One must maintain a twisted sense of humour in order to live in a place like Thunder Bay. No, wait. There is no place quite like Thunder Bay, so that sentence has to be corrected. One must maintain a twisted sense of humour in order to live in a place like Thunder Bay.

Although they only return to the mistake by the lake for the off seasons, the brothers Staal demonstrated that their twisted fraternal sense of humour was fully functional by showing up at the Valhalla Inn dressed as the Hanson brothers. Stephen, who had been alerted to their arrival by the manager, laughed as he strolled through the lobby, looking out at the boys, who were still in the parking lot. Having seen Slapshot a dozen times, Stephen got the joke, and liked it. The boys were sitting on the pavement, playing with their remote control toy cars and trucks, laughing like gas huffing short bussers.

Happy to play along with the gag, King walked out and yelled, “Hey!” The brothers stopped the fun and games, and looked up. “You guys the Hansons?”

“Who are you?”

“Reg Dunlop, the coach.”

The brothers cheered, and the oldest, Eric, said, “I told you he’d get it. Pay up!” Marc and Jordan grinned as they handed Eric a hundred bucks a piece. Jordan smiled at Stephen, and said, “That’s mighty impressive, Mr. King!”

Mr. King moved quickly to put an end to the formality, “Please, call me Stephen. Or anything… but not mister anything.”

“We can call you Reg,” Marc offered.

“Or coach,” said Eric.

“Sure guys, whatever you want,” coach chuckled. “I’m not gonna argue with the Hanson brothers!”

The boys threw their toys in the back of their six door 4 x 4, and they all moved into the lobby. With the NHL schedule brought to a full stop by the virus, it was unofficially off season. And the clock had just struck noon, so the boys decided it was time to get their beer on. They summoned Daisy, who knew them all by name.

“Hi guys! The usual?” asked the waitress.

“No,” Eric replied, “Thunder Babe says we have to support the local economy, so give us something from Sleeping Giant.”

“Excellent,” Daisy said, “You want a Mr. Canoehead?”

Before she could continue to list the selection available from the fine craft brewery, all three brothers answered, “Yes, please. Two each!”

“You sure?” Daisy asked. “Maybe you wanna try the Beaver Duck?’

“Hell, yeah,” the brothers answered, “Give us two each of those, too!”

“And for you?” Daisy asked King.

“Well… when in Rome,” he laughed, “Gimme two of each, too!”

“Yeah, coach! Atta boy!” Eric laughed. “We’ll show you how to drink Westfort style!”

“I don’t know about that,” Marc cautioned. “Coach is Mairkan. I don’t think he’s ready for that.”

Jordan joined in, “Speaking of canoes,” he said to Stephen, “you know what we call Mairkan beer?” Stephen shrugged his shoulders and admitted that he did not. “We call it sex in a canoe.”

“Why?” was King’s one word question.

In unison, the Staals yelled, “”cause it’s fucking close to water!”

King howled, and said, “Well, I’ll do my best to keep up, but don’t wait for me, if I fall behind a bit.”

The boys merrily agreed that they would not, and King came back at them with his own funny. “You know what I’ve always wanted to see?”

“What, coach?” Marc asked.

“Drunk hockey! You don’t get on the ice unless you’re loaded. Goal scorers are breathalyzed on the spot. If they’re not legally drunk, no goal. But they can get the goal back by shot-gunning a beer, and knocking back a shooter at centre ice, then taking a penalty shot. Smoking allowed on the bench only, except for goalies, who can smoke on the ice, so long as they sweep the butts into their nets.”

Eric looked at King and said, matter-of-factly, “That’s how we play in Thunder Bay, coach.”

“Fuck off?” said King.

“Fuck off nothing,” Marc replied. “That’s how we play in Thunder Bay. We start in Tom Thumb.”

“Tom Thumb? How old is that?” asked King.

“Eight,” Daisy answered. “Even the girls, but that was only allowed after the Twins won their first Allan Cup, in 1975. But the boys have been playing drunk hockey here since the Bearcats won their first Allan Cup, in 1925.”

Daisy dispersed the brews, and the brothers got down to business.”One, two, three, go!” Eric yelled, and they guzzled their cans of Mr. Canoehead. Eric won.

“Four point seven,” Daisy declared, stopping her stop watch. Eric threw his hands in the air, “I win again! You guys drink like girls!”

“Hey!” Daisy objected.

“Rigt. Sorry,” said Eric. Then, turning to Stephen, he said, “Daisy don’t drink like no girl. Daisy’s a fucking Finn. Daisy can pound ‘em back like Kiprusoff could!”

“Okay, okay,” said Marc. “Let’s try the Beaver Duck. Mr. Canoehead’s too foamy for me.”

This time Daisy counted them down, “One, two, three, go!”

Once again, the eldest Staal threw his hands in the air, and yelled, “I am the champion of the world!”

“Four point two!” Daisy announced. “That’s close to your personal best. You may beat it before this game is over.”

“He might,” said Jordan, “but probably not. He always wins the first period. He’s too old to maintain through all three, and God help the old man if he has to go into overtime!”

King was astounded. He called Daisy over, as the Staals discussed the quality of Mr. Canoehead and Beaver Duck, based solely on the taste and thunder of their belches. “How many games do they play?”

“Full 82 game season, every summer.”

“And they manage to stay in shape?”

Daisy grinned, “Welcome to Thunder Fucking Bay,” Mr. King. This ain’t no New England hockey prep school town. Those Ivy League dilettantes where you come from wouldn’t make it into July, if they came up here to train in the summer. This is Hockeyhalla. Our boys battle it out on the ice all day, every day, and go hard, like Viking Gods celebrating Odin’s birthday, every night. They give ‘er. And these guys rigt here” she said pointing at the Staals, “these guys rigt here are the governors of givin’ ‘er.”

“The governors of givin’ ‘er! That brilliant.”

Oh, you don;t know. You should see what goes done when it cranks up around here.”

“And are the governors and the other lesser Gods of givin’ ‘er givin’ ‘er with the Valkyries of Hockeyhala?”

“Oh, yeah. No other way to celebrate like it’s Odin’s birthday. The Romans had nothing on these vikings, not even Caligula.”

“No shit, huh? Is this hotel for sale?”




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