In the change-room on Wednesday night, Liam and I were yarning and he said he had thought about writing his “origin story” for this blog, except that, basically, it would read: “I watched hockey. I loved it. I decided to play as it looked awesome. The end.”
We laughed and I said he should do it, and right then Lliam Webster skated in (well, he was walking, given we were in the change-room, but he was wearing skates, so which term is correct?) and said: “Who wants to have a crack at being a goalie in the 11.15 dev league?”
We all stared, tried to face down the Webster challenge-stare, failed and Liam Patrick said: “I’ll do it.”
Moments later, he was on all fours, with about-to-leave goalie Lee strapping something around somewhere in Liam’s nether regions, and I just couldn’t think of a single joke. Instead, I just said: “If you’re going to do this, I demand a blog.” And here it is …
Goalie for a day
By Liam Patrick
Deep down inside we all want to try it. We know it will probably suck at times, you might get hurt and will definitely embarrass yourself when you’re inevitably the villain. Wednesday, August 1st, I had the chance. With a brief hesitation I accepted. I played in goals for 11:15 dev.
My goalie story starts as a 14 year old in Year 9. Having never played field hockey before, I found I was somewhat serviceable in net (I did it because I thought the pads were cool, ok….). Somehow I ended up picked for the Year 10 side that year and the Year 12 side the following three years. Unfortunately I never got past training and internal school sports as a wide variety of things prevented me from actually playing and the team lost every year in the first round. Not that I think I would have made a difference – I think our school simply sucked, hence why they lost and I looked semi-capable. But I did find myself enjoying being padded up. Invincible. The team’s white knight when all else failed. Making a miracle save (anything I had to move to stop was a miracle). It was fun. I also played goalie in lacrosse and soccer in my time at school.
Funnily enough, when I first came to hockey (note I’m referring to it as hockey not ice hockey) the thought did flash across my mind: “Could I play in goals here too?”. Then I saw the prices. “Yeah, think I’ll be right being one of those skating around dudes”. I learned hanging shit on goalies is socially acceptable (hanging shit is one of my three life skills, along with singing out of tune and being able to drive a manual and balance a Maccas coffee whilst “under the weather”). I was always open about the fact though that if there were spare pads and people wanting to shoot pucks, I would love to just give it a go.
Then it happened.
10 pm dev was over. Another successful night for the reds. Rocky Balboa (aka Place, N) and Apollo Creed (Patrick, L) had partnered well again (Nicko is fast becoming a greater passer of the puck in the neutral zone to set up a rush into offence where he busts a gut looking for a pass or rebound. He is starting to become the general – setting up the plays and hopefully he will be the one to finish them too!) The sledging from both of them was also as crisp as usual (especially towards Wayne “Village People” McBride). The tired warriors made their way to the rooms. Then the bearded one burst in the door “Who wants to goalie in the next game? We have gear you can borrow”. “Ummm ahhh, damn I have work tomorrow – fuck it, I’ll do it dude!” I replied.
Twenty minutes, some awkward positions and some funny responses as people saw me in goalie gear later, I was stumbling onto the ice. Nicko doing his best paparazzi impersonation to capture the moment means I should have some momentos. But basically I was shitting myself. Suddenly everybody had a Chara-like shot. Oh, and great … down the other end was Coach Dave who in his spare time happens to be a Prem A goalie. Great.
I skated down into the net for warm-ups – somewhat surprised I could stand up. I didn’t do the whole “roughing” of the ice. I squatted into what I thought was kind of a goalie stance. Senior Rookie and all round nice guy Chris Hodson delivered my first shot which pinged off my pad. I had just saved a puck. Go me. Can I leave now?
Warm ups continued. I varied from stopping pucks to looking like a fool falling over. Lee had smaller feet and the skates were beginning to bite but the rest of the gear was relatively comfy. I got a few pointers from people as to how to use my catcher (which I was using more like a baseball mit and trying to catch like I would in the slip cordon at cricket).
Desperately I skated down to my opposing number (and technically my coach!) “Dave, help me man, give me the five minute master class”. He stared back blankly until I explained: “I’ve never goalied before and have no idea what to do”. I wish the next five minutes consisted of him turning me into Marty Broduer. Instead he suggested I try butterfly but then, upon testing it out and my yelp of pain, he said to just stand up and use my stick where I could so I didn’t hurt myself. Great so now not only would everybody else be trying to hurt me, I could hurt myself – you goalies are insane!
I tentatively skated back to my net, thinking: “Well, here comes a seriously embarrassing period in my life. If I stay below double digits I’ll have exceeded myself. Actually if I don’t die I’m coming out ahead. If my fellow rookies and friends still talk to me after this I’m doing really well.”
Then the puck dropped.
The red team rushed down, got to the top of the circle and fired a shot – it pinged off my blocker. Awesome! I now have a save percentage! Naturally the first goal came soon, although it was a nice move that I couldn’t even get a pad on and I wasn’t too embarrassed by it. The next four goals, on the other hand, I did get a piece of and really should have stopped. Unfortunately, two were really soft from the blue line that popped through the five hole. Swallow me up, ice. Swallow me up. But I did save a few, stopped a penalty shot – well it pinged off the post but I had it covered … totally. Lliam regularly chipped in with tips and encouragement for me which did help a lot and were very much appreciated.
We lost 5-2. No double digits. I was alive. I had fun. Happy days.
I was touched when the black team skated over to thank me as in all reality I probably cost them the game and spent most of the time apologising profusely. I did however love the fact that not only did she physically push me through the bench to help get me into the change-rooms after I became tangled, but Georgia also wanted to know why I let in so many goals? Nothing like some good sledging (and I genuinely mean that I love taking it as much as I love giving it)!
I also need to thank Lee for the loan of his gear! Thanks, dude!
So how does the dark side compare? Well I’d definitely do it again. I got a whole new appreciation for what I should be doing as a D-man. Finally I see why goalies get a tad cranky with passes in front of them. I promise I’ll kind of try not to do it anymore, guys. Will I go and drop $2000 on goalie gear? Probably not, my passion is still to hit the ice with my buddies as a D-man this summer (and undoubtedly pass in front of the net).
If you ever get the chance – give it a go. It’s not that scary for the most part and you will learn heaps and have fun.
Now I’m just waiting for a call from Ray Shero to say they need me to fill in for Fleury and help lead the mighty Pens to the Stanley Cup…..