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I stumbled back into the wall, narrowly avoiding the towels and God knows what else was being thrown out into the corridor. I’d worked football events, I’d even attended wrestling camps for analysis, but I have never seen so much anger and chaos in one small space. Added to that the semi-naked guy in front of me was staring at me in this unnerving, ‘I’m gonna jump you’, kind of way.
“Yeah, uhmm, very nice tattoo,” I finally managed, and then picked my way over the mess on the floor and retreated. I reached a branch in the corridor and tried to recall which way was up in this maze of a building.
“Hang a left,” Taz called out after me, and I decided to trust him and turned left. Only when I was out of sight did I bend at the waist and slow my breathing. When I finally got my breathing under control I continued down to a door marked private, knocked and went in.
Right into a heated argument between a short balding guy in a suit, and obviously one of the coaches, who was tall, dark haired, and spitting fire.
“We need to trade Elo Gugläken,” bald-guy stated, like he wasn’t going to allow arguments.
“Goog is one of the best right wings in the AHL,” Coach snapped back. He was using that tone which spoke of authority, and I wondered right then who made the decisions on this team. Was it all Coach, or were there an army of paper pushers who considered they knew best?
This is why analytics are a good thing. They allow a rational exploration of the facts and lead coaches and management to decisions that made sense for everyone.
“He’s also fucking blind!” Bald-guy said, in a very loud voice for such a short person.
“You’re the one who’s fucking blind, Henry,” Coach yelled.
Bald-guy, Henry, who I assumed was Henry McAllister, general manager of this team, was turning a fascinating shade of purple, and I could do two things. Back out slowly before they spotted me, or make myself known to them, and maybe diffuse this situation. Statistically it was fifty-fifty, but my fear of confrontations meant I would be ineffective here and my characteristic shyness would skew the whole thing.
So, I tried to back out, and bumped into someone standing behind me who reached out and settled my movement with an added “woah”. Someone way taller than me, still in skates, and with the stench of a game hanging around him.
He placed me to one side, pushed in and I saw the naked chest before I registered it was Taz.
“Alfie has locked himself in the showers again. Who has the key?”
Henry let off a string of curse words and his opinion on fucking goalies and tossed a key at Taz. Then he rounded on the coach. “Ask Taz what we should do with Goog,” he snapped.
Coach shook his head briskly like he wanted to end the conversation right there.
“What about Goog?” Taz asked, staring down his coach and GM. I made a conscious note of Taz’s confidence as a variable in future calculations, and also a note about how sexy his back was.
All those muscles on display and flexing as he tensed.
“I say Goog goes,” Henry snapped.
“I say he doesn’t,” Coach added.
Henry pushed more. “The idiot’s blind out there, you were waiting for a pass, Taz, and he didn’t even see you, for fucks sake.”
“There was traffic,” Taz defended, and from the huff that Henry gave, I assume he didn’t agree.
“Hi,” I said a little desperately, and far louder than I would have liked. “I’m Michael Campbell.”
Three men turned to face me. The coach rolled his eyes, Henry looked pissed to be interrupted, and Taz tilted his head as if he was considering what to say.
“We’re busy,” Coach said, and turned back to Henry, obviously wanting to continue the heated debate. “Now look here, Henry, in the last twenty starts Goog has been our most consistent in assists.”
“Definitely,” Taz agreed.
Henry slammed a hand down on his desk. “That’s bullshit and you know it. This game, most shifts, he was up on the boards looking like a dazed fucking rabbit.”
Taz leaned over his desk. “The Colts have a strong group of defensemen, they pretty much dogged him the entire time.” His tone was firm. Maybe he was used to breaking up these kinds of discussions?
“Can I help?” I said, loudly, to get their attention.
Henry looked me up and down and then cursed. “Unless you’re a genius winger then no.”
I looked down at myself and then pushed my glasses back up my nose. “I don’t play hockey, but I can run the analytics on this player you’re discussing.” I extended my hand to Henry. “Michael Campbell, Sports Analytics Specialist, I’ve been working with the Railers.” I waited for recognition, there was none. “Coach Madsen sent me.”
Henry finally shook my hand but didn’t look overly impressed at me being in the room, let alone getting into the numbers on one of the players.
“Get out of my office,” he snapped. “All of you.”
Did that include me? Not that I had a choice given Taz dragged me out. Henry slammed the door in our faces, and again I found myself backing into a wall to avoid temper. This time the palpable anger radiating from Coach and Taz.
Coach stalked away, kicking at whatever was in his path, but it was Taz who held up a hand to stop me asking about what the hell I’d just seen.
“Get your analytics,” he said. “And find a way to keep Goog on this team.”
“That’s not exactly my job—”
He loomed then, not that I thought he was trying to intimidate me. He was just bigger all over.
“They’re not taking Goog off this team. Find. A. Way.”
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