The crowd is loud in Saskatoon
Ten thousand fans and more
The home side even with the guest
They need a single score
For this is not a normal game
But one for days of lore.

And wary of this foe are they
Whose skill is hardly met
Who pass and weave and check and shoot
And drive hard to the net
Who play a style, a foreign game
No pressing flesh just yet.

What force have they who rarely rest
Before resuming chase
For one of hockey’s sacred goals
There is no time for pace
To capture such a prize as this
Would stand cruel time’s erase.

The vanquished lie in both their trails
Some forty teams’ defeat
And these most ancient rivals win
As if ordained to meet
And months, nay years of butting heads
Meant neither would retreat.

The teams ignore the drying blood
That spilled upon the ice
And both will swallow sweat and spit
As part of winning’s price
And both will ask indifferent gods
To score once more than thrice.

Each man now speeds to hard attack
To count the final goal
And all return with post-due haste,
For some, a new-found role
While shots are blocked by sniping men
Whom red lines often troll.

Now this one’s found the mark for sure
Immortally alone
But yet again the door is shut
By leather walls of stone
And then opponents wheel to claim
The nation’s junior throne.

Ah, here is fiercesome give and take
Where quarter is not asked
And here is touching life itself
The cup of highest task
An odyssey of epic trials
Whose end is nigh at last.

Soon sixty minutes shows the clock
It ticks with seldom pause
The effort spent by those engaged
Does warrant warm applause
A tie’s no end; so go regroup
And seek the hidden flaws.

This is not bullets overhead
Or creeping yellow gas
Nor ‘moaning minnies’ in a trench
To waste a high school class
And more remains of these young lads
Then faces pressed in glass.

But they of gasping, hacking breath
Of eyes sunk pale and drawn
With colour drained from rosy cheeks
Of visage tense and wan
Have nerves that shake their fingertips
And strength that’s simply gone.
And none of them can dare think back
To chances gone astray
Nor glance ahead to frightful thoughts
Of losing on this day
The timid worry in their stalls
That pucks may come their way.

There’s fear accrues in most of us
That puts life on a scale
To take a shot at laurelled crown
Might mean that we could fail
But dwelling much on losing face
Just makes us limp and stale.

But then you look around the room
At once your team and mates
And stares that hurry back in kind
All wonder what awaits
For answers none can half reveal
Till changing is too late.

From somewhere deep inside yourself
While sharing your friends’ eyes
You summon up your last reserves
And to the moment rise
And what you bring or leave behind
Is there without disguise.

The falling puck starts sudden death
For one still noble side
Then skaters dance and goalies sprawl
And bodies hard collide
No one departs the frozen stage
Without their best try tried.

Still, sport like life is seldom fair
And both teams cannot win
The luck that’s balanced to and fro
Is spun in fickle whim
And mortal folk are ill prepared
To challenge chance’s spin.
From blueline post a leader moves
With winning in his mind
He slips past checkers’ flailing arms
Both benches clear the pine
To stand and watch in helpless awe
While chills run down their spine.

The rink stands still, he edges close
Alone in all the crowd
All cheering stops, all breath is held
The silent rule the loud
And free at last he strives to make
His team and brothers proud.

What’s etched in time can happen fast
The scene will never grey
A guy too small to make the league
Has made its biggest play
A pass tipped by a lifelong pal
His team has won the day.

The guests erupt to storm the ice
To share this greatest thrill
To clutch in hard, euphoric hugs
In dreams they hold on still
A triumph hardly dared to wish
Made real by their stern will.

The morning rides at 6 AM
In cars with clunky wheels
The breath that hung as mist in air
And clouded see- through shields
The snot they wiped on gloves and sleeves
And toes that froze and peeled.

All this and more were part of things
It wasn´t always fun
But even these brought wistful smile
With what they just had won
Ah, this was both relief and joy
This rare day in the sun.

There on the ice and in the stands
Are fans along with friends
Family, flames and hangers-on
At this near perfect end
The guys who share this brief, bright time
Whose like won’t come again.

The teams line up to crown the champs
The eighties` final year
The home team shocked, awash in pain
Now know their deepest fears
But strange it is to look and see
The victors’ distant tears.

Prelude

Now drifting back two seasons past
To late in ‘eighty six,’
Where hopes are high in ‘Speedy Creek’
In ‘small town prairie hicks’
Their team returned to them at last
A strange, eclectic mix.

A driven man with guts and sight
Ignored the public polls
To bring the team to his home town
A windy city stole
The run of history big and small
Is rarely bound by role.

They’d gathered guys from many leagues
From western farms and towns
To share a room and miles of road
With mates just lately found
In big sky land whose light reveals
Horizons with no bounds.
This town that bade them call it home
Out on the sunburned plain
‘The Hat’, ‘The Jaw’, and ‘Pile O’ Bones’
Ride flank on either twain
Oasis in the empty hills
In land near parched of rain.

Where men of soil still plough the ground
To plant their shafts of gold
And red-faced live their rugged lives
In ranges hot and cold
And work to leave the same again
For sons when they grow old.

But summers with their searing heat
And moisture licking wind
Are weak compared to winter freeze
That forces men within
And hardy folk don´t venture out
With lowly odds to win.

Man will have his victory time
Say water holding dikes
Or blow a mountain here and there
To gird the earth in spikes
But this turf lies in nature’s state
She marches here with pikes.

She slashes at the swaying crop
With early killing frost
Or swoops up in her swirling rage
Rich soil blown free and lost
Her tenant farmers must each year
Way gain against the cost.

And out here naught stands in the way
That man might know his god
Where night drives past the city glow
Still light a Way unflawed
Where thoughts of never-ending life
Seem slightly less a fraud.
And safe where music rocks the room
As players prep to play
Some guys unknown but weeks before
Share toil and strain each day
And long the bonds and team they form
Will last until mid-May.

This is a place for hope to spring
For each man and for all
Where quest for greatness and for fame
Peers out from every stall
And none of them knows which of them
Will rise, and which will fall.

On fire now, one red of hair
A scorer’s touch and true
An athlete skilled in many sports
Whose gifts are for the few
While waiting home his almost bride
Has wedding plans to do.

His friend through all is next to him
Exception to the rule
That size is all that counts in sports
He takes big men to school
A hometown son of German stock
No battle shakes his cool.

And never far, a sheepish guy
To watch out for the lambs
He’d made the squad with guts and fists
And saving skill from jams
And wary is the league of him
Of thunder in his hands.

The future star from hockey’s clan
Heir worthy to the throne
His easy wit and friendly smile
Have made his essence known
With all the extra practice time
He’s come into his own.
The last few games ‘fore Christmas break
Saw more and more success
Their spirits high from time at home
And loved ones soft caress
They take to ice the second half
Determined to impress.

The sound of laughter fills the room
While CDs loudly blare
They pack their bags and chirp their buds
The quiet are not spared
The Pats seem very far away
There’s time left to prepare.

While outside winter’s gathered force
With New Year’s two days hence
The blowing wind and rain to snow
Might make some travelers tense
But these are western guys and tough
No cause for such suspense.

And who can know what place to sit
Or which bus they should take
And who can know if sleep is safe
Or best to stay awake
Or how a young enchanted boy
Is dealt his lucky break?

They talk and joke, lay out their beds
Or jostle their best mate
Whatever thoughts are on their minds
None are about their fate
And four with cards in right rear seats
Each holds an ace and eight.

For this bus carries one more guest
Though no one knows at first
So dark and brooding he lays low
Until the awful curse
‘Tis then he stands to raise his scythe
And beckon forth his hearse.

The road which has been sure till now
Is icy on the curve
The driver tries to stay the slide
And precious lives preserve
But fear now stalks the iron lung
And brave men lose their nerve.

The ditch comes quick amidst the screams
And brings a brief reprieve
But fast appears a side road’s bank
That gives the bus a heave
And then another awful thud
That mutes impassioned pleas.

In all the glass and mangled mess
The bus groans on its side
While dull moans rise to calls for help
And young men sob and cry
For shattered dreams and injured friends
For innocence that’s died.

And oh, that ghastly, piercing voice
That tells of further dread
These shaken lads with haunted eyes
Now hang their sickened heads
And tears fall down a coach’s cheek
His friend and nephew dead.

But this is not enough for Death
He’s taken three more lives
These four who leave with no farewell
Who never will know wives
Four men whose loved ones cannot sleep
Nor teammates who survived.

Pale warriors, death pale are they
In land where no birds sing
For this Death doth have victory
That brings most grievous sting
Come; let us lie upon this ground
With tales of death and kings.

Oh god, where were you on that day?
Your name was called in vain
What other things meant more to you
Than loss with no regain?
No trophy won in any sport
Can take away such pain.

Where brooks and broncos brush against
And run the open plain
Where the Cree and La Verendryé
Preceded John A’s train
The wind erases marker stakes
And life’s so shallow claim.

Copyright © 1998 Anonymous