hockey stretches

AU where instead of going to Samwell, Jack starts a widely successful Publicly Broadcast show for children.

Jack learns that he is great with kids after coaching them for a little over two years. Moreover, kids are good with Jack. There is no pressure to be anything other than who he is.


It all starts with a local news program doing a fluff piece on Jack Zimmermann’s coaching ability. But then it turned into something completely different when Jack skated onto camera and started to introduce every single one of his kids and what was special about them. He was…really enchanting actually. He didn’t ever really talk down to them. Jack just treated them as a tiny friend. 

They ARE his tiny friends, but that’s not the point. 

The footage they got of “snack time” was really the best. Imagine a good 16 kids piled around this massive man teaching them the best way to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. 

 It should have been obvious that a local channel would contact him. It still surprises Jack. They want him to host a show? Why? Everyone always teased him about how impersonable he was during interviews. Is it because he’s Jack Zimmermann’s son? Or Alicia’s? 

Jack asks all of these questions to his mother and she just laughs. “You made a PB&J interesting to 16 kids just by being you”

Jack figures it wouldn’t hurt to give it a shot. 

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“Give me your best shot, Tater Tot.”

“Give me your best shot, Tater Tot,” Kent Parson says across the face-off circle. 

Alexei has been living in the US for almost two years now, and he likes to think he’s been making headway in becoming fully fluent in his adopted second language.  He may still get tripped up on pop cultural references and nonsensical idioms, but even on his first day in the States, those words he would have understood.  In fact, those were the first words he ever learned in English, aside from the the odd Anglicisms naturally adopted from such a massive exporter of pop culture as the United States.  Because Alexei has had those words imprinted across his chest since he was eleven years old.

“Give me your best shot, Tater Tot,” says Kent Parson, Alexei’s soulmate.  


He has approximately half a second to digest what just happened before the referee drops the puck and play resumes at a blazing pace.  It is only years of muscle memory and diligent practice that allows Alexei to slam his stick after the puck with only the smallest hesitation.  It’s enough for Parson however, the man is dazzling on the ice, he snags the puck and passes it with precision to Graham, neatly giving the Aces possession when the Falconer’s are still scrambling to make up the point difference in a 2-1 game.

“Did Parson just call you Tater Tot?” his linemate Spencer asks incredulously, flying by in a flurry of defensive maneuvers.  Alexei is quick to follow after, but not quick enough to stop Parson from looping behind the net to score on pass from Graham.  The fans around them groan in unison as Parson is swept up in a hug by his teammates. Alexei grudgingly acknowledges that it was a splendid bit of skating, as he slides back to the bench to change shifts before the next puck drop.

“You ok, Alex?” his Captain asks, leaning into his shoulder briefly to get his attention.  Zimmermann has sixth sense for sorting out when his players are a bit off, one of the many attributes that make him such an exemplary leader.  “Yeah,” he replies gruffly. He knows he’s behaving a bit oddly, he’s usually the first on the bench to cheer on his fellow Falcs (often bellowing at a volume loud enough to be heard in the reserved boxes), but he just met his soulmate - the person he’s been eagerly waiting for ever since his parents explained the writing along their shoulder blades. So instead of exuberantly yelling as his team regains possession, he’s reeling that the universe has revealed his ideal partner and it’s Kent Parson.  The man is sitting only a few feet away, separated by a wall of plexiglass and overly large hockey players.  Stretching upward, craning his neck, he can barely make out the top of Parson’s helmet.   

Alexei briefly considers confiding in Jack, after all, if anyone would be able to tell him more about his soulmate, it would be Jack Zimmermann, whose boyhood orbited hockey and Parson in equal measures.  But the moment passes in the brisk rush unique to hockey games, and he and his line are back over the boards and in a mad scramble for the puck.

It’s easy to focus on the ice. The scrape of a hard stop, his stick connecting with rubber, pushing hard to shove a player into the boards long enough for his team to retrieve the puck.   He wouldn’t have made it as far as the NHL if he wasn’t capable of focusing when it’s his time on the ice.  But despite the familiar comfort of the game, he can feel how much his equilibrium has shifted, like stepping onto dry land after months at sea.  

Kent Parson.

Captain of the Las Vegas Aces, Stanley Cup winner, current point leader in his division, his accolades are many. Parson is a dazzling skater, he has an ebullient personality in general but the man seems to sharpen when he’s on the ice, all determination and and drive and focus. He is entirely centered when he is laced into his skates.  Alexei spends the rest of the third period biting back words, and he know his teammates are looking at him strangely, for him to skate practically mute is an anomaly of the highest order.

He can’t help it, his instincts are screaming at him to close the space between him and Parson, he’s swallowing compulsively as if trying to bury the words deep in his gut.  He’s not sure what is holding him back, by all rights he should be ready to sweep the man up and yell his happiness for all to hear.  The middle of play during a professional hockey game is hardly the place he thought he’d be meeting his partner, and Alexei wonders if it wouldn’t be quite fair, really, to distract Parson as he’d been distracted at the face off. He tries to tell himself to focus on the game, that there will be time enough to figure out his response later.  

Parson is almost entirely covered in his gear and sweater.  Still Alexei can’t help hoping for a glimpse of bare skin, but the only skin visible is the man’s face and part of his neck, unlikely spots for imprints.  If his location matches Alexei’s it will almost impossible for anyone to see it while they’re in the middle of the game, but he’d love to have some kind of hint of what he’s eventually going to say to the man.

He knows it’s not unusual for soulmates to have imprints on disparate body parts, but he’d always found it romantic when partners shared a location. He thinks looking forward to finding his imprint on Kent.

They manage to score again late in the third, but can’t manage to pull ahead enough to tie it. The game finishes 3-2, much to the disappointment of their home crowd.

Lining up the shake hands with the Aces he feels a pull deep in his gut, anxiety flaring as he nears Parson.  This man is a stranger to him. He sees Jack tap gloves, congratulating Kent and awkwardly thumping him once on the helmet before continuing down the line.  And then it is the two of them. Alexei reaches out a hand, and looks up into blue eyes, cold and bright, and the moment passes. Parson moves on, chirping the men behind him as he moves further down the line.

“Hey, Tater,” Spencer says from behind him, “What’s the hold up?” He nudges him gently with his stick to keep him moving.

“Sorry,” he mutters, before reaching out to the next player. He just couldn’t do it, he’s felt a sting of recognition looking into those eyes, his mind blanked, losing the moment like water through his hands.

……………………………………….

“Oh my god Tater. I can’t believe you finally have a hockey nickname and it came from Kent Parson.” Snowy is moaning when they get back to the locker room.

“I don’t understand, is tiny potatoes, yes?” Mashkov asks uneasily, not getting why everyone in the locker room is beaming at the name.

“Dude, it’s pun. Potatoes, tater, Mashkov, like mashed potatoes?”

Ah, that does make sense. He feels his face fold up involuntarily into a smile.

“See there! He does remember how to smile.” Spencer says, red curls specularly ruffled after pulling his sweater over his head.

“What’s wrong Tater, you’re usually the one cheering the rest of us up.” Snowy asks, bend over undoing his laces.

“Is…complicated.” Alexei says, unsure if he should elaborate. He likes his team, he knows in most circumstance they would be thrilled to know that he met his soulmate. He knows they would chirp him endlessly over having met his soulmate in the middles of a hockey game, would give him wild suggestions for what his own first words should be to Kent. But that’s part of the problem, his soulmate is not some stranger to all of them, it’s Kent Parson, complicating things immensely. For one, he’s the captain of the team they narrowly lost to only minutes ago. Second, their own captain has a murky, unspoken past with the man, with hints that the two parted ways less than amicably. Alexei doesn’t know where the two men stand. It’s only his own first year with the team, he hardly wants to shake things up with his captain.  So he’s getting undressed in a locker room feeling unsteady, wanting to reach out to his team but uncertain of his reception, with a half formed soulmate bond to a man who is likely getting ready to fly to the other side of the country.  He’d pictured meeting his soulmate and feeling nothing but overwhelming happiness, not this muddle of confused thoughts.

“We are going out tonight?”  He asks the room at large. “I need a drink.”


A thing I’ve been working on, sort of an alternate path for Don’t Speak Before We Say Too Much.  I’m a little bit stuck on whether to continue angsty or fluffy as I have ideas for both. It is surprisingly difficult to write from Mashkov’s POV and also continue in an angsty vein. 

All that and more

Ludwig the personal trainer, utterly enamored by confidence in all forms, especially the one Matthew’s brother has.

Based off this idea(X) by @aph-blimpy

Ludwig gets to the gym early, as he does everyday. He makes it a goal to get there at least an hour before his clientele if not just to make sure they have enough water and snacks prepared for afterwards. He finds the chart detailing the progress and regimes for his earliest client of the day, a rising young hockey player by the name of Matthew, who is trying to keep a schedule going to stay in shape.

He’s one of the easier going people Ludwig has to train, always trying to keep a smile on his face even when struggling to keep up. It’s been a daunting task for Ludwig as well. Most if not all other of his clients are bulking muscle but Matthew requires agility as well as long term endurance over brute strength.

Ludwig walks around the gym, barely casting a glance to the few others already working on the machines, trying to pinpoint exactly what machines they should use today as well as what weight. When he finishes his small round inside the building he heads to the front desk, waiting there to greet Matthew when he finally shows up.

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It means Victory: Nikita Kucherov lives up to the name, goes beyond the mark

Nikita is not Russian for Nicholas, it does mean Victory/Victorious

Killorn and Johnson were not wearing shirts, but they were listening to censored Drake

I was supposed to do this after Christmas, but he let me do it before. This was tuesday. 

the quote came in a fax machine, I don’t know who said it, but I’d like to kick his ass. 

“Though he has skill, he lacks dedication. He is willing to wait for a shot, he is lazy, careless, and a novelty. A player trying to play like Ovechkin but failing horribly. Riding the coattails of former players and faltering on his own. A second round pick would be a stretch.” –European Hockey League scout #124 post U18 Tournament (Released to writer from a confidential source n/m not released)

           Nikita Kucherov is a lot of things: he is a play maker, he is a sharpshooter, he is reserved and concerned about his English. He is not the talkative player that his centreman is, nor is he the quiet leader that his fellow winger is. Kucherov is put perhaps best in the words of fellow forward Vladislav Namestnikov; “Kuch is Russian”. Nikita Kucherov is not by any stretch of the imagination anything less than a Hall of Famer in the making. Night in and night out, Kucherov is moving up in the +/- standings, though some analysts will tell you +/- and Corsi have fallen out of relevance in the last few years. The thing Kucherov is perhaps most obviously is a beloved player, his name is just as seen as Stamkos’s, Johnson’s, and Palat’s. Kucherov is not “Lazy”.

           “I used to not talk. To me if I couldn’t say how [what] I wanted to say, I don’t [didn’t] say it.” That is one of the first things he tells me. His voice is softer than I expected to hear, he speaks quietly, as if I will chastise him for improper grammar. He looks at me with blue eyes that are only enhanced by the blue of the Tampa Bay Lightning long sleeve shirt he wears, the logo pulled a little and stretched with love. In his hands he holds a nearly empty water bottle, over his right shoulder sits a translator a few seats away, listening just in case. There are a few times I ask him something that doesn’t translate into Russian, that makes his eyebrows knit together as I try to find another word for the one I was going to use. The humour I use sometimes doesn’t hit the mark, but he smiles anyway when I do, maybe not truly understanding the joke but understanding that I mean to ease the tension.

           He is nervous. That is what I get when I first start talking to him, he’s nervous that there is a language gap between us. When he introduces himself, his voice and his hands shake a little, he looks around the conference room like it might be a jail cell. I realize that this is not where Nikita Kucherov likes to be, this is not his element. Having come back from a Pacific Division road trip that resulted 2-1 (taking 4/6 possible points) against the Ducks, Sharks, and Kings, he’s done his job. He’s been where he is most comfortable, in the presence of his teammates and on the world’s stage playing in the NHL. He’s not used to this, this  room with its painted walls. Overhead the fluorescent bulbs hum and the sun shines in over Garrison Channel. He looks like a trapped deer. He rubs his hands on his shorts, the fabric making a noise reminiscent of a faulty zipper as his calloused hands catch synthetic fibres. He rolls his shoulders and watches me. He never stops watching me as I set up my recorder, my back up battery, my notes and my pens. The battery catches his attention: “What’s that?” “This [I gesture to the battery]?” “Yes. What does it do? Why do you bring it here?” “It’s a backup battery for my recorder.” I show him the light and the beep that signifies the device being fully charged. He finds it interesting, it makes him smile as he looks at it light up on different levels as he talks, then I, showing frequency.

           “Johnny is more patient than Pally. Pally was learning English too, so when I say something he didn’t get, I say [it] to Johnny and he say to Pally. That’s how it was.” While playing Slavic telephone seems like a fun idea for all, I asked Johnson about Kucherov’s English “He is very shy about it. They both are, when we first started playing together it was kind of hard, he didn’t want to say more than ‘yes’ or ‘no’, sometimes I’d do something he didn’t like and he’d be mad. He’d just glare at me from across the ice, or in the room. I was scared he’d walk up behind me, or I’d have a horse head or something in my bed. That didn’t last. (offside) Stop laughing, Killer, I’m being serious!” As I walked back to the conference room and away from the sound of crashing weight plates and laughter  only broken up by “Horse head”, I thought how concerning it must be to not be able to tell someone what you really want to say. This has been an issue in the NHL for as long as players have been coming from Russia and Eastern Europe.

           “Do you wish that the NHL taught players and journalists Russian?” I somewhat shock Kucherov as he’s slipping his phone back into his pocket. “How you mean? Like school? I know some, but I don’t speak it at home”. ‘Home’ to Kucherov is Russia, more specifically the city of Maykop. When he was playing in the KHL, he played in Moscow, in 2011 he was drafted in the second round by the Tampa Bay Lightning. He was then sent to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). The young Kucherov went from speaking primarily Russian, to a region of Canada where the top language is, French. He was sent to the QMJHL to transition to the style of North American hockey he’d play in the AHL and eventually the NHL.

           Russian hockey is played on a bigger scale. In North America, a regulation rink is 200ft long by 85ft wide. An International Rink, like those used in the KHL is 200ft long by 100ft wide. I’ll save you the math, and tell you that is a 15ft difference across. When you watch any NHL game, your announcer will tell you that one of the keys to the game is a “North-South game”, up and down the ice to reduce opposition scoring. It’s one of the main reasons your forwards play such short shifts. If you’ve ever watched Pavel Datsyuk or Evgeni Malkin, or ‘The Great Eight’ Alex Ovechkin, you’ll notice they like to move laterally. It’s something that you have to know how to do, you cannot teach the Russian style of play. Regardless of how many years Kucherov would spend in the Q, you cannot stop playing like you were taught to.

           At this point Kucherov is still looking at me like I just said “You and I are getting married, we’re going to go to Mars and start the human race on a planet outside of our own” So I rephrase my original question. “Yes, I kind of do. I have people who can help me [he gestures to the translator who has been watching a Brady press conference on his phone], I have Vladdy, we talk to each other, but some don’t. It’s hard, the languages are different.” If you look at the numbers of players in the League, you’ll notice that there are more and more European players coming in year after year. Mostly they come from Russia, from Sweden, the Czech Republic (It is not Czech-Slovakia, it hasn’t been for decades, stop saying it), a select few from Finland, Switzerland, and smattering from Norway. The names on the back of jerseys are becoming less ‘Crosby’, ‘Smith’, ‘Orr’, ‘Shanahan’, ‘Boyle’ and ‘Callahan’, and more ‘Panarin’, ‘Kuznetsov’, and ‘Tikhonov’. Gone are the days of ‘John’, ‘Bobby’, ‘Steve’, and ‘Jack’, and here are the days of ‘Viktor’, ‘Artemi’, ‘Pavel’, ‘Nikita’, and ‘Alexander’. If we’re being serious, it’s ‘Aleksander’, but that’s fine.

           We’re becoming better at saying names that would’ve stricken fear into the hearts of our Grandparents years ago, but we’re not treating the players any better. The players still have to rely on someone who might know the language they speak, and given the spread of European players in the NHL, you don’t have to look hard to find a ‘Henrik’ or a ‘Pavel’. Still, I am sitting here across from a man who can’t say what he fully wants to say; someone representative of the rest of the NHL in the last 20 years with the new class of players coming over from Russia. He thinks a little more on the subject “Maybe if we taught you some phrases you should know to make it a little bit easier for me.” If it really only took a few phrases to learn to make it easier for your favourite player to talk to reporters, wouldn’t you want them to do it?

           I turn to the impressive season Kucherov is having. I tell him how fantastic it is to net your seventh and eighth goal of the season on the same night, and his ears turn red. He looks down at the shiny table and I can see a smile spread across his face. I decide to make matters worse and talk about the ASTOUNDING turn around he made between the 2013-2014 season and the 2014-2015 season. In the 2013-2014 season, Kucherov netted 9 goals and 9 assists in 52 games for 18 points. In the 2014-2015 season that culminated with an Eastern Conference Championship and a run at the fabled Stanley Cup, Kucherov more than TRIPLED his numbers scoring 29 goals, 36 assists for 65 points in 82 games. With his numbers being mentioned, he looks towards the ceiling, smile now visible on his face,  eyes a little misty over his breakout season, and says just loud enough to be heard, “it was a good season.”

           ‘A good season’ is how the future looks for Kucherov, sitting right behind Steven Stamkos with 17 points spread across 10 goals and 7 assists in 29 games. If this is anything indicative of what the season with Kucherov in your canon looks like, then I think that despite a disturbingly slow start, the Tampa Bay Lightning are going to be okay. Kucherov follows me out of the conference room, I shake his hand once more, his shake a little less, and as he passes the weight room, Killorn and Johnson still inside, I can hear him ribbing his teammates for not lifting the heavier weights. Maybe Kucherov is lazy, but it’s not on the ice.

More of the Kit Purrson fic, rewrite and continuation of the bit with Grump, containing the bits I posted earlier today; this is the “hockey shit” before Kent gets back to Vegas and consults Twitter about cat aggression.  Contains Martha from Manitoba, Kent’s #1 fan, and Screwy Lewy (they call him that on ESPN), who owns the Aces.  (Also: author’s note speculating on Kent’s childhood trauma)

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