the Sault Ste Marie Saints. Originally owned by Dave Calloway, in the early days of the GPHL. They were the Joshua Tree Paladins then; a team of middling success. After six years Dave left, and I’ve been taking care of the team ever since. First we moved to Needles Road, then finally came here to Sault Ste Marie.”
Kyle’s eyes widened, “wait! So you are the owner?!”
“No no,” drawled the janitor, “I’m simply a caretaker. I just look after the teams when there’s no one to look after them.” “Teams?” Kyle asked, emphasizing the plural.
“That’s right,” replied the janitor, smiling. Placing his elbows on the table, and steepling his fingers together, he asked, “now, tell me again, please. What are your plans for the Sault Ste Marie Saints?” “Well I…” Kyle hesitated, not really sure who he was talking to, or how to address him, “I was hoping to bring them to Goderich. The game last night enchanted me, and I want to own and run the team.”
“Done? What do you mean done?” exclaimed Kyle, astonished.
“Exactly that,” the old janitor smiled and marked the binder, “The Sault Ste Marie Saints are yours. The coaches and scouting staff will stay on, I think you’ll find they do a good job. You need to honour the player’s contracts, but personnel changes and lineup decisions are your responsibility now. The team is heading to Barrows tomorrow to play the Beerfielders, then the players will take a charter back to Goderich, and play there from now on.”
“W-Wait!” Kyle spluttered, “but where will they all live?” “You don’t need to worry about that,” the old man laughed.
Kyle went on, “but our arena can only seat about two hundred people! It wasn’t designed for a GPHL team. We’ll need time for renovations!”
“I think you’ll find it more than accommodating when you get home,” the janitor said, eyes laughing. “All I need from you, in return, is a credit card and a $4 monthly fee.”
“Surely, you can’t be serious!” Kyle exclaimed. “I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley,” the janitor smiled.
Kyle quickly signed over his credit card information, the two shook hands, and then they sat there awkwardly for a few moments. “There’s something I want to give you, a present, if you’d like,” the janitor said earnestly. Without waiting for an answer, he reached into another drawer and pulled out a large book, with a long title. Kyle reached for the book, spun it around and read the title aloud, “'The Game Plan Hockey Book For Managers Who Can’t Hockey Good and Who Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too,' by Rasputin, Schozen, Jono, Szabo, Csizmadia, and Zinn. Thanks!” Kyle exclaimed. “By the way, I didn’t get your na-”
Kyle looked up, but the seat across the desk was empty. He hadn’t heard anything. No one had gone around him. The only door was behind him. The janitor was gone. Vanished, like a ghost.
“I just thought of a great team name,” thought Kyle.