As the month of September slowly comes to an end, NHL hopefuls are being shuffled around, back to their junior team and left to wonder why? I begin to think of why I love this game so much.
From what I can remember it started about 36 years ago when my parents made a little 12x12 rink in our back yard in Sault Ste Marie. Not that I can remember all the details of skating on the rink, but my parents have the pictures to remind me that skates were my preferred footwear growing up. At that time it was just a struggle to stay on my let alone slap the puck around. Fast forward to the following winter, my first year of organized hockey.
By this time I was dreaming about being Guy Lafleur and scoring countless goals, racing down the ice like Yvon Cournoyer , well at the age of 4, there was no scoring and I wasn't flying but I was having fun. Like many Canadian kids when I wasn't on the rink, I was in the driveway scoring the winning goal, back then it was much easier with boots and on snow. Then late into my first season it happen, something that would change my life for ever ...
I scored my first goal, yes, yes I did. It was a strange feeling, it wasn't a clear cut break-away, it was a top shelf goal, but a little slider. I remember it like it was yesterday... a big scrum in front of the net, I ended up on my butt, like always, and there was the puck ... sitting there alone, invisible to the other players ... I swung my stick as hard as I could ... TWACK! ... there it goes ... IT"S IN!! ... I jump up and celebrate look for hugs and pats on the head. Instead everyone just skates away getting ready for the ensuing face off. I never felt so alone ... that moment changed me for ever. I no longer wanted to be Guy Lafleur, Ken Dryden was my guy. This was the moment where I decided much to the chagrin of my parents to become a goalie.
Some 34 years later I have not given up on the position I proudly suit up twice a week in one of the local beer leagues, goalies play free in case you didn't know, we are a prized commodity in my town. I'm very grateful that I can still play the game at a decent and fun level. There are nights where I feel some NHL scout missed me somehow and that in this Cap era hockey I would be very Cap Friendly. But there are nights were the name Hardy Astrom comes to mind.
Growing up I faced current and former NHL players, well come to think of it maybe not any current players ... Am I really getting that old? Now its facing Liam, Corey, Ryan and that kid who played in the AHL on a regular basis. I take my lumps and I keep smiling ....
Why do I it? The answer is very simple ... For the love of the game. If there is anything I can pass on to my children or the children I get the privilege to coach, is to love the game ... the rest is gravy.
So as another hockey season is about start I look forward to a long winter in Northern Ontario watching, coaching and playing the game I love so much ... HOCKEY!
Here's to a great hockey season, go Habs go ... let's go for 25!