A Slap Shot Straight to the Heart

While his marriage floundered, his hockey team flourished

Too many other nights we'd trudge around the darkness of our neighborhood, asking each other why we were so unsatisfied by the marriage. Why, after all the years we'd been a couple, were we not happy together?

I spent hours trying to write down what was wrong. I'd type into my laptop computer at home, or into my office computer after hours. In my car on the way to assignments I'd scribble thoughts in a notebook. Still I couldn't produce a coherent explanation. Just listing the facts didn't do justice to the complexity, or to the weighty emotions involved.

The jolt of moving down from the Midwest hurt our union in ways we'd never anticipated and from which we never recovered. My job can be all-consuming. Her current job pales in comparison to the great position she gave up to move here. But it's not any of that at all, yet it is all that at once, and much, much more.

Steve Satterwhite
Steve Satterwhite

I constantly discussed the relationship with friends, co-workers, and anyone else who would listen, a population that dwindled as I continued to talk and talk and talk. One person encouraged me to leave. Another reprimanded me for not trying hard enough. One friend discussed her divorce as casually as someone else might talk about Sunday's Dolphins game. "I never loved him," she said. "He was a friend who supported me through a rocky time, so we married." After ten years, the last two of which they didn't sleep together, she ended it. Quickly. The divorce was finalized within a month.

I mentally noted the reasons to stay together: We shared friends and experiences and jokes only we knew. I also listed my dissatisfactions, acknowledging that problems are inevitable, yet feeling a crushing frustration at our inability to resolve almost any of them. She worked terribly hard at our marriage, but no matter how hard she worked, I still wasn't happy. Nor was she.

We continued to try. Following my sister's example, we bought a small house in Miami, a fixer-upper whose restoration became our joint project. I hoped it would become a common bond. I also hoped, as we worked on it, that the fissures in our union would somehow heal themselves

We scraped layers of paint from the doors and walls, patched cracks in the ceiling, and bathed the iron windows in rust inhibitor. An overgrown Brazilian pepper tree in the back yard became a banana tree and some young palms. Fresh paint appeared on the roof, fresh stain on the floors. On Friday nights after work we'd change into our grunge clothes, then spend the evening sanding and scraping until our fingers sometimes bled. Later we'd collapse in front of the television, sawdust caked in the corners of our eyes, flecks of paint clinging to our skin like Latex glitter.

Two years, my sister said. By the time we finished the house, we'd been married more than twice that long. On the night we finally hung the last refinished door on the last refurbished frame, I looked around. Now we needed furniture. The bare walls cried out for paintings. The empty shelves awaited pictures and candles and other knickknacks. I'd hoped that fixing up the house would solve our problems. Instead it served more as a distraction.

I moved out within the month. We called it a trial separation.

We're still trying to settle on a nickname for Dan, our newest forward. Most popular and quickest off the tongue is Dan the Man, an ubiquitous sports moniker. We strive to be a bit more original, so we're test-driving Steely Dan, a nickname that showcases his poise. Every season we pick up a player or two like Dan, a good upgrade to counteract the inevitable attrition. Dan came over in the summer with Dave, his boss at a design firm, in the wreckage of our former rivals the Beavers. Instantly Dan assumed our starring role. He skates with effortless ease. He dazzles opponents with his stick handling. He never seems to feel pressure. "And he speaks with a Canadian accent, too," boasts Norm, "which is always a nice touch."

The very first Wildcat team featured Mico, a tiny and explosive Finnish guy who never passed the puck. Presley showed some flash for a few seasons, until he quit in a huff over playing time. "It's all politics," he grumbled at Norm as he stuffed his pads into his bag for the last time. The Tuna is a legend, a hulking prison guard who could barely skate but whose slap shot traveled so fast and hard he reigned for one brief season as our top scoring threat.

The Tuna relocated to Massachusetts, where he now lives near our most memorable alum, the great Mark Smith. Our best-ever defenseman used to manage the former CenTrust Tower, downtown's signature skyscraper. Norm, always on the lookout for recruits, found him while executing some legal work for the building. That was more than two years ago, and we still talk about him in reverential tones. When he was on the ice, he controlled play for both teams, shutting down any offensive rushes by the Beavers or the Sharpshooters. Switching quickly to offense, he'd fire outlet passes to a wing, then position himself along the boards for a dangerous slap shot. He led the league in scoring. He led the team in everything. Then he moved on to a skyscraper in Denver, then to another building back in Boston, his hometown. We've never seen him since, but his presence is still felt. Once last season, after Dan covered his opposing man with tenacity, Javy paid him the ultimate compliment. "That," said Javy, lowering his voice an octave, "was almost Mark Smith defense tonight."

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help
Miami Concert Tickets