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Soup of This Day #16: Thout Shall Not Pass

June 15, 2011

Kirill Chvalko during Bandy World Cup 2007
Russian keeper Kirill Chvalko at the 2007 Bandy World Cup. Bandy is like football. On ice. With sticks. So it’s like hockey too – Photo: Frederico, 2007. Frederico is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

One day at training the coach divided us up into groups. Attackers in one, midfielders clustered in another and defenders together in a 3rd. Off to one side were our 2 keepers, making a small group of their own. Once divided, the coach then ripped into us. He wanted us to play as teams within the team. Defenders needed to work together as a unit, attackers needed to strike as one and midfielders needed to interchange across the park with precision. So to get us in the right mindset he set us up to play a couple of mini-games, each team within a team facing off against each of the others. Before we kicked off he revved us up and asked us who was the best. ‘Us’ yelled the strikers. ‘We are’ bellowed the midfielders. ‘We rock’ cheered the defenders. ‘You’re all f@#$ed’ roared the two keepers. Yep. Keepers are batshit mental.

A couple of years later I got to find out why. A good mate was the keeper of my team but he rocked up for a game with his hand in a brace. He’d torn a ligament while practicing with his girlfriend.

At football.

Apparently.

I put my hand up, took the gloves and broke the cardinal rule of any defender – I did a good job at keeping. Because of that I minded the real estate between the posts for the next 4 years, long after my mate’s hand was fixed and he’d married she who breaks the keeper. And here’s the thing – I went in to it believing that keepers are mental, figuring that I’d be calm, be nice to my defenders and rational with everyone else. Was I? Hell no. By the third game I was hurling abuse at my own lads more than the opposition. I once kicked a ball directly into the back of one of my own guys ’cause he gave me lip.

And that was my only brother.

You see, keepers need to be mental because it is a shit of a job. There’s little glory, no goals end with you looking good, and the pressure is constant. I once heard a Secret Service guy saying words to the effect of ‘You have to be lucky every time. The bad guys have to be lucky once’. That’s keeping. You have to pull off the save every time. The bad guys, which is pretty much everyone else, only have to be lucky once and your night is stuffed. That’s not the end of it either because when it’s stuffed you stew over it for the next week. You could have made 10 great saves but all you get to remember is that you screwed it once. And it’s you that screwed it. Not that the striker made a great shot. No. You could have made it, could have got there but you screwed it royally son.

So you get mental and you join the fraternity of keepers, blockers, stoppers, goalies, catchers and minders. It is a sacred brotherhood of souls hell-bent on keeping a clean sheet, preserving the shut-out. You even come to appreciate the guy at the other end more than your own team-mates. After all he knows what you’re going through and he’s not trying to score a goal past you so he’s pretty much your soul-mate right there. He knows the code, knows not to criticise another keeper, knows to wince when a brother stopper lets one through his legs, knows to shake hands with his opposite number after the game with a low, simple, ‘Well done keeper.’

Which brings me to today’s theme. I’ve been watching the hockey with a neutral eye for the past few weeks. Haven’t really backed a team. I’m a Red Sox fan but I’m not from Boston so the Bruins don’t automatically get the nod. Likewise I’d like to see Vancouver one day (It looks nice, bit of snow on the mountains there) and I feel for the Canucks not winning a Stanley Cup yet but… Not really committed to either team.

Until now.

Canucks keeper Robert Luongo pushed me over the edge. He came out and put it out there that opposite number Tim Thomas was overly aggressive, getting out too far and opening himself up. Luongo suggested that if he had been in Thomas’ position the Bruins would not have conceded and therefore would not have lost Game 5.

Robert, Roberto, Rob, Bob… You broke the code my friend. Broke it good and proper. Tim has conceded just 7 goals in a series where your guys have given up 19. Not all by you to be fair because you got dragged early on after conceding a bunch. Twice. Dude. Shut. The. Hell. Up.

Go Bruins.

Now that we’re done with Bob there we can move on to the Red Sox and the Dockers. Both teams had a nice weekend and although the Sox ended their winning streak at 9 this morning, it’s been a nice week or two to be on the side of the good.

Saturday saw the Sox in Toronto for Game 2 of the series. John Lackey back in the rotation and off the DL. Could have gone either way really. Gonzalez(again), Crawford and Scutaro with RBIs in the 3rd to go with a walk in run and the Sox led 4-0 in to the 4th. It was soon 5-0 thanks to a Pedroia RBI double in the 4th before Lackey got a blot on his copybook for the night, giving up 2 runs bottom of the 4th. No real issues though as the Sox did what they’ve been doing and knocked in 7 in the 5th for a 12-2 lead. Drew with a RBI and then Varitek with a 3 run blast. Not to be outdone Big Papi then replicated Tek’s effort and that was pretty much it for the Blue Jays. Varitek went on to add another, Pedroia a couple and… I lost count. Toronto got 2 back but in the end a 16-4 shellacking and an ok start from Lackey, 112 pitches over 6 innings for 4 runs.

Game 3 against the Blue Jays was almost a repeat. Only this time Toronto didn’t score as much. Gonzalez (again) with solo shot in the 1st and then Gonzalez (again) added another RBI in the 3rd. Youk interuppted the Gonzalez (again) show by adding an RBI single of his own, also in the 3rd. Bautista with a solo home run in the 4th interrupted Lester’s mojo but that just fired up the Sox bats for the 5th.Pedroia with a 2 run homer, Ortiz with a 3 run blast and finally Scutaro with an RBI single and Toronto were Raptored (See what I did there?) 9-1. Youk, Ortiz and Salty with RBI doubles in the 6th and Youk again with a 2 run shot in the 9th for the icing on the cake. It finished 14-1, Lester with his 9th win and 102 pitches across 8 strong innings. The Red Sox finished 35-6 over the swept series and with an AL best 39 and 26 on the board, a 2.5 game lead over the Yankees. There followed a rest day before a tropical date with the Rays.

Sadly it was one of those dates where you went home alone and confused – The Rays snapping the streak at 9. Tim Wakefield did his bit with a solid start, 119 pitches across 7 innings for just 2 runs. Tommy Hottovy struggled in the 8th, earning another 2. All of this might have been ok on another night in Toronto maybe but for this one the bats had an off-day and that combined with a decent effort by James Shields of the Rays did for the Sox. It had to happen eventually.

Eventually the Dockers had to win one without Biggest Aaron Sandilands too. That streak sat at 8 (or was it 9?) without joy for Freo and they desperately needed something against Essendon at Subi on Sunday. They responded to last week’s last quarter collapse by making sure they had enough early to bury the Bombers. 6.3 (39) to 1.1 (7) in the first quarter was reward for relentless pressure and to be fair some pretty ordinary Bombers disposals. The game tightened up a little in the 2nd but the Dockers still went in 58 to 18. Nerves were tested as Essendon booted 7 of 8 around 3/4 time but the Dockers steadied and ran out winners 15.8 (98) to 9.10 (64). The Pav, Matthew Pavlich, with 3 goals and a storng effort all over the ground was one of the best, along with Lukey McPharlin in defence and Hayden Ballantyne was his usual hyper-manic self. If he wasn’t on my team I’d want to punch him. Unfortunately his hammy feels the same way and he’s now out for 2 weeks. David Mundy cracked his fib and will be out for a while. A long while. Probably.

I’m approaching 1500 words and 10:00pm on a work-night so I’ll skip the Mavs series win over the moneybags Heat for now and direct you to this great article from the Dallas Morning News. Honorable mentions to Mark Webber, 3rd in the Canadian GP, which was won by Jensen Button. Belter of a race it was, as was this crash from the 24 hour at Le Mans. Allan McNish I salute you, although I would suggest that the gap really wasn’t quite there mate.

I’m off. Bloody difficult typing in keeper’s gloves.

2 Comments
  1. I’m like you. I didn’t grow up in Boston.
    I got hooked on the Bruins at a Boston bar in Charlotte, NC. The Sox game ends and my friends are all watching hockey. Got hooked a few years ago.
    Love it.
    Only problem is- moved away from Charlotte and now I have NO ONE to watch games with. People will kind of fake-watch baseball… but hockey? Not so much.

    • Yeah, kinda hard to fake-watch hockey – have to give it your full attention. Actually, out here it’s kinda hard to watch hockey at all. We have a couple of rinks but it rarely gets below zero and hockey means the field kind. Couple of sports bars had the game but it was mid Thursday morning here and work is kind of compelling when they pay me.

      One thing I reckon – Being a remote fan means you learn to get creative about following games. Radio coverage and play-by-play over the web. Harks back to the days before tv, albeit with an iPad and an iPhone helping out.

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