"Skater in a Strange Land" #1 book for Phil Naessens in 2013
Skater and the Saint live on Kindle

In honor of the Winter Classic

In Borschland, ice hockey is an outdoor sport.

Borschlanders are used to lacing up their skates on rivers, ponds, or man-made rinks, and chasing after a puck while snow is falling. Indoor rinks exist, but are considered to be, in a way, cheating.

The following is an excerpt from Skater in a Strange Land, narrated by the greatest ice hockey journalist in Borschland, Kadmus Greningen, who describes the first Borschland Hockey League game every played in by our hero, Sherm Reinhardt:

...On this night there was much pomp and pageantry at Te Rijngk, our skating place. The river shined with the lights on the far bank, from the longshoreman's city of Natatck and the glittering suburb of Rirlver. The spit of land, Te Saandmaas, that extends between the river and Te Rijngk was full of workingmen, standing, standing, throughout the game, and not seeing very well, for that spit does not rise much above the river level, and they were standing ten and fifteen deep, but cheering none the less as our skaters waved to them under the spotlights and the bands played. 

The grandstand proper of Te Rijngk is built into the bluff that borders the river and guides it on, moves it along, saying, you shall not swamp this city. There is room for six thousand here, some of it in seating, some of it in benches, and at the very top in the grand boxes sit the dignitaries of the city, its richest and sometimes its happiest citizens. One level below sit the press, and there is where I am, humble reader, with the river lit up and the spotlights following the players as they skate the oval with grim, determined smiles. 

I know not exactly what was transpiring in the mind of Sherman Reinhardt at this time. Surely he had been in bigger rinks, for he had played in North America. And surely he had been cheered louder, for I think in America they have grandstands that seat twenty and thirty thousand fans at a time. 

But Sherman Reinhardt never would have been cheered so sincerely. Of that I am humbly confident. 

Of the game many thousand words could be written, yet it seemed to pale in significance to the historical nature of the event. To be sure, Te Staff won, by a score of 7 goals to 2, which was an impressive total, though there is no reason for us to have given up any goals at all, but that once we had gotten to 7 it seemed ungentlemanly not to let them score a couple. 

But we did not long remember the score. It was our Sherm who shone, our Sherm, our guest, our adopted son. 

Sherm lost his first faceoff. The lights off the river must have dazzled him. The venerable center of Tarlunz, Habel Baarda, who has scored a century of goals in his career, slipped the puck back to his defenseman and seemed almost to take a bow, as if to say, you were not expecting this North American to beat us Borschland boys, were you

Sherm went after that lost puck, furiously skating for it, and extended his stick as one defender attempted to pass horizontally to the other. The puck, headed for its intended target, clipped Sherm's stick and spindled high in the air. Sherm plucked it like a ripe Borschic apple, laid it at his feet, and let fly a shot on goal that went so fast it was in the net before any of us had time to pick up our field glasses. 

You have never heard such cheering. 

Lubert Veeststaff, the Tarlunz net minder of whose age we have now lost track, told us he had never seen a puck struck so hard. 

Afterwards, Sherm said through his interpreter Kevin Busby, "I apologize to the nation of Borschland for my selfishness. I was caught in the moment and my blood was up." 

It was a proper thing to say. We Borschers tend not to play the game by ourselves. But how can one apologize for a lightning bolt? It is a force of nature, an act of God. 

I believe that, by that shot, the will of the Tarlunz team was broken, like dry kindling over one's knee. Through the rest of the game it seemed as if Te Staff danced the Premujr Ball about the slow-footed Tarlunzers. Sherm took his part, but every time he got the puck he seemed to want to pass it, though the crowd begged him to shoot again. Chrujstoff, our young hothead, ended up with 2 goals to take the honor of the flowering crown that night, and Sherm was credited with 3 assists as he skillfully furnished the puck to the blades of his teammates. 


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