August 6, 2013

The Starting Line

Last night as I was dressing for another on-ice skills session- a weekly camp hosted by my local rink- the Hockey Director came up and asked me if I could help out a guy who was coming out for the first time. He was interested but hadn't ever played.

A half hour later as I stood waiting for the Zamboni to finish up I spotted a young, lanky guy wandering around with nothing but a new box of skates tucked under his arm. I spoke with him and, sure enough, here was the new goalie. He said the Hockey Director told him he could borrow some equipment and come out to the camp. After talking with him it didn't take long to realize he was starting from scratch- in every way possible.

No pads
No C&A
No pants
No helmet
No stick
No cup

Just skates. Which he'd never stepped on ice with. At first I was confused why someone would choose this as a venue to learn that, when trying to stop hard, disk-shaped objects some protection for that most valuable of spots is pretty damn important.

Then it sort of clicked. Was I much different 7 or 8 months ago? OK so I had the benefit of playing in my youth and I knew that you didn't strap a cup over your nose but to a degree, in almost every way, I had been where he is.

Anxious, overwhelmed and desperately not wanting to look like an idiot but buoyed along by excitement.

I spent some time helping him strap into the mish-mash of borrowed equipment strewn rinkside. We got the pads on and the ancient C&A mostly tightened down and there he stood. Player stick in hand, gear ill-fitted and with large areas exposed, he had the biggest grin on his face and the excitement was obvious. He couldn't wait to step onto the ice.

After what was certainly an eye opening hour of being on the ice, he spoke with me feverishly about equipment and how hard skating was and how tired he was- all with a glint in his eye. I told him I might have some gear he could use and he pushed a scrap of paper with his email address into my hand and disappeared. He was still grinning.

I remember what that feeling was like and still is each night I drive to the rink. I hope I can help ease his entry into the goaltending fraternity.

We've all been there, so help your fellow beginner- old or young- along in his or her journey.