Have you ever been at a game and watched the goalie struggle and wonder why they aren’t pulling them? You watch as he or she isn’t moving well, they seem frustrated and are getting lit up. You watch in horror knowing it isn’t going to get any better because it just isn’t their game. You keep thinking that during every whistle or between periods they are going to make the decision to bring out the back up, yet painfully it doesn’t happen.
In my son’s Minor Peewee year, we had an experience that I’ll never forget…although I wish I could. It was the end of the summer and my son couldn’t get to the rink quick enough because ball season had just ended. He was a catcher, a position that’s quite common for goalies. For some reason they love to have things fired at them. They also love to make it impossible for their parents to relax while watching them play sports. At the end of the year ball tournament he won a really cool bike. We didn’t know he was using that bike to build ramps in his friends’ backyard to see how high he could get it to go.
One day I was in the kitchen with the window open and I could hear him crying. Actually, I could hear him screaming. I went running out to find him coming up the walkway with his friends. He had taken a run at the ramp without a helmet and went head first onto the road, knocking out his two front teeth. He was screaming in pain and I was almost on the ground when I saw him coming. Seeing blood was never my strength and it often took the legs out from under me. My husband was much better at that stuff and thankfully he took over. After an emergency visit and an on-call dentist they were able to do a temporary fix until we could get his teeth fixed permanently. A few days later he had a game and…this is where the argument begins.
We were going into a game against a team that was to be one of the best that year. My husband and the other coaches wanted a solid start. We tried to call up another goalie for backup but had no luck. I insisted that they cancel the game but apparently that was like asking to cancel Christmas. We forged ahead with our other goalie in net and my son on the bench with strict instructions from his dentist not to play.
Our other goalie was a good goalie and we had no reason to worry that he wouldn’t perform. I still felt like it was a really bad idea to take a chance like that. I went over every “What if?’ with my husband. My concern was if our other goalie got hurt or had a bad game, everyone would wonder why the backup wasn’t going in. His response was, “We’ve tried to call up another goalie and we don’t have one, we’ve never had to pull him before so why would we today?” Then he said and this is the best part, “You’re worrying too much!” Well, karma punched us in the face and our goalie had a terrible game. He was nervous, he was getting scored on left, right and center and everyone kept looking to the bench to see why we weren’t putting our son in. I was so embarrassed and so angry that we’d put our other goalie in that position.
As the game went on, it got so bad that one of the moms from the team came over to me and very angrily asked me what was going on. I was too embarrassed to tell her why we weren’t putting our son in, so I told her I didn’t think our goalie was playing that bad. At that moment if I could have put my husband in net without equipment, I would have. The game finally ended and we lost miserably. The poor goalie looked so defeated as he walked out of the room but my husband looked worse.
I don’t think we said a word the whole way home. I knew my husband felt terrible and in the quiet of the car ride, I knew he’d never do that again. Thankfully, for the next few games, until my son healed, we found a goalie to be a backup. Sometimes things aren’t always what they seem in hockey. Sometimes the backup is a decoy to make it look like you’re prepared if the worst happens. Here’s the thing, it’s in those times that the worst usually does happen. I guess the lesson is, the Hockey God’s will always find you, if there is a lesson to be learned in hockey, they’ll will always teach it.
Stay safe everyone!
Written by Allyson Tufts