Well, the day had finally arrived. The first ice hockey day for the Olympics had finally arrived. Riley Anderson had never been so nervous in her life. This was her dream since her parents gave her an ice hockey stick for her fourth birthday and she was still worried. Even her first days in San Francisco felt more relaxing than what she was feeling right now.
As she skated onto the ice with the other American players in the Joe Louis Arena, which was where the Winter Olympics were taking place at this season, she kept her eyes peeled for her parents. On the one hand, she was grateful that she got them tickets for every game she was going to play at. She could do with every support she could get every day she played, but the other hand said that she didn’t want to make them miss days of work to see her make a complete nuisance of herself. She also kept her eyes peeled for Andy, who she got tickets for. She couldn’t find him as both the home and the guest seats were completely full. She didn’t know if Andy was here whether she would be glad he was here or worried about him seeing her being the clown of the ice instead of the champion. She feared the worst and she couldn’t help it.
As Riley and her players sang The Star-Spangled Banner, she spotted her parents. They were easy to find as they were on the very front row. They waved to her. She couldn’t wave back as she had both her hands on her hockey stick and she had to focus on her singing. But as she continued, she gave them a quick nod and wink to acknowledge that she could see them.
The audience applauded as the singing finished. Then they turned to see the first team they were facing this season: Finland!
That got Riley really worrying. This was her first day of her playing in the Olympics and she was facing one of the best ice hockey teams in the world! As the Finland players sang their national anthem, Riley looked for Andy in the audience. She started to feel like she needed him to be here. She didn’t know why, but that was how she was feeling and she couldn’t control herself. Her anxiety was getting worst when she couldn’t find him among the full audience.
Joy and the other emotions were trying to get Fear away from the console.
“Fear, why are we looking for Andy?” Joy demanded. “We need Riley to focus!”
“We are facing professionals!” Fear cried out. “She needs Andy to help her!”
“And just how is that going to help her through the day?” Disgust said. “Focusing on Andy instead of ice hockey!”
“The Finland Anthem has finished,” Anger pointed out.
The emotions stopped fighting and saw that he was right.
Joy quickly addressed the emotions. “Attention, everyone. We’ll focus on the ice hockey first.”
“Then can we dwell on Andy not showing up if he doesn’t?” Sadness asked.
Joy preferred that not to happen at all, but she knew if she tried to prevent it, Sadness would only do it anyway. So, despite her gut feeling, she said, “Fine, but only if he doesn’t show up. Promise?”
The emotions hesitantly promised and went back to work together to help Riley.
Riley skated to the middle of the ice rink and bent her knees. She aimed her stick onto the hockey pad. So did the first Finland player. They exchanged glared looks.
The referee blew his whistle.
Riley tried to whack the pad to her friends, but it ended up to the Finland players. She went after the pad. She had no problem skating to the pad and grabbing it with her stick; it was trying to whack it away from the Finland players that she was struggling to accomplish. She tried to remember all she had learnt from her ice hockey coaches and books from the library, but she was starting to doubt that she was even fit to hold an ice hockey stick.
Riley’s emotions were struggling to keep her under control as much as she was struggling to get a grip of the hockey pad.
“Can we bring Andy into this now?” Sadness asked.
“What? No way!” Joy yelled.
“Why can’t we just hit the useless pad?” Anger slammed his fists on the consoles.
Riley frowned and skated furiously towards the pad. Her stick managed to catch the pad and flew it to the Finland net. The American crowd cheered as loudly as a town hall bell.
Pleased with himself, Anger laughed. “Success at last.”
“Don’t get too carried away, Anger,” Joy warned. “If we’re not careful, we could get Riley kicked out of ice hockey forever.”
“Or worse, thrown in jail,” Sadness moaned.
“Thanks, Sadness,” Disgust said. “This is just what we need right now.”
“Guys, let’s stay focused here!” Joy snapped at the top of her lungs.
The emotions consoled themselves and returned to the game.
Catching her breath, Joy was starting to worry about Riley more. Even more than the other emotions.
Riley was using her frustration to speed to the hockey pad and aim to whack the pad at the net. She never used it to push down a rival player, even when she was pushed down by one as she didn’t want to get a card from the referee.
By the time the first half was over, she worried about if she was to continue in the second half. If she did, she worried she might be worse than when she was in the first half as she might not have enough energy like she did in the first half.
Then the manager came into the locker room. Riley could tell on his face that he wasn’t happy.
“What I and America saw out there was not ice hockey. All I saw was bullying. You guys getting bullied by rivals. And as you are not fighting back, I assume that you are all just shy cry babies who wants me to give you all a nice, big, long, supportive hug. Am I right?”
No one replied.
Anger was about to slam his fists on the console, but he was stopped by Disgust.
“Let the mean old boss get whatever it is off his chest,” she told him. “Then we’ll release Riley’s frustration.”
Anger sighed and resisted.
The manager sighed. “Well, the world is not like that. You have to rise above all your obstacles yourself. I can’t do it for you. And if you can’t do that, then you have no future in ice hockey. Now it’s my sad duty to cut some of you off and replace you with someone else. I can only take the best.”
That made Riley’s heart pound very fast. It went faster the closer the manager got to her. So far, every player he spoke to, he decided to keep. There were only four players for him to check before it was her turn. The first player was kicked off and was getting substituted. The second was being kept but the third was getting substituted.
Then it was Riley’s turn. She gulped.
“I’m keeping you on for the second half, Anderson,” the manager told her, “only because you score the first goal. Let’s hope you can keep it up.”
She didn’t know whether to feel pleased that she was still picked for playing or if that was putting more pressure on her.
Riley was grateful for being kept into the second half, but she was worried about keeping it up. Before she and her teammates went for the hockey pad, she checked that she could see her parents, which luckily she could. But she couldn’t find Andy and she started to worry about him. Then a massive blow from the referee’s whistle made her return to the game.
A Finland player was the first to hit the pad again, but an American player caught it and whacked it to Riley. She caught it and whacked it into the net.
Cheering from the American crowd made her feel good about playing but she didn’t let her distracted her playing. She kept doing her best until the second half was over.
It didn’t help the Americans that it was Finland that won in the end. All the American players didn’t need the manager to tell them that they would be the laughing stock of America if they didn’t improve themselves, but he told them anyway.
Joy was running out of options to keep Riley from being unhappy so she decided to surrender and let the other emotions have their share.
After the changing room was cleared, Riley was the only one left. She was glad she was alone because she had to silently weep. She had never felt so much a failure in her life. She kept on crying as she went out through the private door.
“Are you okay, babe?”
Riley turned to see Andy smiling at her and holding some flowers.
Feeling better for seeing him after today, she sniffled. “Thanks, Andy. But I don’t deserve these.”
He smiled. “Of course you do. I saw you play well today.”
Riley stopped crying and took the flowers. “You saw me?”
“Play well,” Andy repeated. “I was in the far left corner. I waved to you before you started but I was overcrowded by the guys around me.”
“Sorry I didn’t wave back,” Riley apologized. “And I’m sorry for letting you down today.”
Andy held her hand. “I don’t care if the rest of America boos and laughs at you. What I saw today was someone who had the guts to follow her dreams. And there’s no one I admire more than that. And I was impressed with those shots you fired.”
Riley smiled and hugged him. “Thanks, Andy. Care to have dinner with me and my family back at my hotel?”
As they started to walk back to her hotel, she asked him how his day before he came to the game was. He told her how much he enjoyed discovering Detroit. He joined her and her family having dinner in their luxury hotel dining room. As they enjoyed their delicious food and iced water, her parents told her they thought she did wonderful today. Though she still doubted she did, she was grateful for them telling her so and started to feel better.