Final Score (Hi Mr. P!)
Hawks 4, Wings 1
I imagine the view that you see above had to be pretty lonely tonight for the guy who usually opens the door to let offending players in. For the sake of this post, let’s call this man Jim. Jim Gardener to be exact.
For Jim Gardener, today started the same as any day. Alarm at 6:00. A bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios over the morning paper and the drone of the local weather report. A short walk to the corner market where Jim’s old buddy Dave is sitting behind the counter with packs of various colored cigarettes lining the wall behind him. They chat. It’s brief. Much the same way it’s been for the last 10 years.
By the time 3:00 PM rolls around, Jim Gardener has taken a light job on the treadmill he keeps in the basement and caught up on the crossword puzzle in the Chicago Tribune from Tuesday’s morning edition. He hops into a steaming hot shower, towels off, brushes his hair and splashed on a little aftershave (but not too much.) He locks the front door, making sure to give the handle an extra jiggle to ensure that the old bolt caught and that everything is secure. Once inside his Buick, it’s a quick drive up to the United Center, where he nods at the same security guard he’s nodded at for the past decade. 27 paces later, he’s at his locker, where he removes the black blazer with the silver “NHL” emblem on the breast. It’s over his shoulders with a swing and a shrug, fitting the exact same way it has for the last 418 games. Button the top button (never the bottom), give it a quick tug, and down the hallway Jim goes.
As he emerges into the bright shining lights of the United Center, Jim shuffles expertly across the ice toward his office. It could barely fit a couch, let alone 3 grown hockey players, but Jim knows it in and out. He opens the latch and walks in. With an expertly calculated push, the steel, plastic and plexiglass swings shut, clicking into place. Jim will repeat this process 57 times before the game starts, each time ensuring that the door swings with the same ease as the push before. If there’s a hiccup, Jim delicately applies some WD-40 to the hinges, and it’s as good as new. Open and close. Open and close.
It’s the same job every night. The penalty is called. The offender skates over, and Jim deftly swings open the door, ready to welcome a new person into his office, much like any other employee with an office would do. Person enters and Jim swings the door shut behind him. After taking a seat, Jim pulls out the clipboard and fills in the particulars. The “tripping” section of the clipboard that holds the chart seems to be more worn than the other areas, but Jim refuses a replacement. This board has seen some great players and some great moments, and it sure as hell won’t be replaced by some newer model that has a logo embossed on the back. After a couple of minutes, Jim hops up, looks at the clock, and with the precision of a man who has practiced this move thousands of times, whips open the door as the player slides over the threshold and back onto the ice. By the time his skate blades hit, the door is closed and Jim is on his way back to his chair, ready for the next time he’s called upon.
Except tonight, that moment never came for Jim.
Jim spent the entire evening by himself in that box.
60 minutes of nothing to do but watch and wait.
Watch and suffer.
Suffer and watch.
Suffer and suffer.
Am I off the deep end? Probably. Not that I really care, because watching that game was three hours of my life that I can never get back. Sure, everyone will point out that the Wings didn’t get a power play during the entire game, which – to be fair – is certainly interesting. That said, it definitely didn’t cost them the game and the Hawks didn’t really see much time on the power play either (one penalty against Detroit. Shitbox, if you forgot.) No, the Wings reverted to their disinterested approach to playing hockey. The offense was garbage. The D was slow. Jimmy did his best to prove me right and get yanked in favor of Osgood and the miraculous 400th win in a come from behind victory at the UC.
Frankly, the whole thing sucked and I honestly had no idea what to write. I hopped in the shower and hoped inspiration would hit me, but the only thing I could think about was what it must have felt like to be Jim Gardener* tonight. That’s why this post took so long. I stood there and soaped my hair for almost an hour, just thinking the thoughts that JG must have been thinking. I went through the entire story I laid out above, and afterwards, it hit me: it sucked to be Jim Gardener tonight.
Just like it sucked to be a Wings fan.
We are Jim Gardener tonight.
For the dudes, I think Rosie Jones ought to do the trick…
And for the ladies, since we did ScarJo the other night, here’s her *former* other half…
See you Sunday.
*Jim Gardener is obviously not a real person. Or if he is, he’s PROBABLY not the guy that opens the penalty box door.
I had to laugh at your choice of a name. I work with a Jim Gardener. He does not work the penalty box but he does strike me as exactly that kind of person you just described.