Series: My hockey fic, set in 2003
Notes: Just going with the flow
Summary: Petrovin thinks about the first time he met Lee
It was not love at first sight.
The first time Petrovin met Lee, it was the first day of training camp for the Oregon Pioneers and she was being introduced to the players as their new coaching assistant. She stood next to Barrett looking like a deer in the headlights (a phrase he had learned during his time in Atlanta) while the GM had explained that Lee had worked with other college teams before, and that this was a test to see if the NHL might be ready for a female coach.
She was tall and gawky and far too skinny and Petrovin couldn't help but wonder what she or Barrett were thinking to put her on the ice with players twice her size. This new team he had just been traded to was clearly crazy, but at least he wasn't in Atlanta anymore where the air stuck to your skin like glue and everything seemed to remind him of his sister, Natalie. She would, he thought, have liked it here, and she would have been fascinated by this woman who thought she could skate with the men.
Lee went through hell those first few weeks as a coaching assistant. Petrovin was surprised she put up with it - he had seen enough daytime TV in his early years in the US to know that Americans were very lawsuit happy, and Lee had more than enough evidence to build quite a case for harassment. She could have quit, taken the Pioneers to court, and become a very rich woman. But she didn't - she stuck around and continued to shout advice and instructions at the players day after day, no matter what they did to her. She was called names and belittled. Rumors were spread about how she was sleeping with Barrett or with the owner or the other coaches. Comments were made about her sexuality. Players would 'accidentally' bump into her, sending her crashing into the ice or into the boards.
Back in those days, not only did Petrovin show up early for practice, but he also stayed as late as he could. In the past he had always rushed home to make sure Natalie was okay, but now... he had no desire to return to an empty apartment any sooner than he had to. He had not made friends with anyone on the team yet, so he was never invited out to lunch with the other players... not that he really wanted to go out with them after witnessing their behavior with Lee anyways. So, he would run more drills or work alone in the weight room until well after the other players had left.
He lost count of the times that he would see Lee sneak into the trainer's office for help with some injury that had occurred during the practice. Thankfully they never appeared to be anything worse than bruises or muscle strains but it irked him all the same. He would never let someone treat his sister like that or call her those names. However, Lee was not his sister. He didn't know how to help her or if she even wanted help. She always left before he could pull her aside to say something, and she didn't speak to anyone else on the team off the ice aside from their Coach and GM. Surely if she had wanted help, she would have told them. She did have a couple of other supporters in the locker room besides him - players who realized that her advice and outlook on the game could help them, but who were continually shouted down or ignored by their teammates.
And so it continued, until during one practice Lee was shoved into the boards hard by one of the defensemen. She got back up quickly and acted as if nothing had happened, but Petrovin could see her rolling her shoulder back and forth and grimacing when she thought no one was looking.
He was not the only one who had noticed: Petrovin caught Harper, who was the Assistant Captain back then and one of Lee's biggest supporters in the locker room, also watching Lee with a frown on his face. When the Canadian realized that he was now the one being watched and glanced over at Petrovin, Petrovin jerked his head at where the offending defenseman was standing with his buddies and joking around before the scrimmage started. Harper nodded and when the two of them were on the ice at the same time as the defenseman, they slammed him into the boards whenever the opportunity presented itself.
Afterwards, he changed into gym shorts and a t-shirt and wandered into the weight room, and, right on time, as soon as the rest of the team had left, Lee disappeared into the trainer's office. She came out a short while later with an ice pack secured to her shoulder with an ace bandage, but rather than immediately hurrying out the door, she stopped inside the weight room door.
"You didn't have to do that, y'know."
"Do what?" Petrovin asked, stopping to stare for a moment. Not only was it the first time that Lee had spoken to him off the ice but he could see now that she was not as gawky as he first thought she was. She was still skinny, but now that she was dressed in normal street clothes and not the shapeless exercise suit she wore for practices, he could see that she was curvy in all the right places.
"What you and Harper did - during the scrimmage."
He shrugged and played dumb, glancing away from her and back at the TV in the corner of the room. "I am a defenseman. I did what I am paid to do - defend."
"Uh-huh. Well, you don't need to check someone repeatedly like that when it's just a scrimmage - especially if you happen to notice that they might or might not have pushed me around. I'm a big girl - I can take care of myself. Plus, it sends the wrong message to the rest of the team."
"And what message would that be?" Another voice said. Lee quickly stepped aside to let Harper into the weight room. "That it's okay to beat up on women?"
She flushed. "No, that's not what I meant. Look, the team's on shaky enough ground as it is. You've guys have been a team for what... five years now? You only started to mesh last year. You don't need to start a war over me in the locker room and ruin the progress you've made."
"Too late." Harper sat down on a weight bench. "The 'war' started the moment Barrett told us who you were and what you would be doing... Does he know what's going on? Has anyone told him?"
"No. Coach Pierce hasn't said anything, and I'm not about to. I have six brothers," Harper had raised his eyebrows in surprise at this tidbit of information. "So I know how to handle boys when they get pouty that a girl is playing with their toys. Pulling mom or dad into the fight isn't going to solve the problem - if anything it just makes them more mad. I'm just going to put one foot in front of the other."
"Yeah, because that seems to be working out so well for you." The Canadian looked at her shoulder and she flushed again. He turned to Petrovin, "Help me out here. She's crazy, right?"
"Yes," Who else would go up against men who weigh significantly more than them but a crazy person? "But she is right. If we continue to be involved the others will not respect her. She needs to be the one to stand up to them."
"You mean fight back." Harper's jaw dropped, "But we're all bigger than her!"
"Not fight - discipline. You are a coach, yes?"
"In all but name."
"Then you can discipline us if we do not listen. Drills, laps, healthy scratches."
"That's not going to protect her from if they try to hit her again." Harper interrupted.
"No, but there are ways to avoid it - like skate away."
"Well, no shit." Lee rolled her eyes. Petrovin found himself smiling a little at her exasperated expression. "But the drills, that's good idea."
Slowly, over the next couple of practices, Lee began to exert more of her authority of a coaching assistant over the players. When Ballard, their captain, ignored her again, she demanded that he do ten sprints from goal line to goal line. Ballard had looked at her in disbelief before demanding that Pierce help him out - only, for once, Pierce didn't let the left wing get away with it. He backed Lee up (though, Petrovin thought, whether it was because he had been waiting for Lee to step up all along, or because he was growing tired of Ballard's attitude was up for debate) The next practice another player learned that ignoring Lee's advice and talking back to her earned twenty sprints and a forward found himself doing drills for shooting the puck at her. He appealed to Pierce by claiming that it was an accident, but Lee defended her punishment by pointing out that if it was an accident, then maybe he needed to take the time to practice on his puck handling skills since he was so sloppy. The forward soon found himself hitting the puck along the boards behind the goal and having to sprint to the other side to catch it before it passed the goal line - missing it meant he had to start the drill over again.
The team continued to grumble about Lee after that - but at least they were less vocal about it, and Petrovin did not see Lee make another trip to the trainer's room again.