Last Saturday I played one of my easiest/toughest games in a very long time.
A day earlier I started experiencing paralyzing back pain. It was awful. I couldn’t bend down, couldn’t walk, couldn’t lift anything… heck, I couldn’t even put my socks on. So it was abundantly clear I was still playing hockey the next night.
All day Saturday I studiously did nothing except sit on the couch and consume pain killers, and by game time I was able to lift my gear to the car and head to the rink.
My team, the Hack HC, was set to play our long-time adversaries, La Hacienda Flying Burritos. They’re in a bit of a rebuilding phase, but they’re still tooth ‘n’ nail opponents for us, so I was more than a little worried about crapping the bed against them in my weakened state.
I didn’t need to worry, though, because I had perverse one-upmanship on my side. In the dressing room I told my big French defenceman Denis — a chronic back pain sufferer — that I now knew how he felt. It was like we became brothers.
Then, for our pre-game huddle instead of our usual strategy ‘n’ pep talk I said, “Guys, I can barely move. It’d be great if I didn’t get any shots tonight.”
The guys clearly didn’t take me too seriously at the start because the Burritos’ best player immediately got a fast break down the wing and wound up for a slapshot. My response — drop straight down to my knees and watch the puck blast past me along the ice, far side — must have made the guys know I was serious about barely moving, because after that it was an entirely different game.
The fellas turned it on, scoring relentlessly and with surgical precision. More importantly, they were turning blocking shots in front of me into a game. When a Burrito would wind up, one, two, sometimes three guys would jump in front of it. Apparently some of them were having a contest about how many they could block.
It was a good thing, too. Because after that first shot my form didn’t get any better. I stopped three or four close in plays with luck by doing that same straight drop-to-the-knees thing, stopped a flippy shot with my head soccer-style because I couldn’t lift my arm fast, and made one fluke-y dynamic save that kind of looked like this:
That really hurt, though. Like, hurt so much that Denis came and yelled at me afterwards and told me to “Just fucking stand there.” And that bit of cautionary advice was exactly what I did the rest of the game.
The game sheet said I ended up with 12 shots, but really, it was more like eight. Final score, 7-1 Hack, total blocked shots? About 20.