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Cornered Coach - Misery of a Little Masked Man

 

I knew we were in big trouble.

Last weekend, my nine-year-old lad's Toronto Minor Atom AA hockey team had a tournament tilt against a squad with a ton of talent. They actually play in a AAA league in the Ottawa area, but because of the smaller population of their community, they're eligible to play in AA tournaments.

It was a mismatch of epic proportions. As soon as the two teams hit the ice for the pre-game warm-up, I turned to my wife and said, "Uh, oh." You could tell right away that the opposition was bigger, stronger, faster and more talented. (Other than that, our boys were in great shape!) 

My little guy, a goalie on his team, allowed three quick goals right off the hop, and the rout was underway.

The final result?

10-0. And it could have even been worse. Because of the royal beating the third period was played under "straight time" mercy rules, bringing an early end to a painful afternoon.

The pain in the dressing room, however, lasted a little longer. As he removed his bulky goalie gear, tears rolled down the chubby little cheeks of my embarrassed son.

"I'm a terrible goalie!," he wailed.

The fact of the matter is, that on this particular day, he was absolutely right. Sure, it wasn't entirely his fault. His buddies, after all, hadn't managed to score a single goal on the opposing netminder. But my guy definitely didn't play like the second coming of Carey Price – not even close. He did manage to stop a number of initial shots. But on far too many of the rebounds, he simply watched the other team calmly tap them into the net.

"I thought my defencemen were going to clear the puck," explained my little lad.

And there was his second mistake.

A smart goalie never trusts his defencemen. (Sorry to all you blueliners out there.) But it's true. A goaltender has to be aggressive when going after a loose puck, defencemen be darned, and, if you can't cover it you have to at least get into position to try and make the second (and sometimes third or fourth) save.

Now, some of you are invariably thinking, "Easy for you to say, Mr. Peanut Gallery. What do you know about goaltending?"

Unfortunately, more than I'd like to admit. I was a goalie, you see, during my own playing days. Not a great one, mind you, but good enough to serve as a backup in the Junior and College ranks. To be honest, I never wanted my son to be a goalie. As I often tell people, "When you're a goalie, you're not playing hockey. It's a totally different position and a completely different sport." There's also no place to hide when you make a mistake and in a 10-0 beatdown, your sins stick out like a sore thumb. I would much rather have seen my guy develop into a high-scoring forward, or even one of those dreaded d-men.

But the good news?

As a fellow member of the goalie union, I could certainly relate with the disappointment my little guy was feeling. In fact, I have an even more rotten resume I was willing to share.

"Buddy," I told him through his salty tears, "Did you know that when dad was a goalie, I let in 17 goals in TWO different games?"

That seemed to perk him up and make him realize that his behind-the-mask misery had a little company.

It's going to happen.

If you play goal long enough, you're going to get blitzed every once in awhile. Heck! The Montreal Canadiens have the NHL's best record so far this season, but the Habs got tonged 10-0 by the Columbus Blue Jackets earlier in the year. Of course, Carey Price wasn't between the pipes for that shellacking, as the Habs hung their back-up, Al Montoya, out to dry. But Montoya is still a respectable NHL goaltender, and even he got lit up for an imperfect 10. 

More importantly?

In his two starts since the Blue Jackets bombing Montoya has racked up a pair of impressive wins, including a sensational 36 save shutout against the powerful Pittsburgh Penguins. In other words… It’s not how bad you get beat, it's how well you bounce back.

So dry your tears, my boy.

You've got a quick shot at redemption, with another game coming up this weekend.

And, hey.

Even if you do happen to give up another 10 goals in a game, keep one thing in mind.

It's still a long way from 17.

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