December 21, 2018

11 months

"Shut out" **&&**&!!$%@!@#!!

Any game that I get through a period or two without letting a puck past, these two simple words pop into my head followed by silent cursing for once again jinxing myself because inevitably, usually sooner than later, a goal gets scored that wipes away the chance for a shut out.

I titled this entry "11 months" but honestly it could be even longer since I've registered a shut out in beer league hockey across multiple teams, good and bad.

This week I was between the pipes for a team that probably (I'm being kind here) is closer to the bad side of the scale and one that I've been lit up for as many as 7 goals in a game this season. As usual we needed to grab sub players from an earlier game which left half the team gassed before the puck dropped. We were playing one of the top teams in the division and although they were also short-benched, I gave us 10-1 odds of getting a win.

The first puck I faced that night was a break away by one of the best players and after biting pretty hard on a deke, I stuck out my right leg as he cut across and the puck bounced harmlessly away. After that, it was the usual workload of shots and constant pressure in our zone.

At some point in the second period we were up 2-0 and once again my brain does its thing... "Shut out" **&&**&!!$%@!@#!!. I tried to ignore my inner voice but I knew I was once again doomed.


The game rolled along and we scored two more. I wasn't sure how exactly this was happening but somehow I kept stopping pucks and my team kept scoring. Now the clock ticked down to a minute left but I knew it wouldn't hold. Sure enough a turnover in the other zone led to an odd-man rush with a shot rocketing to my blocker side. I made the stop and my guys cleared the zone.

It was happening! A shut out after so many months and countless games. I let myself believe and with 5 seconds left, the other team dumped the puck over our blue line as both teams waited for the final horn.

Almost like a nightmare, a buddy and former team mate now playing on the opposing team decided to make a rush for the puck. With nobody on my team still skating, he came in on the right side and with just a couple of seconds left he wound up for a slapper that screamed low to my glove side and... I made the save.

Shut out recorded.

Last year when I had my mask wrapped by Skinfx, I decided I'd leave the backplate empty. I plan on recording my final shut out back there when I retire from playing net. Will it read, "Hockey Team 5 - MIB 0 12-19-18"? I really don't know but I know I'm writing that down now because for this Ancient Netminder, shut outs don't come along very often.

December 16, 2018

What's Wrong With You?

Tonight is the last game of another fall season and my Puck Hawgs are again in the league championship and I'll be there between the pipes fighting for the win.

I woke up this morning feeling battered and bruised and every day of my 52 years. I'm currently favoring a twisted right knee, a bruised left kneecap, two sore fingers on my right hand, a shoulder that hurts when I lift my arm and a fresh bruise on my right ankle bone.

I am not special.

It shouldn't be a surprise that you get banged up playing a contact sport on ice four to five nights a week with only a week or two off the ice a few times a year. The beer league seasons roll one into the other and I don't know a single player who likes those weeks without hockey.

It's kind of a strange thing that beer league players choose to hand over hard-earned money to play a game that inevitably results in a variety of bumps, bruises and sometimes serious injuries and yet they do come back– night after night, season after season.

Two nights ago during our semi-final game, one of the players on the opposing team took a high stick to his face, cutting his nose and spilling blood all over the ice. While the refs cleaned up the blood, he went to locker room and slapped on a makeshift bandage and returned to the game. In the handshake line, his face was caked with blood and he had a smile on his face.



I've seen players finish games with broken fingers and even cracked bones. My wife broke her ankle on the ice and still plays a couple nights of week. My best friend broke his leg and was back playing as soon as he could get the OK from his doctor. I couldn't roll over in bed for the better part of a month with cracked ribs but missed only 3 games out 18 that month. Every week, the roster of any given team has players missing with injury or playing with one and yet they keep coming back. They keep playing.

Why?

Is it the "tough guy" reputation of hockey? Is it the strong conviction of being on a team and never wanting to let them down? Does hockey draw in people who have a lesser sense of self-preservation? Is the passion of playing hockey greater than other sports?

I can't say why but tonight I'll show up to play hockey with my pals and I'll do my best. I might wince getting up off the ice and I might even play a little handicapped but it would take more than aches, pains and bruises to keep me off the ice and the crazy thing is that playing alongside me are guys who are doing the same– and paying to do it every week.