Patrice Bergeron looks out the window of the train. As much as he hates to admit it, he’s a nervous wreck. He’s never spent more than a week away from home and now he’s five minutes away from his new school. In the United States. That’s right, Patrice Bergeron will be attending Kodiak Boarding School in Kodiak, Massachusetts, USA. His stomach does flips as he thinks about what it will be like. What if he can’t understand them? What if they can’t understand him? What if he’s not good enough to make the team and they send him back? What if they don’t like him?
No, absolutely not. He cannot think like this. His mom told him to think good thoughts, and he can’t let her down. It’ll be great. He’ll make lots of friends, score lots of goals, and get drafted number one in the draft. This school is his path to the NHL, and he’ll do anything to get there. He’s going to be a star. People will buy “Bergeron” jerseys and they’ll scream for him to give them his signature and he’ll be stopped on the street for photos. He will be a celebrity. But what if it never happens? What if he goes back to Quebec without an NHL contract? What if everything he’s dreamt of never comes true?
Luckily, he has no more time to think bad thoughts because the doors are opening and he’s being directed off onto the platform. He chooses to follow the other passengers who are exiting the train. Someone hands him his bags, which are large and bulky.
“Merci!” He says, and they look at him funny. He cringes. You’re in America now, Patrice, get with the program. It’s going to be hard to get used to English. His tutor didn’t think he was ready for the move, but Patrice had insisted. He hopes this choice wouldn’t come back to bite him in the ass. If he had to take the train back home because he didn’t know enough English, Monsieur Tremblay would laugh him out of Tuesday English lessons. That wasn’t an option either. He’s just going to have to do better.
He fumbles with his bags and his sticks clatter on the ground of the train station. People stare at him. What is this kid doing in the middle of a train station, with no adults, carrying giant bags and dropping things everywhere? His grand American experience is off to a phenomenal start. Patrice is on his way to live the American dream. He picks them up and is on his way.
Patrice shuffles off to the nearest directory, hoping to find where his ride is waiting. He looks for a second, before realising his English tutor has not prepared him for this. He starts to panic, before realising he cannot panic. Not in this busy train station. No way. This is not how his future will start. He just has to calm down and concentrate.
He looks at the sign again. He recognises some of the words, but not many. Why didn’t he take those extra classes? What if someone never picks him up? Would he have to live at this train station for the rest of his life? No, that’s crazy.
He walks around aimlessly for about twenty minutes before he spots a man in a suit waving him over. Patrice walks over to him, hoping it’s who he’s looking for.
“Patrice? Are you Patrice?” The man asks him, and Patrice nods. He is, infact, Patrice.
“Oh thank goodness. Thought you didn’t get off at the right stop. That’d be bad wouldn’t it, eh? Oh, here, let me take that for you,” he takes Patrice’s bags and throws them in the trunk of his car, still talking, “so, how was the train ride? Did you find your seat?”
“It was good, yeah.” Patrice says, climbing into the car. He looks down and picks at his thumb.
“That’s good. I’m Bruce Cassidy, your coach. You might meet someone else if you get put on the B team. We’ve got joint practises half the time, and then the A and B team separate the other time.
They’re silent the rest of the ride. Patrice continues looking out the window, watching the towns and buildings go by.
When they arrive, Coach Cassidy hands him some papers and unloads his hockey gear from the trunk.
“Alright kid, here’s your dorm info. They’re gonna load all your stuff into your room for you, but we gotta go to practise.” Coach Cassidy leads Patrice to the rink.
Patrice walks into the locker, bags hitting his shins, sticks clanging against the floor, and all of his new teammates look up. Some are getting dressed, others are taping their sticks, and one kid is throwing a rubber ball against the wall while his stall mate watches.
He gets into his practise uniform quickly, and has his skates laced by the time the coach says it’s time to get on the ice.
When Patrice’s skates meet the ice, it feels like home again. They all kneel close to the door and wait for Coach Cassidy to give them instructions. All of them except the goalie, that is. He rushes onto the ice and shoots at the net.
“Tuukka! Come join us!” Coach Cassidy says, waving him over to where everyone else is. Tuukka just glares and goes back to shooting pucks. No one bats an eye except Patrice. In Quebec, if his goalie did that, they would be on the bench opening the door for the next games. Things are different in America though.
“Alright guys, you may have noticed we got a new teammate today. This is Patrice, he’s from Quebec. Patrice, why don’t you say hi to the guys.” Patrice gets up in front of them, taking a deep breath.
“Hi I am Patrice. I am nice to meet you.” He says, and everyone laughs, except for one guy. He can hear Tuukka chuckling from across the rink. Patrice is thankful for that one guy, and he’s all he can focus on as his ears turn bright red and start to ring. This is not how he wanted this to start.
“Settle down now guys. We’re gonna start out with just some shots on Tuukka and Jaro. Alright, let’s get out there guys.” He claps his hands and all the players skate out to centre ice, except the one guy.
“I’m Brad. I hope you join the A team.” He says, putting out a gloved hand, which Patrice takes.
“Oh, merci. Enchanté.”
“Yeah, that.” Brad says, making Patrice smile. Brad smiles back. They hold eye contact for a few seconds before Brad looks down at the ice and skates away.
Patrice collects a puck onto his stick, air juggling while he thinks. Maybe this won’t be so bad after all.