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For All Nails 126: Cold As Ice
Niagara Arena (1)
Seats 232 and 233, level 2, section C
Black Rock, NY, NC, CNA
November 28, 1974
 
Harold Pickett and John Hanson sat watching a Black
Rock Swords game.  "God Save The King" had just been
finished by opera star Enrico Palazzo, and the game
had begun.

"So, it's over for you here," Hanson said. 

"Unfortunately, yes.  I don't know what I'll do now. 
My superior seems to be in the process of releasing a
lot of Mercator's allies, and others are mysteriously
leaving Mexico City.  Some say leaving the USM
altogether.  But my boss isn't in Mercator's camp
now."  Pickett sighed.  He had gotten the clandestine
note from Winston that the switch to El Popo's side
hadn't quite been by choice.  It hadn't gone further
than that.  But Pickett knew his chances with the War
Department's Intelligence section were slim as Winston
shelved Operation Chaos.  Freelance work looked
attractive, though.

Hanson wondered if they should be discussing such
matters in public, but the arena was a loud place.  It
was doubtful anyone else could hear them.  Even so,
Hanson and Allen both kept looking around to make sure
no one was listening to them (the news of Mercator
funding the Brotherhood had not sat well with the CNA
media). Several of the seats around them were
unoccupied, and the people immediately behind them
were engaged in a bizarre, loud debate over whether
the Swords could defeat their combined weight in
small, yapping Mexican dogs.  _Who came up with
that?_, Hanson thought.  Still, they spoke in hushed
tones.

"You are always welcome with the Brotherhood.  You
brought a few million pounds into our movement in 2
years.  Other army clubs across the land benefited
too.  Consider moving to this city.  I know you're
fond of the chicken."  That was an understatement;
Hanson thought the man he knew as Edward Allen was
addicted to it.  Maybe it was just the only
Confederation food he liked.
 
Indeed, Allen responded by taking a thigh from the
15-piece bucket of Black Rock chicken he had insisted
they buy. (2)  Hanson helped himself to a leg and saw
there were still eight pieces left.  Just then, the
crowd rose and yelled as one as Pierre Gilbert took a
pass from Robert Rennie, found Martin Richards near
the net, and got the puck directly to him before being
leveled.  Richards slammed it home and the Swords were
up 1-0 with 27:58 left in the first.

Hanson and Allen both had huge smiles.  The former had
been a lifelong skaters fan and wanted to see the game
kept after the Revolution succeeded.  The latter had
never seen the game before coming to the CNA, but
decided he liked it.  Before the fans could sit back
down, Raymond Robb rammed directly into Neal Cammson. 
The Boston Johnnies were tough, but if you took away
Cammson they would be easier.  Cammson lost the puck,
and Gilbert had it again.  He stopped short of the
blue line and shot.  But Orrton Roberts blocked it and
took it back up-ice.  A huge scrum began near the
green line, and following the action became tough for
a while with all the checking.

18:34 left in the 2nd
Swords 17, Johnnies 12

"I have to go home after tonight. I may be back, but
it won't be representing the USM.  If I am back, it'll
be for good.  I'll be more able to contribute here as
a private citizen."  Allen/Pickett paused a second, so
he could think about the enormity of that statement. 
"But first I have to put some affairs together.  You
don't just switch the country you live in overnight."

Hanson nodded as they rose to cheer another Rennie
goal, his 3rd of the night.  Black Rock's starting
frontmen (3) were having a great game, combining for
10 points so far.  Allen finished off a breast and
went to work on a wing.
 
Hanson debated whether he wanted another piece yet,
and settled on the last breast.  He itched the beard
he had grown so he wouldn't be recognized, although he
made sure no one outside the brotherhood knew what he
looked like.  "Your money has enabled us to buy much
for the Revolution.  Guns, ammunition, explosives. (4)
[this was in a very, very hushed voice]  We are
working on something big.  If you want in on it, you
will know where to reach us."

7:09 left in the 2nd
Swords 21, Johnnies 18

Richards took the puck from the Swords' Scandinavian
wonder Magnus Thorvaldsson at center ice over the
Swords' symbol (5) and skated past Johnnies being
checked out of the way for him.  As he put it in for a
2-point goal, Allen tossed the last chicken bone into
the bucket.

Hanson made an offer: "If you get back by then, I have
tickets to the North City game on the 25th."
 
"Oh, the famous Hanson brothers!"  Both said this at
once, then looked at each other and laughed.  Allen
went on, "They are something.  They're really good. 
If you looked up violence in the lexicon..." (6)
 
"... you would find their picture, yes.  I always feel
sorry for their opponents, especially when it's us. 
And they give me a bad name, since I'm a Hanson too." 
Allen didn't reply; it would be impossible to hear
over the interspeak (7) announcing the goal and
assists.

Hanson, for his part, started to glance at the copy of
the_Black Rock Courier_ he had bought for the
intermissions.  That was the main problem with
skaters; the intermissions were so boring.  Football
at least had a marching band and sometimes some prize
giveaways.  The main story dealt with the mayor's
dealings with the steel producers and getting the Pie
Works up and running.  They were saying Ciepelski was
looking into a run for NC Liberal head.  He dragged
his attention back to the game in time to catch a
thunderous check.
 
Final score: Swords 30, Johnnies 28

Allen and Hanson walked out of the arena.  "I'll be
leaving North America tonight.  Thanks for the game; I
enjoyed it.  This game is fascinating to me.  I don't
get why it isn't taking off in the rest of the world."

"No problem, my friend.  I hear of games on frozen
lakes and ponds in Alaska.  There are a few Alaskans
in our minor leagues.  They're playing in Scandinavia
and some of the Russian nations.  But the talent isn't
usually as high because they haven't had it as long."
   
The two men shook hands.  "Farewell, my friend.  Even
if fate doesn't bring us back together, it's been
worth it," closed Hanson.
 
1. Niagara Arena is situated about where Main Place
Mall would be in OTL downtown Buffalo.

2. Black Rock chicken is pretty much identical in
flavor to Buffalo wings, but it is by no means limited
to wings, or even white meat.  Wing platters do exist,
but are the only time you get the OTL traditional blue
cheese dip.  The side of celery sticks is carrot
sticks instead.  Varying intensities are offered no
matter the body part.  Fingers/breast tenders are
unknown.

Allen/Pickett sent Alexander Winston a couple bottles
of the sauce a year ago (no return address, of
course).  Winston gave some to a chef he knew and the
chef had it analyzed.  By now, Black Rock chicken is
gaining popularity in the USM. It isn't established
yet, though, and the USM versions tend to be even
hotter than the hottest found in Black Rock.

3. Forwards.  Defensemen are backmen, and there are
also centers, who specialize in neutral-zone play. 
The positions usually go 3 frontmen, with 3 and 2 for
the other categories.  Whether the 2 is in the neutral
zone or on defense depends on the coach.

4. This stuff was all bought real clandestinely in
cash on a black market.  I'm figuring it'd be harder
for individuals to get weapons in this TL, with the
right to keep and bear arms being a tenet of the North
American Rebellion & dying with it.
 
5. A large black boulder with a sword stuck in it
Excalibur-style.

6. Dictionary, using an occasional alternate term from
OTL that is the main word here.

7. Public address system.

 
Notes on how skaters works:
The Confederation Skaters League is composed of twelve
teams in two divisions: (East) Brooklyn Lions, New
York Bulldogs, Montreal Quebecois, Black Rock Swords,
Boston Johnnies, and Philadelphia Penns; (West)
Burgoyne Dukes, Michigan City Wildcats, North City
Wolves, Marlborough City Flyers, Excelsior Pioneers,
and Boniface Saints. (The Montreal team dates to
before Quebec became an associated autonomous state.)

Skaters, like hockey IOTL, has always had trouble
finding interest in warm-weather areas.

The CSL has awarded the North America Cup to its
playoff champion every year since its founding in
1897.  The Cup itself was donated by transportation
magnate Thomas Mullen. While Natives have played games
resembling hockey since before the POD, the first
known skaters game was played in 1866.
 
The rules are a rougher and faster-paced version of
hockey.  But skaters is also a grueling game requiring
excellent physical endurance, because each game
consists of 3 periods of 30 minutes rather than 20. 
OTOH, there is no overtime in the regular season and
there is only a 64-game schedule (8 games vs. each
team in your own division, 4 vs. each team in the
other).  Because the goals are so much more common,
playoff sudden death is a full 10-minute period with
whoever is ahead at the end winning.
  
Skaters, unlike hockey, has no goalie. This is
compensated for somewhat by the fact that there are
eight players for each team on the ice at a time. 
This makes for a rough, physical, yet still
higher-scoring game.  OTL spectators may be reminded
of a cross of hockey, basketball, and Australian-rules
football.  (The average total score is usually 45-50
points.)
  
The extra players don't make the ice too crowded,
though, because the surface is bigger than a standard
NHL or international rink.  Comparisons follow.

NHL: 200 feet by 85 ft.
international: 200 by 100
CSL: 210 by 105
 
The mouth of the net is 5'6" wide, as opposed to 6'
even IOTL. Each goal from beyond the blue line counts
as two points.  There is a green line (not red) at
center ice.  The goal lines are also green.
  
Disadvantages (penalties) are lesser than OTL; for one
thing, what we'd call roughing and cross-checking are
totally legal.  Minor disadvantages are 90 seconds,
majors are 3 minutes.  Fighting is rarer and gets a
major and an automatic ejection, with another major
for the instigator (although sometimes no instigator
is called).  Power plays are called advantages, the
relevant units are the advantage & disadvantage units.
 Players don't return to the ice until after the time
is up, regardless of whether a goal is scored.