Born and raised in Nebraska, I know football. If you cut me, I bleed Husker red, and I have crushed on more players than I can count. (Pre-season predictions indicate "Sexy" Rex Burkhead will be my college crush this year. Of course, I am still madly in love with Aaron Rodgers, even if a certain person recently stole him from me in our Fantasy Football draft.)
I had never given much consideration to crushable athletes, aside from the occasional swoon for a baseball or soccer player. So imagine my surprise when I fell for a hockey player. And not just any hockey player, pretty much an entire team full of them.
Rachel Gibson, one of my favorite romance novelists, regularly features leading men from the Chinooks, a fictional hockey team based in Seattle. Since I first picked up her books in 2008, I have made my way through her book list, and consequently a lot of the team.
Though each of the men is different, and I have deeper feelings for some than I do others, I cannot help but love them all. There is something utterly and completely attractive about a tough, focused man who turns out to be a big softie when it comes to the lady in his life. Add in the fact that these guys are in ridiculously good shape and have a lot of physical gifts to share outside of the hockey ring, and my little heart is as good as theirs.
The team won me over so well, I not only anxiously followed the books, hoping they would finally win the Stanley Cup, I actually teared up when they did.
So, here is a quick list of the Chinook players featured to date and a brief run-down of why I fell so hard for them:
- John Kowalsky of Simply Irresistible: No one is more surprised than John when he runs in with a one-night stand from his past and realizes he now has a daughter. Hurt, because he missed out on helping raise his child, John is determined to make it up and have a relationship with her. Winning over the mom is just an added bonus. Favorite moments: When John stands up to his boss, and makes him apologize to his lady. When he rescues an animal at the beach, because his daughter was in tears.
- Luc Martineau of See Jane Score: The tough goalie who hates the media, Luc is put in charge of caring for his little sister. At the same time, a new reporter arrives on scene, and he finds himself changing his opinion. Favorite moments: A late night run-in at the candy machine in a hotel. Luc's talk about forgiveness.
- Rob Sutter of The Trouble With Valentine's Day: After having his career ended when he is shot, Rob moves to a small town in Idaho ready to pick up the pieces of his life. A new woman rolls into town, and suddenly his life of isolation does not look so good. Favorite moments: Gone fishing. Trying to win back the girl on a dance floor.
- Ty Savage of True Love and Other Disasters: Driven and focused to achieve the Stanley Cup, Ty is ready to lead his team to victory without any distractions. Then he falls for the team's new owner and everything changes. Favorite moments: THE FINAL SCENE (Read it, people. It's too good to spoil). Also, the little gifts Ty gives Faith to let her know he is thinking about her. Like, the chocolate chip muffin he has sent to her room, because she doesn't like the ones the team serves. And the bright pink ice skates so he can teach her how to skate. Sigh.
- Mark Bressler of Nothing But Trouble: Nearly killed in a car accident, which left him unable to play the sport he loves (not to mention left by his ex-wife for another man), Mark is completely jaded and basically broken when the story begins. Oh, how I love to watch a man get put back together like Humpty Dumpty. Favorite moments: When Mark takes his turn with the Stanley Cup and tells his lady love how much she means to him. And when he steals her cell phone and programs a ringtone for him in it, because he heard it on the radio, and it reminded him of her.
- Sam Leclaire of Any Man of Mine: A regular throughout the series, we already know Sam as a devil may care man both on and off the ice. After realizing he has not been the father he wants to his 5-year-old son, Sam steps up his game and incidentally realizes that maybe his baby mama is more special than he remembered. Favorite moments:
The men (and their ladies) make cameos in other non-Chinook books, which creates this alternate universe I totally dig. Most of them live in and around Seattle, too. I recently fell in love with that city, which only adds to their crushability.
I have these men to thank for introducing me to a delightful sport to watch. There is so much action, and God knows I need it after football season comes to an end each year.
Also, the Chinooks led me to find my future husband: Brad Richards, center for the New York Rangers. Did you see his nude photo in the July 23 ESPN? Did you even know ESPN does a naked issue? Go ahead. Take a look. I don't mind.
Plus, aside from being a total hottie, he is from Prince Edward Island, which, in my mind, makes him Gilbert Blythe in the flesh. (I also saw him in a previous ESPN magazine, where it mentioned he has a wine fridge. I'm not materialistic, but damn.) More importantly, the same article said he volunteers with kids -- that means he has a heart of gold, too. He has it all.
Now, every time I re-read these books, I just plaster Brad's face and body on them, and I let my imagination handle the rest.
See what I mean? These studs are hard to resist, and frankly, I cannot think of a good reason to try.
Check back next week for more Certifiably Crushable hunks.
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