BLOG - HOCKEY & HEAVY METAL
April 23, 2015 • 8:41 AM
KYLE RAMBEAU DOMINATES THE ALUMINUM LEAGUE, AND UNFORTUNATELY THAT’S A PROBLEM
So of course after my last blog about playing against a team with ringers brought in as substitute players, Murphy’s Law rears its head to ensure that I inadvertently get the 8-Bits into trouble for the very same thing in the very next game. Kyle Rambeau (yes, it’s pronounced Rambo) is a law school buddy who played hockey back east but hadn’t played in over 5 years, and the last time he played regularly was on an intramural team during undergrad. Over the last couple of years Kyle had casually mentioned that he’d like to get back into it, and so about a month ago after our 4th game of the season Against Pier Pressure where we had a lot of regulars missing, Dan put the word out to start looking for people that could play for us as subs. I put in a call to Kyle, and this time timing was right - he said he wanted to get a couple sessions of stick time in and he did and was ready to go by the first week in March, but then we had full rosters for two straight games and a bye week, so it was just over a month between that the first home call and the first day he actually played.
I got there early as I normally do and met Kyle, who bought himself the obligatory red jersey at the pro shop. He assigned himself number 77 by taping four strips of silver duct tape to the back of the jersey while being introduced to everyone as they came into the locker room. We also had Dan today too, who has subbed for us during each of the last two seasons and does a great job for us at forward. We had the usual pre-game chat where we assigned positions and hoped for the best as we took the ice against Pier Pressure, the league’s best team.
(Insert Sam Elliott-style voiceover here.) “Pier Pressure…they were the Aluminum League’s best team…until they met the 8-Bits…with Kyle Rambeau.”
By the end of his first couple of shifts it was obvious that Kyle was really good. It had been my hope that he could end up being the forward who would fill the role as a scorer that became vacant after Niko moved up to the Copper League after last season. That was my hope, at least. But by the end of the first period it was apparent that Kyle was the best player on the ice by a significant margin. And as it turned out, the Pier Pressure guys had said something to the referees about him by this point. Early in the second period we were still holding on, trailing only 2-1, but by now Kyle had his rink legs back. All of a sudden he was forechecking in a way that would make Steve Yzerman proud and regularly interrupting their rushes, and soon enough he intercepted a pass from one of their defensemen just inside our blue line and split both of them to get himself a clean breakaway, on which he performed a Datsyukian dangle-dangle and roofed a backhand. The goalie had zero chance. Then on his next shift Emily made a clearing pass to Konstantin, who looked at Kyle, who saw the play developing and took off up the ice at full speed, and Konstantin made a perfect 60 foot pass between their defenders to send Kyle off on another breakaway that resulted in another goalie-had-no-chance backhand goal even though he mishandled the puck at the last moment. It was so obvious he was going to score that I said “3-2” aloud to Alex at about the time he was between the faceoff circles.
Now all of a sudden we’re winning the game, and here come the refs. We’re told that Pier Pressure has protested his presence, and Kyle is told that he’s probably too skilled for this league. We are also told that Kyle can stay in the game, but if he scores again he’ll be sent off and all his goals will be wiped off the board. The league rules give the referees the discretion to do that, and much as I hate to admit it, it was true: Kyle was too good for our level. So he switched him to defense for the rest of the game, and he had to take care not to score while a couple guys from Pier Pressure trash talked him constantly, and we ended up losing 5-3 once Pier Pressure was able to able to go back to doing what they wanted. It was a miracle that we beat them before (Ok, it was their short bench and a clutch last-minute Adam goal that allowed us to steal the win) but it’s obvious that we can’t match up to them. At this point there are 6 games left in the season and it’s very likely going to be Pier Pressure who wins the championship. The best the 8-Bits can do is beat out Top Shelf and Magic Dragons to finish 3rd and make the playoffs, and my expectation is that we do just that.
As we made our way back to the locker room, word came in from the off-ice officials and the refs that Kyle would be allowed back next week because he did not score again. Quite frankly, I was surprised to hear that, and I told Kyle so on the way out. However, it turns out that my initial suspicions were correct. When I checked my email in the car before driving home, there was one from Devin, the league director, who had seen Kyle’s goals and made the decision then and there to bar him from playing any more games for us. As a team we had said something to him last week after playing the Canadiens’ stacked-with-subs lineup, and it turns out that Devin had looked into it and barred 3 of those subs from playing in any more Aluminum league games for being too skilled, though we didn’t know that yet. Then as that happens we let the league know we’re bringing in a new guy named Kyle, and so based on the timing Devin dropped by to check out the game to see if we were trying to play the ringer game too. And it looked like we were, and Devin was not happy, and I don’t blame him one bit. There is no denying that the timing of Kyle’s first game with us looked suspicious. But the Stone Cold Bottom Line here is that Kyle was only ever going to play one game for the 8-Bits because of his then-unknown mad skills, and it was supposed to have been three weeks earlier against the Magic Dragons. If that had been his first game, the refs would probably have sent him off before the first period was over. The only reason it took him half a game to get himself barred from the Aluminum League was because we were playing the league’s best team and it took a full 30 minutes of game time for those mad skills to become apparent. Fortunately we had the emails and texts to back up my explanation to Devin that night that this was not a calculated, retaliatory arms-race move we made after the Canadiens game. And for my part, I had never seen Kyle skate or play and if I had, I’d have immediately known he was too good for the Aluminum League. But I definitely needed to apologize to Devin for my responsibility for what happened, and I did. There are no two ways about it - it doesn’t look good if you blog about ringers one week and then be responsible for bringing in the best ringer ever a week later. And ultimately the better team won, so no harm no foul, and Kyle is probably already being recruited by the teams in the leagues above us.
But it was nice to get Kyle out of “retirement”, it was a lot of fun to skate with him for a game, and it was cool to be the part of the best team in the league for a few minutes. And now that it’s over we have the best part of all - an amusing anecdote with a long shelf life.