Monday, January 5, 2015

Why I Was A Goalie

Before completely turning to music, writing and the odd bit of translating to make ends meet, I played hockey until the Major Juniors level for Laval (Halifax also owned my rights). I was a goalie. I looked like this:

I wanted to be a goalie first and foremost because my boyhood idol, Patrick Roy, was one, but also because it fit my personality the best: as the last line of defense, the goalie is the one responsible for fixing any previous mistakes. The best ones do so with little fanfare, but the egotistical bastards can also have their day - and look foolish at times as well, when things don't go according to plan.

Being a person of extremes, I'm both: calm, quiet, and reserved, but who likes others to know he'll get the job done and will, at times, bask in the temporary glory it brings, knowing full well it will only last until the next ugly goal against. As such, my tenure in many places ended with a severe correction (a 9-1 loss at Brébeuf at the Collegiate level, a 12-0 loss at Notre-Dame to finish my high school career, a 5-0 loss at the Midget AAA level after having posted four straight shutouts). Only my time in the ''Q'' in Juniors didn't end badly - no goals against, and two fights in my final half-game for Laval.

Where I shined, however, was in tournament play. I loved playing in front of packed arenas full of strangers. I have never played in one and gotten less than a silver medal (second-place finish), and never been less than at least MVP of one game, usually named the best goalie of the tournament. For some reason, when the pressure was on, it was like the puck was twice its normal size and fit perfectly in my glove, which became a magnet for it.

There was one tournament, Sainte-Marie, where there was a rule that a player couldn't be named Player Of The Game more than once - so everybody had their chance to shine, and no one could end up being the perennial second-best. I got it in my first game, which meant no matter how I played, I couldn't get it any other time. I didn't care, I was having a blast with the rest of the NDG Wings.

Nevertheless, in the Finals, which we lost 1-0 with the shots being around the 40-10 mark favoring the other team, my buddy Giovanni Rippolo (who had the best slap shot in our age range) was named the best player. While he did get some applause, as soon as he got his prize (a medal), the 1000-seat crowd started chanting ''goalie! goalie! goalie!'' and I had to acknowledge them with a wave, slightly embarrassed yet extremely proud.

Just like Slovakia's Denis Godla from the World Juniors last night:

Those are the moments you live for.

I'm a huge fan of Slovakia in general, and in hockey in particular. They're usually the team I root for in international play, more so since the Rise Of Jaroslav Halak in 2010, but it was already the case even back in the 1980s and 1990s, thanks to the Québec Nordiques' Stastny brothers and an education system that taught us about the rest of the world in addition to our own history.

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