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This time, instead of throwing a quick punch, Taylor backed up a stride and assumed a fighting stance. It was at that point that my vision started to blur and my legs turned rubbery. By the time I glimpsed the hazy image of his giant slab of a fist coming towards me, I had already begun to crumple to the ice. So he missed me again, this time because of what medical professionals call a syncopal episode. I, um, fainted.
I regained consciousness lying flat on the ice, staring up at the faces of a half-dozen Leaf players and the team trainer. Some of them looked concerned. Others appeared amused — probably the ones who knew that I had swooned.
The trainer asked me a few questions (What’s your name? What day is it? Where are you?) which I think I answered correctly.
He asked if I was OK to stand up, and I said I thought so.
I slowly got back on my skates. I felt weak-kneed and my vision swam for a moment, but I managed to steady myself and, supported by a player on each side, I skated to the bench.
On my way off the ice I saw Taylor heading towards the penalty box. I heard him pleading to the referee: “But I didn’t even touch him.”
I was shown to the “quiet room” where potential concussions are assessed. After the team doctor asked me more questions and conducted some tests, he decided I should go to the hospital as a precaution.
Four hours later, a group of team officials paraded into my hospital room. There was the coach, the general manager, the president, the doctor and a nervous man who identified himself as the team lawyer.
They asked me how I felt and I said fine (the lawyer seemed especially interested in my answer). There ensued an awkward silence during which they all seemed to be examining their shoes.
The general manager cleared his throat and spoke. “About an hour ago, my secretary called me. She thinks there’s been a mixup. Um, you’re not Mark Jones of the Macon IceCats, are you?”
“The what?” I asked.
“The IceCats in Macon, Georgia.”
I laughed. “No, I’m Mark Jones of Lemon, Feldman and Bishop LLP Chartered Accountants in Oakville.”
I heard someone moan, “Oh God.” I’m pretty sure it was the lawyer, who by this point was sweating profusely.
The general manager said, “You see, Mark, we meant to call up Mark Jones from Macon but it appears my secretary called you by mistake.”
That’s when it all sunk in.
“So t-tonight’s game wasn’t the ch-charity game?” I stammered.
“Tonight's game was...was real?”
“Why were you calling up someone from Georgia?”
“He has a certain skill set we were looking for. A certain physicality.”
“You mean he’s a fighter? You thought I was a fighter?”
My mind provided me with an instant replay, slo-mo, of Taylor’s monster fist coming towards me. I shuddered.
The Leafs’ lawyer looked like he was in danger of suffering his own syncopal episode.
“We’re very sorry, Mr. Jones,” the GM said quietly.
It was at that point that the gifts were trotted out: a team jacket, a stick signed by all the players, and tickets for each of the remaining home games in the season.
These were clearly inducements designed to keep me from taking legal action. But why would I sue? I now have a story I can tell in bars for the rest of my life. I’ll probably skip the part about fainting, though.