People like to gloss over the next few months: Yeah, uh, so Mike got hurt and then he had a shitty season until he dumped his fiancée and then he was good again. They gloss over it because it's easy for them. It wasn't their life that was being turned upside down. People don't like to remember watching someone they idolize, care about, love struggle. And Mike fucking struggled those few months. And not just on the ice. Which is what, sometimes, most people--even me--forget.

I thought, if only he could get his game back together, his life would get good too.

It's stupid, I know, because anybody will tell you that if shit is going down off the ice, it's going to mess up your game on the ice. Hockey players like to think they've divvied up their lives in such a way that off-ice stuff doesn't affect their play. Yeah, well, most hockey players aren't exactly college graduates. (Not that college grads are high on the common sense odometer, but I'm sure they can fake it better)

If your game is shit the first thing the coach is going to do (well, after he yells at you to stop being a lazy ass and lose ten pounds) is tell you that he doesn't give a flying fuck about what you do in your personal life, but when it messes up his game (yeah, as if that mother fucker was out on the ice or something) it becomes his problem, so buy some fucking roses, and apologize to the fucking wife/girlfriend, and fix this shit now.

Hockey players are predictable. It's always about some girl. Every now and then it'll be a family member, or we'll be putting too much pressure on ourselves, or we'll be thinking about getting traded. But most times it comes back to the girl. You fix that up right good and your game returns.

But Mike isn't a hockey player. He's Mike. So it wasn't about a girl. It's never been about a girl.

It'd be so much fucking easier if it was just about a girl. Girls are so easy. You buy them stuff and you "listen" to them, and everything is great.

But it wasn't like that for Mike.

I knew he was going through a rough spot, but I figured he'd deal with it. His game would return and everything would be okay.

I was his best friend, and I didn't do anything.

You know, they like to say that it isn't your fault. That you can't control another person. That their choices are just that: theirs. You can't be held responsible for what somebody else does.

Only, Mike didn't make a fucking choice. He didn't wake up and say, yeah, uhm, sure, okay!

But I chose not to do a fucking thing.

Maybe if I had talked to him. Maybe if I had visited him more often at Turtle Creek. Maybe if I had just done something.

These are the things I replay in my mind. Other guys think about the puck that clanked off the pipe, the man they should have cut off at the blue line, the cup-clinching goal they should have saved.

I think about the things I could have done to save my best friend.