He hears someone pounding on the glass, only
a few metres away. He ignores the sound and methodically adjusts
the straps on one pad and then the other. When he’s
done he slowly gets to his skates and puts his gear in place.
He pulls the mask back down over his face; only then does
he turn to have one quick skate behind the net.
“Dad, what do you want?”
Larry has stopped his pounding and has his
mouth up close to the crack between the two panes of glass
to make sure he can be heard. “Son, are you alright?
Is everything okay? You don’t look relaxed.”
Larry’s anxiety about his son has been
increasing since the last game when James let in seven goals.
He only made five saves and a couple of those were the result
of dumb luck. Even a father who’s sometimes blinded
by parental love could see how badly the boy had played.
What really worried Larry was not that James
had played so poorly; after all, every athlete has a bad game
sometimes. What bothered him was that his son didn’t
seem to care about all of those weak goals. Instead of having
their usual post game-chat where he could discuss how James
could improve, his son had invited a teammate over and they
had spent hours clowning around and playing video hockey games.
Neither one seemed the least bit concerned that James’s
atrocious play was the main reason for the team’s defeat.
Larry never did have a chance to deliver his
analysis of the game. Instead he sat at the keyboard and produced
a methodical report, complete with a diagram of the ice surface
that included where each player was at the moment the puck
went in and where the shot came from. He had placed the diagrams
and notes on his son’s bed.
off my case, Dad. Everything’s fine.”
James sounded testy as he skated to the front of the net.
Goalie dads often watch the game from the
end where their son is playing, changing position every period
as the teams swap ends. Few match Larry’s persistence.
He gets right up against the boards, so close that he can
shout instructions through the little gap in the glass. He
likes this position because he can give James the benefit
of his experience. Years ago he was a minor league goalie
so he knows about the game.
Right off the opening faceoff the opposing
centre gets the puck back to his defenceman, who immediately
throws the puck up to his winger who’s in full flight.
As the puck-carrier hits the faceoff circle, he draws his
stick back for the shot. James immediately drops to his knees
and the shooter aims high. The puck bounces off the crossbar
and out. James had given the guy the whole top half of the
net and it was only luck that the shot missed.
The puck comes back to the point and there’s
another high shot. James is still struggling to get back to
his skates from the previous play. The puck is wide and bounces
off the boards to the front of the net. James is completely
out of position and can only watch as an opposing forward
sweeps the puck into the corner of the net. The game is a
little less than a minute old and the score is 1-0.
you’ve gotta stay on your feet longer. Don’t
go down so soon.” Larry is shouting directions to his
son, finding it difficult to be positive. The boy doesn’t
even turn around. He just stands up straight at the top of
the crease, waiting for play to resume.
Minutes later someone in the stands applauds
as James makes an easy save on a weak shot from the point.
Larry is horrified that someone would mock his son. Before
he has a chance to scan the crowd, there’s another goal.
He looks in front of him and James is frozen in position.
It appears as if he didn’t even try.
James just stands there, shoulders slumped,
his head hanging down. None of his teammates have skated by
to offer encouragement, a sure sign that they’re losing
confidence in him. He’s all alone. He skates to one
side of the net and bangs his stick against the post, he does
the same to the other post and then he turns away from centre
ice and puts one hand on the crossbar. He pauses, picks up
his water bottle from the mesh on the top of the net, turns
and skates towards the blue line.
“James, what are you doing? You’re
not being pulled. Get back in the net!” Larry is shouting.
James keeps skating towards his bench. He
waves his big goalie stick in the air in a signal to his team’s
other goalie. He stops in front of his bench, raises his mask
and begins talking to his coach who has to lean over to hear
him. The coach shakes his head and tells the second goalie
to get on the ice. James has taken himself out of the game.
is shocked. He’s played hundreds of games and
he’s never even thought about taking himself out. If
you’re a goalie you never admit you can’t stop
the puck. You must believe in your abilities every moment
of the game. You never show weakness to your teammates.
Larry paces back and forth behind the glass.
He’s lost all interest in the game. He doesn’t
applaud when James’ team scores a couple of goals or
when the new goalie stops a breakaway with a spectacular save.
All he can think of is what he’s going to tell James,
how he’s going to convince him that he’s a natural
goalie and that this bad spell will soon end. He’s clearly
missed his son’s simple and sincere message.
But James is not like his dad. He doesn’t
want to analyze plays. He doesn’t want to have pucks
shot at his head. The big save doesn’t excite him. This
is all his dad’s dream, not his. He wants to wake up