Back It up, Baby

Draft Day,

It didn’t matter how used to it I was, the smell of boy’s hockey gear is a thousand times worse than girl’s and will always make me gag. That’s why I always loathed having to sit in the locker room with them. Coach would be giving us some kind of pep-talk or Ryan, our captain, would be reaming someone out for their shitty play and I would always just be sitting there, in my goalie equipment, counting the seconds till I could breathe again.

This is all I could think about as I sat in the stands at the draft, swinging my leg back and forth over my knee and waiting for the selection to start. For one, I was so nervous, I could vomit. To keep myself from being sick, I used the same methods as the ones I used in the dreaded locker room. I took slow, deep breaths and counted something, this time it was the number of seats in my section. The counting distracted me from the wait.

For two, I bet the NHL has better ventilation systems than the Ontario Hockey League and maybe I won’t gag on the smell every time I’m in the locker room when I make it.

That wasn’t a self-absorbed comment about myself, it’s the truth. I’m slated for the top 10 and rocked the shit out of the combine, including the VO2max test which was a bitch and a half. Anything that didn’t involve height, I was above average. As a hockey player, I’m quite small but, that’s what happens when you are female and a goalie. I was the only goalie, by the way, projected for the top 15 and I worked my ass off to get there. Being Mark Visentin’s back-up for a year on the Niagara Ice Dogs and then being the starting goaltender, taking the team to the finals was two of hardest years of my life. Every day was a work out.

Yet I was still left of the World Juniors roster this year even though my goals against average was a 2.11, better than any of the boys selected for Juniors try-out camps. I could be the best goaltender in the entire world and the IIHF would still not let me play with the boys for fear of backlash. Somehow, hockey could fight homophobia and cancer but, couldn’t let a girl play for her country in one simple tournament.

I glanced over my shoulder to see Dad fully turned in his seat to talk to my teammate’s, Broderick Kelly, parents. Broderick was pre-occupied with his girlfriend of the week so, I couldn’t talk to him. It was just my Dad and I on this trip, like always. Mom was a sports agent and always with her clients. I swear she loved Tuukka Rask more than me, but who could blame her, really? I had known Tuukka since I was a kid and he was easily one of my favourite people ever. He had taught me everything I knew, including how to lose my temper at the wrong times.

I leaned over and excused myself to the washroom. As I climbed over legs, I impressed myself with the balance and grace I had in heels and a dress, two things I rarely got to wear. I spent the greater part of the last 10 years in sweats. As I sashayed off to the bathroom, I was suddenly squished in the middle of a Dougie Hamilton- Ryan Strome sandwich. I grinned from ear to ear, “my boys!”

“Lilypads!” Ryan yelled, wrapping his arms around me for a hug, just me and him. “My beautiful little Lilykins, I’m so excited for you!”

“What the hell are you guys doing here?” I laughed, stumbling out of Ryan’s arms and straight into Dougie’s.

“Dougie is doing presentation stuff and Tavares wanted me to come out and see the other side of the draft,” Ryan explained but, then instantly started to laugh. “Or he just wanted someone to drag along.”

“How’s the family, Dougie?” I had played with Dougie for two years and Freddie for one. I spent a lot of time at their house as well, especially when my parents were on business trips. It was the Hamiltons that made sure I was fed, well educated and got to my games on time. It was no secret that I had a massive crush on Freddie. I learned early on though, crushes on teammates are bad.

The younger Hamilton just shook his head and grinned. “Mom and Dad are great. Mom misses having your company around the house. Dad is slowly becoming a massive Boston fan and that’s about it.” I must have frowned slightly because Dougie chuckled, “oh, you meant how is Freds doing? He’s fine. Got through his first year of university, looks like the Sharks are going to take him next year. I’m sorry to report that he’s got a girlfriend now.”

“Well, a girl can dream,” I laughed. I hadn’t realized but, I was holding onto Ryan’s hand. It just seemed natural, both boys had been my best friends on the team but, Ryan and I were always a different level than Dougie and I. Dougie was like an older brother to me while, Ryan was just my best friend. I told him absolutely everything. “It’s just me and my dad as always. I’m glad you guys are here.”

“We are too,” they squished me into another hug. Dougie pressed his lips to my ear, “when you get called up, we’ll be the ones cheering the loudest.”

The 10 minute warning announcement came on the PA. I bid my adieus to the boys, sad to see them go but, eager to see what was going to happen next.


Nathan MacKinnon and Seth Jones went one and two, as predicted. It was almost a given that they would. MacKinnon was named the next Sidney Crosby when we were 15, for Christ’s sake. Followed by Jonathan Drouin and Hunter Skinkaruk. I wasn’t worried. Goalies don’t have to go top 5, they usually never do. I just crossed my ankles and waited patiently.

“I have an announcement,” New Jersey’s general manager, some guy I didn’t care to remember his name, said into the microphone. He looked down at the piece of paper in his hands and then up at the audience, “we have a trade.”

Tampa Bay was up to pick next so, naturally everyone turned to them, expecting them to be apart of the trade. Sure enough, Steve Yzerman was grinning from ear to ear. That smug bastard had some kind of plan up his sleeve. The man continued, “Pittsburgh has traded Tyler Kennedy and Dustin Jeffrey as well as a 2014 second round pick for Tampa Bay’s first round pick.”

My jaw dropped. No one expected Pittsburgh to make any trades. After making it to game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals and losing out to Chicago, I was sure they were going to stick with the team they had. I looked over at my Dad. He looked back and shrugged, no one could really understand what was going on.

But then it dawned on me. Ray Shero, Penguins’ general manager, was making cap space. He was trying to get rid of as many of the weak links so, he could keep the stronger ones. Trading Kennedy and Jeffrey opened up 2.5 million dollars that could be spent on keeping Jarome Iginla and Brendan Morrow in Pittsburgh. Plus, the first round draft pick was probably a nice extra on top.

I was still pre-occupied with the trade when Ray Shero went up to the microphone, “for our first round pick, the Pittsburgh Penguins would like to pick Lily Larch of the Niagara Ice Dogs.”

“Excuse me?” I blurted out to no one in particular. I turned to my dad, in shock, who just stood, a huge grin on his face. He extended his hand to pull me up from my chair and wrap me in a hug. I was in such a daze that it was a surprise when I had made it to the podium and nervously shook Ray Shero and Mario Lemieux’s hands. They congratulated me on my accomplishments, took pictures with me and then led me back to their table.

“Welcome to the organization,” Sidney Crosby said, holding out a chair for me. I had met him once before, on a tour with the rest of the top 10, and knew he was incredibly friendly. Unfortunately, I had met him only a few minutes after he had stepped off the ice and was a sweaty mess.

Word vomit is not something I’m proud of but, a condition I most definitely had. Without any kind of hesitation, I looked right up at him and said, “you’re even prettier in a suit than you are in a uniform.”

I wasn’t even embarrassed when he laughed and said that they still had the cameras on me and TSN was probably going to play that clip over and over again.

I was embarrassed, however, when he went to push my chair in for me and I fell right off the side of it knocking Sid over along with me.