Martin Brodeur, clutching a manila folder, approaches the dimly lit corner café in the heart of small and historic Haddonfield, New Jersey. By this time, Brodeur expected to be well on his way to winning his fourth Stanley Cup. Facing the eighth seed from the Western Conference, he assumed the worst was over for his New Jersey Devils. They would win a relatively easy Finals series — the great capper to his nearly 20-year career — and the ensuing celebrations would double as the perfect retirement party. Except things were not going so well. And with his team on a plane to Los Angeles, Brodeur had lingered in New Jersey, seeking some assurances.
The goalie had explained his situation on the phone with league Commissioner Gary Bettman, who had put him in touch with Colin Campbell, new super-secret head of the super-secret NHL Office of Conspiracy, Game Fixing, and Crosby Protection. Campbell had, in turn, set up this meeting in Haddonfield.
As instructed over the phone, Brodeur sits at a particular table outside the café, across from a large shadowy figure, obscured by cigar smoke and the New Jersey night. After a pregnant silence, the quebecois net minder decides to speak.
“I know we’ve had our diferences. And I know you’re not in great health. But I hope you’ll consider coming back for one last job.”
As the smoke clears, the figure across from Brodeur slowly wheels into the light of the moon. Brodeur gasps at the sight: Chris Pronger, in a Hawking-esque laptop-equipped wheelchair, his forehead swollen like a balloon. Brodeur looks away, opens the manila folder, and slides it across the table.
“I think we have a common enemy.” Inside the folder is a single glossy photo of two men — one brunette, the other bleach-blonde yellow and taller — drinking together at a bar. A single vein becomes visible on Pronger’s engorged head.
“It seems your injuries have left you unable to speak…but if you agree to this job, just nod,” adds Brodeur.
“Nah, I can talk fine.”
“But that laptop–”
“I was voting for Giroux to be on the NHL 13 cover before you arrived.”
“That’s kind of surprising, since he’s a threat to take your captaincy. Besides, everyone loves Pekka Rinne.”
With Brodeur on a plane to Los Angeles, Chris Pronger calls an emergency meeting of his associates in their villainous lair (Matt Cooke’s basement). Inside the windowless subterranean hideout, a team has assembled around a large conference table. Seated at the head of the table is Pronger, directly to his right Ilya Bryzgalov, followed by Cooke, Alexandre Burrows, Maxim Lapierre, Todd Bertuzzi, Dracula, Ken Hitchcock, Darth Vader, and Raffi Torres. Pronger begins.
“Greetings, gentleman. Gathered here today are the most diabolical minds known to man and Raffi Torres. You were all briefed on our mission: the Los Angeles Kings cannot win the Stanley Cup. Let us begin.”
“Dude, what happened to your head?” asks Burrows.
“Naturally you may have some questions about my appearance. Severe concussions can have long-term effects in the way of making people constantly cranky and antisocial, symptoms that would have been obviously redundant and imperceivable in me. Instead, I gained advanced cognitive powers and the ability to communicate telepathically with Mr. Bryzgalov. Ilya, what do you propose we do?”
“We hef to make Carter and Richard feel little bitty tiny, y’know, next to entire big concept of–”
“–Ilya, you’re among friends. You may speak freely.”
“Oh, right. Yea, why don’t we just break their legs?” the Russian netminder articulates in a perfectly American accent.
“I know just the man for the job…” Pronger pulls out his cell phone and dials star-six-seven, then the number.
“Hey, Ryan, it’s Chris…Well I’m actually calling to see if your uncle Gary is available; he’s a hard guy to get a hold of…OK…Oh…well nevermind…I also wanted to make sure you had Philadelphia in your thoughts as July 1 approaches…Oh you signing a tampered contract with the Red Wings as a condition of Lidstrom’s retirement? Well, hey, our loss. And you know your joining the Wings grants you automatic membership into the League of NHL Supervillains…Alright, toodles.”
Pronger hangs up, his face marked by gap-toothed disgust. “Alright, we need new ideas.”
“Let’s skate up to Richards and Carter really fast and elbow them in the head!” says Raffi Torres, excitedly. The room falls into a disapproving, are-you-kidding-me silence. Only Matt Cooke begins to raise his hand in agreement, but he is quickly deterred by his league-mandated shock collar.
“Anything slightly more subtle?”
“We could let them win the Stanley Cup,” says Hitchcock. “But make the circumstances of their acceptance completely unbearable.”
“Yes, Gary Bettman could present the Cup to them…and in New Jersey!” adds Bertuzzi. Satisfied murmurs of agreement abound.
“That is truly evil. But our client requires Los Angeles to lose,” says Pronger.
“We could skate up to Richards and Carter…and elbow them in the head!” says Torres. Pronger’s face assumes a look of total concentration, as his engorged head starts to glow Flyer-orange. Torres suddenly vanishes in a puff of smoke. Everyone but Bryzgalov looks surprised.
“Seriously, guys. Let’s focus on their weaknesses. They love to party, how can we leverage that to our advantage?” The room falls silent. Burrows starts to nervously chew on his finger.
“I have some contacts in the famed Belorussian Quebecois Mafia that could take them out, show them a good time,” says Lapierre.
“Excellent. Get the Kostitsyns on the next plane to L.A.,” says Pronger, breaking into a diabolical laugh.
Chris Pronger is on the phone with Andrei Kostitsyn. Yesterday, the Kings won Game 3 in Los Angeles, 5-2. Carter and Richards had a combined 5 points. The Belorussian agent’s nonchalance exacerbates Pronger’s fury.
“You promised to do the exact same number we ordered on The Radulov Job!”
“Carter and Richards were fine!”
“What job exactly did you do?”
“Same as Radulov Job. Took to nice dinner, lost track of time, got back to hotel hour late. Not my fault Los Angeles coaches don’t check key logs.”
“Ugh…” Pronger hangs up in disgust. He sits in total silence before his iPhone’s Adam Burish screensaver gives way to an incoming call notification — the call he’s been dreading all day.
“You made promises!”
“The series isn’t over. But the margin of error is obviously slimmer. So I’ve called in a closer. He should be at your location soon…”
“…I’m sorry it has to be this way.”
Halfway across the country, nearly the moment his phone call ends, a knock comes on Martin Brodeur’s hotel room door. The Devils’ legend opens it with due trepidation. In the doorway is the sum of his worst fears: a familiar face behind Dolce & Gabbana designer frames. The “closer” gives a mock greeting, knowingly waving his hands in Brodeur’s face.
“Hey, fatso. Miss me?”
To be continued…?
**Photos courtesy of Flickr users atomicjeep, Tracer.ca, and BridgetDS**