Such remarks are never meant for Reggie's ears, but they linger like a muffled whisper in his mind. Something is not right. He wants to call the people back and explain it all over again so they will understand once and for all what he has been trying to express, understand it not by force but by the clarity of his logic. But that is self-defeating. He gets only more entangled, and more, and so—he takes to the ice.
"Sometimes I get so worked up over things, I don't know what, just things, that I want to bust everyone." he says. "One night Kate Smith sang the national anthem and adrenaline started flowing so that when I got on the ice I hit everyone in sight."
But today, at 34 years of age. Reggie Fleming does not hit so many people anymore. For one thing, he has been dropped down from the Buffalo Sabres, his seventh NHL team, to the minor-league Cincinnati Swords. It bothers him, but who is he to question his fate? That's for the younger players. The New Breed, he calls them.
"These kids aren't dedicated like the older players." he says. "They try to run the practices. They even smoke in the locker room. When I first came up to the NHL I was too terrified to smoke in front of the coach. We snuck off to a toilet, if we dared. We had more enthusiasm, too. I used to be a holler guy, but these younger kids don't like that. I don't say so much anymore."
The younger players don't fight as much anymore, either, says Reggie. He can't understand this. "How do they release their frustrations?" he says, confused. And then, "Sometimes, though, I wish I was like them. That I could carry the puck and know that no one's gonna hit me from the blind side because I'm too fast and too smart. They're smarter than I am. I have to be aggressive. I wish I was smart, but I'm not. I'm an emotional guy. I have to let off steam. I have a son 4 years old, and I want him to do what's right so badly that I explode at him. Some fathers can relate to their sons with words but others like me can only relate with our emotions."
Now that he is older, Reggie says he does not lose his temper so quickly any more. He tries to use it at the right time, rather than let it use him. But Still, if there is one thing he is proud of over the years, it is this fact:
"I fought the biggest and the smallest for 10 years, and I never backed down from a fight," he says, his voice rising. "When I was with the Rangers, I had it all. I could bring them right up, emotionally, by the things I did on the ice. Then, when they traded me away, the writers said I wasn't really that tough after all. I was a cheap-shot artist. But they didn't say that when I was here, only when I was traded away."
"We're all from the same bushel of apples," says Jim Dorey. " Canada is a big country, bigger than the United States, but in a way it's smaller, too, more homogenous. Some guys seem to be different, like Turk [ Derek Sanderson of the Bruins], but they aren't. None of us change much from the way we were in Canada."
Dorey gets out of his chair and begins fiddling with the dials on the television. He is a big, physical-looking man of 24. He stands 6'1" tall and weighs 190 pounds. He has deep-set brown eyes, a large square jaw and shaggy hair that falls about his ears in the same way a faun's might. He is handsome and rugged and has not yet acquired all the scars of his profession. On this Sunday morning in a New York City hotel room he is dressed in a brown, pinstriped, double-breasted blazer; a yellow shirt; a vide red and brown tie: tan bell-bottoms and ankle-high leather boots. His clothes, although modishly cut, look both conservative and ill-suited for his muscular body. The air they lend him is of a man trying, but not quite able, to go against his grain.
When Dorey is satisfied with the picture, an old Western, he returns to his chair and says, "I play because I like the action. Hockey gives you a release for your emotions. I'm an emotional guy. If I get stalled in an elevator or a traffic jam, it builds up until I want to hit someone. But that's not acceptable in today's society. So I wait until I get on the ice. Then when I hit a guy, I feel good. I know he wasn't the cause of my aggression, but still it feels good. That's what I've wanted to do all day. Hockey gives a guy a chance to be himself. If you work in an office, you never tell people personal things that will let them know you. We all want to, but we're afraid someone might laugh or walk away. So we keep it inside. But once you get on the ice, things happen so fast you can't keep anything inside. It's impossible not to be yourself. You don't have time to present a facade as you would at the office. Whether that's good or bad, I don't know. Hockey brings out your deepest subconscious attitudes that would never come out otherwise. A man can find out what he's got inside him, whether he's a bad guy, a coward, a good guy, whatever. You'll see it mirrored in the faces of the other players. The problem comes up when they see just what they are and don't like it very much.