With the NHL hockey season looming just a few short weeks away, SCHC has been abuzz with excitement of the year to come. At this point, everyone’s team is a contender for the Cup and conversations extend deep into the night about which Canadian team is best equipped to make a run at Lord Stanley’s Cup this year. With the competitive juices flowing and still weeks until opening puck drop, we decided to take to the court to satisfy our thirst for hockey.
A dozen participants filed onto the bus with an air that could only be described as youthful exuberance. The summer heat had kept us away from the hockey court for a few months, so no scouting reports or insider information were known about anyone. However, the first road hockey outing of the season is always full of unknowns. Questions arise like how long will we last, how many sticks will break, and of course, is the first aid kit fully stocked? As we arrived, another question would need to be answered, who would play goal?
At the court, I began the feeling out process of who might be willing to stand between the pipes. Before I could even ask, one guy was already gearing up like a seasoned vet. But a second volunteer proved more difficult. Clearly the notion of standing tall in goal while others ferociously whiz orange plastic balls towards them was not appealing among most. If that wasn’t the culprit, perhaps it was the steady aroma reminiscent of an old gym shoe that wafted from the bag directly to our nostrils that made for slim pickings.
With some desperate coaxing, someone begrudgingly volunteered. He claimed that he would “take one for the team”, but also added “Don’t get your hopes up”. He was a bigger guy and kind of loped out onto the court in a manner that seemed to say “let’s get this over with”. Once the game started, however, he was lights out and as agile as a cat. Stick saves, poke checks, stacking the pads, he had it all. My best attempt of the day from fifteen feet was labelled for the top shelf before he flashed the leather of his glove and denied me yet again. Through his mask, I could see him grinning back at me as I stood there in disbelief.
When we called it quits, he emerged both soaked from head to toe and grinning ear to ear. I figured he must have been messing with us before so I asked, “You must have played some hockey, eh?” His response was perfect, “I played center until Peewee”. He kind of chuckled and we both agreed that perhaps he had been assigned the wrong position. With the start of the regular season looming and his new found prowess as a goalie discovered, I thought to myself “Hey, there’s always next year”.