(Hockey Player Magazine, December 2016)
Every team has one. Whether its baseball, basketball or badminton, there’s always that one guy who doesn’t quite enmesh locker room society. Maybe it’s his or her lousy jokes, bad breath, or that they wear turtlenecks year round. For me it was Marvin Smellmoore’s nose. The average length of an adult nose is about 5.8 centimeters, two-thirds the diameter of a hockey puck. Marv’s beak, shy of 8 centimeters, poked outside his helmet’s cage. Migrant birds eyed Marv’s nose as a potential perch.
I tried overlooking Marv’s schnozz. I was one of the team’s captains, chosen by Coach because I supposedly exhibited good citizenship. But Marv’s physiological anomaly was difficult to ignore. One couldn’t help but gaze at such a magnificent proboscis. Smellmoore’s face was graced by a glorious, wondrous, and mysterious marvel.
Smellmoore didn’t fraternize with teammates during the school day, preferring to hang around math geeks who sketched parabolas on chalkboards during lunch. Marv earned straight A’s in math—algebra, geometry, trigonometry—good news because Coach required that student athletes earn a C average to play. Marvin’s A’s in math courses offset the C’s he got in sex ed.
A third line forward, Marv rarely scored. At six feet tall Marv had pale skin, moles on his knees and elbows, rail thin arms, and a 38 inch waistline. He weighed about 135 pounds wearing hockey gear. Not a single bicep or triceps bulged. Renowned for his weak shot, Smellmoore’s velvety hands could fit inside Pringles cans. His team contribution was back-checking. Marv terrorized opponents, his arms spinning from all sides of his torso. He took out not only opponents but occasionally a referee. While resting on the bench we never leaned over the boards when Smellmoore skated by, lest we catch splinters from his stick.
The poor guy was subject to devious hazing. Just before a late night practice an anonymous teammate implemented a scheme. Coach just finished a chalk talk and stepped outside the locker room for a cigarette. Marv patrolled the room mooching an extra stick. Mr. Anonymous tiptoed to Marv’s gear bag, heisted his skates, and stretched Scotch Tape® across the inner and outer edges of the blades. The rest of us snickered when Coach roared from the hallway, “Get on the ice boys.” Dullened skate blades are suicide.
We scurried towards Coach who waited at the Zamboni entrance. Last in line, Marv took a header when his skates contacted the ice. Smellmoore’s face shield didn’t shield a classic face plant. Ice shavings clung to Marv’s nostrils. Coach frowned.
“My skates…they’re bars of soap,” winced an embarrassed Smellmoore. Coach pulled out a handkerchief and wiped melting frost from Marv’s nose.
“Let me see.” Coach inspected Marv’s blades.
“Who taped Smellmoore’s skate blades,” Coach growled.
“Peel off that tape,” Coach whispered to Smellmoore. “As for the rest of you…get on the goal line.” Perhaps it was a nicotine deficiency between smokes but we noticed a lacking sense of humor from Coach.
“You guys think that’s funny? I’ll SHOW you funny. Give me twenty blue lines. Then we’ll see who laughs.”
We never again taped Smellmoore’s skates. Coach’s temper scared us too much.
I’ve often wondered what became of Marvin Smellmoore. I lost track of him during my fifth year of college. I heard that Marv graduated in four years with an engineering degree and that he cheered at college football games with the cheer leading team. He reportedly trained five days a week tossing and catching girls.
Thirty five years have passed since that practical joke. I now skate in an adult recreation league and can’t say that we have dorks in our group. Maybe I’ve matured or maybe I’m blind to vain matters like people’s noses.
The passage of time mellows the soul and gives one pause to consider past transgressions. It was unjust and uncool to pick on a weaker player, especially a teammate. Marvin Smellmoore was simply a dedicated hockey player who loved the game and fought for his teammates, even if he only skated intermittent shifts. If Marv ever appeared at my rink today I’d greet him like an old friend, one that deserved better treatment during high school. I’d invite him to play on my team. We’d have a brew afterwards and I’d confess my role in the Scotch Tape fiasco.
Hopefully he’d laugh beer through his nose.
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