I hate playing goalie.
But for two games in a row, there I stood, enveloped in padding like a tiny Michelin Man, guarding the pipes for my beloved Guinjas.
A what? A Guinja: a hybrid between a guinea pig and a ninja, it elicits fear with the battle cry of “Reeee, reeee.” Opponents of the guinja quake with fear as they hear the squeak of a hamster wheel and the slice of a katana.
The Guinjas is also the name of an inline hockey team I play on at the Dulles SportsPlex. When afforded the opportunity to put on the teal sweater and do battle, I eagerly accepted -as a forward, not a goaltender. The season began famously, with the Guinjas taking our first four games with a combined score of 27-11. But for our fifth game, our starting goalie was injured.
“You play goalie in ice hockey,” my teammates reasoned. “Play goalie for us.”
Now, let me preface by saying two things. One: goalie in ice is not the same as roller goalie, though it’s still a lot about playing angles and denying shots. Two: goalie sucks.
“So why do you play it?” one might ask. I don’t know. In high school, our goalie showed up hungover, vomited over his gear and I filled in and fell in love. But it’s a tenuous love, a Ross and Rachel in “Friends” sort of thing. The problem is that teams win games; goalies lose them.
But I agreed to play, because of my dedication to the Guinjas. The first game we were playing a 2-2 team, and we won 9-3. I figured my torture was over, but no, I was to mind the pipes again, this time against a 5-0 team, the Sweaty Boxers.
Only five skaters show up for the game, meaning that we had one substitute. Shocking as it may seem, tired defensemen are often times not good defensemen, plus I looked mediocre and lethargic myself just in warmups.
I focused on the game immediately, a rarity for me as I usually spend the first few minutes of games begrudging myself for playing such a high-stress position. “Kickers, closers and goalies,” I think. “You’re all dumb.”
We registered a few goals quickly, which is good because I play better with a cushion. And play well I did.
Kick save! Gloved! Poke check, oh you lost the puck! In your face! The sound of a puck hitting your leg pad is like the best song you could hear; like Steve Perry in unison with angels.
We ended the first period up 5-1, after I let in a goal from a cherry-picker standing in the backside of the net. But I could still blow this lead.
My teammates kept up their offensive rhythm, however, and though my shoulders felt the weight of the Guinjas’ undefeated season upon them, I kept my composure.
Bam! Your puck is safely in my gut, not in then net! Beauty of a kick save! Nope, that one is hitting my blocker!
After two periods, we were up 10-2. We spent most of the third period playing keep-away, netting only two scores while shutting out our opponents to ultimately win 12-2.
My torture was over. Two inline hockey games between the pipes and two wins.
I love playing goalie.
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