Monday, December 01, 2008

The Way it Should Be

The Sole Heir’s Beau is a formidable hockey player. (I have it on good authority he’s even better at lacrosse.) Thanksgiving weekend brought a tournament conveniently located at the local rink, so we took the Parental Units over to see how we spend our free time.

Friday’s game was a 5-0 win, and so much fun we went back on Saturday to watch a 3-3 tie. Mom and Dad left Sunday morning, so The Sole Heir and I went back at 12:30 to see the championship game, with the winner advancing to a tournament in Canada next January.

You couldn’t see a more entertaining game at the Olympics. The Beau scored on a partial breakaway about five minutes in. That lead held up until a scrum cost our team the lead about midway through the second period. The game was a true goalies’ duel, both teams getting multiple scoring chances only to be stoned by the opposing goaltender.

Regulation ended 1-1, but there had to be a winner, as only one team could advance. The five minute overtime ended in a tie, so a shootout was called for. The teams would take turns with just a single skater trying to beat the opposing goalie. The team with the most goals after five attempts—all by different players—would win.

The visitors (from North Carolina) scored on their third shot, and it came down to our last chance. The goalie made most of a save, but the puck trickled through his pads and came to rest no more than six inches over the line. Still tied.

Now it’s the shootout version of sudden death: if they score, we have to match. If they miss and we score, we win. It went about ten rounds. Beau had the goalie set up for the same shot he’d scored on earlier, but the puck hopped on the chippy ice and he fanned on the shot. (Just as well; him shooting the winner would have been too much like a bad movie.) About ten shots in a Montgomery County player finally beat the Carolina goalie clean.

You would have thought they’d won the Stanley Cup the way they came screaming off the bench to bury the shooter, then turn as a group to engulf the goalie who kept them in the game. As hockey tradition dictates, both teams shook hands, then lined up to be called individually to receive their trophies, and run the handshake gauntlet again. Several winning players were detained in their round by losing coaches, who were genuinely happy for them, joking and slapping backs. It was as fine a gesture of sportsmanship as I have ever seen.

I hung with the Beau’s father after the game, waiting for the kids to come out of the locker room. “I think that last goal cost me about six hundred dollars,” he said, commenting on the price of the Canada trip. Huge smile on his face.

If you ever get tired of watching millionaire athletes bitch and moan about every little thing, go find a kids’ game somewhere, preferably at a level where no one has any real expectations of playing professionally. The play just as hard, if not as well, and there are few things in life as pure as the elation that goes with winning something for its own sake.

The way it should be.

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