Status: NEW

Bow Down

All Right Now

Shortly after my flight touched down at the Pittsburgh International Airport, I found myself in a rental car, driving down interstate 376 headed towards the Steel City. There was a nervous excitement coursing through my veins. I had to repeatedly rub my hands along the thigh of my pants because of how sweaty my palms had become while I was driving. I also kept fiddling with the radio in order to keep my mind off of my impending meeting with Ray Shero and Mario Lemieux.

I didn’t want to go into the meeting a complete bundle of anxious nerves. I was here to make the best impression that I could in order to make the team. There was no other option but to be at my best. I had to pull out the good old ‘LeMond charm’ and show them that I was a good investment for the team. But there was a small part of me that was certain there was nothing that I could really do at this point. By now, they had probably made their minds up. This was probably just a formality with them.

But then again, why would they have gone through the trouble of setting up a meeting with me or calling Pat back in the first place. It sounded like a waste of time and money if they were just flying me out here to tell me, ‘no’. Why would Shero have involved Mario if they weren’t seriously considering adding me to the team? So it must’ve been a good sign that Mario was involved, right? Normally, owners don’t get so closely involved with meetings like this unless the player would have a huge impact on the team and the owner wanted to make a huge impression by being there personally. Maybe there was a huge chance that I would be signing a contract with the Penguins. If not then, I would keep going through offers and visiting teams until there was a good fit for both that team and I.

Red taillights caused me grasp back to reality just in time to see that the Fort Pitt Tunnel was just ahead. I could feel my anxiety begin to intensify because I knew that on the other side of that tunnel my destiny was waiting for me. I could hear it calling my name like a sirens’ song, pulling me into the dark hole cut craved into the mountainside to make traveling to Pittsburgh much easier. It was a good two minutes before I even got to see the light at the end of the tunnel, literally! The light compared to the dimly lit tunnel almost appeared to be white like the blinding light always used to describe angels in the Bible. But once my eyes readjusted to the morning sun what I saw surely made me feel like I had entered the Promised Land as I drove onto the yellow bridge before me. Now, I was for sure that there was no other city that I wanted to play for other than Pittsburgh and I was going to do whatever it took to be able to do so.

Less than ten minutes later, I was parked and heading up the stairs on steady, but unsure footsteps as I tried not to trip in my three inch heels towards Ray Shero’s office. My heart was beating a mile a minute as I drew closer and closer to the door to my future. I had to remind myself to take deep, even breaths in order to calm myself down properly. Giving myself a once over before I walked over to the receptionist, I adjusted my blouse and suit jacket that had been wrinkled by the drive over. And as soon as I felt that I looked acceptable I walked over to the blonde haired woman sitting behind the desk and said,

“Excuse, ma’am , my name’s Brittany LeMond and I’m here for to meet with Mr. Shero. He didn’t give me a specific time or anything and I don’t want to interrupt anything.”

The woman studied me for a moment or two with an amused look on her face. It was as if she didn’t believe that I was actually here for a meeting with Shero. But she didn’t say anything as she looked in the appointment book on the desk in front of her. Her eyes widened in realization as soon as her overly long claw or a finger nail found my appointment. When she looked back up at me, she almost looked embarrassed. She, then, picked up the phone on the desk and dialed a number,

“Mr. Shero… Yes, this is Linda. Brittany LeMond is here for her meeting with Mr. Lemieux and yourself. Shall I send her in?”

There was a brief moment of silence, before the woman placed the phone back down on her desk and said to me, “Mr. Shero is ready to see you, Miss. LeMond.”

Nodding, I thanked her silently as I walked past her and towards the door of Ray Shero’s office. In front of it, I paused in hope to regain my composure but to no avail because I knew that as soon as I opened the door and walked into the room that my life was about to change. Summoning up the courage, I pushed open the door and sitting at a desk before was the Penguins GM himself. He had his back towards me looking out at the skyline of Pittsburgh. I was about to announce my presence in case he hadn’t heard me but he waved me over.

“Have you ever seen such a beautiful city?” He inquired as I made my way across the room and over to his side.

Staring out the window, I gasp at the sight before my eyes. Pittsburgh, truly, was a beautiful city. If someone had asked me before, I would’ve listed off at least fifty cities that were more beautiful than this. But the sight before me stool my breath in a way that I never thought possible. I didn’t know why but there was just something about this city and it made me never want to leave.

“No, sir.” I breath out as I am finally able to tear my focus away from the city’s splendor. Looking back towards Shero, I see that he is staring at me intently and motions for me to take a seat in the chair directly in front of him.

Taking a seat, I folded my hands in my lap and wait for my potential boss to say something. But he doesn’t, instead he rested his chin upon his hands and studied me with cool, professional eyes. It felt like every little thing I did was being examined under a high-powered microscope and he was trying to find all my flaws by just staring at me. I didn’t know what else to do or how to react, so I stared right back at him. Part of me wondered what was going through his mind and if I was meeting any of the expectations he had of me. The other part was wondering if he was waiting for Mario for us to start the meeting. But nonetheless, it made the situation uncomfortable for me and I began to fidget in my chair as I waited for him to do or say something.

It wasn’t that long after when I heard the doorknob turn, followed by the sound of the door clicking shut, and large footsteps travel across the floor towards Shero and I. Knowing who had just entered the room, I froze upon the realization that I was in the same room with my childhood hero.

I couldn't believe I was in the same room with Mario Lemieux. In my wildest dreams I never thought this day would come unless I died and went to heaven. On top of that, he could potentially be giving me a position on the team he owns and be the person to grant my dream of playing in the NHL. How cool was that?

"Good afternoon, Miss. LeMond." The man offered a kind smile to me as he took a seat in the open chair next to Shero.

Nodding, I smiled back at the man and managed to say, "Good afternoon to you as well, sir."

There was a brief moment of silence as the two of them stared me. I'm sure they were probably trying to gauge how professional I could be by how I was dressed and what my posture was like right now. There also could've been something about my overall appearance that was different than what they had expected. But for the mean time, I did my best not to fidget in my chair and maintain a collected, calm air about me.

After that they looked to each other before Shero inquired, "How was your flight in?"

"As good as any flight can be, I suppose. The best part was getting here." I informed him, politely but on the inside I was frustrated with the small talk and wanted to get down to business.

"Les Étoiles look good for making another Clarkson Cup run this season." Lemieux threw in, almost immediately, "Are you sure that you want to give up the opportunity to win it again?"

I used his question as an opportunity to prove how serious I was about joining the team. Looking him dead in the eyes, I told him, clearly, "After having three of them, I would greedy if I said, 'yes.' But no, I don't want another. I have felt so limited playing with women for the past six years and I'm ready for something much bigger than that. I'm ready to prove myself in the NHL."

Neither of them seemed to be too surprised by my words. I don't even think that they blinked at them. Their lack of reaction dwindled my hope of being able to convince them that I could play at the level they needed me to. Disheartened, slightly, I allowed my shoulders to slump in defeat as I realized just how slim my chance had been all along.

"Miss. LeMond, we have reviewed the video your agent sent us with our coaches and we have no doubt that you have the ability to play in the NHL. In fact, we have been talking with Pat about drafting a contract as soon as possible. However, out only concern is that do you want to place that kind of commitment in this sport. It's a long season and there will always be injuries. We'll need you at your best at all times." Shero's words rang through my ears like the bells of Notre Dame.

I, almost, couldn't believe what I was hearing. They had been talking contracts with Pat all along. Boy, does he know how to make someone worry. But I'll return the favor at some point when he's least expecting it. The best part of it was that they only had one concern and that was commitment. If there was anything that I truly was it was committed to being the best and playing my best.

So with a confident smile, I informed them, "I always thought the off season was too long. But in all seriousness, I am more than prepared to fill whatever role you need me to. I will devote my every essence to this team if you will have me."

Looking up at the men with determination on my features, I saw a smile of approval creep on Mario's lips and Shero nod to confirm that they did want me as a part of their team.

"We will get that contract drafted up as soon as possible. Is there anything we can do for you?" Shero informed me as he began to jot notes down in a notebook.

"Yes, I would like to play one last game with the Montreal Stars. The girls have been like sisters to me and I don't want to leave them without one last hurrah." I requested, knowing that it was going to happen one way or another. I had to get back to Montreal for our game against Toronto tomorrow.

Shero nodded, "Very well. We will expect you back in Pittsburgh on the 8th. You will sign a basic entry level contract and you will debut against the Senators on the 10th."

"You are also more than welcome to stay in my home until you can find a place of your own." Mario threw in, kindly.

"That would be much appreciated since all of this is happening on such short notice." I informed him, accepting the offer without delay. I smiled, broadly at the thought of temporarily living in the same household as my favorite player of all time.

It was almost like another dream come true in some round about way because Mario was known for taking in special players like Jaromir Jagr, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Sidney Crosby. All of whom have been and to still are extremely successful during their NHL careers. For him to offer me a place to stay must mean that he sees that kind of potential in me that he saw in them.

After that the three of us chatted about how the Penguins season was going among other things before they decided to give me a tour of what was going to be my new home arena. I was excited at the prospect of getting to explore all the personnel rooms that had been featured on the HBO series leading up to the Winter Classic they had participated in just over a year ago.

I was amazed how people didn’t get lost in all the hallways as they showed me things that only members of the organization get to see. It was truly a state of the art facility to play hockey in and at just two years old, it would be a great place to play for many years to come. I couldn’t wait to skate out on the ice for the first time and be in the center of such an amazing venue. It made me want to skip going back to Montreal all together but I knew that it wouldn’t be fair to my team if I did that. And I couldn’t let them down.

As we walked down one of the corridors, headed towards the Penguins dressing room where I would have a chance to meet some of the players who were wrapping up with their morning skate, I noticed a man with goofy hair headed in the same direction. He seemed to walking that way with purpose, his fists were clenched shut so I made no move to want to talk with him. But then, Shero called him back to us,

“Neal, why don’t you give Miss. LeMond a tour of the dressing and training rooms?”

Ah, yes, James Neal: the team’s newest weapon. He had been acquired in a trade with the Dallas Stars not a year ago and he was coming into his own here in Pittsburgh. He was a good player and from what I could see, he wasn’t bad to look at either. But there was something about him that seemed off. Well, besides the large red mark on his cheek from where it looked like he had been slapped.

“James Neal.” He introduced himself once he had turned around and made his way back towards us. He ran a hand through his messy dark brown hair before he moved to shake my hand. The contact sent an instant shock through my body as I found myself staring into those sparkling blue-gray eyes of his. It captivated me like a stormy sea just teeming with life underneath.

“Brittany LeMond.” I informed him, simply as I finally let his hand go after holding it for what seemed like a lifetime. I could feel my cheeks begin to redden from embarrassment from my being my normal weird self around attractive guys.

When I looked back at him, he was still looking down at me. He wasn’t very good at hiding the fact that he was checking me out. But I didn’t call him out on it in front of the two men who were technically both our bosses. That would’ve been extremely unprofessional and just down right awkward of me to do that. So I just let him look. Besides he probably got a girlfriend or something. But he’s a guy and all men let their eyes wander.

A throat cleared from beside us and we both took a step away from each other at the sound. Looking up, I gave a small smile towards the GM and owner as they waited for us to turn our attention back to them.

“Miss. LeMond, I am heading back up to my office to make a few phone calls that will help get you back here faster.” Shero informed me before turning on his foot and walking back the way we had come.

Mario waited for a moment or two longer before he said, “You’ll come watch the game in the press box along with myself, my wife, Ray, and Sidney. Neal, good luck tonight.”

“Thank you, sir.” James and I replied at the exact same time causing us both to look at each other and then flush with embarrassment.

Mario raised an eyebrow at us but said nothing to the effect before he, too, followed the same path that Shero had just taken. This left James and I awkwardly standing together in the concrete corridor. No words were exchanged as we wait for Lemieux to be out of earshot.

Glancing back over at James, I saw that he was practically bursting with pride and recognition that Mario, personally, wished him well. I got the feeling that he hadn’t had much interaction with the Penguins owner during his short tenure here. So with a teasing smile, I asked him, “That doesn’t happen much, does it?”

“No,” He shook his head and looked as if he was trying to remember the last time he had spoke to Mario, “I think I could count on one hand the number of times we’ve spoken.”

I nodded, understanding where he was coming from. I had hardly ever spoken with the Montreal Stars owner except at functions and fundraisers where we had mingled. But it seemed to me that Mario was a much more active owner than Meg.

“So, uh… you don’t sound like you’re from around here.” James stated, completely out of the blue which caused me to giggle at his randomness.

“Nope, not at all.” I confirmed before going on to tell him, “I’m from London, Ontario but my job has had me living in Montreal for the past six years or so.”

“Yeah, I was gonna say. You don’t sound like you’re from America at all.” He pointed out the obvious but in all honesty I didn’t mind. It helped to relieve the awkward tension brewing between us.

Looking over at him, I inform him, “This is actually my first time in Pittsburgh.”

“Ah sweet! Like it so far?” I nodded at his question, “Great! So uh… what are you doing here anyway?”

“Well, I’ve come here for a job actually. I needed to moved on and find a new place to ‘spread my wings’ so to speak.” I shrugged as he began to lead me down the hall.

He nodded, not looking back at me until we reach the first door, which is revealed to be the equipment room, “The Penguins are a great organization to work for. Even being on the team, I can see that everyone in the office loves it here, too. What do you do?”

“I play hockey.” I tell him, simply because I know what there was no other way around it, “I’m a forward for the Montreal Stars at the moment. But I’ve been working on landing an NHL team for the past couple days.”

“Ya don’t say.” He whispered, his face suddenly darkening a little. Was there a bitter edge in his voice just then? I couldn’t quite tell.

“To be honest, part of the reason why I’m doing it is because of Mickayla Hammer. I mean, I just don’t get how some girl comes out of no where and ends up playing in the NHL. I’ve been playing at the elite level for years and I don’t even get a second glance. God, she’s just such an entitled child getting everything handed to her…” I trail off when I noticed the slightly overwhelmed expression on James’ face, “I’m sorry. I was rambling, wasn’t I?”

He blinked for a moment or two and shook his head, “No! I mean, yeah a little bit… I-I don’t know.”

I could tell that he was probably a little more than overwhelmed, judging by his reaction. Not that I minded that at all. I knew how fast I could talk if I was wound up about something and James looking so lost was quite frankly adorable. But I really shouldn’t be thinking about my future teammate that way. It was unprofessional to be in relationship with someone in the same organization.

“So you’re not a fan of her either?” He asked, suddenly pulling me out of my thoughts. That was all he got out of it?

“Yeah, I guess I just don’t care for people who always get what they want without earning it.” I explained my view to him and he nodded in agreement to my statement but I could tell that there was a lot more than just distaste for the young woman in his eyes.

It made me wonder if there had been some sort of encounter between the two that did something to his pride. But I said, nothing to the effect. I didn’t really want to know anything about his personal life or want to get involved in it. I had made a choice to stay away from fellow hockey players a long time ago and I wasn’t about to go back on that now.

From that point, we continued on the little tour he was supposed to give me as he showed me the dressing room, the training room, and the medical room. It was pretty much a standard tour of the facilities. But I wasn’t expecting a whole lot of detail from the man giving the tour. He seemed like the kind of guy who just told you how it was and didn’t sugar coat much. My tour was over when he announced that he needed to head home for his pregame nap and I wasn’t about to stop him. Naps are everything to us hockey players. We need them. So I let him go on his way. But as I watched him walk away I found myself checking out the man from Whitby, Ontario.

For the next few hours, I found myself wandering around the city surrounding CONSOL, wanting to get my first legitimate taste of the city’s atmosphere. I had called Shero, who had told me to get back about an hour and a half before the game started so that they could get me everything I would need to sit up in the press box. That left me with four hours to check out what would be my new surrounding in just a matter of days.

In all honesty, it wasn’t quite the bustling hub of culture that Montreal was and it didn’t have the same type of flare that made you feel like you were in France instead of Canada. But I didn’t expect that to be the case at all. This was a hard working, blue-collar city of steel. It was far more industrial than Montreal would ever hope to be. But with the mountains surrounding the city, it sort of felt like a fortress. Not to mention that the Smokey Mountains just seemed to roll on for as far as the eye could see. It made me long to own a cabin on the top of one of those peaks, so that I could sit out on my front porch at see the stars twinkling the sky, but still see the city lights off in the distance.

With my time up, I was right back in Shero’s office waiting for him to get all the passes I would need to be up in the press box and go down to meet the team afterward the game. I couldn’t help but feel begin to get a little excited about seeing my future teammates play tonight. There was an electricity buzzing around in the air that nearly had me lacing up my skates and join them, but I needed to sign my contract before any of that happened. Sooner than later though which was a huge relief for me after all the worrying I had done these past few days. I couldn’t wait to tell my family about the exciting news.

About a half an hour before game time, Shero and I headed up to the press box where I was introduced to Natalie Lemieux and Sidney Crosby. Well, I guess I had already met him. We had played on the same team at Shattuck and then against each other for the 2005 Memorial Cup. It was one of the few things that I could actually hold over his head. We managed to get caught up on everything that we had missed in the two years since we had last seen each other since the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Boy, Pat had never been more proud than to have two of his star clients both score the winning goals in both gold medal games.

Unfortunately, the game didn’t go as well as my meeting had gone earlier today. No, the Penguins struggled against the red-hot Rangers team. But to my surprise, there was no Mickayla Hammer out of the ice tonight, which was odd because she normally was out there every night. But when Shero pulled up the Rangers’ roster for the evening it showed her as a scratch with a shoulder injury. At first, the Penguins fast paced offense was in total control of the game, but when the second period came around everything went down hill for the home team. It made me sick to my stomach I was watched the Rangers battle back and take control of the game. The final score was 3-1 with Rangers for the win.

Once the final buzzer had sounded, everyone in the press box began to make his or her way out of there. I allowed the much more important people exit before I did because I didn’t want to be rude to the people who were on the executive board for the Penguins and I didn’t want to leave a bad first impression on them. But I ended up following Shero and Mario out of the room.

Looking around the semi crowded hall my eyes caught sight of a young woman whom I would never forget. It was Mickayla Hammer. She had just exited the press box and I took the opportunity to introduce myself to her officially.

“Excuse me, are you Mickayla Hammer?” I inquired to the young blonde even though I knew exactly just who she was.

The poor thing looked like she had nearly jumped out of her skin at my question. It was like she hadn’t expected me to come over and talk to her. To my surprise, she was taller than everyone was giving her credit for. She was a few solid inches taller than me. But she still looked every bit of a wet nosed little kid that I had thought her to be and to find her in the press box instead of her out on the ice didn’t make for a very good first impression. It made me wonder what kind of integrity she had as player to not be out there with her team. She didn’t seem like she was hurt and there wasn’t a scratch on that pretty little head of hers. But as I looked into her light green-blue eyes there seemed to be a storm of emotions raging beneath the surface.

“Yep, that’s me. The one and only.” She confirmed, hesitantly as she tried to regain her composure.

Nodding, I pressed my mouth into a thin line and continued to examine the Rangers’ prized defenseman before me because I knew that the media would make us rivals once they found out that I would be joining the Penguins in a few short days. To be honest, she didn’t really seem like someone who could be my rival. There was little to no confidence in her posture as she stared back at me, waiting for me to say something. But to be honest, there were only two women that I could and would consider to be my rivals and they would be the Lamoureux twins and they weren’t even that close to me in terms of success and talent.

“Pity I didn’t get to see you play. Shero said you scratched with bruised shoulder.” I told her, as I recalled what Shero had told me as we had made our way up to the press box. At first, I had given her the benefit of the doubt but now, I knew that there was something fishy going on.

“Yeah,” She confirmed, slowly, bringing her right hand up to cradle her left shoulder, “Brian Campbell got me good the other night and Torts didn’t want to take a chance so close to the All- Star Break.”

Nodding, I knew I was growing bored standing here talking to the girl that I want to dethrone so badly, “I see. Well, let’s hope you get a selected.”

“Thanks,” She managed to smile at me, “It’d be an honor to get to participate.”

I couldn’t help but be a little jealous as I imagined myself out there for a second, “I can only imagine.”

Giggling, she looked at me with now hopeful eyes, “Do you think- if you have time to- this summer, could you help me out with a few things? I’ve looked up to you for the longest time and I’d love to be able to skate on the same ice as you.”

I turned my attention back to Mickayla and stared at her for a moment allowing her words to digest and translate in my brain. I found it absolutely adorable that she wanted to train with me during the off-season. The poor thing was too naïve to even realize just how much I was about to change her world and by the time that the off season was here for either of us there was no way that she would want to train with me.

“You may get that opportunity sooner than you think.” I, finally, stated with a growing smirk, “I’ll have to talk to my agent because he knows my offseason schedule better than I do. But I’m sure we’ll be able to pencil you in a few times before preseason starts.”

“Really?” She was almost too excited now, but I had to admit that she was doing a pretty good job holding it all in.

“Of course,” I grinned back at her but then lie, “From what I’ve been told, you’ve got a lot of promise. You just need a little fine tuning and some challenges and you’ll one hell of a hockey player.”

“You think so?”

I nodded and was about to lay it on even thicker when my iPhone buzzed, I pulled it out of my jacket pocket to check it and then said, “Mickayla, I’d love to stay and chat but I’ve got a plane to catch.”

“Alright, see you this summer!” She offered me her hand, but I chose to pass it up and give her my traditional kiss on each cheek.

“Good luck, with the rest of the season. You’re gonna need it.” I informed her before turning on my heel and heading down towards the Penguins dressing room.

Making my rounds, I made small talk and introduced myself to my future teammates, who all seemed to be in good spirits despite the loss. I had even managed to share a few quick stories with those I had already known from the Olympics, like Evgeni Malkin and Brooks Orpik, who seemed more than happy to hear that I was going to be a part of the team. But every time I made it to someone new, I found myself glancing over at James for some reason and when I finally did make it over to him we just awkwardly reintroduced ourselves to each other once more so that the rest of the guys wouldn’t think anything about it.

But this was also a different James than the one I had met earlier that afternoon. This James seemed to be absolutely pissed off about something and I couldn’t tell what. Part of me thought, it was just because the Rangers had constantly targeted him tonight and when I looked back on it, he had received more hits than anyone else on the ice. It made me wonder what he could have possibly done to make an entire team so violent towards him. Part of me really wanted to find out what was bugging him because he had been so kind enough to show me around. But the other part of knew that it was crossing the lines that I had clearly drawn out for myself and he just didn’t seem like he was in much of a mood to talk. So I moved on to the next penguin.

After that I met up with Shero and Lemieux once more before, I had to go catch my flight back to Montreal. As I left, I couldn’t believe how hard it was for me to leave the team and the city behind. But I knew that I would need the closure in Montreal to truly move onto my NHL career that was just would to begin and boy was I ready for it!
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Brittany's outfit

It's a little rough but I am going to edit it later.Let me know what you think! I want to know what kind of approach I should take to Mickayla's and Brittany's rivalry.

Thanks everyone for reading and especially those who commented!