When Al Pacino speaks, people listen.
So when Michael Corleone spoke, the Muskies opened their eardrums to the man known in other circles as Scarface.
On the way to the pitch to play in a semi-final game at the St. John’s Ravenscourt soccer tournament this past weekend in Winnipeg, Chris Faragher put in a burnt CD on the bus that had the speech Pacino gave as Coach Tony D’Amato in the testosterone-bubbling ‘Any Given Sunday’.
The Muskies had gone 1-1 in pool play to give them a second place seeding and the veteran defenseman and co-captain thought it wise to let Pacino take the reigns of the team.
I don’t know what to say really. Three minutes to the biggest battle of our professional lives all comes down to today. Either we heal as a team or we are going to crumble. Inch by inch, play by play till we’re finished…
On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves and everyone around us to pieces for that inch. We claw with our fingers nails for that inch. Cause we know when we add up all those inches that’s going to make a big (expletive) difference between winning and losing—between living and dying.
“The team just remained quiet for the longest time,” said Faragher. “That speech is awesome.”
And it worked, as the Muskies won their semi-final game against Fort William Collegiate by a score of 2-1 with goals coming by way of Niels Nijssen and Scott McFayden, which would give them a birth in the ‘B’ final against the JHS Bruns.
“So we asked—What are you guys going to do to win that inch? Because that’s all it’s going to take,” said head coach Shane Beckett.
I’ll tell you this—in any fight it is the guy who is willing to die to win that inch. And I know if I am going to have any life anymore it is because I am still willing to fight, and die for that inch because that is what living is.
There was some history for the game. You see, the Bruns had beaten the Muskies in last year’s Ravenscourt tournament and though this game was played in weather conditions that were almost laughably brutal. This game stayed hot building drama on the pitch.
“We were starting to feel that maybe the calls weren’t going quite our way. So the guys got a little worked up and I got a little worked up, so at half time I just told them, ‘Guys, we can’t control the officials, we can’t control the weather, we can only control ourselves,” Beckett said.
But it seemed the Muskies wouldn’t be able to write that Hollywood ending, as the Bruns scored early in the second half, and then a Chris Plett miss on a penalty shot, which wrung off the outside of the post, faded the Muskies’ hopes—or did it?
“That [the penalty miss] kind of stung, but the guys rebounded right away, because they knew we were carrying the play,” Beckett said.
You gotta look at the guy next to you. Look into his eyes. Now I think you are going to see a guy who will go that inch with you…That’s a team gentlemen and either we heal now, as a team, or we will die as individuals … Now whattaya gonna do?
And what they did was score four answered goals to win 4-1.
Once again, Nijssen scored the Muskies first two goals (you can be assured it won’t be his last tallies of the season) and then Craig McTavish notched a pair of his own to give the Muskies “one of their best showings ever at the tournament.”
The Muskies had opened with a loss to Miles Mac, who would advance to the ‘A’ final where they would lose by only one goal, but would follow a slim 1-0 win over Glenlawn Collegiate, with a goal from Nijssen in the final two minutes of the match.
And though the results were great, Beckett says one of the main positives from the tournament was discovering who their starting 11 players will be.
Another reason the Muskies, signed up for the Ravenscourt tournament was to mesh the players of varying personalities and ages into a cohesive unit conducive to creating a winning season.
Some of that meshing came at a movie where the team saw (or at least partly saw) a show that left “them covering their eyes, and almost holding each other’s hands to console each other.”
But Beckett jokingly looks back to the weekend and says the “team that was scared together, won together.”
But they had a different kind of scare last Thursday here against the Rainy River Owls in an exhibition match in which the Muskies lost by a score of 2-1.
“Some of the guys were probably a bit discouraged and had some disbelief after the Rainy River game,” said Beckett, who is in his first year as head coach.
But the Ravenscourt tournament not only proved to the players that Beckett is a more than capable coach, but it proved to himself and assistant coach, Jodi Easton, that they have been pointing the team down the right path.
“That point was really hit home in that final game [against the Bruns] and I think the tournament reassured them that I’m not just talking off the top of my head.
“They’re really starting to see that our systems are starting to work and the players are starting to buy into them (systems). The Muskies will be hosting a seven-team tournament this Friday and Saturday at the St. Francis Sportsfields
“You’re always questioning if you’re doing the right thing and when you get a ‘W’ you are doing the right thing, but when you lose you’re doing something wrong,” Beckett added.
The inches we need are everywhere around us. They are in ever break of the game of every minute, every second. On this team, we fight for that inch.
When Al Pacino speaks, people listen.