I've now been a goalie 365 days.
I used to qualify it. I'm a bad goalie. I'm a new goalie. I'm trying to be a goalie. I'm a "goalie."
But no. I'm a goalie. Period.
I have my ups and downs. I have nights where my defensemen are better goalies than me. Where my net seems 9 feet wide and 6 feet tall. Where every shooter is #99 and the opposing goalie is Martin Brodeur.
I have nights where I amaze myself. I amaze others. I go home floating 3 feet off the ground, my bag isn't heavy, my gear doesn't stink, and it's just me and my chocolate milk and my bliss.
Those amazing nights are far less common than the down nights. FAR less. And I used to feel like that made me less of a goalie. Like the quality of my play can take away my goalieness somehow.
But what I realized tonight is that when you're committed to the position, it's as much about how you bounce back from those 12 goal nights. It's about how, knowing you STUNK in your last game, you put the pads on again, and you go out with a smile on your face and you try to do better the next time. And maybe you won't! Maybe you'll stink again. But you keep going anyway because you know it is in there somewhere.
That's what makes you a goalie.
It has only taken me 365 days to learn this, but I'd say it's a great day for an epiphany, this anniversary of becoming a goalie.
My excitement at playing goal the first time was so... exquisite. I remember the feelings vividly. I was nervous but really in a perfect head space, understanding that it wasn't going to be easy and I probably would suck, but I was finally doing what I'd been dreaming of and preparing for the whole year.
Here's my blog about that first game, where I sound like I'm some kind of crazy, tripping hippy whose found enlightenment. I guess that's not that far off. It was a beautiful experience. I look back on that game now and it was probably my happiest game since I started.
I guess that sounds kinda sad, like it's all been a let down from there, but that's not really the case. It's just that expectations grow and I haven't always (or maybe ever) kept up with my own expectations. But for that one night, there really were no expectations, no pressure, just do the best you can. Plus, they took it really REALLY easy on me, so I felt successful and that just validated my feeling that I wasn't being silly chasing this nutty dream.
A couple of weeks later, though, Scott and I went to a stick and puck at SLICE, and I was quickly introduced to reality. That first game was the bunny slope. This stick and puck was a black diamond run.
Here's the post from that one.
It was brutal. And probably one of my worst experiences in goal. And also maybe one of the most necessary.
And so, that's how my career in goal began. Started on cloud 9, got knocked off into a pit of vipers, and ever since, I've had one foot on cloud 9 and one in the viper pit.
And because the universe obviously likes to bring things full circle, I actually had one of my very best nights in goal tonight. I faltered a bit in the third period (which lasted 30 minutes rather than 20) and added 3 goals to the one I allowed in the first period.
But we still won and the consensus seemed to be that my team was impressed. Even the ref went out of his way to tell me how well I played.
From my perspective, yeah, the shots I let in were actually quite good shots, and one was just kinda fluky. Hit my stick and bounced high and kinda wildly behind me and dropped right over the line. It was one of those where, if I'd ever learned to juggle, I would have gotten a glove on it.
Anyway, plenty of other good saves and we won, and as is my usual measure of a good game for me: I feel like I did more to contribute to the win than not. In other words, we didn't win in spite of me like we have so many times in the past, when it was my amazing defense saving my bacon and the offense running it up at the other end.
Though they did lots of that tonight, too. We even had some new folks on D and they were fantastic. The new chick who came from roller is very smart with the puck and has great hockey sense even though she's not super skilled at handling the puck yet, she puts it in a safe place almost every time and always had her stick in the passing lanes effectively, which is not easy to do consistently.
My defense played full bore and that gave me a lot of confidence, and it was much easier to read the plays when they play like that. And they really busted their humps, too, as they were short a man the whole third period and rotating just 3 D, I think. All the green team forechecked and harassed and were generally just a pain in the ass to play against all night.
And they did a great job going to the net and putting the puck on goal to make sure we got the win, even though I let a few in at the end.
I feel great, but really, I have to put this one on the shelf before tomorrow night because it's a whole new ballgame. Ain't no rest for the wicked, bitches...
Monday, December 14, 2009
I've now been a goalie 365 days.