The Spy With the Oblong Head

Posted: October 10, 2011 in Ice Hockey, Not in the Ebook, Strange Coincidences
Tags: , ,


I’m the guy without the helmet. I have an oddly shaped head; it’s long and narrow. When I joined the New York/New Jersey Bandits, along with home and away uniforms, I was issued a piece of headgear that was far too circular to fit my head comfortably. It hurt  so much that I only wore the damn thing when I was on the ice. Had to protect my brains. I didn’t want my egg-head to crack open and spill its yoke.

This picture and ice hockey are very much parts of ROOFMAN the true story. The only reason I did not include them in the ebook is because I figured no one would believe me. Like I said, fact IS stranger than fiction. So here, on my blog, is the story behind the story.

I still have my jerseys, by the way; and notice the bandit and his masked face peeking just above the boards. Cool, huh?

This photo was taken at one of our games in the spring of 1986. I’d joined the team that January. I figured I needed a bit of a diversion from the FBI and the Katkov Affair. Also, I’d moved from playing goal, where I’d spent my entire hockey career watching pucks fill my net, to playing center ice. Let the other guy have all the pressure, I intended to relax and have fun.

At our first team meeting we had to introduce ourselves. When my turn came I stood up and announced, “My name is John Pansini. I’m a roofer. I used to be a goalie, but now I wanna score goals. Lots and lots and lots of goals.” I intended to spend my entire Bandit career hanging at the blue line.

Around and around, one new Bandit at a time, standing and telling their name, occupation, and why they loved the game. Most of the guys were blue-collar like me, but most of them had never played organized hockey before. They’d played either roller-hockey in the street or ice hockey on frozen ponds (pond scum).

Then one guy got up and said, “My name is Dick Rosen (not his real name), and I work for the federal government. I’d rather not say which branch.”

I’d rather not say which branch. Like what was with this f-ing guy? I had a strong suspicion.

At our first practice, which was just over the GW Bridge in Englewood, New Jersey, I mentioned that I had a shit car, and did anyone else live in Manhattan. I offered to pay the gas and the tolls in exchange for a ride. A guy named John — we later became good friends; in the photo he’s #19 on the far left — took me up on it. After practice Dick came over to me in the locker room. He said if I ever needed a ride, give him a call. He also lived in Manhattan. Then he handed me his business card. It read: “Richard V. Rosen, Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

Suspicion confirmed: the FBI was doing a psych profile on me to see if I was a team player. Mr. Dick was their eyes and ears.

During the season, Dick never went out of his way to befriend me in particular, nor did he ask me any questions. He was an intense guy who kept mostly to himself. As I got to know him better, I found him to be a hard-nosed, clean player and a classy guy — yet I still held fast to my conspiracy theory. One spy and one FBI agent on the same team, what are the odds that that was a coincidence?

My friend Al coached us that first year. He led us to a first place finish, but were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. We got beat by a goalie named Daisy on Mother’s Day, 1986. The mostly blue-collar Bandits did not take it well. As for me, Dick, and coach Al, we congratulated Daisey for playing a great game. (She didn’t even look old enough to be a mother. The cocky Bandits got beat by a teenage girl. God is just.)

Al got fired, which really pissed me off. Dick told the team that he had a friend who used to play college hockey – some of our guys could barely skate – so that went over really big. Dave Rock (not his real name) coached us in Season Two, and again we finished in first place. And again we were eliminated in the first round. (Ditto about God.)

By the way: Dave Rock was also a FBI agent. That made for one spy and two FBI agents on the same team. Coincidence? I still thought, No f-ing way!

At the end of the Katkov Affair, I was still playing hockey with Coach Dave, left-winger Dick, and the New York/ New Jersey Bandits. Looking back on it all, I can now say unequivocally: It was a coincidence!

Oh, yeah, when I asked Dick why he wouldn’t say he was FBI at that first meeting, he said, “It freaks some people out.”

No shit.

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Please remember this content is © 2011


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