The Hockey Muse Strikes

The schedule ends on Senior Night. There will be more hockey, of course. The Frozen Four is quite likely for us; the title could be clinched tonight. So it’s not truly the end, but close enough. For me, I know if I ever return to this rink, it won’t quite be like this. I’m no senior like those on the ice, but one period of my life will soon end. My rink will be wiped–not by some dude riding in circles, no, but it’ll be time to begin something new. I’m guessing it’ll be more difficult to root for these competitors in the future. I might not get to see them live.  But who knows?

The crowd here is often thin, but not tonight. I don’t mind being in line for tickets. It’s worth it to see other people out here. I buy rubber puck #359 for throwing onto the ice.

We honor the seniors, then begin. The opposition scores first. We spend minutes in the box, then more minutes. (Ten minutes out of the first twenty, but two sin-bin terms were both being served for some seconds.) Four on five, we’re down. Four on five, we’re down. Do netminders mind not being counted? Four on…ooh, four now. Five on four, we’re up! Time to tie it up. So we do. One-one.

Then the collision. I don’t see it, just notice it’s four on five once more. No news. But one of the visitors is down on the ice. She doesn’t get up.

Nothing occurs. Nothing but the voices in the crowd. The volume, I feel, should ebb, flow, die down, rise up. But there’s too much sound. It doesn’t go down. It just keeps going. Hockey here is not like this, not how I know it. I know the sound of stick hitting puck, the pep songs or peppers insulting the visitors. This undying murmur is wrong.

Most of the competitors come together on the edge of the rink. Two do not. They must count, now. Otherwise it is only the injury controlling the ice. So my eyes follow the closer of the two in circles. Distorted, stretched ones, but still circling, going nowhere. Kneeling now, blocking ghost shots. Close to ten minutes of this.

Then the stretcher goes off. We resume. More four on fives, but the period finishes 1-1.

Someone I remember once being ineligible due to coursework problems presents the prizes to our top student-competitors during the first intermission. Then it’s time for pep music. Listen to the drum pounding out of time. One of our offsides people crossed the blue line to find the puck is on the other side.

The second period goes more quickly. The home net switches with the visitors’. Now I see the letters between the shoulders of our visiting netminder. Her moniker reminds me of the visiting Buckeye who the pep performers mocked, the time I got to know the “sieve” song/insult. (“…lets the puck go by.”) Listen to the howling out of key. We score with eleven seconds left of five on four. The period winds down. “Hey, ref,” yell the pep crowd. “How much time is left?”

“One minute,” comes the booming voice from the press box microphone.

In the intermission, I throw my rubber puck onto the ice for some contest. It is nowhere close to the bullseye. I worry it won’t even hit the rink, stopping on the bench or on the floor. I don’t see it, but I’m told it does go to the ice. Its speed is right, but it turns to slide in the wrong direction.

Into the third period. It becomes 3-1 when it’s five on five like it should be. But not to worry, there is enough controversy. For me, too much. Two opponents seeming to fight, one on top of the other. The visitor whose helmet goes flying off. Our netminder, puck clutched tightly, protesting the stick which flew by.

But it ends quietly, up until the victory cheers. With eighty-nine seconds to go, it’s substitution time for the hosts. Let our senior end this one in the net.

This is the beginning of the rest of our lives.

“Commencement” signifies “beginning,” doesn’t it? How odd.

“Hey, ref, how much time is left?”

Don’t tell me.

I don’t need to know.

A-Rod: Accusations and Admissions

Can I post now?

It’s obviously silly to ask. This is my blog, and I post if I want to. But part of my mind wants to wait for fallout that follows this. No, not from A-Rod. You say your apology, and you go on. But who will follow him into a dark spotlight? Do I truly want to wait and find out?

Say what you will about Barry Bonds, and I won’t fight you too long. But this? This was our fault. Craving a knight to gallop in and fix it all, which of us forgot how such a knight must jump from dark to light and back again? It cannot stay put, wholly good or wholly bad. All of us forgot. Forgot, too, our initial horror at his monolithic contracts. At what cost a champion without flaws? It’s not important. No such thing truly is.

As a Cubs fan, my obvious comparison is to our last campaign. Anticlimactic, but how could such a climax work without failing? Pouring too much into a solo shot just sinks it down.

So who is our forthcoming champion now? A young boy waiting for a thaw, or in his yard anyway. Throwing a ball up and catching it. It will not roll into a road. Not today, anyway.

Our champion plays in anonymity, and that is good. Soon, that play will turn into hard work, with shortcuts looming. But not for him, oh no…This is ridiculous. I, too, am hallucinating.

But a child of my imagination only cannot disappoint.

Burying Bonds

Sometimes the biggest news is when there isn’t news. The possibility of no news, ever, would be in itself newsworthy. But when you see “news,” feeling like it should be more newsworthy? Like you should feel more?

Bonds Junior tested positive for steroids in 2000 or 2001, or both, suggest newly-public U. S. court documents. Did this surprise someone? I suppose so. Did it surprise me? Not too much. Despite “innocent until proven guilty,” true proof is outside the court’s powers to produce. Only numbers could do so, sterile theorems mostly useless in the outside world. So we look for guilt beyond (hopefully one specific) threshold of doubt. Suspicion of Bonds didn’t begin this week, though. There’s something inside us which doesn’t need proof. The bigger it is in some given person, the less this “news” is news to them. The opposite is true too.

I resented Bonds before he hit his seven hundred fifty-sixth home run. The erosion of the long-term record did not offend but unsettle me. Someone I’d seen compete, up there with the historic legends? It didn’t seem possible.

Why did I resent him, then? He could outslug history without truly upsetting me. But he’d outshone the heroes who first drew me to the sport too. Then, he’d crossed some line. He couldn’t help being the best (or could he?), but neither did I try to stop my petty scorn.

In the Wheel of Time series of novels, five youths set out from their tiny home of Emond’s Field. In the first book, we find out three of them wield the “One Power.” Subsequent books tell us their strength is the most seen in centuries. But following those books comes the knowledge of even more powerful people. With the glut of new monikers to remember, the series got more difficult to enjoy. The problem included this disillusionment; with the lines between countries blurred, more prodigies could be discovered. Old rules of the mystic forces governing the universe were no longer true.

To the extent of destroying outmoded ideologies, this is fine. But when this process infringes upon your own memories, dimming them, then it’s fine for you to criticize it. For the Wheel of Time people, it built up to the end of the world they’d known. For me, it could turn me vindictive, looking for excuses for Bonds’ success. They were duly found. But did I truly seek them?

Roger Clemens joined Bonds in the “news” which might not be. The list of suspects is long enough if not more. It includes my onetime heroes. Some retire without getting close to Cooperstown. Others would like to return; I roll my eyes. So when I noticed those records, I did feel some emotion I don’t enjoy feeling. My belief in old sluggers is strong. My belief in innocence is even stronger.

As an introduction

FAQ? Not so. Qs? Okay. FA? Assuming you thoroughly look at this post, probably not. So…on with it!

Who are you?

Ember Nickel, of course.

That’s a weird name.

It’s not my real one.

What is your real one?

If I was going to tell you, would I have identified myself under a pseudonym earlier?

Hey, I’m supposed to be asking the questions!


So, what’s this blog about?

Sports. But I’m not another sports blogger. Read the subtitle, please.

All sports?

Mostly baseball, or hockey if the muse strikes me.

How often has the hockey muse struck you?

In my life? Two times…maybe three.

So baseball then.


Which teams?

The Cubs, the Twins, or whoever else I feel like.

What’s a scorecard?

Hmm. If you must ask, this blog might not work for you. But who am I to say? A man working at an MLB stadium didn’t know, so if you don’t, that’s okay.

All right, smarty pants, what’s a lipogram?

Now that’s a good inquiry! A lipogram is a work of writing that omits a particular symbol, such as my words in italics in this post. A Z-lipogram is trivial, but I flourish in difficulty such as omitting our fifth symbol of 26.

So everything you write will leave out the letter E?

Uh, no. This post doesn’t.

Oh yeah, I’m supposed to read the subtitle. Wait, iamb? Did you spell that wrong?


Iamb as in poetry?

Of course.

Baseball poetry?


How does that work?

Check out, where I blogged for most of the last two years alongside dianagramr and the Score Bard. The Toaster is…erm, soon to be toast, so I’ll be blogging here from now on. Or until I stop. Or move.

But your melodramatic incomprehensibility is no match for the Bard’s inimitable repartee!

Of course not. That’s why this is the Lipogram Scorecard…poetry will not be the be-all, end-all. Hopefully I’ll get to try lots of different styles.

Such as?

Sonnets (I prefer the Shakespearean kind), limericks (not good ones though), poems in that one form that I don’t have a name for yet…

Okay then.


My question isn’t here!

Send me an e-mail at graciebarn256 AT gmail DOT com.


That’s not my real name either.



Oh I get it. Not only are you a wannabe-formalist who thrives on outmoded concepts like rhyme, you also like powers of 2 and their binary duality. Don’t you know you’re living in the modern age, where not everything is black and white?

I’m a baseball fan. I have a right to nostalgia.