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Fairbanks hockey

July 9th, 2011

I figured I should check Alaska off of my hockey list while in Fairbanks.  The only other option in Alaska with ice would have been Anchorage, and that would have necessitated a mad dash from Denali NP to the city in time for a weekday lunchtime game.  Thus, I found myself at the Patty Ice Arena on the University of Alaska-Fairbanks campus Thursday evening.

I had learned my lesson in Calgary, so when I called ahead for the Fairbanks pickup game, I made sure to ask about reservations for goalies.

“It’s first come, first served,” said the rink attendant.

“Even for goalies?”

“Even for goalies. The last few sessions, we’ve only had one show up, so it shouldn’t be a problem tonight.”


I showed up about an hour early and took my time getting ready.  Another goalie showed up about 15 minutes later.  Then 5 minutes after that, a third goalie arrived. “No problem,” I thought, “We’ll just rotate, and we’ll each still get about 40 minutes of ice time.” Then the fourth goalie showed up.

Judging by the changing room banter, most of the guys had been accepted to or were trying out for junior hockey teams.  None of them could legally drink, and a few weren’t even of the age of majority, so I was the oldest by nearly a decade.  Awkward.  Not only that, but the other goalies spoke in a way that implied them to be at a similar level of skill to the skaters, so I was apprehensive about being totally shown up.

We took the ice, and after a non-existent warm-up, the game began.  It took me a goal to figure out that the teams were essentially “colors” versus “grays.”  It was confusing as all get out to discern between the guy wearing navy blue and the guy on the other team wearing black.

Among us four goalies, we decided to rotate on every goal.  Specifically, a pair of goalies took each end, and whenever the goalie on the ice at one end let in a goal, that goalie would go to the bench and his partner would come on.  Sounded reasonable.  I just hoped that my shifts wouldn’t be embarrassingly short.

It turned out that I had nothing to worry about.  You know how nobody plays defense at drop-in games?  And you know how 2-on-0s are nearly impossible for a goalie to stop when they are executed correctly?

Yeah.  All four of us goalies got lit up.  We were rotating so often that we started rotating only every other goal, and even then we got only a minute or two on the bench before heading back out.  I felt like a skater going out for shifts.

I did make a number of solid saves.  A couple of aggressive poke checks worked out, too, so it wasn’t a complete embarrassment.   And when I did stop some of those numerous breakaways and 2-0s from the hotshot youngsters? It was a great feeling.

Next hockey: Whitehorse, Yukon in a week and a half.  With luck, one of these times I’ll be able to write about how I got a “shinny shutout” instead of how much of a sieve I was (haha).

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