We get older and slower while the game gets faster. But the rec hockey buzz we get from scoring a goal never fades.
By Gil Chase
Hopefully, as a rec hockey player you’ve had the chance to experience it. The second you release that shot, you have a good feeling it’s getting by the goalie. Instinct takes over in a way you just don’t feel with a missed shot or save. It’s a warm, fuzzy feeling; time seems to slow down a bit, and then you realize it: you just scored a goal!
Nothing beats that rec hockey buzz.
Whenever I score a goal I find I can’t get to sleep that night, and I certainly can’t stop thinking about the play for days—rewinding it over and over in my head—my own personal highlight reel. I wonder: What did I do differently? Was that shot that much harder or more accurate than the others? Was I just in the right place at the right time? Was it just luck?
I’ll never forget my first career goal. It took me all the way until my second year of squirts (I was 11 years old; a late bloomer) to score one. My dad, my coach, my teammates—everyone was harping on the same piece of advice: “Go to the net!” No one said it better than NHLer Brooks Laich: “If you want money, go to the bank. If you want bread, go to the bakery. If you want goals, go to the net.”
I was sick and tired of playing forward, watching my teammates collect their first goals—the smiles, the proud parents, photos with the game puck. It was my turn, I said to myself. I remember it in vivid detail; it seemed to be in the same slow motion as all of my goals ever since (maybe I’m just slow).
I got to the net with my stick down and a hunger I had never before possessed. A shot from the point hit a defenseman in front and the puck ended up on my stick in the slot; the goalie, still peering past the mass of bodies in front, searching for the biscuit. With a weird sort of poise for a goofy 11-year-old kid, I just kind of touch-passed the puck into the bottom corner of the net. I think it was moving so slowly it didn’t even hit the net itself, just sliding a few inches past the goal line.
I looked to the referee in disbelief for verification. Any number of things could have gone wrong: delayed penalty; man in the crease; or the net could have been off by an inch—who knows… But not this time. The ref affirmatively gave that classic open-palmed point parallel with the goal line: Goal. Goal! GOAL!
I raised my arms in ecstasy and sprinted over to the bench to go down the line, slapping everyone’s gloved hand just like the pros do. I’ll never forget the backup goalie’s face (a good friend of mine), almost equally ecstatic, his bright face and craned, outstretched catching glove, shaking so I wouldn’t miss it.
My coach asked the ref for the puck. He knew it was my first; everyone did. I taped it up around the edge in white cloth hockey tape, so the game specs would stand out in black permanent marker: “FIRST GOAL! 10/12/03. River Rats vs. Gremlins. 4-1 win.” A few days later, my mom, a graphic designer, presented me with a gift-wrapped framed glass-case memento she made, replacing the cloth tape with a circular sticker on the front of the puck listing all of the info I had so carefully recorded. It was so cool. I still have it somewhere!
Now that I’m all grown up and have to tie my own skates, the thrill never gets old. Whether it’s scoring a goal, getting an assist, or drawing a penalty and taking one for the team, the feeling is indescribable. The joys of recreational hockey.
Just this week, in fact, I scored a goal in each of the two teams I play for. As silly as it may seem, if I have a good game I’m on a high the next day; everything just feels so right. (Conversely, if I’ve had a bad game I end up feeling miserable the next day.)
What keeps me coming back for more year after year is after playing my heart out, the feeling I get from hearing the compliments of my teammates.
We get older, we get slower, and the hockey we play gets more and more recreational in nature. But one thing is for certain: the rec hockey buzz you get from scoring a goal never fades.
It just gets better and better.
Gil Chase has been playing hockey since he was young. He has no intention of hanging up his hockey skates.