Sports

Yours truly between the pipes. Photo: Olivier Roberge Milanese.

Thwarting pucks and mending nets with no pressure

The joy of beer league comes from the fact that I don’t feel any underlying pressure to perform and be quasi-perfect in the net.

Once upon a time if I faltered, I’d feel a deep sense of shame towards myself, my team, my parents, and fear of failing to make whatever team I was on when tryouts rolled around in April or September.

This would make me self-question every move I made on the ice, preventing my subconscious and reflexes from taking over and doing their job. And, as any athlete knows, when you think too much, you don’t perform.

As a goalie, you don’t have time to question yourself — any hesitation means the puck is behind you. So all throughout minor hockey I’d go through long highs and lows. This happened so much that I hid my personality in dressing rooms back in the day, and I think it’s the case for most goalies that play high-level hockey.

It’s tough to interact with players when you know that any goal that may be your fault or a player’s fault will be blamed on you, and can cause players or coaches to lash out even after good performances.

But beer league is different.

Everyone is there to have fun — as opposed to minor hockey, where everyone felt a certain amount of pressure from their parents and coaches. In beer league, everyone is here by their own will and is just trying to escape their daily struggles of having two 2,000-word essays to hand in a couple of days, and budget two weeks of meals on a student’s income.

As a goalie, I don’t feel loathed anymore. I feel appreciated — not a lot of goalies make it out of minor hockey, so goalies are rare to come by. I let my personality out, and I ain’t scared to say what I think.

When I step on the ice, I don’t play for an organization as I did back in the day. I don’t have to worry about what others think — it doesn’t depend on them. In other words, I don’t play for the Milton Winterhawks or the Halton Ravens anymore. I play for the Mighty Drunks or Les Gros Bats. I play for my teammates, not for myself or my standing as a goalie in an organization.

At the end of the day, whether we win 8–0 or lose 8–0 at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. We’ll talk about the good plays and try to concentrate on the positives, in spite of how little there may be, because that’s how you grow as a team and get better when you don’t have any practices.

And finally, I almost forgot. After a game in beer league, instead of a long ride home you get to enjoy cold ones with your teammates.