Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Bells Will Be Ringing . . .

The chill from the ice felt good, even though the bars of my goalie mask kept me from actually touching it with my face. I was sweaty, repulsively so, with the absorbing band against my forehead losing a slow battle of attrition. It would have been nice to stay there for a while to cool off, to just relax for a bit and take a break from the barrage of pucks I'd been pelted with. But there was a game to finish, another ten minutes to play, so I needed to end my brief respite and somehow manage to release from the tight ball I was curled into. There had been a momentous collision between the puck and, well, my junk. My wedding tackle. My doo-dads. My, for fans of Jennifer Roberson, gehittes. Whatever you want to call it, I'd taken one in the chops.

Of course, it couldn't have been anything like a wrist or snap shot. No, this was a full-on slap shot, which for those unfamiliar with hockey is when a player about thirty feet away or so winds up like a spring and shoots the puck as hard as they can. The primary intent is to blast it into the net, but I'm of the opinion that most figure that creaming the goalie is a decent consolation prize. According to Guinness (the record people, not the beer) the fastest/hardest slap shot on record was clocked at 110mph (by Denis Kulyash of Avangard Omsk during the Russian All-Star game in 2011, in case you were curious and you probably were) and while it's safe to say the one that picked my ticket was nowhere near that zippy, it still packed a punch. I didn't drop to my knees. Not because I'm so manly but rather because I was already dropping to my knees to make the save due to being screened (people between me and the shooter - the offensive team does this on purpose) and not knowing exactly where it was coming from. So yes, part of a goalie's job is to just place themselves in a likely position and hope they get hit. There's enough padding to keep you safe - hell, my chest armor is like +2 splint mail - as long as you don't get hit where it ain't. Now I do have a cup - a Shock Doctor rig that fits right into compression shorts - but it still felt like someone had put a telephone book next to my stuff and hit it with a baseball bat. Kids, a telephone book was a big thick thing people used to use to find phone numbers. The hitting-a-phone-book-with-a-baseball-bat analogy was one that was used to describe the force with which Mike Tyson used to punch people. Kids, Mike Tyson is the guy with the mansion in the first Hangover movie. He used to be a frighteningly scary boxer until the crazy took over. Was I actually hit that hard? No. Maybe? I don't know. It hurt.

My wife Lola was at the game to witness all my goaltending grandeur, watching from the warmth of the upstairs viewing gallery. In the rink below her were four or five women who were wearing 'Slot Rocket Hockey Wives' shirts (Slot Rockets being the unfortunate name of the team we were playing) who were filming the game in addition to cheering and, uhm, howling. This is what Lola told me. I lack rabbit ears. Anyway, according to Lola while I was curled up on the ice they started cheering. Now if I'd given up a goal I could understand that but ladies, my giblets made the save. Hold your huzzahs for positive things.

Since there's no such thing as a back-up goalie in beer league hockey I had to soldier on, and unfortunately said giblets couldn't stop a couple of goals over the next few minutes. I should have made the saves but for some reason the whole 'feeling like I had rusty daggers plunged into my lower stomach' cut down on my mobility. I'd already given up a bunch before, although I could argue that none of those were what you'd call bad goals. Evidently the lunatics I have for teammates agree because they actually cheered me when I lumbered into the locker room after the game, saying it would have been 20-5 instead of 9-5 as a final if I hadn't done so well, and one of those nine was an empty-netter. Clearly they were all either already drunk (a possibility, as again there were a number of beers present on the bench during the game) or are just delusional. Either way works for me, as being a goalie with zero pressure other than to show up and, well, be willing to get up off the ice after taking a puck to the boys, is a wonderful opportunity and a great time.

Except for the whole getting hit in the package thing. I'll have to work on that.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Humble Pie a la Mode, Please

Most of my experiences playing goal are able to be sorted into neat little categories. For example, most of my games go into the 'We're outclassed talent-wise and I'm facing a bajillion shots so just use it as a learning experience' bin, wherein I do my best to ignore how many got past me and focus of why they did and how to stop them next time. Then there's 'Well that went better than expected' which is a variant of the previous one but with fewer goals against. Last week debuted two new slots: "Screwed up some but kept it close enough for us to have a shot' and 'Holy crap I didn't screw it up and we won OMG OMG OMG WTF', both of which are welcome additions.

This week? 'Wow, that was ugly and I basically destroyed any chance my team had in a winnable game'. Not as awesome, that one. I'll spare you the (boring and) gory details, but we lost 9-6 and I should have stopped at least 5 of those. I suppose I should have been surprised given my relative successes last week, but there was some sort of weird vibe going on. Not with my team - the Mustangs are so laid back that not only do they drink beers pregame, one of the players brought three cans to the bench for between shifts. Usually I'm filled with giddy excitement to go play, like a can of Coke someone shook up. I never had that this week, although I have no idea why. The stress of shuffling kids around pre-game? Anxiety over deadlines on a freelance job? Impostor's syndrome being a jerkweed? A million other things going on right now causing me to fret? Maybe, but normally when I hit the ice all that stuff gets left behind the boards. Not so much this time, though, and it showed. We should have won. I should have been better.

Still, I try not to beat myself up too much. First, it's a freaking game. Two, I'm a forty-seven year old doofus with zero flexibility trying to play goal with no training beyond watching a few YouTube videos. I've been doing this for like four months with leg pads that cause other goalies to shake their heads with pity at the sight of them. While I hate disappointing my teammates, I have to be realistic - I'm an old, clueless rookie. A noob. A neophyte. First level goalie with zero feats. It's supposed to be a learning experience and dammit, most of all, it's supposed to be fun. And it's going to be, especially if I can ever remember to bring some GF beer so I can drink too.

Post game only, though. Don't drink and goalie.