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Goalie on the streets of Las Vegas

August 16th, 2011

It takes quite a bit of effort to be seen as something new in Las Vegas.  Sunday night, I found a way to draw attention from even the most jaded.

People smiled, cameras clicked, and high-fives abounded as I walked around Freemont Street in downtown Las Vegas.  Even the true buskers were giving me dap.

In the 100-degree heat, far from any ice, there I was: a hockey goalie in full gear on the street.

On Fremont Street in Las Vegas, in the summer, in full ice hockey goalie gear. The jersey is from my beer league team last season, the Wingmen.

And why not?  There were, after all, street performers of all sorts on the street already. Robots, statues, SpongeBob, Elvis, a newlywed couple complete with fake solid champagne, at least two Michael Jacksons, and several Spider-Mans were there, just to name a few.  No hockey goalies, though, at least not until I showed up.

You might recall that I tweeted about the concept of a hockey goalie street performer back when I arrived in Vegas.  I thought it would be hilarious to follow through, but I needed a good excuse.  Enter my friend Blake.

Me: “Hey Blake, I have a favor to ask.  I need you to bet me that I won’t walk around Las Vegas in my goalie gear. Stakes: a beer.”

Blake: “Haha! Ok, I bet you a six-pack of your choice that you won’t walk around Las Vegas in your goalie gear.”

Perfect.

After playing a two-hour pickup game earlier in the day at the Las Vegas Ice Center, I returned to my downtown hotel to prepare. It was around sunset, but the temperature was still over 100 degrees, so I decided to make a few changes to reduce my chances of heat exhaustion.  I went without two of the warmer pieces of gear:  no knee pads and no neck guard.  I didn’t expect to make any saves on the street, but I still wanted to be reasonably protected in case a joker lobbed a hard object in my direction, so all of the other pads were there.

Skates were considered briefly, but hiking boots won.  Have you ever tried walking a significant distance in skates? Painful.

Getting dressed took only a few minutes.  Working up the courage to go out in public like that took a bit longer.  I stood at my hotel room door for a while, debating whether to follow through.

It wasn’t like it was illegal to walk around as a goalie. It wasn’t even that novel: videos on YouTube here, here, here, here, and here all show people who have done it before.  Heck, it’s been done as a beer promotion.

Would my friends and family think me crazy?  I mean, they already think that goalies are a bit crazy, but would this raise new eyebrows?

Finally, I took a deep breath, charged towards the door, opened it, and hustled out before I could change my mind.  Once I was in the hallway, I felt committed, and everything became easy.

Fremont Street and its “Fremont Street Experience” is the most popular location for tourism and gambling in downtown Las Vegas. (For those unfamiliar, the Strip is a few miles south of downtown and not technically in Las Vegas.)  I set course for the heart of it.

In the few blocks I walked from my hotel to Fremont Street, I got numerous thumbs-up, honks from car horns, and fist bumps.  People waved, and I waved back with my catcher.  It felt like I was portraying a mascot.  I was obligated to be a good ambassador for goalies everywhere.

Two guys, Spencer and Jake, struck up a conversation with me.  They were hockey fans, and they thought that what I was doing was great.  They liked the idea of the trip, too.  I was out there for fun, not for making money, but Spencer insisted on giving me $20, thus tripling my cumulative income from the trip. Thanks Spencer!

I continued my walk down Fremont street.  Everywhere I went, cameras pointed, flashes flashed, mouths smiled, and people pointed.  A few people chatted with me about Minnesota, hockey, and hockey in Minnesota.

As I mentioned earlier, several of the true buskers that I passed talked me up and thought my idea was great.  Most of them wouldn’t believe that I really wasn’t doing it to earn money.  Spider-Man told me that I was “going to do REALLY well with [my "costume"] tonight.”

Speaking of money, as I was passing Binion’s, I noticed that one of the security guards was looking my way.  I decided to take advantage of the opportunity, and he agreed to let me go in the casino to have my photo taken with one of their draws, $1,000,000 cash.  I think I might be the only goalie to ever be photographed next to that much cash.

Me in my goalie gear at Binion's $1,000,000 cash pile

Several people posed for photos with me, which I found very amusing.  I was sweating profusely, and besides, my gear was still wet from the day’s earlier hockey game.  I couldn’t have smelled very good.

I have to imagine that at least a few of those photos will pop up on the interwebs eventually.  Finding them will be the challenge.  I’d love to hear about any that are out there.

During the Fremont Street Experience light show. Hard to tell, but the people in the background are smiling, looking my way, and holding cameras.

After about an hour and a half, I decided to call it a night.  I was getting really hot, and besides, I had accomplished my goal: I’d shown Vegas something new.  And won my (admittedly contrived) bet.

Will Las Vegas ever get another goalie on the streets?  I’m not sure, but I have some advice for any would-be imitators: do it when it’s cooler out.

  1. Simon
    August 16th, 2011 at 09:53 | #1

    This is great! I’m thoroughly impressed

  2. Jeff
    August 16th, 2011 at 13:54 | #2

    Thanks!

  3. August 18th, 2011 at 23:15 | #3

    nice work Jeff. what will be the follow up act?

  4. Matthew Kato
    August 18th, 2011 at 23:51 | #4

    You think goalies’ reputation for being “different” is just a bad stereotype, and then you read something like this.

  5. Jeff
    August 19th, 2011 at 01:15 | #5

    @jimbo Not sure yet. I’ve thought about doing a repeat to draw attention to a worthy cause. It could also be an effective way of promoting the trip to a wider audience. Haven’t decided yet.

  6. Jeff
    August 19th, 2011 at 01:16 | #6

    @Matthew Kato Indeed! One too many pucks to the head.

  7. mom
    August 20th, 2011 at 12:37 | #7

    This was too funny! Thanks for making me laugh!!

  8. Scott
    August 22nd, 2011 at 00:54 | #8

    Very cool story!

    You mention promoting the trip–you need to get a jersey made with a QR code on it that will link people to the site. Then, anyone who takes a picture of you will have the link, even if they don’t realize it at the time.

  9. Jeff
    August 22nd, 2011 at 01:08 | #9

    @mom Glad you enjoyed it!

  10. Jeff
    August 22nd, 2011 at 01:11 | #10

    @Scott Interesting idea. I’ve heard of people doing that with t-shirts, but I’ve never seen a hockey jersey like that.

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