Home > Offside with #55 (Hockey Hotties #6)

Offside with #55 (Hockey Hotties #6)
Author: Piper Rayne

 


Cockamamie Unicorn Ramblings

 

About Piper & Rayne

 

Also by Piper Rayne

 

 

The worst party you can attend as the guest of honor is a retirement party.

Who wants to be reminded that their glory days are over? Sure as hell not me.

When I retire, I don’t want a party to celebrate my career—a career that’s fucking over. Why would I want the reminder that I’m going to spend the latter half of my life not being a part of the thing I love? Hell to the fucking no.

I catch Coach Vittner’s smile from across the room. Yeah, he’s the kind of guy who enjoys a retirement party. His career has been long, always a coach, never a player. He treated us with respect, which isn’t always the case in this industry. He embodies the ideal that as a coach, you don’t have to be a screamer; you have to earn the respect of your players and then guide them.

This past year or so, that’s exactly what I’ve tried to do for the younger Florida Fury players. Coach Vittner didn’t have to tell me when I got traded to his team that it would most likely be my last. I had hoped to play for him until it was over though. Which leaves me at a crossroads.

We listen to Mr. Gerhardt, the team’s owner, speak about Coach Vittner. It’s a warmer and more thoughtful speech than a man like Mr. Gerhardt normally gives. He isn’t exactly the touchy-feely type of guy.

After he’s done, Mr. Gerhardt bends down and kisses his wife on the cheek, then his daughter, Jana. She looks so damn hot tonight, so I distract myself by looking at my plate, continuing to eat my meal until a big hand lands on my shoulder. I look up to see Mr. Gerhardt standing there.

“Excuse me, Kane, can I have a word?”

As if I’d tell the man no.

“Sure.” I slide out from the table, ignoring my teammates’ stares, and follow him to the side bar set up for the party.

He orders us two scotches. Scotch isn’t really my thing, but I’m not an idiot.

“So, I was thinking about a few things,” he starts. “As you know, we don’t have a replacement for Vittner yet.”

I nod. There have been rumors from the analysts for weeks. Some say Gerhardt’s been flying places to talk with various people, and others say that longtime head coaches from other franchises have approached him. It’s no secret that Fury has the talent to make a Cup run this year. Two skilled centers, a right wing and left wing who somehow know what the other is thinking. We play like a team that’s been together for years, when in reality, last season was our first full year together.

“As you know, we drafted Matt McIntosh.”

I sip my scotch because Matty is a damn good goalie. I mean, he’s not me, but he’s got the potential to be one of the best. The problem for me is that he’s only twenty-two. A guy in his midthirties with the knees of an eighty-year-old can’t keep up. I’ve given my all to my career and have the sore body and aching joints to show for it.

If Mr. Gerhardt is about to tell me that I’m out for Matty, I’m going to stomp over to that microphone and announce my retirement because there’s no way in hell I’ll be one of those guys who doesn’t know when his time is up. The guy who sticks around for yearly contracts, spending most of his time on the bench. Believe me, they all have their reasons. Some spend their money like hockey is a never-ending payday, so they have no choice but to stick around as long as possible to support their families, and others… well, others are like me. They don’t want to leave the game. They don’t want to skate off the ice into the spectator seats because there’s an invisible line of no return.

“Yes, sir,” I say to Mr. Gerhardt. “Matty’s a great player.”

“He is and he’s got great potential, but he needs a veteran to teach him, guide him. I’ve been in this business a long time, and players like Matty either sink or swim. Either they can hold it together or they crumble under the pressure.”

“Well, they’re used to being the best in their league, then they come here and they’re just one of the best. Hard pill to swallow.” I remember my rookie year and shake my head at how cocky I was in that locker room. Ignorance really is bliss, I suppose.

“Listen.” He puts his meaty hand on my shoulder and stares directly into my eyes. “I respect you too much to not be straight with you. Your career is in its sunset years. You might be able to squeeze this year out, but one injury and…”

I nod, not wanting to think about an injury that could take me out. I’m skating off that ice my last game no matter what.

“I need a coach, and Vittner says he thinks you’re the guy.”

All the air is sucked from my lungs and my eyes widen, my grip on the glass firmer.

As if he heard his name, Coach Vittner joins us, giving me a minute to recover.

Mr. Gerhardt orders another scotch.

“I’ve seen you with the boys this year. Especially Cory Freeman. No one can deny you’re a natural leader, Burrows,” Coach says.

I literally want to burst into tears because the door to my hockey career as a player is obviously swinging closed right now.

“You’ve had a great career. A few Cups, a lot of division titles, and a few records,” Mr. Gerhardt says. “If I thought you had one more great year in you, I’d keep you on, but I don’t. So, this is your opportunity to snatch up a great coaching position and hopefully win the Cup your first year.”

My throat closes with the thought of trading my jersey for a suit. My stick for a clipboard. My skates for real shoes. But I’m not stupid or naive. They’re putting the writing on the wall. Maybe I could find a contract with another team, but I’m way too scared to be a benched player, so I accept the offer.

“I’d love to. Thank you for the opportunity,” I say.

Just like that, my hockey career as a player is over.

Done.

Finished.

Gerhardt looks at Vittner in shock. “Really? You don’t want to think about it?”

I shake my head and plaster on a smile even though my stomach is revolting, and I feel as if I might throw up on Gerhardt’s expensive shoes. “It’s time. I’d rather stay in the game as a coach than watch from the other side of the glass.”

Gerhardt smiles and puts out his hand. “That was a lot easier than I thought. Welcome aboard the coaching staff.”

I shake his hand. “Thank you.”

Vittner shakes my hand. “Smart man.” He clasps his free hand over both ours and nods to me one last time before walking away.

“I’ll get in touch with your agent ASAP, and we can figure out a contract that works for both of us. I wanted to see if you have any interest first.”

I nod numbly. I’m not worried about it. Mr. Gerhardt has a reputation of being fair to all his players and staff. Besides, he could offer me a tenth of what I make now and I’d still take the job for the purpose of remaining a part of the game.

“Great. Great. Now come, I don’t want anyone to be suspicious. Let’s keep this between me and you until it’s official.”

“Perfect,” I say. I think I need to make peace with this massive change in my life before the news is shared with others.

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