Tonight I was working in the penalty box at my brother’s hockey game when one of the guys from the opposing team got a tripping penalty. So, as my job requires I have to get his jersey number so I can record it and put it up on the score board with his penalty. I asked him for his number and…well…he gave it to me. His phone number.
Poor kid went beet red after I explained I meant his jersey number, not his phone number. I talked to him after the game to make sure he was all good and such, and he said, oh my god, “keep the number, just in case you’re ever looking for anything besides a jersey number.”
Non-hockey Check Please fans… ya’ll kno the Sin Bin (fine buckets) is named after the penalty box in hockey right? Like it’s not just a casual choice? It’s the affectionate name for the penalty box? In hockey? Which is one of the central parts of this comic? The angry ice knife game whose fratty culture in central to the themes of said comic?
- Senior year, Bitty is the first openly gay NCAA captain of any men’s sport. When Samwell wins the Frozen Four, commentators start speculating on him being a draft prospect. Jack isn’t out yet.
- ‘Get Bittle in the NHL’ goes viral as an equality issue and the NHL is under pressure to recruit him, which creates this divisive ‘is he really good enough to play’/’the league is homophobic’ situation among fans and within the NHL.
- Bitty gets a lot of heat from all sides and Jack is really worried about his bf, who is living every coming-out fear Jack’s ever had. The Falcs can’t recruit Bitty because Jack has already disclosed their relationship to management, so Jack can’t protect Bitty.
- Things go downhill quickly after a hacker leaks a series of emails between the Commissioner and several owners, wherein he says an AHL franchise needs to ‘take one for the team’ and recruit Bittle so the NHL won’t have to deal with the ‘problem’ anymore.
- The league course-corrects hard and is bending over backward to get Bitty to sign off on their official apology, but Bitty is disgusted by the whole process and doesn’t want to participate in the draft just to make the league look better. He isn’t planning to go pro at all, and now he’s hesitant to move to Providence with Jack, concerned that he might accidentally out Jack and land him with the same PR problems.
- Bitty goes back to Georgia the summer after he graduates.
- After things calm down a bit, Bitty gets a call from the new Schooners owner, a progressive tech billionaire who hates the NHL commissioner and genuinely wants to sell Bitty on Seattle. Unsure of himself and his relationship, Bitty agrees to the meeting…
- And surprise! Bitty loves Seattle, the team, the ownership group, the food, everything. Even less of a surprise, the team loves Bitty and offers him a two-year contract with an option for renewal.
- The distance hurts, but it actually makes things easier because the risk of Jack being outed is much less if he’s not sharing an apartment with Bitty.
- Bitty understands now why Jack needs to prove himself before he comes out, the same way Bitty needs to prove himself now. Jack deserves that buffer, and Bitty can help in his own small way.
- At the same time, after seeing how Bitty was treated Jack doesn’t want to come out until his boyfriend is established enough that he won’t be remembered as ‘that gay hockey player’ or ‘Jack Zimmermann’s boyfriend’. They’re just two dumb boys looking out for each other. They agree to revisit coming out together after Bitty’s two-year contract ends.
- Bitty’s rookie year is a hell of an adjustment, he billets with d-man called Carter Morin who is a year younger than Bitty but still has three pro seasons under his belt. Carter is convinced Bitty will be a target because of his size and sexuality, so he becomes obsessed with teaching Bitty how to ‘defend’ himself. This basically boils down to lessons in ‘how to play dirty and not get caught’.
- During these lessons, Bitty realizes he has a lot of anger he’s not dealing with. He’s pissed about being marginalized by the league, the press that won’t stay out of his and Jack’s business, he’s pissed he can’t publicly be with his boyfriend, he’s furious WBC are planning to picket his first home game. He has years of repressed southern rage and he doesn’t have to play nice to make bad people feel good. Not anymore.
- Off the ice Bitty is a perfect gentleman, does tons of outreach, fundraising, he visits hospitals and coaches day-camps, after that first season he’s a fan favorite, but on the ice Bitty slowly becomes a living embodiment of ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’; he’s a good player, everyone knows it, but now he’s absolutely ruthless and spends his fair share of time in the penalty box, initially for defending himself, later for defending others.
- During a particularly aggressive Schooners game, a commentator jokingly describes a post-fight Bitty as Bob’s spiritual successor, coining the term ‘Bad Bittle’. Bob is elated, Jack is horrified.
- Bitty ultimately makes friends on the team, builds a following, and becomes an integral part in building Seattle’s fledgling franchise into a championship team.
- Schooners take the cup in Bitty’s second year and Jack is surprisingly okay with his boyfriend getting a ring before him, it means they’re one step closer to being untouchable
- The Falconers dethrone the Schooners the following season and win the championship. Jack and Bitty come out/marry on Jack’s cup day. They don’t wear wedding bands, they wear their cup rings.
You’re 18, and starting over is the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do.
You thought that breathing wouldn’t be something you’d have to learn all over again, but it is. It’s like as soon as you stopped on that bathroom floor, even just for a few minutes–it’s like you forgot how. Every time you inhale, it’s a conscious decision. One that you’re barely sure that you want to make. It rattles painfully through you like your lungs have rusted over, broken-down gears in a machine that doesn’t work anymore. You don’t know if they can be fixed, if you even want them to be.
You breathe anyway.
You’re 18, and this hospital room is too cold, and a nurse gently asks you if you know why you’re here. You do.
You’re here because when you were 10, you felt like you weren’t good enough, and when you were 15, you felt terrified, when you were 17, you felt overwhelmed, and when you were 18, you didn’t want to feel at all.
You don’t say any of this to the nurse. You nod instead. She continues to talk, but you don’t pay attention, instead letting your eyes drift over to the newspaper on the table next to your bed, open to the sports section. You’ve read the headline a few hundred times by now. You read it again, just in case it’s changed. It hasn’t yet. Maybe next time.
You’re 18, and as you settle back against your pillow, you think about what your mom said, about taking a break. No hockey for a while. You consider it, and you can’t decide if it would be more like cutting off a limb or removing a tumor.
You think there’s only one way to find out.
You’re 19, and by now you’re used to how the parents look at you when they think you don’t see.
It’s never exactly a look of contempt. More morbid curiosity, even fascination. Like you’re a zoo animal, something to be gawked at for a few hours each week and talked about briefly under their breath so the kids can’t hear. You don’t know what they’re trying to see. Do they think you’re hiding something? That you have a stash of blow in your duffel bag? That if they can catch you at just the right time, they’ll see you shooting up right there on the ice?
Fuck them, you decide.
You have a job to do here, and it’s a good job. The kids call you Coach Z, just Z, and they let you forget there’s any letters beyond that one. You help Eli with his speed and Julie with her accuracy, and you don’t look outside the rink.
Whenever the kids win a game, they mob you afterwards, fight to get in closer to you, and it feels good. They either don’t know or don’t care. To them, you’re just Coach Z. For now, that’s all you want to be.
You’re 21, and it’s just your third game at Samwell when a massive D-man from Harvard slams into you from behind. A penalty is called immediately, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re facedown on the ice, dazed, and your ribs ache like hell. As the D-man skates to the penalty box, you can hear the sneer in his voice.
“Heard you liked snow more than ice, boy wonder.” Another coke joke. Original, you think dryly.
There’s a medic skating toward you. You can get up on your own, but he insists on taking you back to the locker room to check out your ribs.
As he’s finishing up (some bruises, but nothing broken), Shitty enters the locker room with a second medic. He’s walking gingerly. You ask him what happened.
“I went for the guy that went for you. Didn’t work out great for me,” he says, sitting next to you on the bench with a wince.
You stare at him, temporarily dumbfounded. You ask why.
He’s your teammate, he tells you. And your friend. Right?
You look at him, this skinny younger kid with shaggy hair and a mustache half-grown in and ribs quickly becoming an abstract painting in shades of purple, and you realize he’s probably the closest thing to a friend you’ve got.
You hold out a fist, and he bumps it gently. “Got your back, brother,” Shitty says.
Yeah. Got your back.
You’re 23, and you have a problem.
More precisely, a short, blond problem. With a penchant for baking.
It’s not that Bitty’s not talented. He’s fast, and he’s got good hands. But if he can’t take a check on the ice, he’s never going to be a good player.
You like solving problems.
So that’s why you thought this was a good idea. But now, as you stare down at Bitty, who’s curled up on the ice, trembling, sweat sticking his hair to his forehead, you start to have some doubts.
The thing is, you recognize that look in his eyes. That fear. You’ve been there before. And you don’t want to leave anyone there, not if you can help it.
So you set your mouth into a firm line and order him to get up. You check him, just softly and slowly so he won’t be so scared. And you do it again. And again. And again. By the end of practice, he’s still shaking. But he’s not curled up on the ice any more. You decide that’s enough of a win for today. You learned to embrace little victories years ago.
You’re 24, and you’re outside your new apartment, and you already miss them so much it hurts.
You don’t remember what it’ll be like again tomorrow, waking up without Shitty just a bathroom away.
You can’t imagine coming home and not finding Holster on your couch, yelling about…Buffy, or Liz Lemon, or whoever is the star of whatever he’s watching.
You can’t think of coming home and not having the kitchen table smell like Ransom’s highlighters, or hearing Dex and Nursey argue a room away, or hear Chowder’s workout playlists blasting from the basement.
But you have to, don’t you?
You have to unlock this door, sit on the nice new furniture you picked out with your mom, open your fridge that won’t be full of mold and too many bottles of Sriracha. And in the morning you’ll have to drive yourself down to the rink, shake hands with the administrative team, meet a few of the guys.
And though your team–you can’t stop thinking of them as your team, even if your last game together was months ago–isn’t here, you know that they’re on your side.
You’re still scared about…this, this thing you have with him. Not of how you feel. You’re sure of that. But of fucking it up. Because you know, deep down, he is one of the best things that’s happened to you in a long time.
It’s a risk. But you figured out ages ago that some risks are worth taking.
You’re 27, and you’re tired of hiding.
Really, if they ask you later why you did it, that’s what you’ll say. It’s mental exhaustion more than anything that makes you let it slip. You’re just tired–tired of having to hold back truths and substitute incorrect pronouns–and when you mention offhandedly in a post-loss interview that you just want to go home to see your boyfriend, well. That’s it. You’re just tired.
For a moment, all five reporters are silent, then they start buzzing like wasps, interrogating you, demanding you tell them the things they shouldn’t have the right to know about anyway. You refuse to go into detail. The assistant managers will probably be pissed, but you think George will get it. She’s known for so long.
You go home, and you see your boyfriend, and neither of you turns on the TV. You know it won’t exactly be smooth sailing ahead. There’ll be press conferences, and interviews, and even more scrutiny, and a whole farm’s worth of assorted bullshit.
But when you’re holding him that night, you don’t doubt that it’s worth it.
Because you’re 27, and you’re too in love to care.
And soon enough, you’ll be more. You’ll be 28, 35, 67. Married, a father, a grandpapa. And your life will be messy, and joyful, and so goddamn worth it.
You’re going to be glad you decided to keep breathing.
You’re you, and starting over is the best thing you ever had to do.
“The Body Issue, Bits. You can’t turn this down, and if I did it for you, you have to do it for me.”
Actually, a three-hour naked photoshoot on ice is definitely something he can turn down, but he promised Jack he would participate if asked. Granted, it was a sleep-deprived, post-coital promise, but a promise just the same.
A copy of the spread from Jack’s issue is already tastefully hung in the master bathroom of his townhouse. Eric will have to get his framed to match.
It’s not about the nudity, except, maybe it is a little bit, but he’s worked hard to get his body to look this good. His ass may never be in the same arena as Jack’s magnificent backside, but hell, if the whole world got to ogle Jack, why can’t Eric get some love, too?
I just can’t let go of the fic idea where Geno takes all of the penalties because Sid is the penalty box attendant. Here is another version of it!
The first time it happens, Greg-the-penalty-box-attendant, says, “Sarah, my sitter just canceled, I have to fucking leave. I’m so sorry,” and Sarah-the-ice-crew-manager exclaims, “But you have the box tonight!”
Sidney, on his way to the locker room to talk to some of the guys before the game starts, happens to be walking by at this moment (slowly and on crutches), and can’t help but overhear. In his infinite wisdom—and, suffering from a broken foot that’s been encased in a cast for too long already and is all the motivation he needs, really—Sidney offers, “I could do it?”
Sarah and Greg turn to stare at him as if he’s gone completely bonkers.
tell us about holster when he played for the schooners!
oh my god. thank you. i will literally talk about this anytime, anywhere.
his nickname is holt and sometimes holtzy and he’s actually SO RIDICULOUS. people don’t really know what to think about him because in postgame interviews he’s grumpy and pretty serious and like, obviously tired with 0% patience to talk to reporters who ask him the same question over and over and over again
the schooners have an AMAZING social media presence - think the canadiens youtube videos and the snapchat of the detriot redwings. people get to know the players incredibly well, and holster goes from this grumpy rookie to this lovable dork who DESTROYS at movie trivia and is always singing in the background of snapchats from practice. they mic him up during a game and it’s pretty much him singing ‘under pressure’ and quoting TV shows.
greatest hits include:
from it’s always sunny in philadelphia:
“I don’t know how many more seasons in the NHL I’ve got left. I’m gonna get weird with it.”
people get real emo about this one after he’s injured
”It’s like, do I listen to the linesman who’s gonna blast me in the ass, or the referee who’s blasting my ass?”
after a check: “wildcard!”
on his way to the penalty box: “later, boners.”
from the office:
when he’s asked a particularly stupid question after a game: “wow, i wish i had prepared something to say. god guide you in your quest”
“Ref, you ignorant slut”
when a penalty is reversed: “how the turntables”
from arrested development:
at various points throughout his career “steve holt!”
once again during an interview: “I don’t understand the question and I won’t respond to it.”
this is his crowning achievement.
there’s a youtube video of him that’s called “every time birkholtz looks into the camera like he’s on the office” and it’s a beautifully edited compilation of game footage and sure enough he does the jim face when he’s sitting in the penalty box, before face offs, when he’s on the bench, literally ALL THE TIME. no one knows how he always manages to track the camera
tumblr loves him. i don’t make the rules ok. he’s always quoting tv shows and musicals and grows up literally in front of people and i’m not saying ransom has a sideblog dedicated to him but he honestly might