“You can’t play hockey and you never could!”
“Is that so?”
“Yes, that’s so. You’re just a fancy skater but your figure eights don’t do you any good in a game.”
Rand Downey, right wing on the Kirkwood High six, was boiling mad. This fellow, Frederick, the Great, Barker, had finally gotten so on his nerves as to cause him to explode. The idea of Coach Howard putting this impossible person on the team at left wing, replacing the veteran Don Keith who was out with a sprained ankle! What did Coach want to do—throw the whole team off its stride and right before the big game with Melville?
“It’s true I haven’t played much hockey,” the slenderly built Frederick was replying. “You must remember, old boy, I didn’t come out for the team—I was ... er ... pressed into service when the ... er ... expediency arose.”
Frederick was like that. Big words, stilted sentences, haughty, superior manner. He didn’t have a close friend in the school; kept pretty much to himself; played a lone hand when it came to sports. Track and ice skating had seemed to be his two favorite athletic diversions. In his peculiarly aloof way he had stepped out and won the two-twenty and four-forty, setting county records for both events. On the ice, Frederick had exhibited a brand of fancy skating which had astounded the natives.
“I should be able to skate,” he had said, after winning the cup with ease. “My folks spent a couple years in Canada and, you know, babies are born with skates on their feet up there.”
It had been Coach Howard’s idea that the conversion of Frederick, the Great, Barker into a hockey player, would add amazing strength to the team. Strangely enough, the newcomer to Kirkwood had not been enthusiastic about the thoughts of playing.
“Ice skating is a game of grace and beauty of movement,” had been his explanation. “I just don’t see anything to this rough and tumble business.”
But the old appeal “for the honor and glory of the school” had won Frederick over. He had readily agreed to Coach Howard’s declaration that Kirkwood High possessed few really good skaters although he was not so sure that his addition to the team would have the bolstering effect predicted.
“I’ll do the best I can,” had been his promise.
“You’ll be a whiz,” the coach had encouraged. “A man as fast on his feet as you? Why, say—when you get this hockey game in your blood, you’ll burn up the ice!”
Thus far, however, Frederick’s participation had only succeeded in burning up his fellow players. Rand Downey, who had to play opposite him on the other wing, had reasons to be the most upset.
“I’d like to ask,” flared Rand, “how’s it come you’ve always picked soft sports to excel in?”
“What do you mean—‘soft’?” Frederick’s expression was one of hurt surprise.
“No physical conflict ... no bumping up against a real opponent ... like in football or baseball or—hockey?”
“Competition of that sort doesn’t interest me,” stated Frederick frankly, a flush creeping into his cheeks.
“You mean,” taunted Rand, bent on driving home his thrust, “that you’d rather not mix it with anybody ... you’re afraid of getting your hair mussed or a punch in the eye or your nose rubbed in the dirt.”
Fellow players glared at their new team member, obviously in support of Rand’s accusation.
“I admit,” answered Frederick, unblinkingly, “such things do not appeal to me.”
The fellow’s absolute candor was amazing. Rand had deliberately set out to antagonize him and here he was, quietly agreeing to everything. Apparently Frederick, who came by his title “the Great” through this air of superiority, could not be fussed nor aroused. He made no pretense of that which he was not and indicated quite plainly that he felt entitled to his views on sport.
“I suppose you know, then,” fired Rand, as a last broadside, “that you play hockey like a lady!”
“Worse than that!” broke in Steve Lucas, captain and center. “It would be different, Fred, if you weren’t such a good skater ... but there’s no excuse for the way you’re side-stepping and skating in circles and dropping the puck at the blue line instead of trying to go through the defense. There’s a certain color that applies to guys who pull what you’ve been pulling. We wouldn’t care only we’d give our skates to beat Melville this year.”
“And a fat chance we’ve got with Don Keith out,” ranted Bill Stewart, stocky right defense. “He was the spark plug of our team. All you’ve done is fill us up with carbon!”
“I’m sorry,” was the new team member’s comment as he unfastened his skates and stepped off the rink. “But why jump me about this? I suggest you take your story to the coach. Any time he wants me to leave the team, I’ll be delighted.”
Fellow players groaned helplessly as Frederick, the Great, Barker walked off, head high.
“He’s a conundrum, that bird!” declared Rand. “You’d think he didn’t have any fight in him.”
“He doesn’t when it comes to sports like this,” said Bill. “You hit the nail on the head when you razzed him about not wanting to mix it. I can understand now why he’s steered clear of us fellows. He’s against anything boisterous.”
“He’s grooming himself to be one of those gentleman sportsmen,” twitted Steve, “whose pictures you see in the rotogravure section of newspapers, sitting on a horse, dressed in a polo cap; or else stretched out on a country club veranda, in golf togs. The pictures look swell but most of ’em don’t mean any thing.”
“He’s a grand guy,” summed up Rand. “I have to hand it to him for one thing. He’s sure satisfied with himself. If I’d bawled any of you birds out the way I did him, I’d have started a free-for-all. He’s got the spunk of a caterpillar.”
“Coach certainly won’t leave him in the line-up after today’s game,” reassured goal tender Chub Roland. “We were lucky not to lose. Fred spent about the whole time dodging collisions with the enemy. I think he only went down once. He’s a fancy skater all right. He did some of the fanciest shifting I ever saw. Never used his body to block once ... tried to do it all with his stick. I yelled to him once to get in front of his man but he acted like he thought it wouldn’t be the gentlemanly thing to do. Too bad he has to be such a lemon. I still think if we could get him steamed up about something—he might surprise us.”
“Not that baby!” scoffed Rand. “He’s got chronic cold feet. You’ll never see him make a showing where he’s got to swap bumps with someone else. He says himself that’s not his idea of sport. Personally, I wouldn’t get any kick out of running races or making fancy doodads on the ice. I’d just as soon take up crocheting.”
The Kirkwood ice hockey squad laughed. It had been a hard, tense season with little opportunity to relax against an unusually high brand of competition. That Kirkwood had managed to remain a contender for the state interscholastic ice hockey championship, despite the absence of dependable spares, had been due to the heroic effort of the original six and the excellent guidance of Coach Howard. His latest move, however, in recruiting Frederick, the Great, as a hockey player, had appeared a psychological mistake, affecting as it had, the team’s morale. Even sporting accounts of the game were none too complimentary.
“Fred Barker, playing his third game at left wing for Kirkwood,” said the Daily Eagle, “still left much to be desired. Making allowance for the fact that ice hockey is new to the champion fancy skater, Barker, in the judgment of this sports writer, should be entering more into the spirit of the game and teaming up better with his mates. Time and again, on capturing the puck, he seemed at a loss as to what to do with it, taking some pretty turns about the ice which promised much but produced nothing. Coach Howard still seems of the opinion that Barker is going to fill Don Keith’s skating shoes but, on the basis of his performance today, he will have to come along rapidly to even approach Don’s stellar ability. Keith-to-Downey-to-Keith used to be the pass combination which brought scores for Kirkwood. Either that or the reverse: Downey-to-Keith-to-Downey with the resultant shot for goal. But Kirkwood has lost her scoring punch, temporarily at least—a punch she sorely needs in the coming battle against Melville, a sextet possessing such defensive power that not a goal has been scored against her the entire season!”
“I suppose you read the papers,” was Coach Howard’s greeting to Frederick, the Great, Barker on calling him aside at the next practice session.
“Yes, sir,” Frederick replied, in a disinterested tone.
“That being the case, it saves me breath,” said the coach. “The accounts of your playing were fairly accurate.”
“I thought so myself,” agreed Frederick.
“But you can do better than this. Why, man—you haven’t begun to let yourself out yet! I’ve seen your fancy skating exhibitions and I know what you can do—your daring leaps and whirls. That airplane dive, as you call it, is one of the most hairbreadth things I’ve ever seen on skates.”
Frederick’s face spread into a slow smile.
“That isn’t bad, is it?”
“Bad? It’s simply great. But why can’t you transmit a bit of that dash into hockey? You’re doing some nice straight skating but that reckless abandon isn’t there. I believe in you, Fred, or I wouldn’t have urged you to play, against your own inclination.”
The champion fancy skater dug the point of his skate into the ice.
“I know that,” he said, with his first show of feeling, “but I can’t help it, coach—I’m doing the best I can.”
Coach Howard eyed the new left wing shrewdly.
“You’re just kidding yourself, Fred,” he said, pointedly. “There’s something troubling you, boy. It’s been troubling you for a long, long while and it’s time you were getting it off your chest. Come clean—what is it?”
A hurt expression came into Frederick’s face which he ordinarily kept well masked beneath the external attitude of indifference.
“You wouldn’t understand if I told you,” he returned, huskily.
“Perhaps I would.”
“How could you when I don’t really understand myself? All I know is that I’ve never had a desire for direct competitive sport. It dates back to the days when I was sickly and my parents discouraged me from taking part in the games and bucking up against the stronger fellows. I was disappointed, of course, and it sort of killed something inside me.”
“You can get it back,” reassured Coach Howard. “Give yourself a chance.”
Frederick shook his head, sorrowfully. “Since I couldn’t go in for the sports other fellows were playing, I developed the habit of staying off by myself. That hasn’t helped me, either. I guess I’ve been too retrospective. There’s such a word, isn’t there?”
The coach smiled, sympathetically. “I think so—but I’ve been so busy with my present that I haven’t had time to look backward. You shouldn’t let the past have such a hold on you, Fred—snap out of this! You’re missing half the fun in sport!”
Frederick nodded, ruefully. “I’d give a lot to be able to get enthused,” he confessed. “When I see the kick the other fellows get out of playing, I know something must be wrong with me. All my athletic development has been individual and team play has left me cold. You want to know what hockey seems like to me? It’s just a series of cracked heads and shins and so many knockdowns.”
Coach Howard laughed. “It’s because you haven’t thrown yourself into the game ... haven’t caught the spirit of it,” he insisted.
“I guess I haven’t,” Frederick conceded. “As an individualist, I’m impressed with the fact that, in hockey, skating is secondary to the game and I get no particular thrill out of chasing a puck and banging at it with a stick. Neither can I see any necessity for letting myself be bumped to the ice if I can possibly help it. For that reason, some of the fellows are insinuating that I’m yellow. I hope you don’t think that?”
“Frankly,” said Coach Howard, “you’re one fellow I can’t catalogue. You’ve got me astraddle a fence.”
“Well, I feel better for talking with you,” said the champion fancy skater. “I’ve never opened up like this before. No one’s seemed to care....”
“No one’s cared because you haven’t seemed to care what they were doing,” explained the coach. “They won’t warm up to you until you warm up to them—that’s only natural.”
Frederick swallowed, miserably. “Then I really don’t know what I can do about it,” he said, hoarsely. “I’m so used to doing things by myself that I don’t feel at home with other fellows. I guess you’d better call it ‘quits’, Coach. I wouldn’t want to lose the Melville game for you ... almost anyone would be better in there than me ... no matter how good a skater I am....”
“Nonsense!” decided Coach Howard. “This game means the championship—but if it meant a chance for you to win out over yourself, I’d rather play for that. You’re going to discover one of these times, Fred, that you need hockey much more than hockey needs you and when you do—well, you’ll be a different fellow!”
All of Kirkwood sat on the anxious seat the day of the Melville game. It was biting cold and clear and the rink was in the fastest condition of the season. There could be no complaint of the day or of the ice. The only cause for concern was the Kirkwood team which had played uncertain hockey since the loss of Don Keith. But Coach Howard had been keeping a surprise up his sleeve for the fans. Don’s sprained ankle was well enough for him to play a part of the game, properly taped. When he reported for duty before the contest and told his overjoyed comrades that he had been working out secretly for the past three days, the old morale returned. The feeling of apprehension over Frederick, the Great, Barker vanished at once; in fact, Kirkwood’s new left wing was left completely out of the demonstration, sitting quietly on a bench in the corner of the locker room.
“I’m glad to see you back, Keith,” he welcomed, when Kirkwood’s veteran, limping slightly, came back to his locker.
“Glad to be back,” Keith rejoined, eyes gleaming. “We’ve got to take that chesty outfit today. Can you imagine their not even being scored on all year? Have to watch out for their crack centre, Scotty Lathrom. He’s the backbone of their offense and defense ... one of the best poke-checkers in the game!”
“We’ll lay for him all right,” promised right wing Rand Downey. “Boy, it seems like old times again. We’ve got the winning combination now!”
Frederick, marveling at the revival of spirit, studied the fellow who was responsible for it. Don Keith possessed, in addition to a sturdy physique, a radiant, aggressive personality. He commanded attention and inspired others to follow his leadership. Noting this, Frederick envied Don Keith sincerely.
“If you can’t feel a thing,” he said to himself, consolingly, “you can’t be a part of it.”
Coach Howard, as the team left the locker room for the rink, patted Frederick on the back.
“I’ll be using you to relieve Don,” he informed. “So be ready to go in there and tear loose!”
Frederick smiled, ironically. He knew he’d be regarded as doing his bit today if he merely helped hold the fort until Don should get his “breathers” and go charging back into the fray. Perhaps it was just as well. He’d only consented to play hockey as a duty to the school and, this way, whatever the outcome of the game, no one could hold him directly responsible.
Don Keith received a tremendous ovation from home town supporters as he skated on the ice. Frederick joined the secondary forward wall and practiced pass work. The Melville team flashed by, a rugged looking outfit.
“Where’s this Frederick, the Great, person?” a voice suddenly shrilled.
Frederick looked about, surprised, and found himself confronted by Melville’s grinning star, Scotty Lathrom.
“So you’re the champion fancy skater, eh?” Scotty accosted, in a loud voice which attracted the attention of the crowd. “Well, I’ve been waiting to meet you, brother, because I’ve worked out a few gyrations I’d like to see you duplicate!”
Frederick stared at his unexpected challenger, coldly. What was this Scotty Lathrom trying to do—get his goat—or make him look foolish before the fans?
“If you thought you were so good,” he replied, quietly, “why didn’t you enter the fancy skating competition?”
“I’m going to next year,” announced Scotty. “And I’m going to pull some stuff they never saw before. Look at this one!”
Melville’s crack hockey player spun about on the sides of his skates and went into a roll.
“That’s easy,” said Frederick, and followed suit, reproducing the roll with an even more polished finish.
“But that’s not all of it!” Scotty called, and rolled to the side, doing a surprise handspring, picking up the roll again, then going into another handspring, alternating from side to side and with a cadence that was pretty to watch. “There you are!” he cried, as the crowd applauded.
Frederick felt the competitive urge well up within him. He forgot for the moment that this meeting between Kirkwood and Melville was essentially for the playing of hockey. Here was an individual who dared meeting him on his own ground—who defied the ice skating champion! The stunt that Scotty had pulled was a new variation, one in which Frederick was not practiced, but the crowd had begun yelling for him to repeat the trick as Scotty stood by, banteringly.
“I guess that stumps you, doesn’t it?” taunted Melville’s crack centre.
Rand Downey, with other members of Kirkwood’s team, watched the developments with great interest and no little amusement.
“Frederick, the Great’s in a hotbox now,” chuckled Rand. “If he refuses to try to duplicate Scotty’s stunt, he admits he’s licked; and if he tries it and flops, he’s just as bad off! Serves the old boy right. Scotty’s hitting him in the only place where he can be hurt!”
Deadly serious and grimly determined, Frederick skated off across the ice, whirled and came back in a series of rolls. Twice it seemed as though he was about to go into a handspring but checked himself and continued on. It was obvious that the maneuver was a new one to him and that he was feeling his way before actually attempting the stunt. Scotty winked at fellow team mates.
“Stumped on the very first one,” he said, in a loud voice, “and I’ve got plenty of others!”
But Frederick, with confidence in his own ability, was not admitting that he could not duplicate Scotty’s performance. He suddenly left his feet on a lunge to the side, struck the ice on his hands and attempted the handspring. He was off balance, however, and succeeded only in throwing himself, joltingly.
“Ha, ha, ha!” laughed Scotty. “She’s not as simple as she looks, is she?”
Frederick, red of face, got to his feet, painfully. He immediately tried again with similar embarrassing results.
“Here’s an easier one,” cried Scotty, as the crowd murmured its hilarity at the impromptu skating match.
“Look—he’s written his name ‘Scotty’!” exclaimed an amazed spectator as Melville’s star finished his complicated twistings and turnings. “Marvelous!”
“Let’s see you write your name!” called Scotty.
“You think you’re clever!” flashed a greatly chagrined Frederick. “I’ll show you...!”
But the referee’s whistle screeched, announcing time for the starting of the game.
“Just a second!” Frederick pleaded as he turned toward the referee.
“Off the ice!” waved the referee, “all you fellows who aren’t in the opening line-up!”
“Well, see you again some time!” razzed Scotty.
A thoroughly upset fancy skating champion found his way to the bench and slumped down upon it. He had not cared what might be thought of him as a hockey player but to be humiliated on his own rink in his own sport ... this was terrible!
It was half way through a blistering first period before Coach Howard sent Frederick in, along with two other spares, to replace Kirkwood’s regular forward wall. The score was nothing to nothing and the hot pace of the battle had the crowd on edge.
“Hello—if here isn’t Frederick, the Great!” kidded Scotty. “Here’s hoping he’s as good a hockey player as he is a fancy skater! If he is, it’ll be duck soup!”
Frederick glared. This Scotty had the habit of ‘riding’ his opponents, all those who let themselves be ‘ridden’. And Frederick was taking the bait nicely.
“You’ll never get past centre ice!” Scotty predicted, as Frederick captured the puck a few seconds later.
Kirkwood’s substitute left wing said nothing but skated back around his own cage and came out on the other side with a burst of speed. He put more behind his drive than he had ever displayed in a game and the crowd cheered hopefully. At mid-ice a crafty Scotty waited, grinning as he saw his own left wing force Frederick toward the centre, away from the sideboards.
“He’s my meat!” muttered Melville’s star, and hooked out his stick as Frederick tried desperately to pass him. The crook of the stick stole the puck so cleanly from Frederick that he did not realize it was gone for several flashing strides. When he did pull up short, it was to hear the crowd roaring as Scotty, on a scintillating dash into Kirkwood territory, had fired a shot at goal-keeper Chub Roland. Chub fended the puck off with his stick but Scotty, following up, clubbed the disc viciously and sent it flying past Chub into the net for the first goal of the game!
“There, Freddy!” taunted Scotty, as the Melville stands went crazy with joy. “That’s how to play hockey!”
A hot retort was on the tip of Frederick, the Great’s tongue when Coach Howard hastily threw his regular forward wall back into the game.
The first period ended with Melville leading, one to nothing, and Rand Downey, whose contempt for the fancy skater exceeded that of his team mates, had certain things to say to Frederick in the locker room.
“You let that baby talk you out of a score,” he branded. “He got you so up in the air you didn’t know whether you had a puck or an egg at the end of your stick.”
“He won’t get the puck away from me again!” Frederick replied.
“He won’t have to,” snapped Rand. “All that Melville bunch has to make is one goal to win their games. Here we are, playing our fool heads off and you...!”
“Oh, shut up!”
Kirkwood’s right wing stared at Frederick unbelievingly.
“What did you say?”
“I said shut up!” repeated Frederick, a look in his eyes that Rand had never seen before.
Fellow team mates gasped their amazement. Was Frederick actually commencing to come to life?
“How’s your ankle?” the coach asked Don Keith, concernedly.
“Holding up okay,” answered Kirkwood’s veteran. “That Melville defense is the toughest I ever went up against. We never got a puck near their cage this period. They broke up practically every formation at mid-ice. And that guy Scotty is seemingly in every play! Fred wasn’t to blame for that score.... Scotty went through the entire team...!”
The second period was a torrid repetition of the first except that neither six was able to score. Frederick twice got in the battle for three minutes each, renewing his feud with Scotty but accomplishing nothing. Instructions were to play defensive hockey while the spares were in. Should Melville jam through another goal, Kirkwood’s every chance would be gone. Now there was a glimmering possibility of a tie resulting could Kirkwood get the puck past goalie Pete Hardy who was fighting to establish a season’s record of not having been scored upon.
“My ankle begins to feel lame,” Don admitted during the intermission between the second and last period. “Come on, boys—let’s give ’em everything we’ve got. I’d like to take the grin off that Scotty’s face!”
“So would I!” echoed a voice, impulsively.
Team members glanced about, questioningly. The voice belonged to Don’s understudy, the champion fancy skater. Frederick appeared self-conscious and a bit confused as attention focused upon him.
“You ought to feel like taking Scotty’s grin off,” rapped Rand, mercilessly, “you’re the guy who put it on him!”
“I know it,” answered Frederick, lamely, “but...!”
“Aw, razzberries!” exploded Rand. “We’ve had enough of you already!”
A tired but grim Kirkwood six skated out on the ice to resume hostilities in the third period. Melville, deciding to coast in on the one goal lead, threw up a stiffer defense than ever. As the minutes crawled along, the one goal advantage grew mountainous. Don Keith, handicapped as he was by the weak ankle, had played a stellar game but even his presence in the line-up had failed to penetrate the Melville goal. The visitors were just too good. Hats off to the greatest team a state high school had ever produced!
“Oh, oh—Don is out!” A sympathetic murmur went the rounds as Kirkwood’s right wing was helped to the sidelines.
“Go after ’em, Freddy!” Don called to the man who was to substitute for him, as Frederick got up from the bench, peeling off his sweater. “Don’t let that Scotty kid you! He’d like to make a monkey out of everybody if he could!”
“I know,” Frederick shot back. “I’ve got a score to settle with him!”
Certain fans could not suppress a groan as Frederick, the Great, took Don Keith’s place. But these certain fans had no way of knowing, at the moment, that something had snapped inside the champion fancy skater—a something that had been holding him back for years. First evidence of the change was a collision which took place at mid-ice between party of the first part and one Scotty Lathrom who became party of the second part, and quite the most worsted party, inasmuch as he did a backward somersault following the impact while the party of the first part simply rebounded and set off into Melville territory at a blazing pace.
“Yea, Frederick!” shrieked astonished Kirkwood rooters, as the fellow who had never shown any fighting spirit in a hockey match, zig-zagged through to within fifteen feet of the Melville cage and blazed away. His shot was accurate, a startled Melville goalie warding it off with his chest pad. Frederick became lost the next instant in a slashing pile-up in front of the Melville cage as he threw himself after the puck, trying madly to get his stick on it again and to drive it into the net for a score. It was the first time during the game that Kirkwood had gotten deep within Melville territory and Frederick’s feat was immediately heartening to his fellow players.
“Face-off!” cried the referee, diving into the mêlée and separating Scotty and Frederick, both of whom had fallen over the puck.
“You’re not mad are you?” joshed Scotty, and grinned.
As the puck was dropped between them, Scotty knocked the puck to the side. It whanged against the sideboards with Frederick again in furious pursuit. He bumped shoulders with Melville’s solidly built right defense and sat down suddenly but was up in an instant and trailing the defense man who had set off down the ice. Frederick was using his speed and his natural skating wizardry now as he glided around from behind, crouched low, hooked the puck away from the defense man, sent up a shower of ice as he swerved and did an about-face. Most of the Melville team was ahead of him as he cut back toward the Melville goal amid the wildest sort of clamor. A pop-eyed Rand Downey came sliding in from nowhere, pounding his stick on the ice.
“Shoot it to me!” he yelled, “to me!”
And Frederick shot, scooting the puck across the ice on a perfect pass.
Almost at once, Rand was covered, so that he stopped short and swung to the side.
“Right back at you!” he shouted, and backhanded the puck on a sizzling drive.
“Holy cats!” screamed Kirkwood’s veteran right wing, dancing about on his injured ankle. “Who said Freddy couldn’t play hockey? The guy’s gone goofy! He’s a whiz! Look at him spear that puck, will you? And look at him dodge in there—right on top of the goalie! Oh! Oh!... A perfect feint! He’s pulled the goalie out of his cage and there goes his shot!... It’s IN.... Man alive! Freddy’s the first to put a puck inside that Melville net!!!... Oh, am I glad I had to leave the game?... Oh, this is wonderful!... Look at Scotty!... Where’s that grin now, Scotty?... Tied the old score, didn’t we?... How much time, somebody?... Three minutes?... You will kid that baby about his fancy skating, will you?... Well, how was that for a fancy exhibition?”
On the ice, Rand Downey put an arm around the fellow he had cussed, and cried his apology. Team members clapped a fussed Frederick on the back. He knew what team spirit meant now ... knew why fellows fought shoulder to shoulder to try to win for each other ... knew what real comradeship felt like for the first time in his life. And knew it simply because he had been wounded to the quick by an opponent who had thought to have some fun at his expense. Thwarted at answering Scotty’s fancy skating challenge, Frederick’s only way of getting back at him had been through direct competition. And now he was finding what a thrill actual combat really was! That backward flip-flop that Scotty had taken as a result of their meeting head-on had done Frederick a world of good!
“I’m not through with you yet!” the fancy skating champion told Melville’s star centre as the puck went back to be faced off in the centre circle.
Melville team mates glumly consulted one another. It was a shock to have been scored upon since no other opponent had been able to turn the trick. But this Frederick, the whoever he was, would be a marked man from now on! They’d bottle him up and put the cork in.
The puck had scarcely been put back in play than the cyclone struck Melville. It was twisting and turning, taking a zigzag course over the ice, threatening, receding, and threatening again, as a goalie crouched in the mouth of the cage like a Kansas farmer in a storm cellar, afraid any moment that a little round, black object might blow into the net and take the game with it! Such an exhibition of skating and stick handling had never been witnessed as Kirkwood’s substitute left wing put on for the edification of the crowd and one Scotty Lathrom in particular. But Melville, fighting desperately to stand off this tempestuous one-man attack, stopped a stream of shots at the goal, fired either by Frederick or one of his team mates who had been placed in an advantageous position due to his whizzing passwork.
“Half a minute to play—looks like an overtime game!” shouted someone.
A terrific mix-up occurred at centre ice. The cyclone went down, curling up in a heap and with most of the wind taken out of it. Rand Downey grabbed a dazed Frederick up and set him on his feet. The referee’s whistle screeched. It looked like someone was going to be penalized but the official called no foul as Scotty separated himself from the tangle and stood swayingly on his feet to face a rival who had shaken Melville’s defense to its foundations.
“I still think you’re a rotten fancy skater!” he taunted.
But it was Frederick now who did the grinning. And it was Frederick who got the puck on the next face-off, blazing it down the ice on an attempted long shot for goal. The shot was blocked, however, by the Melville left defense but he was set upon almost instantly by Rand Downey and Steve Lucas and Bill Stewart—Kirkwood sending a formation of four into Melville territory in a last second effort to score. So furious was the onslaught, players on both sides went to the ice. In the mêlée the puck was hit into the open between the struggling group and the Melville cage. Scotty and Frederick, near centre ice, set out in a race for the disc. The heaving mass of players blocked the direct path, so Scotty veered to go around it.
“Man, oh man—look at Frederick, will you?...” gasped Don Keith. “He’s heading straight for that gang on the ice. He must be going to pull his airplane dive in order to beat Scotty to the puck ... hey! There he goes...!”
Leaving his feet in a spectacular dive through space, Frederick, the Great, Barker, cleared the heads and forms of mates and foemen, arms outstretched, to land on his chest and go sliding across the ice, skimming directly in front of Scotty who catapulted over him and went skidding into the sideboards. Raking out his stick as he slid along, never for one instant having taken his eyes off the puck, the champion fancy skater made connections, clipping the disc so that it upended and rolled, skimming the leg of Melville’s desperate goalie as it bounced over and into a corner of the net.
At the sound of the timer’s gun, Don Keith deliriously hugged Coach Howard and Kirkwood rooters did unaccountable things. They tried mainly to get down on the ice and capture a fellow who had written hockey history with his skates and who was now jabbering about writing something else for the especial benefit of a crestfallen Scotty Lathrom who was sitting dazedly where he had fallen, propped up against the sideboards and staring unbelievingly at the final score which read: Kirkwood, 2; Melville, 1.
“Stick around!” cried the champion fancy skater. “See if you can duplicate this!”
And, despite the furious pace he had just undergone, Kirkwood’s substitute left wing started a series of intricate maneuvers which held spectators spellbound. Melville team members stopped to look on, Scotty crawling to his feet that he might see the better. Finishing with a flourish, the skater bowed mockingly in the direction of his opponents as he pointed to the lines he had etched into the scarred ice.
Everyone strained their eyes for a moment, then a great shout went up and Melville team members made a hurried rush for the clubhouse, Scotty leading the way. And well he might, for Melville’s star centre had already seen more than enough of the figure who had left his now undisputed autograph on the ice:
Frederick, the Great....
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