We were playing a three-way game of hockey — us, the Finnish national team, and the Swedish national team, that is. With only two ends to the ice, we’d switch one team out when enough goals were scored against them. Except those darned Swedes never seemed to get scored on — they had their strategy down, and Wayne Gretzky in goal.
Their strategy was actually simple. See, there were three ways to score points:
* There were plastic bowls on the ice, dozens of them, that you could shoot just like a puck.
* There was a big pot of hot water in front of each goal, a couple of feet beyond the crease, with a ladle in it; and a big pot in each goal. You scored a point for each ladle of water you poured into the pot in the goal.
* In the water were boiled vegetables. You could throw those into the goal using the ladle, and got a point for each vegetable you threw into the goal — but first you had to get some water into the pot in the goal.
The crafty Swedes had a strategy that was keeping them un-scored on
* Every time Gretzky blocked a bowl, he came out and put that bowl into a pile of other bowls. There were enough bowl-piles just outside the crease that you couldn’t really shoot from far away, and, if you tried to skate in close with a bowl, a Swedish defenseman only had to plug the small gap between two bowl-piles and you couldn’t even get in to make a shot. If you skated in without a bowl, there were no lose bowls inside the piles, so you couldn’t shoot anything.
* Gretzky was physically standing in the pot, so he could easily block you if you tried to pour the water in.
So I came up with a strategy. I hid down in the corner of the rink, behind the goal, while our good players shot bowls into their bowl-piles, breaking up the bowl-piles. In seconds, the swarming Swedish defenders were re-building their piles, and Gretzky had climbed out of the pot and was busy policing the bowls that had gotten inside their crease. Suddenly, I dashed in, grabbed a dipperfull of water, and slid head-first into the goal, pouring the water in the pot as I did. As I scrambled to my feet, Gretzky ran into the goal and climbed back in the pot; but by then I was at the pot of boiling water. I fished out a vegetable with the dipper and whipped it at full speed, right into Gretzky, who wasn’t expecting a green onion to come his way. It hit him square in the chest, scoring a point. As he tried to pick it off, I flung a bright red rutabaga at him, and then another green onion, and then a carrot, scoring points all the while. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the Finns suiting up for their turn on the ice.
fn1. I’m fully aware that Wayne Gretzky is, in fact, Canadian. Apparently, my subconscious is not.