"Such luxury after Montreal," she mused. "Who would have thought that when we met on a blind date in Ottawa we would wind up on a patio in California." Ralph is all the way under the diving board now with hammer and screwdriver. Only his head is visible, a head laced with 350 stitches, mementos of 12� seasons with the Canadiens.
"His scars don't show," said Frances, "but they're there. Ralph once said the biggest fear in a hockey player's mind is losing an eye, but he never could get used to wearing a helmet. He's happy about the trade. With a team like the Kings, he feels useful. He can help the younger players.
"I was just 19 when Ralph and I were married. At that age you don't ask yourself what will it be like. You don't think, you just do. You say, it sounds like great fun, let's do it. Of course, 10 years later you laugh at how naive you were.
"The Kings didn't make the playoffs this year. Maybe next year. Montreal was always making the playoffs. They would take the whole team and move them north to a resort area in the Laurentians. The guys would live alone for a month and very seldom see their wives or girl friends. The only time I would see Ralph was after the home games. Then he would say, how are the kids? Did we get any mail? Kiss me goodby and run for the bus. Oh, I really used to resent that because he'd come out of the dressing room and suddenly all these people wanted to talk to him, and he had only 15 minutes before the bus left. I used to go away with tears in my eyes. One time I wrote him a letter during the game, and he read it on the bus.
"But there were good times, too, like after winning the Stanley Cup. It was so exciting and the pressure was off. For a week I hadn't been able to eat my meals because the pressure was so intense, and I would be anxious to talk to Ralph after that whole month of not seeing him. You have to be reasonable. I guess I got more mature. I suddenly realized that all those people were only going to have him for an hour. I was going to have him the whole summer.
"I feel sorry for girls who hang around hockey players. If one of them comes up and wants to talk to my husband, I just disappear. It happened recently at The Forum. She was very aggressive. She was staring up at him and saying, 'Gee, you're really cool. I really dig you.' I left so as not to embarrass him."
The sun shone down, the pool shimmered. Ralph tested the tension on the diving board. Andrew crawled out of the pool and shook himself like a puppy.
"The only thing that frightens me is this good living, this beautiful home. We both came from very modest homes. Our parents had to work so hard just to put food on the table. Now I wonder what kind of adults my kids are going to be, having all this. I worry about the soft life that California provides. They used to struggle through snowstorms and climb over snowbanks to get to school. Now they ride to and from school, and the sun seems to shine all the time. What is going to happen to them? Is that silly? Here I am sitting in this lovely place thinking, gee, my kids are going to be deprived of all that hardship!"
I was a cheerleader in high school, and I had to yell, 'First and 10, do it again.' I didn't know what it meant.
—LINDA SAYERS, 1972
Linda is given to blue jeans and sweat shirts. Under her Afro wig, a tiny face emerges, like that of a newborn kitten. Emerging, too, a sharp intelligence. Linda met Gale Sayers in high school, married him while they were in college. By the time he signed with the Bears, she knew what "First and 10, do it again" meant. She also knew all about trades.