I feel like Magellan, sailing my own set of mysterious, uncharted waters. While he had his share of raging seas and deadly plagues to deal with I will have to rely on my vast intuitive knowledge and personal discretion to decide the exact perfect moment to flip a small chrome switch. And Heaven forbid, if I choose incorrectly, I'll be forced into flipping the switch back to its original position. There is truly precious little room for error.
One of the many great innovations of the new NHL is the tiny microphones players are asked to wear during hockey games. This little piece of hardware has given fans everywhere unique access to feeling and hearing what it's really like at ice level. That access is possible through the technology found in a little electronic box. On that electronic box is a switch, and attached to that switch is a little, trembling finger. Comparatively, Magellan was a wiener.
I am sitting in the control room of the Outdoor Life Network, central command for their NHL telecasts. Tonight we fly without a parachute, we swing without a net, tonight we go live with the mics. No ten second delay, no sound editing, no verbal erasers. How and why it's actually come to this is too exhaustive to describe. Suffice it to say it involves three off-duty police officers, a semi-intoxicated, wayward studio exec and an insanely stupid personal wager.
Before I can really prepare for this moment we are live. Lights up. Cameras on. The switch at the ready. A bevy of NHL games fill the control room screens.
Ernie, the director in this theatre of the absurd, cautions me.
Â“Be careful. God, please be carefulÂ”.
I feel like I should be wearing a helmet or a mouthguard, but if protectively naked is good enough for Magellan, it's good enough for me.
There is a lot of scuffling and commotion on Monitor 12. Eric Staal is face to face with Marc Savard. They appear rather calm. Oh well, what the heck. The switch is flipped.
Staal: So I sent her flowers, a card, and I wrote her a poem, but nothing.
Savard: Nothing? What was the poem about?
Staal: Â“There once was a man from NantucketÂ…Â”
Flip. I didn't like where that was headed. Ernie nods.
Monitor 8. Sidney Crosby is angry. He is yelling. And he keeps pointing.
Crosby: Come on ref! That was a deliberate attempt to injure! He dove at my legs! I need these babies. I have a photo shoot with (expletive) Cosmo later you moron!
Flip. Oops, that one kind of snuck in. I shrug. Ernie scratches his brow.
Two referees on Monitor 4 are in a deep discussion. Perhaps there's a dispute about a goal. This could make for good TV. Flip.
Ref #1: I mean, really. I asked for subtle hi-lites and look what he did. I look hideous!
Ref #2: Was his name Esteban? Never trust that little (expletive)!
Ref #1: This is so embarrassing. I look like a cross between Joan Rivers and a snowplow! That littleÂ…
Flip. One-for-two in that at-bat. Ernie starts to sweat.
A happy moment on Monitor 6. It looks like Calgary has scored. Flip.
Iginla: Tony, that's Goal 20!
Amonte: Yes it is! What do you think about that Bobby Clarke? (Expletive) 20 (expletive) goals! Not too (expletive) washed (expletive) up now?
Flip. Egad, that was a bad one. Ernie head appears to be much lower in his shirt. He has chewed the end off his headset. My finger now sits a little further back from the little swear box. I start to sweat. Phones start ringing.
On Monitor 2 Tomas Kaberle is talking to Eddie Belfour during a break in the action. Seems harmless enough. I tentatively flip the switch.
Kaberle: Sorry Eddie. I thought he was going to around the net the other way.
Belfour: Give me a yell if you're unsure TK. That guy is too good to go unchecked.
Finally, some interesting banter.
Belfour: TK, how you feeling?
Kaberle: You mean about my sore shoulder?
Belfour: No, your (expletive). I ate some of that (expletive) chili from the team buffet and I can't stop (expletive)!
Flip. Ernie is on the phone. I want to (expletive). Monitor 9 has an intense face off between Marco Sturm and Jochen Hecht. A hesitant flip.
Sturm: Sie benennen dieses talent?
Hecht: Sie spielen wie ihre mutter.
Hmm. Interesting local banter.
Sturm: Sie werden verlieren.
Hecht: In ihrem traume moron!
More intense local banter.
Sturm: (expletive) you Jochen!
Hecht: Yeah? Well (expletive) you to Marco!
Flip. Local banter over. Trigger finger sweaty. Ernie is still on the phone.
A fight appears to be starting on Monitor 3. Time to act. Holding breath. Eyes closed. The switch is flipped.
Fighter One: You're going to be breathing through your ears when I'm done with you!
Fighter Two: Yeah? I guess only a primate like you would know that, huh?
Punch. Punch. Punch.
Fighter One: Primates don't breathe through their ears! They have special (punch) nasal glands that open during (punch) certain (punch) crises!
Fighter Two: I (punch) thought that was only found in (punch) certain (punch) marsupials!
Fighter One: Don't (punch) feel bad! (punch) A lot of (punch) people get that (punch) wrong!
Fighter Two: Could I (punch) borrow any (punch) literature you might (punch) (punch) have (punch) on the (punch) subject?
Fighter One: (punch) Certainly.
Wow, that was odd. Have to switch to Monitor 12 for crowd reaction.
Fan in Hat: Great (expletive) fight!
Bald fan: That's what I (expletive) call an awesome (expletive) punch up!
Two girls in Ranger jerseys: WHOOP WHOOP! Old time (expletive) hockey!
Flip. Flip. Flip. I got lazy. I got complacent. Sorry Ernie. Sorry sorry sorry.
Ernie is smiling, actually more a giddy laugh. He is holding the phone at arm's length. The other phones keep ringing. Ernie smiles some more. Ernie speaks.
Â“They love it! They freaking love it!Â”
I am puzzled. Ernie explains further.
Â“These phones, they're all fans! They love what we're doing here!Â”
Â“And the network execs?Â” I ask.
Â“If the fans like it, the execs like it. It's like profanity dominoes. It looks like we have a winner.Â” He turns to answer more phones.
I'm bewildered. I don't know what to say.
Ernie advises me further, Â“You can lose that switch box by the way,Â” and continues laughing.
I drop the box and flash a beguiling smirk. Â“That (expletive) Magellan.Â”
Charlie Teljeur, creator of THN's hockeysockpuppettheatre, brings you Loose Change every Tuesday and Thursday, only on thehockeynews.com.
Want to talk to Charlie about love, life, or Loose Change? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org