Curcio and his assistants sit, dejected, in their cramped office. "Petey," Curcio says after a pause, "that wasn't the fairy tale fucking game I was hoping for." Wayne Thomas, the Sharks' soft-spoken assistant general manager, glides in. "What's your flavor, Wayner?" asks Curcio, and beers are distributed.

Farhi, decked out in a checkered jacket, backward Kangol cap, and pink button-up, bursts into the office and envelops Curcio in a bear hug. "I am so proud of you. My big boy! You are my big boy!" he bellows. "Listen, Pat, two years ago, we have a dream. And we make this dream a reality! Even if we lost the fucking game and the next 20, Pat, I'm behind you my man. Don't worry, you have the insurance of a lifetime, man. Now breathe! It is important to breathe."

He leaves the room and the energy leaves with him. The hockey staff morosely sips its beers, searching for silver linings. Finally, Thomas speaks in a voice barely above a whisper. "I thought," he says, "the ushers were really friendly."


Moments before the Bulls’ opening game, owner Shmuel Farhi tells the team, “I have a lot of faith in you — work together and kick some ass!”
Joseph Schell
Moments before the Bulls’ opening game, owner Shmuel Farhi tells the team, “I have a lot of faith in you — work together and kick some ass!”
Before games, the Bulls unwind by juggling a soccer ball.
Joseph Schell
Before games, the Bulls unwind by juggling a soccer ball.

One day later, not half as many fans show up for a game that turns out twice as well. The twin fire-blasting columns between which the team enters the ice can be felt even in the nosebleeds, and the Bulls come out just as hot with a goal barely three minutes into the contest. A barn burner ensues, with both teams trading scores leading to a 5-5 contest at the second intermission. In the final period, the Bulls strike less than a minute into action, then hold off Bakersfield for the duration, killing a 5-on-3 power play en route. The announced crowd of 3,659 howls as the final horn sounds on a 6-5 victory. In the locker room, the players do the same.

Paige strides into the room and distributes chilled cans of Coors to the team. Curcio bursts in behind him, laughing maniacally. "Holy fuck, boys! Holy fuck! Hell of an effort. We build from here, boys." Trainer Osama Kassab emphatically sets a heaping bucket of beers on the carpet and is greeted with raucous cheers of "fuck yeah!" Ice Cube's "Check Yo Self" blasts on the soundsystem, and the players sing along.

In a few short hours, the ice will be broken down and removed. In a week's time, a quarter of the players singing and drinking in the historic victory will be gone, too. The trucks full of manure are on their way, and the team heads off on a 26-day, nine-game road schlep during the duration of the rodeo. The Bulls win only one game, dropping three straight in Anchorage to an Alaska squad featuring three locked-out NHL players. Last week, the team responded by signing Edmonton Oiler Theo Peckham — who served the third-most penalty minutes in the NHL last year — and Ryane Clowe, a hometown hero for the San Jose Sharks who figures to put pucks in nets and butts in seats. A prediction Curcio made in early October regarding idle NHL stars appears to be coming true: "These guys are gonna be falling out of the fucking sky." As of press time, Curcio is still driving his own truck.

All of that will come soon enough. But on the night of the Bulls' first win, the squad can only focus on the present — and there are worse places to be. "Put the beer on ice, boys!" Curcio shouts to his victorious team. "And no one gets in trouble tonight."

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