By Lee Samuels and Mary Cate Zurfluh

Vancouver Island – Just inside the arena rink doors coach Rob and GM Pete Trimboli spotted the TV crews who came all the way from Los Angeles on this cold, snowy evening.

Rob and Pete stood together surrounded by cameras.

Pete Gray, from TV 7 LA, said “…how does it feel playing against the LA Gold with a player like Johnnie Gold. He has 54 goals. His team never loses. No one here has even scored on LA. Is he the best player you have ever seen.”

Rob hesitated then said “He’s a good player for sure. We have good players too. It’s going to be an interesting game. Either team can win.”

“Right,” Pete Gray said. “Except Johnnie Gold doesn’t lose and neither does his coach Jack Black. You know that. Tell the truth coach. Johnnie always scores with his solid gold hockey stick. It’s real gold. You know that.”


Back at the Vancouver Island Hilton coach Rob and Pete had a team meeting. Super scout Tommy Ricketts was there, so was Gramps and so was athletic trainer Kendall Galor.

“Tommy what do we know about Johnnie Gold,” Rob asked.

Tommy opened his black notebook, turning pages over and over and then said…

“He’s 6’1, 190, rated #1 CAHA player three straight years, Player of the Year in California Rubber Magazine three straight times, has scored in every game he has played. Wears gold blue-tinted sunglasses. His hockey stick is pure gold. His father bought the team re-naming it LA Gold. He also brought in two enforcers Kronk and Fields who take care of business. has LA Gold rated #1 with a gold star.”

“And what does a gold star mean,” Rob said.


“They cannot lose,” Tommy said, closing his notebook.

“That’s impossible,” Gramps said. “Isn’t it Rob?”


Both AAA Las Vegas Mustangs and AAA LA Gold are 3-0-0 in this Vancouver Island tournament. There is one more game with the winning team getting a spot in the 2018 Pacific District Regional Tournament

Rob then asked “so how should we stop this supposed unstoppable force.”

Pete said “Two things in the good luck department coach. 

“Patty Del Grosso shipped in a box of original cowbells which the parents back in ’01 use to shake whenever your Las Vegas Mustangs scored. And Janet Grossman, remember her, sent in a Worry Rag. Parents worry a lot. So the lead parent wears the Worry Rag around her neck and all of the parents touch it for good luck. It was a big deal back in ’01.”

Rob turned towards a window. It was twilight. Snowbirds were moving quickly in the light snow.

“Cowbells. Worry Rags. We need more than that to stop Johnnie Gold,” Rob said.


“Is the computer ready Pete.”

“It is,” said Pete, handing a dark blue Apache Pro 777 laptop to coach Rob

“How does it work,” Rob said.

“You already know that coach,” Pete said.

Rob opened the laptop and said….

Johnnie Gold!

The hotel room went dark.

Totally black.

Then, a bright life size video of Johnnie Gold beamed onto the south wall.

“Action,” Rob said.

Johnnie, with the light glinting off his gold hockey stick, rushed down the ice. His enforcers Kronk and Fields cleared a pathway. Johnnie fired a wrist shot and the puck rocketed into the net. There was a spray of ice when Johnnie skated towards his bench.

The camera panned slowly over to LA coach Jack Black.

He raised a fist, smiled and you could see his gold teeth flash.


Rob asked “who is here writing for

“Leah Zurfluh, you remember her,” Kendall Galor said.

“Can she write? This is a pretty big game.”

Kendall said “She majors in journalism, she knows the game and her older brother Ryan will be in our net tomorrow night. They grew up together. Inseparable.”

Just then Rob’s device vibrated.

In gold script letters the message read….

“I Know


You Like

Lee wrote about it.

Your doorbell will be ringing right now…”

— Ms Johnnie Gold, mother


“What would Lee write about?” Rob asked

“Probably about the Starbucks coffee you drink before each game, something like that,” Kendall Galor said, laughing.

Just then the doorbell rang.

“Don’t open that door Rob. I have a bad vibe,” Gramps said.


Tommy Ricketts opened the door. In came a white-gloved waiter. On his silver tray was a bright gold goblet.

“What is it Tommy,” Rob asked.

“Looks like coffee. Probably Tim Horton’s. They don’t sell Starbucks on Vancouver Island,” Tommy said.

Coach Rob picked up the goblet and took a sip.

“Starbucks skinny vanilla latte,” he said. “How did she know it’s my favorite.”

Rob looked towards Kendall Galor who had a cat-like grin. 

“Johnnie Gold’s mother knows everything about each of us. It’s her karma, to keep us off track. We need to focus on what we are trying to do – win this game.”


Then coach Rob asked “…is Dave Francis here…what about Peppers…and the referees.”

“Dave Francis here tomorrow morning. He will help Gramps put together the Christmas gifts for our players. Peppers the Zamboni driver on same flight as are referees Wally Lacroix and Adam Hendren who will work the big game,” Pete said.

“Coach…should we put together a gift box for Johnnie Gold,” Gramps asked.

It got real quiet in the hotel room.

“Of course,” Rob said. 


Rob then asked Pete “who do the scouts like on our team.

“Just one player – our goalie Ryan Zurfluh. Roy Henderson saw him at Global in Las Vegas. Likes everything about him. Wants to move him to his club after we play LA Gold.”

Kendall looked at Rob

“We can’t let him go. He is family. His younger sister Leah would be devastated and our team will never be the same. You know that Rob when other players on your teams were called up.”

Rob spoke to Pete. “Does Ryan want to go there.

“He does. Pretty excited about it,” Pete said.

Rob paused then looked towards Kendall and said  “Please tell Leah I have a story for her after the game tomorrow night.”


At last it was time to get it on. Coach Rob’s Vegas team warmed up on the Pond rink inside of the big eight-rink arena. Pete stood next to coach Rob. Tommy Ricketts was writing in his notebook. Gramps was in the stick area lining them all up perfectly. Kendall had all of her medical gear in place.

Coaches never forget their players, the ones who earlier played for them.

“Why can’t we live Forever,” Rob asked Pete. Rob was thinking of his players who passed like Eddie Samuels and Sean Darby from the ’02 Mustangs.

“It’s who we are,” Pete said. “The Greeks ask one question when a person passes – did he or she have passion.”

“They sure did,” Rob said quietly.


The game got underway and it was pretty obvious that referees Wally Lacroix and Adam Hendren were going to get game control quick. Kronk and Fields, the two enforcers for the LA Gold, got major penalties for roughing and overall meanness. Near the end of the game with Las Vegas ahead 2-1, the great Johnnie Gold was all by himself coming down the ice.

“Johnnie doesn’t like to get dirty – he would won’t get to close to net,” Tommy Ricketts told Rob.

“I hope you are right Tommy,” Rob said.

As instructed the Las Vegas defensemen kept their sticks down onto the ice looking to deflect any puck which Johnnie Gold might rocket towards them.

With the clock ticking down, Johnnie made one more rush.  Vegas goalie Ryan Zurfluh moved in front of net, edging out to challenge him.

Johnnie fired off a blast, Ryan saved it.

The horn sounded. Game over. The Las Vegas Mustangs won 2-1.

When the game was over Johnnie used a two-handed swing and he thrashed his gold hockey stick striking the left red post of the Las Vegas net.

His beloved pure gold hockey stick shattered into hundreds of small nugget-like pieces.

Johnnie’s mother opened a side gate and rushed towards the Vegas net. She was shrieking.

And just then Peppers in his Zamboni rumbled straight for her and the net.

She turned, held up both hands and screamed as Peppers and his Zamboni rumbled past her on the ice to clean up the shattered broken remains of a pure gold hockey stick.


That was the final game for Johnnie Gold. He never played again.


Back at the Vancouver Hilton in the Business Center coach Rob explained to Leah that her older brother Ryan has extraordionary talent as a goalie. And he really wants to go play for Roy Henderson’s junior team. 

Leah nodded yes but she didn’t take it well.

As she wrote her game story tears streaked down her face.


Coach Rob left the hotel Business Center and walked towards the lobby. There he went out the front door and looked up at what seemed to be millions of stars.

He shivered in the cold.

It was Christmas Eve.




Hometown characters in this story include

Coach Rob

GM Pete Trimboli

Super Scout Tommy Ricketts

Athletic Trainer Kendall Galor

Team Dad – Gramps – grandfather of Anthony Greener, UNLV head coach

Referees – Wally Lacroix, Adam Hendren

Peppers the Zamboni driver – created by hockey dad Jay Zurfluh

Las Vegas goalie – Ryan Zurfluh

Johnnie Gold artist – Gunnar Roksvold, age 11, is our artist

Cheerleader captain – Emily Charlotte Pallin writer at the game – Miss Leah Zurfluh, her first time writing a hockey story about the biggest game of all.

This story is dedicated to the late Dave Francis, the kind, caring gatekeeper at the SoBe Ice Arena Pro Shop. He will never be forgotten. Dave’s son is Chris Francis, the great Las Vegas goal scorer. And a dedication goes to our dear hockey son, Eddie Samuels who gave it all he had in every game he played.

Lee Samuels is the author of these holiday stories on



Lee and daughter Mary Cate Zurfluh are the authors of…


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