Guest writer: Liam Patrick on doing it for Charlie

Nothing needs to be said for this one.

Well written, Liam ‘Apollo’ Patrick.

Carrying Charlie, through good times and bad

Liam Patrick in action for the Fighters.

Liam Patrick in action for the Fighters.

By Liam Patrick

Have you ever been “that guy”?

“That guy” who can’t look his (or her) teammates in the eye?  What about when it goes beyond those in the change room?

I’ve been that guy.  It sucks.

A wise man has taught me the only way to be a good hockey player is to give into the team.  This has always been my mantra anyway but it was a good reminder and way of putting it.  Team first.  Do what’s best for the team.  Team > Liam.

Sitting in the penalty box watching the Devils put in the tying goal (whilst Mark Stone impersonated a brick wall) was not what was best for the team.  The call was debatable but it was the karma bus catching up and running me over after I had gotten away with a lot in not only the season but the game itself.  The tie effectively put the Fighters out of finals contention (by half a game) and ended our season.

The post mortem began as soon as bums touched seats in the locker room.  The whole team had the opportunity to say something.  I managed a limp apology and then returned to forensically examining the lacing on my skates.  People didn’t blame me. But the fact was we were on the PK when the goal was scored – I had put us at a disadvantage.

It took half an hour to get out of my gear and into a shower where I attempted to put Victoria back into a state of drought.  Still, trying to avoid my teammates.  Unfortunately it’s much harder to avoid yourself.

Of course even worse than avoiding your teammates in the change room is avoiding the ones who aren’t.  I’m of course talking about Charlie.

Charlie should have been in that room with us, undoubtedly trying to make us feel better.  But due to the bastard that is the universe he wasn’t.  So naturally I felt like I had let him down as well.  I had the opportunity to be here and played not only like shit, but may as well have worn a Devils jersey.

For the next 24 hours I was the most miserable individual in the world. Yes, I had mostly reconciled that “hey, its just a game of hockey – there are more important things in life than damn hockey”.  Letting my mates down still hurt though, and the thought of letting Charlie down hurt the most.  All I wanted was a chance to be able to look back and know I hadn’t let Charlie down and had given everything I could.

Then the karma bus stopped, just before it was about to pancake me completely (OK, it was now a karma steamroller).

In an amazing turn of events, we found ourselves in third position when the dust settled and the 79th iteration of the IHV ladder was released.

The Fighters were back, baby.

This was it.  How many times in sport or life do you get a genuine chance to atone?

It got better.  We were wearing our alternate jerseys in the final, and Charlie’s 21 was my size.  Having the opportunity to wear Charlie’s number was truly special and something that I will cherish for a long time. It even smelt of money (well monopoly money – and Aimee Hough can vouch for me!).  I’d like to think by wearing that jersey, Charlie was out on the ice with us and had his chance to be part of our team in a final and the final game of that team.  Truly the highlight of my season.

History shows we lost 1-0 in the final.  I had a game that was neither brilliant nor disastrous.  I had a shot late where I should have passed had my vision been up.  Dave White clearly hadn’t worn deodorant that morning (sorry Dave) as nobody wanted to be within coo-eee of him leaving him open to take a pass and tie the game up.  However I took the shot and the goalie froze the puck.  I skated to the bench completely spent.   I knew I had given it all I could for the team and Charlie.

Time ran down.  We lost.  The mad cheering fans (all 8 of them who sounded like 8000) still cheered.  I waved in appreciation and pointed to the 21 on my sleeve.  Being the hard man that I am, I had to contend with the foggy/sweaty visor and the annoying tears/contact lens combo whilst skating off of the Oakleigh ice.

Even back in the rooms, the lid stayed on with the visor covering my eyes to maintain the appearance of being a heartless, hardman goon.  I was again forensically examining those laces in my skates but this time had a small grin.  We hadn’t been able to go all the way, but at least I knew both myself and the team gave everything we had in the tank.  Our brother in arms was out there with us – I’m sure of it.  He probably would have scored on that last shot too.

I also know his family came down to watch and experience something that was very dear to Charlie.  The story goes that they weren’t sure which team to follow but felt like they should cheer for the white team (i.e. us).  That must bring a damn smile to even the hardest of faces.

Losing Charlie is one of the hardest and most emotional things I have experienced in life, let alone sport.  There no logic for it.  He should be here with us.

Liam, Wunders and Charlie taking hospital life seriously late last year.

Liam, Wunders and Charlie taking hospital life seriously late last year.

Instead of catching him for some drinks and shenanigans at the Spitfires’ presentation night this weekend, I plan to visit him beforehand and probably sound like an idiot talking to him and shed a few more tears thanks to the universe being an unfair prick.  I also owe Charlie thanks: I think he has appreciated the improved effort final and helped me out lately when I’ve needed an extra 10 per cent on the ice (in what is meant to be my off-season – but that’s a different story entirely).  Or maybe I just want that to be the case, so it feels like he is still part of our hockey world and that, while we want him with us in spirit, he isn’t really gone.

But if we can take anything away from the experience of losing Charlie, it is that we must take every opportunity and give it everything we have when doing something we love –you never know when the chance to do what you love is going to be taken away.

Either way – I wasn’t “that guy” anymore. At least until the next time my brain disconnects from the body and I do something stupid, which is surely not far away.  Again I’ll owe my teammates for an error of judgement.

But I won’t ever let Charlie down again – every time on the ice is 110 per cent now.

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