Springfield, Massachusetts — When a former Zamboni driver took the ice last week as an emergency replacement goaltender and stopped 8 out of 10 shots, he became an overnight sensation. Interviews and autographs — everyone celebrating the average Joe who appeared to be as good as an NHL goalie.
But I wondered if maybe the opposite was true – that maybe NHL goalies are no better than the average Joe.
To test my theory, I suited up the most average Joe I know – me.
Prior to this, the only hockey position I ever played was hockey dad.
My son Emmett signed up for lessons a few months ago – and from my place in the stands, I almost immediately started questioning the goalie position. Is it really as hard as everyone makes it look? Or might a bale of hay perform just as well?
So this week I brought my skepticism to Springfield, Massachusetts – home of the minor league Springfield Thunderbirds. Chris Driedger is their goalie — and like everyone else in America, Chris was amazed that a Zamboni driver could do so well.
"Can you believe it?" Chris said.
"I can because I think goalie-ing is a lot easier than people think," I answered.
"You can go out there and make some saves, like they're going to hit you sometimes," Chris said.
"Right, because you take up most of the net," said.
"Yea, you take up the net," Chris said.
A goal opening is 24 square feet. But a person in pads takes up almost half of that – leaving just a few pockets to even defend.
"I predict I'm going to block 8 out of 10, just like the Zamboni driver. I drive a car. How different is that than a Zamboni?" I wondered.
And with that, it was time to put my lack of skills to the test. My opponent would be no slouch – a prime NHL prospect named Henrik Borgstrom.
"You think you can score on me every time?" I asked.
"I highly think so, yea. You can't even hold your stick right," Henrik said.
Game on, rink rat.
So, is goaltending really that hard? Initial indications seemed to be yes.
In fact, as our experiment progressed – and the taste of crow filled my senses – I started to believe that not only is this job hard – it may be one of the most impossible in sports.
In the end, he made 9 out of ten. And I made a promise – that next time anything looks easy, I'm keeping my big goal shut.
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