So a couple of days ago, I left off on my second championship finals appearance in the same semester. I’ve only made two finals appearances, that one time as a winger and the one a week or two prior to this game that actually mattered. I was feeling like shit before the playoffs and questioning my worth as a goalie because we were just able to squeak in, despite a 3-game losing streak and getting fucked royally by my anxiety in the last regular season game. I read that it’s normal for a goalie to feel this way, but it’s the bounce back that’s the difficult part.
We were on a 3-game slide, we just managed to squeak in as the lowest seed, and even then, we got in because we scored more goals than the other team with the same amount of points in the standings. On top of that, my head wasn’t in the game. We were huge underdogs.
So we won our semi-finals game 6-3. I think I played alright, just because I was so tired of playing that I didn’t give a shit. I blanked out and just did everything by reaction. Too bad I’m too much of a proactive guy to begin with. lol
So, our championship game. I went in, not giving a shit as I did last game because my guys decided to wake up from the gong show of that 3-game slide and decided to play team hockey once again. I think it was one of those things where we had total faith in each other; at least that’s how I felt, and that really helped with the pre-game anxiety. I only remember one of the goals where I was a bit out of position: I thought I was a lot closer to the post than I was and the guy managed to get it by me. I also remember completely stoning some guy on a breakaway, so that helped the confidence a bit.
So, yeah, we won, 6-2. :)
It wasn’t that difficult to keep focused and the anxiety at bay in a game of that magnitude, but the jitters were there. I got extremely lucky that one year and was able to be on a team that won a championship, my first one and only one as a skater. I took one for the team and sat out during the power plays and penalty kills because my skating wasn’t there yet and I didn’t want to be a liability. Being the goalie, I couldn’t sit out and had to stay in my crease for the entire game. I remember looking at the clock that was in front of me and seeing the game had 3 minutes left and we were up by 4 goals. It was then that I told myself that if I blow this game, I will retire from hockey completely. lol
But when that final buzzer went, hot damn. I did my Reimer routine and just let out this guttural scream. My defenseman was the first to come to the net and we just hugged it out. People in the stands thought I was going to eat him.
So after 8 months of training, I finally got a $7 shirt that I could’ve easily gotten from Wal-Mart. I was even on a diet. For the most part, I stopped eating crap food (remember, I used to work for McDonald’s but I tried having those wraps as much as possible).
After that, being a goalie was so much clearer to me. I was able to see the puck better, my mentality on the position was looser and the pressure was off. I was in another stratosphere and I would dare say that my confidence in general was at an all-time high.
I am a championship-winning goaltender.
Sure, it was just intramurals, but I trained and worked for it, and after only playing goalie for a year and change, I was fortunate enough to be a part of a championship team.
Wow, that sounds like my usual darkness, but I guarantee you that it’s not. It’s more grey than anything. It’s more like a…post-mortem.
No, that’s just as bad.
Debrief? Close enough.
After the championship game, I played for a team of over 35-year-olds, who played like they just got into hockey, against another team of 35-year-olds who looked like they’ve been playing for well over 5 years. Needless to say, we lost 7-…something, it doesn’t matter, but I faced close to 40 shots. Most NHL goalies sees just a little under that in a game, so I wasn’t down on myself or anything. It also doesn’t help that I got called for that game…after spending a week of eating the shittiest food ever without hitting the gym to stay in shape. From Poutine to McDonald’s to oh-so-delicious bacon. Good god, I missed it so much. I even used the bacon grease to cook frozen chicken breasts, fish, and…oh, my heart. It got to the point where my body was hating me for it.
So I really didn’t feel that bad losing that game, I thought I did pretty good, all things considering.
Christmas break happened and I had the flu while I was in Shithole. It was the Torotnonian strain, where all the regular flu symptoms were there, except you also turn into a major douchelord.
Obviously, I didn’t really keep in shape during that time (I think I hit the gym once and I made myself do it to keep my anxiety at bay during exam season), but when I got back, I really had to ease myself back to playing. I did pretty well in a couple of pick up sessions, but totally screwed the pooch in a couple of league games (I treated them as my exhibitions to warm up for my new season) where I was filling in for other goalies. It was a combination of anxiety of getting back in there and not being in shape. (It’s amazing how only a few weeks of slothery/recovery can totally destroy your fitness level.)
But as of now, I do feel better. I’ve been doing yogic breathing before and during my games because of the anxiety build up. It has to do with how people perceive my goaltending prowess that I get anxious about. It helps me a bit so it’s nothing but a band-aid solution, but I found that even helps off the ice. I got a couple of my friends doing it too, and it helped them for 5-10 minutes, just enough for them to stop panicking and get on with their day. Again, that’s nothing but a stop-gap.
My season opener was terrible as I gave up 8 goals (stupid defense), but the next game I gave up 5 (stupid defense not learning from last game) so that was a bit better. I wanted a couple of those back, but I just gotta remember to clear my head somehow and react to shots.
I’m not sure if this is an excuse, but the ice also plays a factor. There’s a place I play pick up regularly that has amazing ice because of the way the facility is built, but the ice in my league games are terrible because so much of the outside elements seeps in. It’s just a different feel in that the ice is less smooth.
I was also catching myself doing very stupid habitual mistakes like moving back in my net when I wasn’t supposed to. It’s just really bad habits that I can easily fix when I know that it’s there, but it’s like a golf swing: If you keep making the same mistake, you won’t know you’re making it.
At the same time though, winning a championship and then defending is a lot harder mentally than trying to win one the first time around. I’m taking a sports psychology course this semester and one of the things that struck me a couple of classes ago was how rare repeat gold medallists there are in the Olympics. That’s not because of how hard it is to repeat (even though it very much is exceptionally difficult), but because they are so drained after 4 years of training that they just don’t have the motivation to do so anymore.
I’m certainly feeling that way right now.
I’m supposed to be at the gym, but I’m sitting outside of it writing this and catching up on other school stuff instead. I’m on a team with a couple of my old teammates from the championship team, and on another team that also won the championship of this particular division, so I guess we are defending our title right now. But, after 8 months of training and dieting…well, I want to sloth around some more and eat bacon every day. lol
At least this feeling is normal though. 4 years, 8 months, to-may-to, to-mah-to. I just want to sit around and build Legos. ;)
So some of you may be wondering why I’ve been talking so much about my hockey prowess instead of how much of a sad human being I am. Well, both my counsellor and head shrinker have been using my hockey to try to boost my confidence, and that championship certainly helped. I’ve even been proud of my work with the ball hockey league on campus ( run it like a ball hockey mafia lol), even though I work when I’m not even on the clock for, hopefully, a good reference letter and a raise this spring. In terms of women, even that pressure is currently off, but with me, who knows what’ll happen a few days from now or a week from now.
I actually had a cutie call me gorgeous a few weeks ago. Sure, I was in my gear and I was asking her if my goalie pants made my ass looked fat, but who even uses “gorgeous” to some total stranger? lol
With that said, I probably won’t be writing as much as I used to….not that I’ve written much to begin with. I got hockey, hockey job, school, and another job, so writing in this isn’t exactly a priority for me.
I do want to get that fire back, but I’ve just been so tired lately and just trying new things to keep myself in this shitty game of life.
Here’s a song that I think reflects that last sentence.
Follow me on Twitter @288theabe.