December 25, 2016



=== A Christmas Story ====

Starring coach Rob, Dave Francis, Gramps, hockey dads Steve Allen, George Kemper, Tommy Ricketts and Pete Trimboli plus teenage skater Ryan Zurfluh and his Hockey Sister Leah.

By Lee Samuels and Mary Kate Zurfluh

There is a dark area over by the north rinkboards at the SoBe Ice Arena. Fast-skating forwards are told not to go into that neighborhood where danger lurks. When the L.A. Hornets were in town a few years the Thompson Twins trapped and slammed into Ryan of the Las Vegas Mustangs. He went down into a heap and coach Rob left the bench, walked onto the ice and crouched down to look at his fallen goal scorer.

“They got me pretty good, coach. Hurts real bad. Cannot move much,” Ryan said.

Just then coach Rob looked up and saw teardrops streaking down the outside of the cold rink glass. 

They were from Ryan’s younger sister Leah.

Over on the Hornets bench the Thompson Twins were high-fiving.


By Lee Samuels and Mary Cate Zurfluh

Las Vegas – At last – two years later – the L.A. Hornets were back in town with the Thompson Twins and it was snowing – lightly, but snowing – when Las Vegas coach Rob walked into the Pro Shop at the Sobe Ice Arena during Christmas week.

There, Dave Francis had a blowtorch working on a pair of skates, hockey Dad Steve Allen was over by the rack of sticks and Gramps sat at a small table putting together gift boxes for the UNLV players. Every player would get one.

Coach Rob walked into all of this when his cellular made a brrring sound.

He looked at the lighted message which said “we have a new player. We need to talk.”

It was from GM Pete Trimboli.


The new player is a She, Pete was saying.

Specifically it is Leah Zurfluh, kid sister of Ryan was leveled two years ago by the Thompson Twins in the north corner of the rink

“Says she doesn’t need to play in the game tonight but she can win the game,” Pete was saying.

Rob smiled. 

Doesn’t need to play in the game, but she can win the game.

And the winner of the game tonight advances to the Pacific District Regionals.

Dave Francis spoke out first.

“Don’t let her go out there and let her get hurt. The Thompson Twins are so mean their parents stopped coming to the games,” Dave said.

“Please Rob…don’t let her play,” said Gramps. “I really couldn’t take it if anything happened to her. She’s not that big, Rob.”

“I promise, the Thompson Twins will never get to her on the ice tonight,” said Rob

Just then hockey dad Tommy Ricketts came into the pro shop. His jacket was covered with snow. He had a notebook. Rob knows that Tommy goes to every rink in town looking for the next teenage Gretzky.

“Ever see her on the ice Tommy,” said Rob.

Tommy smiled. “Just saw her last week over on the Swenson rink. The rink manager told me about her. She rents the ice for a couple of hours and get this….

Tommy opened a notebook. 

“She skates in large circles over and over, then she takes off towards a net – if they had one there. She does this over and over. All by herself. No one knows why,” Tommy said.

Rob then asked GM Pete “…is she registered here in the state of Nevada.

“All the paperwork is in. And, she is standing right outside of the pro shop right now,” Pete said.


Coach Rob left the shop, turned right and spotted her.

“You know you can’t play in the game, not after what the Thompson Twins did to your brother. They are some means cats playing hockey but they are among the worse I’ve seen in a long time,” Rob said.

Leah smiled.

“I don’t need to play in the game. But I can win the game,” she said.


Back in the pro shop Peppers, the Zamboni driver, said he needed to speak to coach Rob.

“Are you going tell him about the Pepsi Scoreboard,” Gramps said.

Peppers nodded yes.


“Rob, there were some crew guys on top of our scoreboard about 6 o’clock in the morning. They were messing around with the wiring and stuff. Not sure why,” Peppers said.

Rob asked about the work order, who signed it.

Peppers said it was signed by a L.Z.

“Leah Zurfluh?” asked Rob. “Why her? What does she major in school.”

Tommy Ricketts checked his notes. “Leah majors in science and math, just like older brother Ryan,” he said.


At last the game got underway that evening. The Thompson Twins were chasing goal scorers around the ice but when regulation play was over the game was tied 2-2.

Which meant the decisive goals would be in a Shootout.

“Give me five numbers – who is going to shoot,” referee Wally Lacroix asked coach Rob. At the other bench linesman Adam Hendren was asking the same question to the coach of the L.A. Hornets

On a small slip of paper coach Rob wrote down the numbers 16, 12, 14, 7 and then stopped.

“What’s her jersey number Pete,” Rob asked.

“Number 9.”

“Didn’t Eddie Samuels wear that number,” said Rob, knowing that he did.

“He sure did,” Pete said.

Rob then added Number 9 and gave the slip of paper to Wally Lacroix.


No one scored in the Shootout. There was only one shooter left.

“You’re up,” Rob told Leah.

She smiled, then went through gate from the bench to the ice.


At center ice Leah, wearing her figure skates, leaned down and looked towards the Hornets goalie.

She pressed a small, black button on her hockey stick and on the top out flew streamers – red, blue and green – all Christmas colors.

As she began to skate towards the net the streamers whirled in a circle, a maddening swirl of colors.  The Hornets goalie turned to his bench and said what the …. The referees Wally and Adam stood by the side of the net, arms folded.

Leah burned toward the net and then – with streamers whirling – she veered to her right and circled around the net.

She circled several times around the net as the Hornets coach screamed at the two officials.

Leah returned to the blue line and pushed a second black button on her hockey stick.

There was a loud groaning sound as the Pepsi scoreboard began to rotate and what looked like snow was falling into center ice.

The Hornets coach screamed, the referees watched with arms folded and on the Las Vegas bench coach Rob smiled.

The scoreboard was now spinning madly, the streamers were jetting out of the top of Leah’s hockey stick when she




Lee Samuels is the author of holiday classics…

The Kid Who Never Scored a Goal

The Coach Who Believed in Santa

Mary Kate Zurfluh is the author of a children’s book

Flash The Cat