Holy Moly! Not another goalie
Being a hockey goalie is the worst position in all of sports.
For one thing, being a goalie has absolutely nothing to do with hockey; it's a completely different game. While all the other players are busy skating, stick handling and shooting, the goaltender stands by himself merely watching the action. Then, all of a sudden, there's a flurry of activity, a rock-hard piece of frozen rubber comes screaming his way and if it lands behind him, a red light illuminates the mistake and an angry mob curses him.
Growing up, I happened to be a goalie; good enough to play at the Junior and College level, but nowhere near talented enough to move on to the professional ranks. During my time between the pipes, however, I shared a lot of the same experiences that every NHL netminder from Johnny Bower to Marty Brodeur has also gone through.
-Injuries - Cut for a bunch of stitches over the eye from a slap shot while I was wearing one of those old fibreglass masks that sat flush on your face.
-Criticism - Ripped on the radio and the newspapers when I couldn't stop a beach ball. I was also spat upon by fans a few times, fortunately at opposition rinks, in some of those small prairie towns where cousins do more than just kiss.
-Humiliation - I remember getting beat 17-0 a couple of times; once when my team manager dad set up a game against a Triple A Pee Wee squad he felt sure we could compete against. Then again, my dad once cut future Hall of Famer Bryan Trottier from a Jr. B team he managed so his reputation as a reliable hockey scout is definitely in doubt.
With all of the above in mind, I always promised that if I had a son, he'd never be a goalie. Well, the hockey gods love to be challenged and, wouldn't you know it, I could have a little puck stopper on my hands after all. My five-year old just completed his first season of minor hockey, and while he struggled to do much damage as a forward or defenseman, it was a different story when the little guy slapped on the pads. He was 2-0 as a netminder, including an outstanding performance last weekend when he led his side to a huge upset against the best team in the league.
To be honest, heading into that game, part of me was hoping he might get lit up and decide this whole goalie thing wasn't for him. But as he began to make some saves, it was clear that he might have a real natural ability for the position. I'm still hoping his skating improves so he can score a few more goals next year, as he only chalked up one this season.
But if wearing a goalie mask makes him happy, I guess I'll have to mask my feelings and just grin and bear the fact that being a human target seems to run in the family.