Ricky lay sprawled across his checkered blue bedspread, scratching his curly brown head. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me this year,” he muttered. It sure was different being in the Senior Peewee hockey league. Ricky had only scored two goals this year. Steve had made nineteen, and Kevin twelve.
Ricky had scored lots of time in the Junior Peewee league last year, but play was a lot rougher this year. The players checked each other a lot more and a lot harder. Ricky probably got the brunt of it because he was the smallest of the nine-year-olds—and all the ten-year-olds were bigger, of course. It sure was hard for him to get a breakaway with the puck.
Ricky heard the doorbell ring and ran downstairs to answer it. “Hi, Kev.”
“Want to come out and play road hockey with me?” Kevin asked.
“I’ll play goalie first,” Kevin offered.
“Great!” Ricky exclaimed. “I need all the shooting practice I can get!”
Ricky ran toward Kevin, “deking” back and forth with his stick and the old tennis ball, trying to jockey his friend out of position. Although Kevin was good at defending the net, Ricky got the ball in several times.
“How come you don’t do that on the ice when we’re playing a real game?” Kevin asked.
“It’s a lot easier playing in rubber boots instead of skates,” answered Ricky. “Besides, at the arena all you big guys hog the puck.”
The next day Ricky hurried home from school and gulped down a couple of oatmeal cookies along with his milk.
“I really want to get a goal today,” he told his mother as he gathered his hockey equipment. “There are only two games left to play this season.”
The team always did lots of warm-up exercises before the game started. Ricky didn’t like the warm-ups. Even though he knew they helped him to be a better hockey player, he still liked the games best.
When the coach blew his whistle, the two teams hurried to their boxes. Ricky was on the Lions’ team, and today they were playing against the Royals. Ricky’s coach told the team members what positions to play and made sure that every boy had equal playing time.
The Lions played hard, but with just a little over a minute left in the game, the Royals were beating them 5–0. As the players fought over the puck, Ricky edged back so that he wouldn’t get hit. Kevin brushed by him and skated into the middle of the skirmish. He stole the puck and made a quick wrist shot. The puck skittered past the sprawling goalie into the net. Ricky wished he had done it.
The game ended with the Royals winning 5–1.
“You know what, Kev?” Ricky said on the way home. “I really wanted to get a goal today. I even prayed to Heavenly Father to please let me score. I thought for sure He would help me, but He didn’t.”
Kevin was quiet for a moment. Then he said, “Maybe the Royals’ goalie and the other players asked Heavenly Father to help keep the puck out of the net.”
“I never thought about that,” Ricky said. “Well, we still have one game left on Friday.” When Friday finally came, Ricky was one of the first players on the ice. Every moment of playing time he got, Ricky was working just as hard at getting the puck from the other team as he was at passing and shooting. He didn’t just stay back and wait for a pass as he had done before. Not once was he able to get the puck into the other team’s net, but time after time he rescued the puck from in front of the Lions’ net.
When the final whistle blew, the Lions had won by one point. All the boys on the team let out a big cheer, but Ricky could hardly hide his disappointment at not having scored. His eyes burned as he headed for the dressing room to hand in his team shirt.
A few minutes later, however, he came out with his face beaming. “You know what Coach said to me?” he asked Kevin. “He said that I played my best game ever today! I may not have gotten a goal, but I did help the team win the game.”
“You sure did,” Kevin said as he ruffled Ricky’s hair. “Not letting the other team make a goal is as important as scoring any day—maybe even better.”
“Come on,” said Ricky. “Let’s go home and get out the old stick and tennis ball. Maybe I’ll be a defenseman next year.”