Herb Brooks: I'm thinking about sitting you down Jim.
Jim Craig: What? Wait what are you talking about?
Herb Brooks: No, it's not your fault. I played you way too much, and you're too tired. Besides that, I think it's time I give Janny a look. He's been waiting for seven months.
Jim Craig: You're kidding me? Now?
Herb Brooks: Of course I mean now!
Jim Craig: That's my net man. You can't do that!
Herb Brooks: They just scored ten goals Jim. Right now it's everybody's net.
- Miracle (Disney, 2004)
I knew within moments of my game last night that it was going to be a tough one. We spent the first two minutes trapped in our zone. The opposing line was faster than anyone from our team and were beating us to every puck and trapping every clearing attempt. Finally, after a brief exit from our zone, I faced the first shot of the game- a clean breakaway that resulted in a goal. The first of many.
We were outmatched and I was facing an avalanche of shots and quality scoring chances. I tried to stay strong and give my team a chance to stay in the game. Somehow after the first period we were down only 2-1.
Then it happened. Goal after goal poured into the net. Uncontested rebounds, back door tap ins, clean point shots and deflections. I overplayed slot shots, I was sloppy along the post. Pucks popped out of glove. I swiped loose pucks onto opposing player's sticks. Wide-eyed and unfocused I played undisciplined hockey.
At first I was frustrated and shouted at my defense for obvious mistakes. Next I was frustrated at myself and seethed at my incompetence. By the time the 7th or 8th of 9 total goals found the net, I was numb.
I don't have any answers the morning after the collapse. I know I wasn't mentally strong enough to play my best hockey in the face of an overpowering team. Instead I regressed and adopted the "1,000 yard stare". It happens to every goalie- even those professionals who have the talent, the training & the extraordinary commitment it takes to play in the NHL. Coaches are adept at spotting the distant stare and they pull their starting goaltender when they see it. I'm pretty sure that more than a few of my own players saw that on my face last night.
Many of you reading this might wonder why all the fuss and consternation over some late-night beer league game that few will remember a week from now. I don't know either. Something drives me to play my best and feel miserable when I don't. Is that a good reason to keep playing? I think so because I can't wait for the next game. I can't wait to strap on my pads and learn more hard lessons about being the Ancient Netminder.