The puck does not stop here
IT was like something out of "Slap Shot."
The bus pulled up and out poured a traveling circus. A cacophony.
A hockey team.
There was the patter and lilt of French-Canadian accents, just like you'd expect. There were the wives, wearing bikini tops and faux-grass hula-girl skirts. There were the bags and the chatter and the sticks, straight out of central casting. The characters. It only seemed strange that none of them had a beer.
No, wait. There's one.
And they were all Paul Newmans, that was the best part. Nothing to do but stand there in awe. Hail to the Chiefs.
"You remember that movie?" Gary Scheuring said yesterday at the Ice Palace, before he got into his gear.
Well, the Hanson Brothers, the three goofy guys, the goons, "They were from my hometown in northern Minnesota," Scheuring said. "I know them."
"One of them graduated with my sister," Scheuring said.
"They're crack-ups," he said.
Scheuring was a Marine who came to Hawaii in 1981. The Minnesota (think "Fargo") slaps back into his voice when he talks hockey. He's been coming to the Ice Palace since it was just dirt and a dream. Yesterday, he showed off the first puck (mounted as a trophy now) dropped on its ice. There's been hockey here for 22 years and he's seen it all. He helped put together what would have to be Oahu's first hockey team.
Guys from Germany and Finland have played here. Czechs have visited for tournaments, former NHL pros. There have been trips to the mainland to play. Scheuring says he once found himself in the Ice Palace on the same line with a guy from the 1980 Miracle on Ice.
But this week's tournament -- Hockey International's Aloha Challenge Cup -- with these guys, these Paul Newmans off the bus, this may have been the biggest. This one may have been the most fun.
The Cup has been made up of three traveling teams from Quebec and one of Hawaii's All-Stars, the Cutter's Classics, a bunch of guys who are probably in their mid-30s in age. Scheuring is 43.
"It's a real treat for us," said Hawaii goalie Pierre Asselin, a Quebec native. "For us, it's a big deal."
The biggest deal came Tuesday night, when the Classics played the tournament favorite, featuring Yvon Lambert, a longtime pro who played nine seasons with the Montreal Canadiens -- including a stretch in which hockey's version of the New York Yankees won four straight Stanley Cups.
The Classics fell behind, of course, were down 4-1 in the final period, time running out. Then, a Hawaii goal, then another. With 1:30 left, Scheuring tied it. Then sudden-death. Then shootout.
"It was one of the most exciting games I may have ever played in," Scheuring said.
Then Hawaii won.
Yes, Lambert is now 56 years old. Yes, these guys are not only in retirement, they're on vacation -- Hockey International is a company that specializes in putting on traveling hockey tournaments in exotic locations all over the world. (HI President Alain Caron said they once played on a cruise ship.) Yes, their wives are wearing their Waikiki luau outfits even in the Ice Palace's indoor chill.
Doesn't matter. What a moment. What a night.
"That was significant for our club," Scheuring said.
"That was one of our biggest wins, yeah."
Last night, the Classics played in the tournament's championship game. They won the title 3-0 and Asselin pumped his fists between the pipes. They took a team picture. This was the kind of week they'd all wanted, all these years. When Asselin discovered hockey in Hawaii more than a decade ago he had his dad ship his goalie stuff all the way from Canada. For days like this.
"I'm on spring break," the Chaminade professor said (he'd come to Hawaii to get his doctorate at UH). "I wanted to get all these things done. But I wake up in the morning, I'm nervous." The butterflies wouldn't let him go. He couldn't quite think about anything else.
He got to meet Lambert at the captains' meeting. Saw his Stanley Cup rings up close. He most of all knows what this means.
Does Lambert know what a thrill this was?
"I do," he said. "I know because I've been doing it for 20 years," going around, playing tournaments like this.
"I know what it means to them," he said.
"It's a nice feeling," he said.