Eleven years ago I scored my first goal in competitive play.
I don’t remember much about my 18th birthday, but I remember my first goal very well.
It all started my freshmen year of high school when I noticed a flyer posted on the wall in the main hallway. It said:
WANT TO PLAY HOCKEY?
Roller Hockey Club Meeting
Friday after school, Room 104
OK, maybe I don’t remember exactly what it said, but it was something like that, probably in Comic Sans font.
Having played street hockey fairly regularly since middle school, I knew this would provide an opportunity to gauge my skills against some of the best players in the area. I wasn’t going to miss that meeting.
When I arrived, I quickly observed most of the group was well-acquainted with one another. There was only one other kid there who looked as confused as me. Despite the meager turn out, the meeting commenced. Most of the discussion was directed at me and the other newcomer. They explained equipment requirements, league fees, when and where our first practice would be.
When the day came for my first practice, my nervousness was exceeded only by my excitement. My mom dropped me off a little early in our huge Econoline van–ya know the ones with curtains in the back windows? In my duffel bag were my Roces Vert skates, basketball warm-ups (the kind with the snaps), and a Seattle Supersonics hockey jersey I got at the Champion Store Outlet (probably the only one ever printed).
I watched as the group arrived. They drove their own cars, smoked cigarettes, listened to loud music, cursed. They were bad ass.
We dressed down and took to the rink.
Wrapped around my Easton aluminum stick were my street hockey gloves–although they looked more gloves you would use to hold an inner tube at the top of a snow-covered hill. Their sticks were colorful and had words like “graphite” and “kevlar”. Their sticks also made crisp passes and took hard shots.
I was intimidated.
One of the guys, Lane, stood out to me as the leader. He was the Benny “the Jet” Rodriquez of this Sandlot and I was Smalls. Like Benny, he seemed to make it his personal mission to see me succeed. Each practice he would give me helpful tips, and I point out ways I could improve. One day, he gave me a white #12 jersey that I still have.
The season began.
Unfortunately, it took a few games for me to find my rhythm. I don’t remember far into the season we were when it happened. But I can tell you how it happened–the night I scored my first goal.
Lane carried the puck down the right side along the boards into our opponents zone. I cheated ahead and positioned myself deep down near the goal line, just left of the crease. Then came the pass. With all the focus I could muster, I slammed that puck as hard as I could. When I saw it hit the back of the net, a surreal feeling came over me. Surely I was dreaming. But it really happened. I scored my first goal.
I think Lane might have been more excited than me. He came over and gave me a hug, acting like I deserved all the credit and he had no hand in it. Good guy.
I’ve loved hockey ever since.