From a conversation between an aging Leafs scout and his friend, overheard recently, in a Thunder Bay diner.
Yoda. Sad story, that kid.
Had it all, I'm tellin' ya - soft hands, great vision, good hockey sense. And speed? Jesus Christ, man - that kid could fly. Word was that he was tough in the corners too, nasty with the stick.
Problem? Obvious. Too small. 2’ 2". Sure, he could make it in the Q, but no way he'd handle the real heavy-hitters. People figured he’d top out as a career AHL’er. Maybe go on to coach someday. Probably the Caps if they hadn't've got Boudreau!
* laughs *
The kid turned 18, draft year, and we scouts, we figured - maybe best for all concerned if we just let him be. Give him a pass. I mean, it'd be the best thing for him certainly - no sense putting a nice kid like that through the meat-grinder.
And - I'll raise my hand to it - probably the best course for us too. I mean.... it wasn't just his size or that name. Hell, there's lots of little guys with weird names in the Q.
This kid, he just played... different. Not so much fire-wagon hockey, as with him it was fire-FLY hockey - know what I mean? He was everywhere. And all at once. I guess we figured, why risk unnecessary change?
And what happens? Come the draft, the HABS take him. With a 2nd rounder! No way to hide him after that, right? A 2nd rounder!! Fuckin' Habs.
We heard that, and we Leaf scouts near shit ourselves. Or rather, we shit near ourselves. On the Ottawa table to be exact. Murray gets mad and tells us, "Don’t be schitting around here, boysh."
* laughs *
Anyhow, we get to the pre-season, the Habs play him a couple of games, and the little fucker is on a tear. I mean, he was WILD! Wears this beer can as a lid, his sweater hangs off him like some kinda cape, always seems to be coming in at you from his off-wing. And he'd gotten hold of this weird little stick, with a knob on it, and the goddamn thing glows GREEN when he scores.
Spooky as shit.
By about 5 games in, we can all see it coming - trouble. Cause he is lighting. it. up. The kid's a Force. Makes the whole team play better around him.
Final straw? He gets a Gordie Howe hat-trick. Against Boston.
After the game, he's interviewed on Hockey Night in Canada, Cherry asks him something stupid, and the kid says nuthin' - just waggles his ears. Big goddamn ears. No no, you have no idea. SERIOUSLY BIG. Anyway, Cherry gets mad, Yoda starts laughin', and then he says, "Cherry red, are you!"
After that, it wasn't just me. Everybody starts grumblin' about this cocky little fuck. But we scouts, we already knew. Besides, it wasn't fair, what the Habs did. How they picked him, after we were all agreed we wouldn't.
So I books a get-together at the Gardens. There was us, the Bruins, the Wings, Chicago - all the Originals but the fuckin' Habs, of course. And the Rangers. Nobody could stand them big-mouth Rags, even then. We all knew what had to be done. For the good of the game, right? No need for agents and accountants, eh?
We'd straighten things out.
Old-time hockey, if you catch my drift.
* laughs *
Since we were playing the Habs next, the job fell to us.
Which was alright. We had our guy, Domi. We tells him his job. He gets it. Tie's a soldier. Consider it done.
Late in the 1st, Domi draws a bead on the little bastard. Habs shoot it in, and Domi takes that fuckin' Yoda down from behind, full speed, rides him like he's breakin' a bull calf, except face first... right into the end boards.
And Jesus God as my witness, I still see that hit - it's frame by frame in my mind.
This little guy Yoda's face folds up - folds UP - like an accordion, when he hits those end-boards.
Then… his body. Same thing. Folds. Right. Up.
And then… Tie gets up off the kid... so we're all left just watching him... laying there on the ice... this Yoda... and then he just…
lays there some more.
And not just a little. I mean, this guy is COMPLETELY fucked.
Face looked like a punched-in loaf of Ugly Bread.
They had to stretcher him off. Well, didn’t bother with a stretcher, actually. Kerry Fraser just picks him up and carries him off under one arm. Kerry Fraser - a prick from start to finish, eh?
* spits on floor *
Anyways. Kid spends 6 months in hospital. And they tell me, 9 rounds of reconstructive surgery after that. Like with Orr's knees. Only on his face.
He's never the same though. Never played another game.
And since he never played regular season, the Players Association gives him squat - no pension, no comp. S.O.L.
Last I heard, he got a try-out down in the Eastern League. They'll do anything to try and get a gate down there. Somebody probably read about when Veeck tried it with that baseball midget.
Where was it now? Charlotte? The Checkers? Dayton? No…. Dagobah! That’s it. South Carolina, I think.
Anyway. No way a guy depending on speed ever makes it outta there. Ice so bad, in those shitty Southern barns, might as well be stuck in a swamp.
Wonder what happened to him though, after hockey? Poor fuckin’ kid. What with that weird name and being such a shrimp and all, eh?
Yoda. Fuckin' little Yoda.
Still. It's like I always say -- "Fuck the Habs - and the shit that clings to 'em."