Rating: PG. Swearing. Slash.
Summary: Coach John Tortorella hates Vincent Lecavalier. Written for Chrissy on Vday.
AN: This is Bennie's Madonna Pedestal. The title is from a quote Brad Richards said about the team needing to grow up.
There are people in this world that you just don’t like, for no real apparent reason.
My friend, Clark, hated this one guy in college. We saw him everyday in the dining halls. Just seeing him would set Clark off: “I swear to mother fuckin’ God, John, I’d love to fight that guy.”
“Hell if I know his name. You know, that kid. With the hair. He pisses me off.”
Clark didn’t know the kid, didn’t know his name, but he was convinced that the kid was the kind of person that he’d probably hate. It was a riot, watching Clark get worked up during breakfast over a guy he didn’t even know, and had never talked to.
But then, years later, I found myself being rubbed the wrong way by a kid I hardly knew, hardly even watched on tv.
Straight up, I’ll tell you that I don’t like Vincent Lecavalier. I didn’t like him when I first met him, and I don’t particularly like him now, two years later. He was, simply put, a punk who’d let the hype go to his head. Here was this kid, this baby, who probably never had to work for anything in his life having everything handed to him on a silver platter.
Did Vinny know what it was like to work out every day, try harder, work harder than anyone else in every singly practice just to make the fourth line? No. Did Vinny know what it was like to love something so much but simply not have the ability to perform with the big boys? No. Did Vinny ever have any problems with the ladies? Ever been called the Fonz? No.
And then there’s that stupid way he chews on his mouth guard. I swear, he does it on purpose just to annoy me.
There were other, smaller things, that I probably never would have admitted at the time, but looking back now… No, actually, I’d still probably never admit out loud. I’m honest, sometimes brutally so, but there are some things that can only be said at night, in the corners of your mind. Not because they’re too embarrassing to admit, but because sometimes there are things that you just shouldn’t admit to yourself. They hurt a little too much. Things like how effortlessly he’d smile. Things like secret brushes of the hand. Things like old stories that ended in knowing laughs and smiles. Things like road roommates. Things that mostly ended with Brad. These were the things that rubbed me the wrong way.
Things I envied. Things I’d never really had.
But then, there were plenty of hockey players who never played up to their potential, who played into the hype. There were plenty of hockey players with girlfriends and boyfriends of their own. I’m sure there are plenty of players who chew on their mouth guards too.
So maybe it’s all these things combined that make me dislike Vinny. Maybe it’s none of them. Maybe some of them are legitimate, and maybe there is no reason for me to not like him. Perhaps, I just don’t like him. Like my friend, Clark.
Now, I may not have liked him, but I didn’t expect him to not like me. Coaches aren’t always likeable characters, but I was candid, pragmatic, and respected by my players. They liked me.
I hadn’t realized how important that was to me until it became fairly obvious that Vinny didn’t like me. He didn’t like the way I ran practice, the way I coached, and where I put him in the lineup. He probably didn’t like me as a person either. Not that I would know; he never said anything to me. He’d shoot looks my way, or I’d hear snippets of conversations as I walked by his locker, but he never walked right up to me and said anything. Even after I told the team that my office door was always open.
Other guys came by and talked to me. We talked about ice time, drills they could do, and sometimes we just shot the breeze and each conversation I’d have just further cemented my dislike of this kid, this captain. I could talk to Dave, exchange anecdotes with Dan, but I couldn’t talk to Vinny. I understood the other players but I just couldn’t get Vinny.
Or maybe I did, and that’s why I didn’t like him. There’s a certain naiveté, a certain… thing about him that I knew I could never really relate to. I had the feeling if I sat down and talked to him, he’d never really understand me either. How could he?
It was a pleasure stripping him of the C.
I’ve always made choices in the interest of the team, and removing the captaincy from Vinny was even recommended by Rick, but… But it felt good taking something away from him. He seemingly had everything and was wasting it all away. He’d skip optional skates. He’d cheat on Brad. He’d float around the rink on his shifts. He’d whine to the press. Misdemeanors committed by others, but I adultified him in my mind, and his motives were far more deviant than the others’.
Perhaps we would have talked sooner, perhaps our internal conflicts would have come to a head earlier if Jay hadn’t stepped in. But he did, meeting with us separately, or together in official business-like time slots, and we promised, crossed our hearts-hoped to die, that we’d work together like professionals.
I gave him more ice time the following season, and he let me coach.
It was a magical season that ended too soon, or perhaps when it was supposed to. I watched Vinny. I watched Brad. I watched his interactions with the rest of his teammates, and I wondered to myself if they disliked this cocky little kid too. He had my attention too, which disturbed me. An itch I couldn’t quite scratch or a pebble that had lodged itself in my shoe, and I didn’t like him one bit, but he fascinated me. An organism to be studied, and if I could, I would have turned him over and over in my hands trying to figure him out, try to figure out what it was that attracted the spotlight to him. Superficially, his teammates loved him. I couldn’t probe deeper, though, and ask if they truly did because that was, well, strange. And Brad was enamored, but he wasn’t stupid.
They were by no means serious, but I couldn’t help but feel Brad was being dragged around, attached by a piece of string. An interesting dynamic that captivated me too, and then…
Then summer came to Tampa Bay, though it is nearly always summer, and revelations followed. I still didn’t like him, and things remained mostly the same in that aspect, but then there were new things like golfing and charity events and Brad’s boyfriend of three years named Jim and a closer inspection of the dynamics of a friendship that might have been something more in juniors but never was, and Vinny’s hand on my forearm.
I still didn’t like him. There was the effort and the commitment issues, and of course, the mouth guard. His attitude, and how the fans revered him, and the list was pretty much the same. Things had been crossed off, and added on, but…
Perhaps the previous season’s magic or the quiet summer had lulled me, but it surprised me to open up a paper and read his comments after the Bruins game. I don’t know, but we were more amicable than professional the season before, and the summer had left the impression that he /did/ like me, so it was like a quick jab to the stomach. Especially when I realized what he was calling me out on. The team, team first, and wasn’t I always honest about that? I didn’t like him, but it was never personal.
I found myself shouting back, “He's got to start playing in the team concept. I don't care who he is or who he thinks he is.”
It was return of 2002, with pouts and scowls and talking behind my back. Only this time I confronted him.
“The papers are headlining with ‘Tortorella v. Lecavalier: Round Two.’”
“Well… for fuck’s sake, Vinny--”
We stopped after starting together, only to begin again with a range of expletives.
“I’m just doing my fucking job! I don’t know why you’re making this so God damn personal.”
“Me? Fuck, John. You’re the one benching me for personal reasons. I don’t see why I have to ride the fucking pine because--”
“Stop the whining, you prissy primadonna. I benched you because you fucked up and haven’t been scoring goals.”
“Yeah, right. It’s just a fucking coincidence that I get benched and you rip me a new one after we get in a fucking fight because you think I’m flirting too much with the bag boy at Vons.”
I reeled for a moment, blinking. “What?”
“I’m NOT fucking the bag boy, John! Jesus Christ, I’m not a toddler. I don’t get fucking distracted by pretty shiny new things that are dangled in front of me. I can’t believe you even think--”
“No, wait, I…” I covered his mouth with my hands, so my mind could catch up before he said anything else. I smiled, kind of dazed. “You think I benched you because of our fight?”
He ripped my hands off of his face, pushing me away from him, scowling. “Yes! I mean… uh,” he furrowed his brows, “right?”
I laughed, shaking my head. “No. I benched you because you suck.”
He whapped me over the head. “What the fuck?”
I couldn’t stop laughing. “Seriously, Vinny. I benched you because you’re awful.”
He glared at me for a while, but eventually softened. “Really?”
“Honest. I did it for the good of the team. I thought it was the right call at the time.” I kissed him softly. “You aren’t really awful. Just in a bit of a rut.”
He smiled, kissing me back, his lips stretching across mine as he talked, “I know.” He sighed. “It was still an awful call though.”
“Was too, was too, was too times infinity.”
I groaned and pulled him closer. “You’re so fucking annoying.”
He grinned like a Cheshire cat. “You hate me, don’t you?”
He’s 23. He’s annoying, has an attitude problem, doesn’t try as hard as he should, and gets away with things that I never could have. He’s had an easy ride, he’s naïve, he thinks the world revolves around him, and he doesn’t understand that his mother no longer follows him around the house to pick up his dirty socks. He can’t cook and it boggles me how at even the most base levels he doesn’t get things, or get me. That there are some things that he can never fully understand about me just because of who he is. He’s a whiner and a whiner, and a whiner, and I wonder if he lied on his birth certificate because I don’t think he’s 23 years old.
His first name is Vincent (what an awful name) and I don’t like him. But--
“--I love you.”
--that’s never really been the question. I’ve learned over the past two years that you don’t have to like someone to necessarily fall in love with them.