**This is our gift to you, our readers. If you find a small error here and there be gentle… let firstname.lastname@example.org know and we can fix. **
I wasn’t sure how to start to explain what I’d found out about the player they called Goog. I’ve disseminated analytics to team managers and coaches to some of the best funded NHL teams in the league and not everyone understood the significance of what I said. Taz looked so damn serious and I tried to break the tension.
“Did you know that every time I tried to type in Goog’s name on the report it tried to autocorrect to Google.” There. I’d started with a joke, but Taz just stared at me anxiously, and didn’t even crack a small smile. This close, I could see the hazel of his eyes, which today looked green more than brown, and I would love to get an even closer look, but that was wrong.
I’ve been hired by the Railers to assess their development team and provide support. Not have inappropriate thought about their star center. I swallowed hard and coughed to clear my throat, and there must have been something in my posture that he saw, because he slumped back in his seat.
“Shit,” he cursed. “It’s not good news is it. Fuck.”
He wasn’t asking, he said the words very simply. He looked like someone had kicked him in the balls, and then shoved him off a cliff to finish him off.
“Well. It’s not bad,” I hedged.
“Can I see?”
I looked around us, at the mostly empty café now. Evidently the lunch rush had finished. Normally I wouldn’t show my analytics to the world; they were for management eyes only. But this was different. There was a palpable sense of loss in Taz’s eyes, and I wanted to be the one who forced that away. Not that he would understand the way I’d presented the information, but maybe if I just show him a couple of things to illustrate what I’d seen.
I took out the summary sheet, and the overview graphic, turned them to face Taz, and laid them on the table between us. He hunched over to have a closer look and I waited for some comment about how it looked like a toddler had thrown paint on a page, or something equally defensive when he didn’t understand what he was looking at. I was used to that now. The players weren’t always my audience.
“Why is my name on this sheet?” he pointed at the list of parameters that I used.
I indicated the purple shading that showed all the various variables. “The green is an NHL control group, purple shading is you,” I explained. I cleared my throat again. “I needed a subject inside the team for basic analysis.”
“And the blue is Goog.” He traced the green and blue that intersected the purple, and there was that sadness again. Goog must mean an awful lot to Taz for all of this to disturb him so much. More than just a line mate.
“Yes,” I nudged the summary sheet and waited for him to pick it up. He only glanced at it briefly, before shaking his head.
“I won’t understand the words,” he murmured, “I get the colors I think. What is the reason you’d give for the blue not matching my purple? Goog’s on the ice for the same time as me, often with the point for an assist on my goals. His plus minus is good, he’s on the first special teams, same as me, power play, penalty kill, it doesn’t make sense.”
“The biggest correlation I can see is that the shorter his TOI, the less he grabs points.”
Taz looked at me with an expression that spoke volumes, like it was obvious less time on ice, or TOI, meant less goals, and that was true, but I’d found something else.
“And?” he encouraged.
“Look, it doesn’t make sense from an analytical perspective, but the more you use Goog on the ice…” I searched for words to explain what I meant, “the more time he’s on the ice the warmer and looser he gets, seems to me he excels when the times mount up.”
Taz peered at the shading on the overview again. “Is that what this long thin stretch of blue is?” When he looked at me expectantly, I realized I’d lost myself in staring at his hair, which was a mix of mahogany and auburn, strands falling over his forehead, and curling a little around his ears. He was rocking the stubbled look, but not like it was designed, more that he’d just not shaved in a while. I love the feeling of stubble when I kissed a man, adored the scratch of whiskers on my thighs.
“Is it?” He prompted me.
I pushed the glasses back up my nose, and nodded, reinforcing with a firm, “Yes.”
“So, let me get this straight. What you’re saying is that coach keeping him off the ice isn’t a good thing, that he needs longer time out in the game, more shifts. Coach has been switching up my line and leaving Goog riding the pine, which you’re saying is a bad thing.”
“This is only a cursory examination of the data,” I warned him.
“Doesn’t matter, I just need one thing to use as leverage.” As he talked his expression brightened, and he stood up, abruptly.
He leaned over the table and cradled my face in his hands, landing a hard-quick kiss on me and then backing away.
“Mikey, you’re freaking awesome,” he announced, and strode quickly out of the café and down the street. He was out of sight before the door fully shut, and I was left staring at the front of the shop, likely with my mouth hanging open.
He called me Mikey, again, and that was a kiss.
It probably didn’t mean he wanted to kiss me in a hot sweaty sex kind of way. But the gorgeous, sexy, muscly, hockey player, had kissed me.
Score one for the nerd.
*a new episode appears each Sunday, check the master list for updates.