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A Hockey Tournament Takes a Turn For the Worst!

Updated: Feb 24, 2022

We were not short on the drama this past weekend!

Hockey players arrive in St. Ignace, Michigan, for the Labatt Blue Pond Hockey Championship as early as Monday in anticipation of a weeklong celebration. I have friends from various teams who look forward to this time of year and plan accordingly. This involves booking a large house, planning out the meals, revisiting some local bars, taking out the sleds (Snowmobiles for the uninitiated).

Photo by Taylor Friehl on Unsplash

This is something they have planned for the entire year, although in this case, it has been two long years. Our friend Fred, from an earlier story, was not any different.

Fred had been pushing us to rent a house for the week, but we were apprehensive as the pricing he was sending out was closing in on $1000/head. It was a bit too steep, in my opinion, for a Thursday through Sunday stay as that was the amount of time I had planned to be in town. There was also no guarantee the house would be something we all agreed upon. Ultimately, we all ended up booking hotel rooms in Mackinaw (the other side of the bridge). In retrospect, I wish we had taken him up on the house.

The Friday hockey game came and went; we lost but had fun doing it. We had a good amount of guys, seven in all, and the game was enjoyable. More importantly, we didn’t embarrass ourselves, and everyone escaped game one uninjured. The group of us reconvened at the local bar, had some beers, food and then continued our celebration back in Mackinaw. The night ended early, and we went back to our hotels to be ready for games two and three on Saturday.

Pond Hockey (media by JC)

Saturday’s game for us started at 12:30 as the weather the night before dumped no less than 8 inches of snow. This put all games behind by almost an hour, but it also gave us much-needed barriers on each rink. Friday’s games saw all sorts of pucks sailing into the adjacent rinks. Saturday’s games would be more “controlled” with the promise of fewer puck missiles flying to and fro. Everything looked great until we noticed Fred and Eric were nowhere to be found. Our skate-friendly number of seven had been reduced to five players.

Each game is played as a four versus four-game, with each team having a few players in reserve to ensure each player gets enough rest. The most you can have is eight, with seven seemingly being the norm. We were down to five, and some of us were pretty nervous. More importantly, this wasn’t like Fred not to show to a game in which he was the Captain.

Game two came and went, and it was quickly apparent we would not be playing for a championship on Sunday. The real question was, “Where was Fred?”. After repeated phone calls, we quickly reached out to Fred’s wife to let her know he wasn’t responding to texts or phone calls. She promptly called the hotel and alerted them of his disappearance.

In the meantime, we had another game to play, and we lost an additional player. Our 5th player was upset at the “Captain” for the no-show, and he opted to go snowmobiling instead. We were now down to four players, but surprisingly we played better than the previous two games. Unfortunately, the results were the same, and we would be winless this weekend. There was plenty of complaining about Fred during this timeframe.

Photo by Taylor Friehl on Unsplash

Imagine our surprise when we heard Fred was found unresponsive by the police at the foot of his bed. It turns out he is both diabetic and epileptic and had experienced a seizure sometime that day. As described to us, he was “unresponsive.” They quickly had him admitted to St Ignace Hospital but thought it best to air transport him to Royal Oak, nearly four hours away. He was combative, and they needed to restrain him. As we understood it, he has had episodes in the past but not to this degree.

With a history of seizures, it may have been best for us all to have stayed together. Unfortunately, this wasn’t common knowledge, and we were all in the dark regarding his history. As of today, Fred is heavily sedated but talking to some degree. He has an appointment to see a neurologist, and the outlook is positive. Thinking back over the events, there were some warning signs but not entirely unexpected from Fred as he was always a little peculiar. God-willing and Fred’s health permitting, we will most likely stay together next year.

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