Ryan sat in front of the TV watching a rerun of the Winter Classic. Even though his team lost the cup that year, he still looked back on the season with fond memories. After all, hockey is great, win or lose. Sometimes, however, he just didn't understand why it wasn't more popular. It seemed silly that hockey was the butt of so many jokes when it took the most skill to play out of the four major sports. He just shook his head as Sawyer walked into the room. "Hey, Ry. Wanna play NHL09?" Sawyer asked. "In a few. Was just gonna go do some errands." He replied. "What's the matter? Scared of gettin beat by someone without thumbs?" Sawyer joked. Ryan was about to comment when Annie walked in. "I'm gonna go to the store then the library. Need me to get you anything?" she asked. "Sure, you just saved me a trip." Ryan gave her his grocery list, kissed her goodbye, then grabbed the X-Box controller. "Game on, pooch!" he exclaimed. They played a few heated games before there was a knock at the door. It was the police.
"Ryan Leonard?" the officer asked. "Yes, sir. Is there something I can do for you?" said Ryan. "I'm afraid I have some bad news. A security camera at Starbucks showed your wife, Annie, being kidnapped. She was put in a large van that drove away. She dropped her purse so we were able to identify her. We're doing everything we can, but at this point, we don't have much to go on. We'll be in touch." said the officer. Ryan was stunned. How could such a thing happen? Annie? Kidnapped??
He and Sawyer went to the Starbucks parking lot to see if they could find anything the police had missed. Sawyer pointed out the tire tracks that left the lot and headed south, towards Holland. "Sawyer, check this out." said Ryan. "This mud... you recognize it?" He pointed to a muddy shoe print where the van had stopped. The police had seen it, but other than taking down the size, did not consider the mud itself to be special. "Yeah, that's the mud from Hamilton where we duck hunt. It sticks to my paws like paste. Could the kidnappers be hiding out down there?" Sawyer wondered. "Let's go find out." said Ryan.
The two returned home to grab a few essentials, then made their way to their favorite hunting ground. They got out of the truck and made their way toward the woods. Ryan walked with a limp.
"Think you can find the scent of the tires?" Ryan asked. "Well, I'm no Beagle, but I'll try." he said. "Wait, no need." Sawyer said. "There's the van." Sawyer pointed towards the wood line and sure enough, there was the van from the surveillance video. Ryan pulled out the shotgun he had been hiding in his pants as they made their way towards the van. It was clearly empty and abandoned, but there were people tracks in the mud that lead deeper into the woods. Sawyer put his nose to work. "These tracks here are Annie's." he pointed out. "Let's get going." said Ryan as he put the shotgun back down his pant leg and continued his fake limp.
They walked for less than hour, following the tracks, when Ryan saw movement in the distance. He pulled out a set of binoculars from Sawyer's pack and surveyed the scene. "It's strange..." said Ryan. "There's a satellite dish of some sorts, a few guards... I see Annie." he said as he handed the binoculars to Sawyer. "Yeah, there she is. She's tied to a tree. We should wait until nightfall. Did you bring your night vision?" he asked. "Yeah, it's in your pack." Ryan answered.
Once night fall came, Ryan put on his night vision goggles and made his way to Annie. Sawyer didn't need night vision. Ryan stopped about 30 feet short of Annie and let Sawyer move in quietly to free her. The pads of his paws didn't make a sound as he approached her. Annie was startled at first, but didn't make any noise as Sawyer chewed her ropes free. Once she was loose, he led her towards Ryan. "Good boy, Sawyer." said Ryan as he scratched his pet's chest. "Now take her back to the truck." he whispered in his ear. "I'm going to stay here and figure out what these bums are up to. Call the police as soon as you can." Ryan told Annie. Sawyer led Annie away as Ryan carefully made his way into the dark base. He noticed a small shack with a light on inside, so he moved towards it. He peered inside and saw the back of a head with thinning hair. He was short and appeared to be holding a conference over his computer. Ryan ducked down to move to a different window when (WHACK) he was hit in the back of the head and knocked out.
When Ryan woke, the sun was just coming up. He was blind folded and handcuffed to a chair. "Did you sleep well?" mocked a strangely familiar voice. "Who are you?" Ryan demanded, ignoring the small talk. A guard ripped Ryan's blind fold off. Ryan's jaw dropped. "Gary Bettman? Why? This is insane!" said Ryan. Gary Bettman was the terrible commissioner of the NHL. A man hated by everyone but Pittsburgh fans. "No, this is perfectly sane, Mr. Ryan, or should I call you Twig?" Bettman asked. "How do you know my nickname?" Ryan demanded. "Your propaganda has become quite the problem for our agenda..." Bettman continued. "Twig on the Wings." he said. "My blog? My blog about the Red Wings is causing problems for your agenda? What agenda? And how could my crappy blog be anything of a problem?" said Ryan, totally confused. "Hockey is an amazing sport, is it not?" Bettman asked. "It's the best. Despite your leadership." Ryan added. Bettman ignored the insult. "Yet, it's not popular. How could this be?" asked Bettman. Ryan didn't answer. "It's all so complicated, but so simple at the same time. Money, Ryan. It's all about money." "Go on." Ryan insisted. "The satellite outside. It's not your average satellite. It doesn't transmit a readable signal. It only emits sound waves, like a speaker. The waves send a message to everyone's mind telling them that hockey is dumb and that football, baseball and even basketball are the best sports on TV." Bettman explained with a grin. "But, why ruin your own sport?" Ryan demanded. "I told you. Money. The NFL, MLB and NBA give me 10% of their earnings to keep hockey at bay. If not for these sound waves, hockey would become so popular, the other three major sports would fold." said Bettman. "Then let them fold!" yelled Ryan, furiously. Once again, Bettman ignored Ryan's emotion and continued. "Then there's you. Your blog has become quite influential. People in Seattle, Houston, all over the US are becoming interested in hockey. Heck, after reading a few articles, even I started to hate Sidney Crosby." "You're welcome." said Ryan. "People are becoming interested in hockey again. They are fighting through the sound waves. In the past, we would just move teams away from fans that managed to overcome the sound waves. Winnipeg moved to Phoenix, Hartford went to the Carolina's and Dallas got the Minnesota North Stars. Die hard fan bases were punished with their teams being shipped off to deserts and places where no one gave a crap about hockey. But your blog... you will die, Ryan. Your wife was merely bait." "You won't get away with this, Bettman." said Ryan. "This shack will explode in 10 minutes. I will be gone by then, along with the satellite. It will be relocated to a place where it's work can continue."
Sawyer peaked into the window. He had doubled back after dropping Annie off at the truck. He saw Ryan's gun in the corner. He could also see Ryan as he argued with who he swore was Gary Bettman. Then he saw what he needed most. The key to Ryan's handcuffs was on a table in the shack. Bettman left the shack, and forgot the key. Perfect. Sawyer snuck inside. "Sawyer! Am I glad to see you!" exclaimed Ryan. "Was that Bettman?" asked Sawyer. "Yeah, It's a really long story. Let's get out of here." Sawyer got the key, freed Ryan and made his way to the door. Ryan grabbed his shotgun. Wasting no time, Ryan kicked open the door, burst outside and started blasting. The first guard didn't react in time and the blast from the buckshot knocked him flat. Sawyer made a mad dash for the truck that had the satellite on it. He jumped into the cab, threw the vehicle into gear, then dropped to the floor and put his paws on the gas. The truck accelerated through a clearing in the woods, then towards a group of trees. Sawyer peaked over the steering wheel, saw the trees, then bailed out. The truck hit the trees and exploded in a ball of fire. The sound waves stopped.
Somewhere in Michigan, a shopper at a sporting goods store was deciding between the road white or the home blue of his favorite Detroit Lions player. Suddenly, he had a strange feeling come over him. He put them both down and looked over at the Detroit Red Wings jerseys. He picked one up and smiled as he put it in his cart and made his way to the checkout lines.
Back in the woods, the fighting continued. "Nooo! You stupid dog!" cried Bettman. Sawyer gathered himself, then sprinted back towards the camp. Ryan peaked around a corner, spotted a guard and shot him in the back. He loaded a couple more shells since he had a second, then continued on the hunt. Then it started to rain. The remaining guards shook violently and started to melt! They were robots! The rain shorted them out and they fell down, completely useless. Then Ryan saw Bettman peering out through the window of the shack. He had ran back inside just as it started to rain. Ryan went in. Just as Bettman reached inside his coat pocket, Ryan blasted the NHL commissioner with buckshot... but he didn't bleed. "He's a robot, too." said Sawyer as he joined Ryan in the shack. "Yup. So the real Bettman is still out there..." said Ryan "Of course I am!" came a voice over the computer. It was the real Bettman. "Do not think that you have won. There are still many more sound wave devises out there in other states." said the Bettman. "And my blog is still out there." Ryan countered. "As are thousands more just like it. The heart of the hockey fan will win in the end, Bettman. Eventually, the greatest sport in the world will overcome even you." said Ryan as he lifted the shotgun up and blew a hole in the computer. The two left the shack moments before it exploded.
Ryan and Sawyer found the police outside the woods where they had left their truck. Ryan explained where the camp was, then found Annie. She had come back with the police. "Let's go home, Annie. It's been quite a couple of days." said Ryan. "Tell me bout it." said Annie. "I never did get Starbucks."
"So they were all robots?" she later asked during their ride home. "Yup. Every last one." said Ryan. "And the one on the computer screen, he was the real Bettman?" she asked. "I don't know." said Ryan "I guess that's a story for another time."