A lot of people think that preparing for any sort of event may take a few hours at the most. In reality, preparations begin the moment the event is announced. For sports personnel, that moment is when the schedule is released. Even with a precise amount of planning, something always goes wrong. Whether the result of the game is not what you expected, or something breaks, no game is perfect. However, there is one game I worked that came pretty darn close.
Last year, Gannon’s club hockey team took part in a tournament in Denison, Ohio. The team finished second, with a record of 2-2. (Yes, it is a lot of two’s, and no, it was not intentional.) One game in particular stood out to me: the first game I ever worked behind the bench.
It was actually the championship game of the tournament. In all the other games, I had been working in the penalty box. But with one player from our team scratched, and the other team’s penalty box taken care of, I got to work behind the bench. It was an incredibly tense game, and the score was tied going into overtime.
Now, I played lacrosse for four years in high school, and we had a few overtime games, but this one was different. This was a game in which I had no control. So where the athlete in me was normally focused, the spectator in me was nervous. Because that’s exactly what I was: a spectator. I have never played a day of hockey in my life – unless shooting on an empty net in your driveway counts – so I had no advice to offer anyone. All I could do was sit back and watch.
Eventually overtime ended with the score still tied. The referees consulted with each team’s coaches and, remarkably enough, I was included in the discussion for our team. We decided to have an NHL rules shootout.
For anyone who doesn’t know, the NHL has each team send out three shooters to shoot one-on-one against the other team’s goalie. Whoever has the most points after each team shoots twice wins. If the score is still tied, teams continue sending out shooters one at a time until the tie is broken.
Our entire team was a nervous wreck, and I couldn’t stop myself from pacing up and down the bench. We were chosen to shoot first, and our most experienced player put a beautiful shot under the goalie’s glove hand to put us ahead. Even better, our goalie made a nice save on their shooter, who tried to power a shot through his legs.
Our second shooter, however, was poke-checked by their goalie as he went to make his last move, and then their player scored with a backhand shot over top of our goalie’s blocker hand. Our third shooter missed the net completely.
It all came down to one shot: our goalie against their shooter. In what I can only describe as impressive, their shooter picked a corner from about 17 feet away from the goal to end the game.
So we didn’t win the tournament. That always stings. But that game is one of my favorites, because I was a part of it for the first time ever. I actually took part (sort of) in the sport I’ve been watching all my life. I sincerely can’t wait to go back to that tournament this year, not only because it’s where I started my hockey career, but also because I think we can win this time.