She couldn’t help but notice that she wasn’t the only girl on their team, there was another. She wondered if the only two girls on the team would be a pair, but that thought vanished when she heard Jeanne’s name called out in one of the forward pairs. So, Daniella waited to hear her name called, and she ended up paired with some guy named Dallas, which provoked a bad case of the giggles for her! She muted her giggles as much as she could, while a six feet tall, medium-built, average looking guy approached her and extended his hand out to her.
Dallas Grant saw the girl, perhaps the prettiest she’d ever seen up close. He was almost in a daze as he blurted to her, “Hi, I’m Dallas, your partner”. Daniella, unable to contain herself, just laughed out loud and hard! “What’s so funny?!” Daniella, after a few seconds trying to compose herself, said “It’s your name, it just sounds so funny!” Dallas raised his eyebrows, took a deep breath, and all the funny things he’d felt deep inside about being paired with this beauty of a hockey player vaporized. If she weren't a girl, such a beautiful one at that, he'd have given her a right cross to the nose. With every ounce of his strength behind it. “Let’s start working on our junk now”. “Okay” responded Daniella. They went to work on their “game”.
The next few days of practice were spent playing strictly with partners, the way Coach planned things to be. Not much time before the season started to get to know everyone’s tendencies, so at least every player should be very familiar with what the playing partner will do out on the floor. Half of the time was used on scrimmages, and other half on discussion and drills between playing partners. Coach definitely got the pairing of Dallas and Daniella right on: Dallas was a tough, grinding, hard-checking defenseman who almost always cleanly took out opposing bodies first, getting the puck second. Daniella’s skating skills and speed made her great at getting to loose pucks, and carrying the puck from end to end. They had a great rapport out on the floor in scrimmages, and they were both all business, no chitchat outside of the subject of hockey. They wound up as the number one defensive pairing on the team, though neither would be on the top power play unit, and Dallas would play penalty kill situations without his normal partner.
In the days of practice leading up to the first league game, Daniella developed the highest respect for her playing partner. Here was a guy, in his third year of playing recreational league roller hockey, who took his play to the max, never gave up on the play, and, from her perspective, someone who was all business in practice. Everything in him was all business, never personal. And he never tried taking advantage of his “partnership” by asking her out to dinner or a movie. That might have been the thing she liked about him the most.
Dallas had seen, and played with, all kinds of hockey players. But never one like Daniella! A first-time player who could find open areas like wind, could skate like the wind, and who’s beautiful brown hair sometimes escaped from her helmet and flowed freely in the wind. It took a mentally Herculean effort on his part to simply concentrate on practicing and scrimmaging with her as his partner! He did so, however, and after a few days of getting used to it, he had the utmost in trust in his partner, who complemented his style of play almost perfectly, better than any other partner he’d had before.
Then came the last practice before the first league game. Coach had the team scrimmage, and doing some light drills. Not much different from any other day of practice, actually. That was, until after the drills. Coach gave a short lecture on what he wanted his team to do in their first game:
“Okay, tomorrow night’s gonna be your first game of the season, and for some of you, it’ll be your first game ever. Though you may think it may get results, I believe some of you may try hard, TOO hard, to make things happen. Don’t. Stay within yourself and make sure the effort’s always there, but don’t overskate, overpass, overshoot, whatever. And keep your heads out there, don’t retaliate if that kind of situation happens. Just look the other way while we go on the power play. Yes, I know it can be really hard to just take cheap shots and not give any back, but that's how games are won sometimes.”
No matter how great the pre-season speech, it means nothing if the audience doesn’t believe in it, or doesn't remember the words. Would the team remember what their coach told them? Would she remember those words once she skated into a game situation? Would Dallas hold up on retaliating if he was given a "dirty" hit or slash? Those thoughts circled in Daniella’s mind, all the way from then until the puck dropped to start the game…