From time to time I’ve heard it said that some goalies are referred to as “weird.” I have to admit that I did think that it was a bit crazy that anyone would be willing to stand in net and have hockey pucks fired at them. All hockey players have superstitions and goalies are no exception. One of the big ones that stands out for me is never saying the word “SHUTOUT” during a game. That one word could cause the goalie to get scored on and end his chance of a perfect game. It honestly felt weird to even write that word. As a goalie Mom, I’ve been so conditioned not to say “SHUTOUT” that I don’t even like writing it. I feel like I just caused some goalie somewhere to get scored on.
We had a superstition in our home around my son’s game that I absolutely loved. It’s safe to say that I may have even created it for him. My son was seven-years-old when his grandfather passed away. He called him Papa and he adored him. Papa absolutely loved hockey and could never sit still while he was watching a game. He was a true hockey fan; he loved the sport. He was raised in a very small town with a pond close by and that’s where he taught himself to skate. He put each of his son’s in hockey because he’d never had the opportunity to play organized sports himself. I remember him watching my brothers play and his whole demeanour would change. I loved watching him while a game was on; he would move with the plays, and if his team scored he’d clap his hands together and say, “Beautiful!” I can’t explain it but the excitement of the sport seemed to make him look younger. When my kids were born I was so excited that he’d be able to watch them play. Sadly, he passed away the year before my son started to play hockey.
My son was nine when he started to play rep hockey as a goalie. One day he came home to tell us about one of his teammates who kept his Dad’s old skates in his hockey bag for good luck. He decided he wanted a good luck charm for himself. After a lot of thought, I decided to let him wear his Papa’s chain around his neck for game time only. My husband thought I was nuts! He was so worried it would get broken or lost during a game. I told my son I would hold it until right before the game and that he was to give it back to me right after the game. As nervous as I was to hand something so special to a nine-year-old, something told me it would be okay.
It started to be part of the routine to put it around his neck before game time. It saved me from saying the wrong thing, most of the time, because that chain was all he needed to settle him down. Selfishly, I think it was more for me. Every time he skated on the ice with that around his neck it made me feel as if his Papa was somewhere in the stands watching him. When he’d make a big save, I’d picture him clapping his hands together saying, “Beautiful!”
Many years and many games later, the necklace has been officially handed over to him. He wore it throughout every tryout, his driver’s test, job interviews, and so much more. I believe having something to concentrate on before a game when he was young was an excellent way to teach him some coping skills. That ritual has stayed with him throughout his life. Don’t ever underestimate a “silly” superstition. The pressure for goalies at any age can be pretty heavy at times. If a pregame meal, an old skate in their hockey bag, or a necklace from a guardian angel helps, then encourage it – there is no harm in offering a little luck.
In hindsight, I could have used a ring on every finger, 20 necklaces, 10 bracelets and earrings to help me with my stress as a goalie Mom. In truth, all the jewelry in the world wouldn’t have settled me down. Being a goalie Mom is incredible, and for me, more fun and more stressful than I was ever prepared for, and, by the way, I still can’t say “SHUTOUT” out loud.
Written by Allyson Tufts