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Money on the Board

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On most teams, the position is passed down, player to player, along with the pot. On a new team, with players from every other team in the league coming on board, it was hard to get a read on the room. Who would be the team treasurer?

Other unofficial positions were already obvious. Flower knew he was the Face of the Franchise. He was their only star, their only 1st over-all pick, and had just come off of two Stanley Cup championships. His was the face on most of the promotional material and his jersey was the one seen on the most backs. Flower could even admit, if only to himself, that he was also was also the team Joker. Even the guys who had never been in the Penguins organization knew that there would be pranks coming.

Deryk was the Home Town Boy. That narrative was receiving a lot of positive attention because he'd chosen Las Vegas, like many people in the city, even though he was actually from Edmonton. He'd been out in the community helping immediately after the tragedy and the city was embracing him like a native son.

Tomáš had quietly claimed the last spot in the line-up to go out on the ice, the Rear Guard, with a bit of shuffling and silent negotiation. He was also the guy who pretended not to speak much English, a staple of any hockey team, to get out of interviews – a position Marc had once had, long ago. The whole thing was made much more hilarious because a local reporter from Slovakia had gotten credentials and basically interviewed him after every game – everyone teased him about LenkaTheHockeyGirl and her YouTube channel filled entirely with interviews with him in Czech.

Bill was the Pretty Swede. Every team seemed to have the Swedish heartthrob. Wild Bill was also The Other Karlsson, aka, the man random casual fans thought was a defenseman on the Senators. And the guy in the room with the best Flow, although Nealer might dispute that.

Nealer was the closest thing the team had to a Sniper and was expected to score the most goals. Like many of them, though, he was also expected to be traded at the deadline to a contender. That was still up in the air, because Vegas seemed to be a contender, but no one really believed it. And someone who would likely be traded, even if he was wearing the A, couldn't be the treasurer.

It became apparent in the very first game that no one had really thought about it yet. It was tense in the drab shoebox the Stars called a visitor's locker room without much chatter as guys taped sticks and socks until Eaks stauntered up to the small white board on the wall and grabbed a pen. He wrote his number, circled it, and then turned around to address the room.

“What do you say, boys? Let's win our first game in my old barn, 'cus fuck 'em! 1K on the win.” He wrote down the number while the guys cheered.

Nealer go up, too, and took up the pen. “Fuck the Stars,” he proclaimed to the cheers of his new teammates and put another grand up on the board.

Flower looked around the room with a grin, glad that the vibe was looser now. He realized that he didn't even know if anyone else in the room was a former Star – he didn't know the guys well enough yet. But next up was Reilly Smith, who added another grand to the pot.

“Fuck the Stars,” he said.

It was an interesting team. Almost everyone here was on their third or fourth NHL franchise. Marc knew he was lucky that it was only his second, but he didn't feel very lucky. None of them did, probably. They were the unwanted, the leftovers, the has-beens and the have-nots, the bad contracts and the grinders. It was an awfully far way to fall after the last two years, even though this last Cup had been bittersweet and he'd known it was coming. They were also an older team, no rookies here to have a Rookie Party with. The money on the board would probably go towards team dinners when on the road, or maybe to the skater who got a GWG. Flower had gotten the Pittsburgh pot a few times for shutouts. If it got big enough, they'd probably donate it to charity, probably #VegasStrong.

In a couple of months it would be his turn to put money on the board. Knowing the record of expansion teams, Flower wasn't looking forward to putting it up and then having to keep it.

Somehow, they won their first game, then their second, and then their home-opener and the pot was at a respectable level. No one had really claimed treasurer yet, but they were only a few games in and it wasn't hard for everyone to keep track.

Then they played their fourth game and took their first L and Marc-André got hurt. Against the fucking Red Wings. It always hurt to lose, but there was something just especially wretched when he was in net for a loss against Detroit. It had been almost 10 years and he had 3 Cups now, but that 2008 Final was still always in the back of his mind when he played them. And getting injured was always terrible.

After the game, Tomáš wiped his writing off the white board silently before slumping in his locker.

The next day, Marc knew the hit from Mantha was worse than he'd thought. He knew the symptoms of a concussion and so did the trainers, who sent him home. He checked in with Coach Prior, sent Malcolm a good luck text, and went home.

Vero already had the blackout curtains up and the girls set up playing on the opposite side of the house. She'd been through this before.

The next evening, she came into his darkened recovery room with a plate of snacks, turned down the music he was listening to, and sat down next to him.

“Your back-up called. He seemed very excited to beat his old team. He said he had $1,000 on the game and that tonight's total pot was $4,500 and to add it to the rest of the pot.”

Marc-André squinted at his wife in the dim light. “I'm glad they won, but that is an odd call to make.” She shrugged and handed him the plate.

It kept happening. Subban called again after the next game to update the pot, and then he got injured, too. After St. Louis, it was Deryk that called, not Subban, and then it was a rotating cast of his teammates. Then Dansk got injured and Lagacé took the net and Marc used a bit of his limited phone time to call the goalie coach, Dave Prior, who told him not to worry and to just get better.

He still got an update after every game. And he slowly got better.

A camera crew drove into the rink with him for his first game back, which was against Carolina, and he admitted he was nervous. He was always a bit nervous, but hockey was also always fun – he was really looking forward to being back on the ice. And really he wasn't that nervous about the Carolina game... it was the game that was coming up next that he was really nervous about. Pittsburgh would be rolling into town and it would finally be time for him to put money on the board for a win.

Unfortunately, no one had to pay up for the Carolina game, but afterwards Malcolm Subban came up to him as he was putting on his coat to leave. “Hey man, no changes in the pot tonight, obviously, but here's the collection so far,” he said, handing over a bulging envelope of bills, cheques, and IOUs. Most of the guys were still there and he could feel the weight of their attention on him. It was sweet, knowing that they'd done this to keep him in the loop, to show him he was Team.

“So, I am treasurer, eh? Does this mean I am fine-master, too?” he grinned around the gloomy room.

Nealer sat up immediatley and yelled “No way!” as the rest of the team shrugged. “Guys, no,” Nealer begged, “Geno was a very bad example, he'll murder our wallets!”

“Just your wallet, I promise,” Flower cooed to his teammate as the rest of the room laughed. It was nice to hear the team laughing after a loss. It would be even nicer to hear the team laugh after a win.

Two days later, he got to hear it against his old team. It was the best money on the board he'd ever spent.