Chapter 14: She Shoots… She Scores!!

(The Hockey Bag series was previously published on NHL.com)

After deciding to take up hockey at an age when most players retire, and then spending two years preparing to play – which involved twenty-odd power-skating classes, thirty-something hockey skills lessons, and hitting the ice (with any given body part) several hundred times – it finally happened…

I SCORED A GOAL! Yes, ME!!

Having joined my very first hockey team this winter, it took 15 entire games to muster up enough courage and confidence to go after the puck. And acquire enough skill to actually do something useful once it’s in my possession. So scoring that goal was a moment soooo sweeeeeet that it nearly brought tears to my eyes. And in fact, it kind of did. The moment went like this:

It was late in the first period against a team from a higher division. They had scored three goals within the first four minutes, one after the other after the other. So the Hockey Bags were quickly getting pretty discouraged.

I play forward, and as a rookie who is still not all that confident in a game situation, I don’t get near the puck too often. Or, if by some miraculous chance I do, it tends to get taken away from me before I can even decide what in the heck to do with it.

While our team hasn’t won many games this season (only 2 out of 24) there are some really good players on our roster. And I just so happened to be on the ice at the same time as Ashley, our lead scorer and undoubtedly one of our best players. Well, Ashley got a bit of a breakaway and took off at top speed into the other team’s zone. So naturally, I did what any rookie would do…

Follow her in, and pray to god she didn’t pass the puck to me…

Well, she didn’t (yay!), choosing instead to take a hard shot at the net. I hoped with all my might that it would go in, and that my line would add something to the increasingly dismal scoreboard, and take some pressure off. But sadly, the goalie deflected the shot.

Then, in my mind (and probably also my ears) I could hear the Hockey Bags shouting “Go for the net and get the rebound!” This has become the mantra for us rookies this season: “Go for the net and get the rebound!” It’s been drilled into our head over and over and over again, and I’ve gotta admit it’s finally starting to sink in.

“Go for the net and get the rebound!”

In recent games, I’ve actually taken this mantra to heart, and begun to try and go after rebounds. Except usually by the time I get there, the rebound is loooong gone. But not this time. This time, the rebound was there, and so was I. But the best part was, there was NOBODY ELSE AROUND! So naturally, I did what any rookie would do…

Wind up, take a shot, and pray that my stick connects with the puck…

Well, it did (yay!), and much to my surprise, it went up off the ice, and right at the goalie. For a second, I couldn’t see the puck, and thought it must have flown off someplace, or gotten buried somewhere in her pads, or maybe in her gloves.

And then I realized… It was BEHIND her, buried in the NET… which meant OH MY GOD I actually scored a GOAL! Yes, me!!! The wannabe hockey player! Who, for the very first time, finally felt like one!

I tell you, the thrill of that moment was beyond description. But even more satisfying was the reaction of the Hockey Bags – the ones on the ice all came rushing over to hug me, while the ones in the box were jumping up and down with hands in the air. They were all so happy and proud and excited, and it made me feel so amazingly good. I finally felt like I contributed something valuable to my team.

Soon after, I realized that it wasn’t even the goal that mattered so much. After all, we were still down 3-1 at that point, and the score continued to get worse. And worse yet. What mattered most in that brief moment was that the whole team shared the excitement of seeing this rookie get her first goal. It raised our spirits, our morale, and our faith in this sometimes-frustrating game called hockey – a game each and every one of my teammates loves to play. Which can be easy to forget when you’re losing 11-2.

Which, by the way, ended up as our final score. (Ashley scored the other goal, ending her recent goal-less streak, and thus making another happy moment for the Hockey Bags.) I honestly think that one little goal meant more to us than all the goals combined that the other team scored.

For sure, I know that one little goal meant more to me.

So after the game, I called my niece Brittani to share my news with her. She is a rising hockey star herself, and the one who inspired me to take up the game in the first place. So it seemed fitting that she be the first one to tell.

After we chatted for a few minutes, my brother came on the phone to hear my news. “You scored?? Was it intentional? Or did the puck deflect off your stick and accidentally go in??” He joked.

Nope, it wasn’t an accident. I’m very happy to say it was completely intentional. I remembered the mantra (“Go for the net and get the rebound!”) saw the puck, went after it, connected with it, and put it in the net. It doesn’t get much more intentional than that – and what an incredibly satisfying feeling that intention brought with it!

I made myself proud out there, and the Hockey Bags, too. And even though she wasn’t there, one more person also shared in my pride. My niece Brittani. “I’m proud of you, aunty!” she said, her sweet little voice beaming across the telephone line.

For sure, five little words that meant more to me than any one goal.

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