0717_oag-old-time-hockey

It’s a long way from NHL rinks of yore to Bill Littlefield’s dry cleaner’s. (AP)

The old hockey guy was loud when he was a young hockey guy with a million-dollar contract, and he’s still loud. Even so, at first I didn’t recognize him. His mustache, white now, is trimmed. It used to droop over the corners of his mouth, and it used to be black, and it made him look like the guy in the western doomed to underestimate the good guy’s draw and get shot in the bar.

The old hockey guy and I saw each other this week at the dry cleaner’s, which is the same place we last saw each other quite a while back, when he looked at what I was picking up and said, “Those are the ugliest pants I ever saw.”

Anyway, we ran into each other again, and “ran into” isn’t entirely misleading, because these days the old hockey guy pivots on one bad hip and one that looks worse, and he needs some room to maneuver.

He dropped some shirts on the counter and the proprietor grinned and said “Have you met my best friend, Bill Littlefield?”

The old hockey guy turned to me, deadpan, and said, “Last time I was in here, he told me I was his best friend.”

He seemed to be doing fine, though, especially considering that for a time he seemed to be doing his best to kill himself with drugs and alcohol after the hockey money was gone and also whatever other money there was.

I asked how his book was doing, and he said it was doing okay.

But there are complications there, just as there are complications everywhere.

“They asked me if I’d read a chapter for the school for the blind,” he told me. “I told ‘em, sure, I’d do that.”

“Sounds good,” I said.

“Yeah, but then they called the guy who handles that stuff for me, and he told them I’d have to be paid.”

“To read a chapter,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said. “Can you believe that? So I had to tell him, ‘Come on, man.’ But he’s only 24, you know?”

I suppose that meant that for every request, even a request coming from the school for the blind, the 24-year-old guy’s answer was that the old hockey guy would have to be paid. I was happy to learn that it wasn’t the old hockey guy’s answer, at least when the request was coming from the school for the blind.