Guest writer: Liam Patrick – the unlikely sequel

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.

Liam Patrick: leaking goalie to the stars.

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…..

Guest writer: Jason Bajada

This is a cracking piece. Who knew a goalie could put words together? Turns out Jason Bajada is that guy. Welcome to life between the posts …

Stay out of my crease and we’ll stay friends

By Jason Bajada

I am a goalie.  And I love it.  And I hate it.  And I hate you all.  And you are my best mates.  And I love it.

Jason Bajada: feeling two metres wide. Pic: Wayne McBride

At any given time, none, some, or all of those feelings are true.  Would be true.  Have been and are true.  Tense doesn’t matter.

There is a common understanding amongst hockey people that goalies are weird.  I’m not going to try to explain why, but I will let you know what it is like being a goalie in a game – you can figure out if we are weird once you have read my story.  There is a lot of swearing in this, because I really don’t know how to efficiently express myself any better.  I understand the theory that “those who swear are less articulate, and therefore less intelligent, than others who do not”, to which I respond: fuck that.

When I am putting my gear on, I feel like I am two metres wide and I am invincible.  During the warm-ups, I concentrate so hard on every single shot coming in, I hold my breath until the last shot is made.  I wear myself out during the warm-ups because I am so wound up I can’t breathe.

And all I keep thinking to myself is that I am better than everyone else on the ice.  And I believe it with every fibre of my body, every hair on my head and every exploding neuron in my brain.  Actually, I don’t just believe it, I know it.  It is a fact, and now I get to prove it to you all.

And that is what I am thinking during warm-ups.  Because if I don’t, I can’t do my job.

And then the game starts, and the only thing I can see is the puck.  Nothing else matters.  Everything else fades into the background.  In my peripheral vision, I see the blur of players in their jerseys, and instantly calculate whether or not they are on my team, and how far away they are from playing the puck, and if they are in a position to put the puck on net, and whether or not it will be a strong shot or not.  And if they pick up the puck and start skating, I’m figuring out whether they are on their forehand or backhand, and whether or not their team-mates are moving into position to take a better shot, and whether my team-mates are moving into a position to help or hinder me.  And if the shot is taken, I work out the trajectory of the puck, and where it has come from, and whether to drop to the ice or not, or whether to stick my arm out or not, and where my stick is, and where the puck could go after I stop it, and whether or not I have the chance to ice the puck, or if I have to move to make a follow-up save from the rebound.

And that entire paragraph takes place in my world in less than a second.  And the next second, it might start again, or maybe it stops.  But I also have to work out whether or not I need to get up or not.  So the next second is always more complicated than the last, because I have to figure out how I am supposed to recover from the previous second.

Above and beyond all of that, every single second of the game I have decisions to make.  And I regret most of them.  I could have done something different, or better, or more efficiently.  Even when I do make a save, I am never satisfied with it.  The next save has to be better.  And I fucking hate that.

Nowhere to hide: Goalie life.

Then I stick a pad out and watch the puck deflect into the corner.  Or make a glove save as I am standing strong in the crease.  Or take the puck off my face and have it land at my feet, so I drop and cover it up.  I have conquered the desires of the opposition, and tamed to rage that fired that puck at me.  I destroyed the dream of the goal, and have forced them to re-think how they play the game.  I have beaten them, I am the victor.  In that second, I have just proven to everyone there that I am the best there is.

And I can’t think of anywhere else I would want to be.  And I love it.

The best part is when one of my team-mates sweeps out to the corner, corrals the puck I just deflected out there, clears it out of the defensive zone and creates a rush out of just one pass.  It is poetry in motion, and everything just flows together like it was meant to be.  The Hockey Gods have looked down on that piece of ice, stroked their beards wisely, and at that specific time, said to themselves, “Let’s make something magical happen.”

And it is at times like those that we are a brotherhood.  A sisterhood.  A hockeyhood.  Time stands still, and everything is easy.  And I love everyone in the building, along with all of those ancient hockey warriors who have fought on that piece of ice in years past.  Everyone should get to feel this, and I feel sorry for those who don’t know what they are missing out on.

But as quickly as it started, the moment is over.  The puck is back at my feet, and everyone – even the refs, it seems – is hacking away at it, forcing me to make save after save after save, never letting me take a breath to figure out what I need to do next.  I see my team-mates – that same hockeyhood from seconds ago – standing in the way of the puck so I can’t see it.  I watch the puck deflect off a team-mate and into the post.  I scream –  scream myself hoarse – at the player on my right to get the puck away from me.  It is within a metre of the goal line and I have no control of it.  It needs to leave, and it needs to leave NOW.  Just fucking move it.  Pass it.  Skate it.  I don’t care what you do, just MAKE IT GO AWAY.


The puck is now behind me.  Players wearing the wrong colours are cheering and hugging each other.  And you are yelling at me.  Telling me I should have done better.  That I should have made that save.  Asking me sarcastically where the hell my stick was.  You make the biggest bone-headed play in the history of hockey, and it’s my fault we are now losing.

And I hate you.  I hate you and I want to hurt you.  I want to hurt you so much you will be scared to play again.  You were my team-mate, but after that play you don’t deserve to even share the ice with me.  I don’t care, I hate you.  Fuck off, and stay the fuck away from me before I rip your face off through that cage.

The very next shift, the centre wins the face-off, tears down the ice and goes top shelf blocker side to get that goal right back.  After the obligatory fist-bumps along the bench, he points his stick right at me and yells “That one’s for you, buddy”.

I am a goalie.  And I fucking love this game.

The goalie’s lament

A goalie's dread: the puck in the net. Pic:

We might have lost one. The Icehouse Rookies, as our class of 2011 has taken to calling ourselves, is a member down after the weekend.

I am not standing in judgement. I want to make that clear from the start because this is a difficult post to write.

Summer league is currently happening and on Sunday the Tigersharks played the Devils. No sugar-coating, it was a massacre. The final score was, I believe, 20-0. That’s a goal every third minute, assuming it was a normal length hockey game.

The losing side’s goalie, Jason, appears to have hung up his pads in the wake of such a caning. I’m hoping that’s not the case and this entire post is premature but our Icehouse Rookies’ Facebook group (which rocks, btw, as a community) has been fielding requests for a potential fill-in goalie for the next game and beyond.

Jason must be in a bad place and it got me thinking about the attrition rate over the course of this year. As I wrote in my very first nickdoeshockey post, I have always felt just one bad fall, one vital broken bone, away from this whole hockey adventure crashing to a halt.

I’ve seen that happen too; players with broken collar bones or other nasty injuries. One woman in my second Intro class was a decent skater but landed hard on her chest during supermans, hobbled to the bench in pain (I have it on good authority this is chick equivalent of being kicked in the balls), cried a little and it occurred to me weeks later that I had never seen her again.

I’ve stepped out of classes right now because I felt exposed and potentially humiliated by my lack of skating skill (especially once most of a Division 4 team joined my Intermediate class for extra training, skating literal rings around me, and becoming frustrated when us lesser players couldn’t keep up with their drilled moves).

But this is the first case I know of where somebody has actually walked away from the game.

The reality is that us rookies are forever bordering on exposure as the starters we are, and the system, as it stands, doesn’t do much to protect us. It’s skate to keep up, or fail publicly. Of course, for the goalies, this is magnified hugely. I read a book while in America called “Open Ice” by a former Sports Illustrated hockey writer, Jack Falla, who had spent his youth as a goalie. He talked about the endless hours of taking shots, on the ice, in his driveway, anywhere he could absorb thousands and thousands of pucks/shots. I was doing other things for 45 years before January … and given my age as a rookie, I’ve been painfully aware of all the people who started skating 30 years or more before me. For goalies like Jason, it’s, again, magnified.

I wasn’t at Sunday’s game but, reading the Facebook accounts, Jason faced something like 51 shots on goal. So he stopped 31. In a NHL game, that’s a very good night’s work for a goalie. But of course, 20 got through, which is less thrilling and has apparently drained his self-confidence.

To have that many shots pepper a goalface is an impossible task for a goalie. It means the defence is not working, and the forwards are not playing each-way effectively (sorry to the Tigersharks – trust me, I’m not saying I would have done better. In fact, I’m sure I would have been worse).

But while those players will spend the week nursing nasty plus/minus figures and copping some ribbing from rival teams, Jason can know only the baseline figure.

Twenty. Compared to a shut-out. And feel responsible.

I’ve hung out with Jason at General Skates, stood on the ice with him while he explained new angles and ways of covering the goal that he’d learned in his first ever game the week before. It was a total voyage of discovery and there was no way of gaining this education without playing, and almost certainly losing.

He spoke with passion and enthusiasm, and I hate to think of him this week, deciding the sport is simply too hard. I really, really hope he connects with his temmates or the wider hockey community and realises nobody thinks badly of him for the weekend’s scoreline. We all get it. We will all have our bad days. The Wings’ stand-in goalie Ty Conklin is going through an NHL version of Jason’s angst right now. It never stops.

It seems to me that one of the major issues with hockey in Victoria is that there are a couple of badly needed missing-steps in the development path. Jason just tumbled off one of those unnecessarily large ledges. Summer League, and all the steps past Dev League, are fraught for newbies like us because we step straight onto the ice against potentially much better players. Players coming out of class want to join teams but might not be ready for genuine competition. With such limited ice time, for training as well as competition, players get squeezed into the same matches, and slaughters like the weekend become possible.

Some rookies, like me, are taking it cautiously. Others are charging into teams as fast as they can, on the theory that scrimmages and actual matches will improve them in ways rounds of Intermediate classes never will.

It’s a decent plan except that it means teams can be wildly mismatched, and results like last weekend happen.

Even drop-in hockey, where anybody can show up for an impromptu game at the Icehouse, is open to everybody. So last week, you had Intermediate class members, maybe even Intro players, out on the ice against or alongside Tommy Powell, Army and other Melbourne Ice players. Plus Shona, captain of the Ice women’s team. Tommy is set to represent Australia in Poland next year, but is skating against, potentially, me. This seems dangerous, relying completely on the Ice players to back off the throttle to cater for the L-platers in their midst, which they invariably do, but that must suck for them as well.

We definitely need Intermediate drop-in. We definitely need more ice time for rookie teams to wobble around and get their legs in games, even if we all understand there are only a couple of rinks and only so many hours in a day. But push is coming to shove. Devils smashing Tigersharks does nobody any favours.


Jason, if you read this, one last, left-field thing to consider. I hang out with a bunch of professional magicians and they have an understanding: if you choose to perform card tricks or other sleight of hand, for an audience or just friends, it is recognised that it will go catastrophically wrong probably 10 times in your career. I’m talking, no way out, complete disaster, self-inflicted, user-error, in-front-of-an-audience, floor-open-up-and-swallow-me-please humiliation.

Ten times.

So every time it happens – and oh God, it’s nasty when it does (I’m up to four) – you die a little, but you take a breath and say very deliberately: OK, that’s another of the 10 out of the way, never to be suffered again. It’s a rite of magical passage, so to speak, and is accepted. Hated but accepted.

By 10, you should have your chops.

And so, post-disaster, you lick your ego wounds, work on your card skills, figure out how you fucked up, and find somebody else to perform the same trick too. And you get it right and breathe again …

Put the pads back on, Jason. Nobody wants to see you slink away. You just endured one of the Big Ten. I’m going to as well. It would be awesome to see you at the rink.