Perfect Place to Run Out of Gas

Out of Gas

We were on a road trip to play Colgate and Cornell and it was just a rancid weekend for the Clarkson Golden Knights to say the least.  We gave up the lead in both games and lost on terrible mistakes.  The type of blunders that make coaches pull their hair out. After the Saturday night game at Colgate, our coach really tore a strip out of us.  No one was looking forward to the four-hour trip back to school or the guaranteed bag-skate on Monday.

About two hours outside of Hamilton, NY the bus was deathly silent.  All of a sudden, the bus shuddered to a halt.  If you could believe it we were out of gas!  So here we are, at the end of a horrific road trip where we dropped two crucial games to Conference rivals and our bus driver forgets to fill up the tank for the trip home.  Needless to say our coaches, who were already on edge, were not too pleased with Bussy.

The funny thing about it all was the fact that we ran out of gas in the middle of a one street village that had about six places of business, only one of which was open at 12:30 at night.  The gas station was closed.  The grocery store was closed.  The bank, hair salon and thrift store were all shut up tight.  The only place of business with a light on was the local tavern.  This place looked as though it was an oasis in the middle of the desert to us at that point.

Coach turns to the rest of the bus and says, “Everyone sit tight,” and then disappears into the bar.  He emerges about three minutes later and tells us we can go into the bar and have a beer but not to have more than that.  We couldn’t believe it!  I don’t think I’ve ever moved faster, trying to belly up to that bar.  It was as if they opened the gates to the trough for the pigs on a farm.

It turns out that coach went into the bar to ask who owned the gas station and they had to call the guy and wake him up at home.  It was probably going to be anywhere from a half hour to an hour for the guy to get here to open up the gas station so we could fill up and hit the road again.  The tavern was a tiny hole in the wall, but it may as well of been Studio 54 that night.  We were so happy to have something to laugh about over some ice cold beers.

We all broke the one beer maximum limit that coach had set forth but he didn’t seem to care.  I think he took one look at us and saw how much fun we were having and how close knit we were and realized that maybe this was the turning point we needed.  When we boarded the bus that night we were refuelled both literally and figuratively.  Everyone had a smile on their face.

Sometimes teams need a strange turn of events in order to break out of a slump.  Our bus running out of gas outside of a bar in the middle of nowhere was a saving grace for us that season.  I’m not entirely sure if our record improved dramatically after that road trip but I know we went on quite a successful run that year in the playoffs.  I still remain close with a lot of the guys I played with at Clarkson and we still love to reminisce about the night the bus broke down outside of the bar.

Jamie McKinven
Author / Blogger at glassandout.com
Jamie McKinven, author of “So You Want Your Kid to Play Pro Hockey?” and “Tales from the Bus Leagues,” is a former professional hockey player who played in the NCAA, ECHL, CHL and Europe.

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