Game 7

* Background: The tie-breaking goal of game six of the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals was ruled to be 'in the crease'. But rather than redo a game which could possibly have broken the record for longest game in Stanley Cup History, they gave it another overtime, which resulted in a goal by the Sabres, winning game 6 for them. And due to these unforeseen circumstances, the teams were tied with three games each, and the winners of this game, would take the cup. *

Michael Peca

Dominik Hasek

Joey Juneau

Alexei Zhitnik

Rhett Warrener

Miroslav Satan

Mike Peca sat on the bench, trying to catch his breath as the rest of his line settled down beside him. He slapped Juneau on the back for the goal he'd scored just a few minutes earlier. Though he and the rest of the team had jumped all over Juneau when it happened, Peca knew a few more seconds of congratulations from the team captain wouldn't do any harm.

Joey Juneau smiled, rubbed at his nose roughly, grabbed for the water bottle and focused his eyes on the clock. Two minutes remaining in the second period and the score was tied. There was unfinished business on the ice, so the third period was one to be careful in, but Joey had to admit that he loved it. The thrill, the rush, the power. And this last goal had felt even better than the one he scored in finals with the Caps last year against the horrid Red Wings. This was the last game for the 1999 Stanley Cup, their last chance at victory, and he wasn't about to see it wasted.

Rhett Warrener was frowning. His jersey had been replaced with a jacket, and his skates replaced with a cast. Friday night's game had shocked them all, when in the last few seconds he and Hatcher had gone one-on-one. He still wasn't sure what happened, and he figured Hatcher didn't either. But one way or the other, they'd been sent in to kill each other, and somewhere on the hard ice during it all, he felt his ankle snap. He could still see the look of surprise and almost joy on Derian Hatcher's face as the tears stung in his own, two teammates holding him up and helping him off the ice. Hatcher was vicious. Hull was vicious. But Jamie Langenbrunner… beyond vicious. He was going down; Warrener knew that much.

The lines changed again, men falling over the side of the box one way or the other, the exhausted players diving for water and towels for the next forty seconds, until they had to go back in to play.

Alexei Zhitnik relaxed on the bench at last. The game was getting rougher than even game six, and he was feeling much worse. He could handle anything of course- he was a tough hockey player, after all. "EH-Shahh!"

"Bless ya."

He nodded his thanks to Warrener as he sniffed, running his sleeve under his nose.

"Feel like crap yet?" Warrener asked with his light Canadian accent specifically punctuating the word 'crap'.

Zhitnik shook his head, sniffing again. "Keep it down," his own speech was heavily loaded as all Ukrainian's were, but his voice deep and stuffy. "Don't want the whole team sniff to know I'm sick."

Warrener opened his mouth to say something, but Zhitnik was saved by the buzzer, signaling the end of period two. He stood, and filed off to the locker room, keeping his head down so the camera wouldn't see him. Alexei tore off his skates and made for the bathroom, nabbing one of the few stalls. He stood for a minute, leaning on the wall, trying to access his situation. It was just a cold- he knew that much from the stuffiness and constant sneezing, which hadn't done him much good on the ice. He could play with it fine; he was certainly not about to let a little thing like a cold slow him down. Hockey players played when they were sick. It happened all the time. He could even recall hearing about The Great One himself playing when he was down the flu. But then again, Alexei was hardly The Great One. He'd missed five games in '93 from the flu, and wasn't about to let himself give in the same way tonight. He was playing, that much he knew. All he had to do was decide to tell the team, or keep it secret until the game was over.

"Eh-Shahh! EhShhh!" he sneezed, the sound muffled by his sleeve. He shivered, and closed his eyes, weighing the decision.

Alexei Zhitnik was quite handsome. While blessed with typical blonde hair and blue eyes that defined most men from his part of the world, Alexei was particularly good-looking. His eyes sloped down at the sides, even more so when he smiled. His face was round, almost boyishly cute, with short blonde hair framing it and a smoothly shaven face accenting each natural curve. He was more fit for modeling than hockey, but it was where his passion lay, and he was happiest on the rink. The cold of the rink always made his nose and cheeks go red, and there was a permanent spark in his eyes when he was playing.

He sighed, knowing that the redness in his nose this time would be there for a quite different reason. He sniffed again, and braved the locker room for the team meeting.


"It doesn't have to be a game like last time as long as we get a goal. We can't keep letting Hasek do all the work," Peca said, trying to motivate them past all motivation. Hasek, the team's goalie and arguably the greatest player on the team, sat on one of the benches, holding an ice pack to his chin while one of the doctors held a small cloth on his forehead to stop the bleeding. "They posted the parade route! They're over-confident and over-emotional. They get in our faces? Don't let them! Take them down. Check the hell out of them, especially Langenbrunner and Hatcher. We'll follow through on the original plan for them. And keep the puck on their side. Just keep shooting, it's as simple as that."

They grumbled, letting the doctors tend to their injuries, and keeping hot or cold compresses covering nearly every inch of their bodies.

Alexei blended into the background, lying on one of the benches on his back, trying to breathe normally.

"How ya doin' Zhitnik?" Warrener's concerned voice asked.

He coughed. "Langenbrunner checked me pretty hard there at the end."

Warrener nodded, sitting down and straddling the bench. "He'll get his. Did you check out what he did to Hasek? And the refs didn't even call it."

"Why sniff should they? They've given sniff, sniff him so many breaks already."

"I'd like to give him a break…" he looked down at his own leg and added, "a hard one. Hasek's gonna lose it pretty soon, eh? Don't know how much more he'll be able to take."

"Not much." He felt the tingly sensation in his nose and lifted up his arm, burying his nose into the crook of his elbow. "Eh-Shahh! EhhhShhh! Sniff!"

"Bless ya."

He nodded.

"That makes four," said a voice, and they looked to see Juneau coming around the corner of the lockers.

Zhitnik sat up, sniffing, trying to look fine. "Four what?" He sounded so stuffy.

"Four of us with colds. Sniff Including me." He rubbed his nose with the palm of his hand. Joey, not quite as dashingly handsome as Alexei, was still high on the meter, as far as hockey players were concerned. He had deep brown eyes, and a matching beard-moustache-goatee-like-thing happening which gave him a bit of character, though he looked nowhere as threatening as Cunnyworth, with his own very pointed goatee. He was tough, but certainly not the kind of man you'd find in one of those electric razor commercials. Even smiling, he still looked dark and brooding. But somewhere inside, there was a soft spot, especially for his teammates. "You gonna be ok?"

Zhitnik nodded. "Sure. You?"
Joey smiled, nodding, "Oh, sure. Of course, you know me."

Zhitnik laughed. Though the man was six feet tall and weighed more than Peca, he still looked like a shrimp on the ice. Recently acquired from the (*cough* wonderful *cough*) Washington Capitals, he'd been back on the lines, even during the playoffs. But things got so rough that surprises were in order, and they moved him up so he was checking. The whole team laughed at the prospect of little Joey ramming men into the boards at full speed, but nonetheless he'd proved his worth quite quickly. So well, in fact, that he was moved into Peca's line for the finals. "Yeah. I know you, Shrimp."

Joey managed a chuckle, as his eyes closed, his face went long, and his nostrils flared. He raised his hand over his nose and mouth just in time. Then he tensed up, pulled back, and then was catapulted forward. "HUHHCHISHHOO!"

"Take a decongestant, Juneau!" someone yelled over the lockers with a laugh.

"Bless ya," Warrener said, laughing, too. For a shrimp, he sure could sneeze.

"Thanks," Joey said, sniffing. He cleared his throat and shouted out over the lockers, "I wouldn't give ya the satisfaction, Satan!" His Canadian accent was a bit lighter than Warrener's, probably a result of living in DC for so long. DC changes quite a lot of people. Ask any Congressman…

The locker room filled with laughter. Joey turned back to Alexi who rubbed his hand under his running nose. "Don't tell Peca?"

Joey shook his head. "I won't. You feel better nuhhh… HUH-UHSHISHHHH!" he sneezed, long hair flopping into his face. He brushed it back and excused himself with a grunt to make his way toward the stalls.

Break was as short as always, and they stood for one more inspirational talk from Hasek this time before filing back out to the benches and the ice for a warm-up skate.

The temperature at the rink was absolutely freezing in comparison to what it was in the locker room. Even with the mounds of padding, the coldness struck at Alexi hard, reddening his nose and cheeks even more than his head cold did. He shivered, pulling his arms against him for warmth, awaiting his turn to do a warm-up skate. A warm-up anything sounded good them. When it was Alexi's line's turn, he did a lap or two, letting the feel of the ice overtake him. Curiously, Alexi looked over at Joey, sitting on the bench, running a puffy gloved hand and sleeve under his nose. His nose wrinkled and his face contorted, and his arm swung over to let his nose sit in the crook as his eyes closed and his body was thrown forward twice. A few glaring looks and a few reassuring pats on the back resulted. Alexi just smiled and shook his head, sniffing to himself. Then he skated smack into Satan. The two men broke apart, laughing a bit, and worried a bit, too. "Sorry!" Alexi yelled over the roaring crowd as the other man did the same.

"No need to be nervous!" Satan yelled, smiling. "Only the biggest game of our lives!"

Alexi nodded. He was so lucky to be playing it. Only months before he hadn't been sure of his contract. Now his family was safe, his career was safe… if only the game were safe. They were tied, once again. And by this time, all they could think about was finishing. Winning would be a wonder, but finishing meant going home to their wives, and their beds. No more travelling for the season. No more nights in hotels. No more long and tiring practices. But Alexi knew he couldn't think about what he wanted. His team wanted them to win. Hasek wanted them to win. His wife wanted them to win. Alexi wasn't about to let them down. He skated back to the bench so Peca's line could start off the period. His head was fogging, his nose running, his body aching.

"Ehh-Shhhh! Ehh-Chooo! Ehhh-ehhshh!" he sneezed softly.

The coach signaled a line change, and he scrambled over the side, racing toward Hasek to take up his pace as a defenseman. He pounded a Star against the boards, his body running on adrenaline now. Another Star approached, and he went for the puck in his usual defensive manor; it didn't matter if he got the puck, he only wanted to stop it before it reached the net. A sneeze reached his nose as he slammed into Bourque, making him double over slightly, the other man tangled in his skates and crashing to the ice.

As Alexi righted himself to take off after the next player, there was a sudden pound to his helmet, and then one to the back of his neck, and he toppled forward, shielding his face from the ice with his glove. It was a hard hit, and one he'd not been expecting as he'd been up against the wall. He lay there against the ice wearily for a few moments, trying to regain his strength, his face against his glove, eyes closed as the world spun around him. He sneezed again, into his glove, and tried to figure out what had happened as the world raced around him in slow motion. A whistle blew, and he felt a hand on his back. "You all right?"

He looked up to see Hasek hovering over him, worried expression peaking out from behind the facemask.

He nodded, pulling together the strength to rise. His head ached all the more now, and the rink was spinning to the sound of the shouting, cheering, booing crowd. He leaned on his teammate for support as the two glided over the ice to the bench. A medic was there before even the coach, and the team's physical therapy chief applied an icepack to the back of his neck. "What happened?" he asked groggily, rubbing his nose with his glove as it ran.

"They reached over and hit you, man," Warrener answered, pointing at the Star's bench, where three players were being led out to the box.

"Roughing, interference, and un-sportsman-like conduct," the ref's voice boomed over the PA system of the rink. "Ten minute power play…" he continued to speak of demotions against the particular players at fault, but the crowd had erupted so loudly that nothing could be heard above it. Alexi had never even heard of a ten minute power play before… two or three minute perhaps… but a period was only twenty minutes long, and to be at the advantage for half of it…