"Doctor Katrina Valentine, nice to have you aboard." I glanced up from my patient files and met the eyes of Herb Brooks as he stood on the other side of my desk.
I rose to my feet, a warm smile crossing my face as we shook hands.
"It's great to see you again, Herb."
Herb stepped back to take a long, hard look at me.
"I remember you when you were no bigger than knee high and now you've become a doctor in training. Doc must be so proud," he stated letting his own smile seep through.
I crossed my arms over my chest, tilting my head from side to side before answering.
"He is, hence why he's bringing me along. It should be a great opportunity working with so many athletes," I told Herb. "Besides I wanna get a little time on the ice myself at some point. I think my leg's finally healed so I wanna see how it holds up on the ice. I probably won't be able to do all the jumps I used to but hell I wanna see what I can still do."
Herb nodded his agreement, especially when he saw the determination set on my face.
"We're going to be working them pretty hard, you think you can handle it, it maybe a little brutal." I shrugged at his words.
"You're doing what needs to be done. You're getting us to the Olympics, I have no problem with that, saying that I don't think the boys will think the same after you training regime. Craig told me you've already written you final roister, we're only on day one," I reminded him.
Herb slipped the piece of paper into my hands; the list of names went on and on until I counted twenty six.
"Craig already told you that I'm missing the best players?" Herb asked crossing his arms over his chest.
"He understands you're picking the right ones; I think he's just nervous. This is a big thing for everybody." I stated handing the list back to him.
"I'm about to read this list out, you wanna come and meet my team?" he asked, jerking his head in the direction of the door.
"Grandpa's already there right?"
"Yea he's pretty interested in the guys I've picked," Herb informed me.
"Probably sizing them up for injuries after all the physical and mental strain you're going to be putting them under," I snorted.
"Hey it's your job to stop the mental strain; you're going to be their friend for next seven months. I already have a few that are in the danger zone," Herb reported.
"Jimmy Craig right? His mom died of cancer six months back, he' been running his household while his Dad's been trying to get back on his feet." Herb looked at me surprised.
"I started early with the evals, I also know that Jack O'Callahan and Rob McClanahan are two people your gonna have problems with. I've been talking to some of the guys and apparently Jack still harbours a grudge after the 76 playoffs. He got tossed out and Mac took the ring right off his finger," I informed Herb as he held the door open for me.
"You've certainly been doing your homework," Herb muttered as we slipped into the corridor.
"That's what I'm here for."
I stood in between Craig and the Doc as the list of names was read out loud to huge group of young men sitting in the breeches. The actual looks of relief on some of their faces was heart-warming once their name was read out.
"Hughes, Ross, Auge, Delich, Horsch, Strobel, Christoff, Morrow, Suter, Ramsey, Janaszak, Christian, Pavelich, Verchota, Baker, Harrington, Schneider, O'Callahan, McClanahan, Silk, Johnson, Craig, Cox, Eruzione. And that's the roster for now. The rest of you thanks for coming out." Craig said as I took in each face that was left.
The herd of people who didn't make it trickled past, it was sad to see do many young men disheartened, but at the end of the day we were here to make the Olympics.
"I am not your friend. You need a friend try Craig, Kat or Doc here, because I am your coach."
I pulled a face ad the attention was turned back to the three of, leaning against the railings. There were a lot of curious glances in my direction.
"Right before you're off celebrating I need you to go a little bit of homework. Fill in theses tests for me and have them back ASAP." I spoke to the gaggle of men, holding up the test papers for all to see.
The players began to climb to their feet, each taking a test one by one from my pile.
"Hey you should come with us; some of us are heading over to a bar nearby." I glanced up to see one of the guys standing in front of me. He smiled as my eye met his.
"Mike Eruzione right?" I asked pointedly.
Eruzione looked taken back for a moment before recovering.
"I studied your footage from some of your games, and I'm good with faces." I told him tilting my head to the side.
"Wow…You threw me for a second there." He informed me, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly. "Anyway we're going the bar if you want to join us, try and get to know some of us better since well be working together over the next seven months."
I grinned at him before looking down at the papers in my hands.
"Sure I'm not gonna cramp your style with the ladies?" I teased.
Eruzione gave me his own wide smile.
"Hell no, you could probably teach some of these things a guy or two." He returned playfully.
"Well I've got a few things to do but I'll meet you guys at the bar." I said to Eruzione as I watched Jim Craig go past without taking a test paper.
"No problem. I'll see you there then." Eruzione smiled warmly as he followed the main body of people moving back to the dorm rooms.
I was standing in the corridor to the dorm rooms, knocking patiently on the door in front of me. It swung open revealing the tall dark haired figure of Jimmy Craig.
"Hey." He said looking me up and down as I tilted my head up towards him.
"Jimmy you forgot to take a test paper." I said holding one out to him.
Jimmy stared at the offending sheet of paper but didn't take it from my hands.
I studied him for a second as he looked away from me. I crossed my arms over my chest.
"Ok so you didn't forget. I'm just wondering why don't you wanna take this test, it's not going to bite you." I commented as Jimmy looked back up at me, his vibrant blue eyes meeting mine.
"Yeah, umm... it's nothing against you or anything. I just don't see what it has to do with stopping the puck." I tilted my head to one side before nodding.
"That's ok you just took it anyway." I informed him, rolling the test up.
Jimmy was frowning, a confused expression on his face, crossing his own arms over his chest.
"A bunch of us are going to the bar, if you want to come." I offered, changing the subject brightly.
Jimmy shook his head, pursing his lips together.
"No, thanks, but I'm going to call my Dad, see how he's doing." He told me.
I caught a glimpse of the sadness I knew he must be feeling. Losing a parent was never easy and I knew from chatting with some of the guys that Jimmy, before coming out here had adopted the position of man of the house. The concern was still etched in his face; I knew he was still shouldering the responsibility even though he was a long way from Boston.
"How are you doing?" I asked quietly.
Jimmy raised his head surprised. I knew a lot of people avoided the subject because it was awkward subject matter but I had to know what was going on with him to see if he could function properly in this team.
"I'm doing ok." He sighed. "It's just hard you know. She wanted this and she's not here to see me get into the team. My dad's having a tough time, he lost his job and he's trying to put my two younger brothers through college and make sure they stay there. They've been taking my mom's death pretty badly."
I felt an intense well of sympathy build in my chest, but I knew Jimmy didn't want that.
"It's tough, but I'm sure your mom's very proud of you." I told him.
Jimmy looked down at his hands as he nodded. He's taken his mother's death I could tell because I recognized the signs, but the problem for Jimmy was he hadn't had a chance to focus on his own grief because he'd become the backbone for his family adopting his father's role. Maybe being here was going to be good for him.
"Yea I know." He murmured.
I reached out and patted his arm gently.
"Hey the offer for the bar's still open if you feel you wanna come down later." I told him.
"Thanks." Jimmy gave me a tight smile before we said our goodbyes and he shut his door.
I checked my watch before returning to my dorm room across the hall, and getting changed into fresh clothes. Grabbing my purse I took off towards the bar.