Rotator cuff, groin, achilles, general aches and pains. My clock is ticking towards 50 but still I skip off to the rink four or five times a week. Playing full time on four teams with extra sub games has taken a toll and these past few months have been a struggle.
While my game between the posts has been steady this season, I've benefited a lot from improved play in front of me and if I'm honest with myself, I have been feeling like my game has dropped off. Yes injuries are a part of it. Especially ones that hamper goaltending movement but for whatever reason I have been lacking a bit of compete level that seemed to stoke my fire these past few years. Last night that changed.
In a rare appearance in net for a team for which I usually skate out, we faced yet another opponent on a long list that have dominated us this season. You don't register a record of 0-15 by accident. I was exhausted before taking the ice at 1030pm but I was determined to try and help my team to its first win of the season. I also saw passion left in this team that long ago should have packed it in and called it a lost season. We were clicking and I think everyone felt it.
I had spring in my step last night and with every backdoor stop and glove save I became more confident and more determined to get the win. Even after 2 flukey/ridiculous goals, we remained tied going into the third. The opposition was relentless. Keeping us pinned in our own zone meant I was in a near constant ready state and in addition to making saves, I had to play possible shots that never got to me and had to follow the play as it went around and around in our zone. By the middle of the third period I was spent. Even after having us burn our time out to try and recover, my legs were jelly and playing at a high level was becoming a struggle. That's when it happened.
A blocked shot rocketed off my defenseman's stick and disappeared from sight. It wasn't until it landed behind me after travelling about 20 feet high into the air, did I see it in the net. There was five minutes left and we were down by a goal. The loss looked inevitable.
Like a Hollywood movie script, one of our best players streaked down the ice, split the defense and scored with 2 minutes to go and that's when I knew it would come down to a shoot out. It would be one last opportunity to get what could be the only win in long, losing season.
I did what I could and our shooters did the same but not all movies have a happy ending and our night didn't either. A shootout loss meant at least our first point as a team but that may be the lone point we gain with just one game left on the schedule.
You may think the disappointment of that loss would weigh heavily on me as I left the rink but you'd be wrong. Battling for a win with the energy and enthusiasm of my team behind me brought back much of what had been ebbing away the past few months. A reminder of what the thrill of competition brings. The feeling you get when you know you gave 100% of your effort and you made use of all your skills and experience.
My groin hurts and my shoulder is filled with glass today but ask me if I'm ready to get back on the ice and my answer is any day, any time.
That's why I came back to hockey.