A Christmas Carol: Chapter Three

Mario is visited by the ghost of hockey’s present, who takes him on a journey through present-day NHL to show him that having a small payroll isn’t an excuse to suck.This one is a little long, and I think I could have done better, but read it anyways. Part 4 will be worth it.

Mario was tossing, and turning. The thought of yet another spirit haunting him was too much to bear. He couldn’t fall asleep, no matter how hard he tried. Suddenly, he heard ominous footsteps emanating from the hall. The footsteps soon got louder and even more imposing. It sounded as though some gigantic, hideous monster was coming to get him. He saw a giant shadow appear on the wall leading into his room. Mario pulled the covers over his head in a vain attempt to hide. As the giant shadow rounded the corner, it suddenly began to shrink down to normal size. Instead of a giant monster, NHL VP Colin Campbell was standing there.

“Colin! What are you doing here? Hey…listen I’m not in to that! If you are its cool, but not me.”

“Mario” Campbell said “I’m the ghost. The Ghost of Hockey’s Present. Now c’mon, We going to haul ass to Phoenix. We’ll need a badass ride. Where’s your car?”

“Which one?” asked Mario as he took Colin to his massive garage. “The Ferraris are over here, and the Lamborghinis are there. I have a couple of Maseratis. I don’t buy Porsches. Wouldn’t want anyone to think I was poor.”

“See Mario, this is your problem. You have more vehicles than the Soviet Army did.”

“I gotta ride in style. After all, I am Mario Lemuiex.”

“What’s this?” Colin asked, looking at a particular Ferrari.

“That’s a custom made 1961Ferrari GT250 California. Less than a hundred were made. Its the rarest, most expensive car in the world. I paid 1 million dollars for it.”

Colin looked up, disgusted at Mario. “OK, we’ll take this heap. Now hop in, we’ve got a long trip.”

They sped across the dessert, Colin at the wheel, Mario constantly talking and bragging about the car. “Yep, its got Edelbrock Intakes, Super-charger, Myahark Lifters”

“Flux Capacitor?”

“No, besides your the ghost of Hockey’s present. We don’t need to go back in time.”

“So did you get made fun of a lot in school?” asked Mario.

“What do you mean, cause of my big ears?”

“No. Because your name is Colin! Hahahahahaha!”

Colin hit the brakes. Mario was thrown forward and hit his face on the dash. “Now you listen here, Mario.” Colin said, in a Dirty Harryish voice. “We’re not going to have any of that, are we? Or else I might just have my pal Kris King check out Fluery’s pads. And you won’t like what he finds. Got that!?”

It was a long boring drive to Phoenix, but since Colin was a spirit, time stood still. They finally arrived in front of the Phoenix Coyotes arena. “Why are we here?” asked Mario, seemingly angered. “I don’t want to talk to that schmuck Gretzky.”

“But you and Wayne are in the same boat. You both have small-market teams, that are having trouble in this money driven era. But unlike you, Wayne has made the most of it. Even though his team is awful this year, they still try to remain competitive. They may not have any money, but atleast they can ice a team of NHL caliber players. They actually try. They don’t just sit back and wait for Ovechkin or Crosby. They may not have the talent, but atleast they put in the effort. Your team has the talent, or atleast will have the talent, but they put in no effort. That’s why you suck!”

Mario began looking for excuses, but couldn’t find any. Mario stood there looking at a slightly less pathetic team. Despite their suckitude, they actually looked competitive.

“C’mon Mario. We have more places to visit tonight.”

They drove and they drove. Were they ever bored. Fortunately, Mario still had that bottle of champagne from the Titanic. This made for a good time. They swerved and drove recklessly all they way along the highway north. As they left South Dakota, sirens began to flare behind them.

“Oh crap. Just act natural” Colin told Mario. “Don’t try that bee thing from Black Sheep.

“Thatwastommyboy” said Mario, his speech slurred from the champagne.

The highway patrolman peered into the window. “Where you folks heading tonight?” he asked.

“Calgary” Colin quickly replied.

“What the hell are you going to Calgary for? See a rodeo?” the cop asked, smelling the interior of the car. “I detect the presence of alcohol in the vehicle. I’m going to have to ask you to step out of the car.”

Mario began to do so. He could afford to buy his freedom. Suddenly Colin slammed on the gas and sped off. This began the largest police chase in Montana history, with all three police cars joining in. When their Ferrari crossed the Canadian border into Manitoba, they lost not only the police, but also themselves.

Mario began looking at a map. Colin ripped the map out of his hands and threw it away. “It’s a’ight, Mario. I’m tight with the hockey gods. Hey! Maruice! Get your French ass down here! We need help.”

Mario was still puzzled that Colin had just said ‘a’ight, but his puzzlement turned to amazement as the great Rocket Richard came down from the heavens. In a gruffled, withered, accented voice, he gave the two directions to Calgary. Along the way Mario asked if Richard was the only hockey god. Colin explained that the hockey world was like ancient Greece, there were lots of gods for different things. Orr was the top god, Bobby Hull was the god of big contacts, Espo was the god of scoring, Tiger Williams was the god of fighting, Ron Duguay was the god of good-looks, LaFluer used to be the god of hockey hair, used to be, and Richard was the god of arrogance.

When they arrived at the Saddledome, Colin showed Mario another small-market team that had met success. The Flames were one of the hottest teams in the NHL. They were on a roll. They had the best offensive player, and best goaltender of that week. They stood up to much more powerful teams, and in many cases came out on top. Mario still seemed unconvinced.

“Remember Minnesota last year. They went to the conference finals, all with a 25 million dollar payroll. How about New Jersey, they’ve been dominant the past decade and they don’t spend anything. And how about those high-payroll teams this year? The Rangers have sucked the past decade. Washington is in the cellar. So is Dallas. And the Senators, what have they done you ask? Just a Presidents Trophy and one goal away from the finals. And they did that when they were bankrupt.”

Mario was still questioning Colin’s advice. He needed one more example of how small-market’s could stay competitive.

“Allright you bastard, you know those Oilers you hated so much. All those Cups in the 80’s, they won them with a salary below-league average. So many stars, so little cash. I think you can do the same.

Mario couldn’t believe it. How can small-market teams get so much success when his team receives constant failure? He asked this over and over again. He went into a trance-like state. When he awoke, he found himself still in his garage. Nothing was out of the ordinary, except that his prized Ferrari was smashed. Inside he found a note: “Hey Mario. Sorry about your car. I needed to borrow it to impress this girl. I knew I shouldn’t have let her drive. PS- There’s still a warrant out for us in Montana”. But then he remembered what Colin had shown him. He also remembered what Badger Bob taught him. These were lessons to better his team. “Build a team equally, don’t build a team around one player. Small-teams can still win, don’t give up!” Yes, yes. He realized how to fix his team. Maybe this whole spirit nonsense was over! But then Mario remembered something that sent chills down his spine; Joey had said there would be three ghosts. Mario had only met two. Who or what would the third one be? Suddenly, all the lights went out. A bolt of lightning crashed across the sky. Thunder boomed all around his house. The doors to his garage burst open, and a cold wind blew at Mario. A deathly presence entered along with it. Mario had met his final visitor.


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