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Cornered Coach: The Long Shot


My little guy blew it.

I know that sounds harsh but, unfortunately, it's true.

The lad played goal for his Atom AA team in last month's Platinum Cup hockey tournament, a fantastic event sponsored by PlayStation and the Toronto Maple Leafs. With five minutes left in the sudden-death quarterfinal, my boy's team was tied 2-2 against a team from their own league that they've never lost to.

But that's when the hockey gods decided to get down and dirty.

The opposing team cleared the puck down the ice from their own end of the rink. No big deal – a 200 foot muffin. My boy, however, muffed the muffin… and the puck somehow ended up in the net. Five agonizing minutes later the contest was over and, thanks to an unbelievable goal, the underdog squad held on to win the quarterfinal and eventually won the championship final. I saw their victory photo on Twitter – a group of proud and happy 10-year-olds who were hard working and talented enough to take a lucky bounce and do something big with it. 

But, hey!

The least they could have done was include my little guy in the victory picture. After all, he played a big part in getting their team to the big dance.

I'm kidding, of course.

And, to be honest, the goal was so bad that all you can really do is laugh about it. Of course, when it happened, my son didn't see it that way. You could tell he was shedding big tears behind his mask after the long shot went in and after the game the water works broke out again when he saw his mom and I waiting for him outside the dressing room.

"Don't worry, bud," I said. "Dad let in lots of bad goals."

It's true.

I was also a goalie in my younger days and can recall a litany of stinky pucks on my resume. Shots from centre, shots from behind the goal line, dribblers between the legs – if you play long enough, every goalie gives up bad goals. On the car ride home I was actually thinking of suggesting that my guy hop on the internet and Google search some of the awful goals NHL netminders have allowed over the years. I decided to drop it and change the subject to get his mind off the game. But the next morning, he thought of the internet idea himself and took a peak at "The Top Ten Worst Goals Given Up By NHL Goalies." 

"Dad," he reported. "You should have seen the goal Marty Brodeur let in. The shot was from way past centre and it went right off his stick into the net."

You could see his little wheels turning.

"Heck! If a great goalie like Marty Brodeur can give up a stinker, I guess anybody can."

But another thing that helped him get over the bad goal was the reaction of his teammates. 10-year-old boys aren't always the best behaved and, sometimes, they can have a cruel streak in them. But I'm proud to say that each and every one of the players on my son's team was completely supportive after the tough loss.

"It's no big deal," a pint-sized defenceman told my lad. "You're still a great goalie and, besides, we got a lot of great stuff. I mean, how many tournaments give you TWO ball caps?"

Ah, yes.

Nothing like some great swag, thanks to a couple of wealthy tourney sponsors, to dry up the old tears.

I was curious, however, to see how my little guy would bounce back after the bad goal. His first post-tournament tilt happened to be against one of the highest scoring teams in the league. As it turned out, though, there was nothing to fear. He made a bunch of big saves and helped his team notch an impressive win. As you might expect, he was in a much different mood driving home from the rink that night.

"Dad," he smiled. "I'm really happy for myself."

"I'm happy for you too, bud," I grinned.

And darn proud of a little goalie who bounced back from a big mistake.

Tags: coaching

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