CelebrationEli 10.0 was in a pre-season hockey camp every night last week.
On the first day, a female coach spent quite a bit of time with him as he worked as a goalie. Her name is Sarah Erickson, and by any definition, she is a hockey beast. Here's a very abbreviated list of her credentials:
--Two-time captain of the United States Under-18 Team
--led Under-18 Team USA to a gold medal in 2008
--First-ever captain of a USA Under-18 Team
--2008 Ms. Hockey recipient (Minnesota)
She's a junior now at the University of Minnesota, and has continued her bad-ass ways--I'm sure we'll be watching her on the U.S. Olympic team in 2014.
So Coach Erickson was working with Eli, and I was totally hoping that she would take some shots on him. She looked like she was going to, then broke it off, but came back a few minutes later and started shooting from about 30 feet away.
The way this works is that the coach will start off at a level that they think is appropriate for the goalie. Then, if the goalie stops a shot, they'll take it up a notch. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Eli knew that he was about to face shots from a future Olympian, and I knew how amped up he was in net to face her. To him, it was the Olympic gold-medal game.
He stopped her first shot. On the second, he made a beautiful "flash" save, where the goalie jets his glove up from his hip. I'd been telling him for months that he was going to start making that save, and he hadn't done it yet, but then he pulled it out for the first time against the best shooter he'd ever faced.
The third shot was much harder, low to the right post, and there was no way he could get there, but as he went down, he kicked out his right leg at the last instant.
On the fourth shot, she put one in high over his blocker. He almost got to that one, too, which just amazed me. Then she skated up and tapped her stick on Eli's leg pads.
The best thing about Coach Erickson, by the way, was that she was a terrific person. She was totally supportive and positive, and Eli really responded to her. On the last day of camp, she was even gracious enough to pose for a picture with Eli and sign an autograph, which I really appreciated.
And I guarantee you we've turned into huge Minnesota fans--for women's hockey, at least.
So back to the camp. As the week progressed, Eli started making that flash save with his glove more and more often. He was facing a bunch of kids from the travel team (both his age and up to two years older), but very few pucks were getting by him. There were three travel team goalies in the camp, and Eli outplayed all of them.
I noticed something else changing, too. Occasionally, Eli was celebrating a save. He made a few totally ridiculous saves on Wednesday, and he definitely "highlighted" them.
"So I thought you looked terrific tonight," as we walked over to Whataburger after Wednesday's practice.
"Thanks, Dad," he said. "I felt great."
"I noticed a little celebrating after a few saves," I said.
He pretended to be surprised. "You did?" he asked.
"I think that might be something you want to think about."
"Why?" he asked. "Shooters celebrate."
"Well," I said, "if you celebrate when you make a save, it looks like you were surprised because you weren't expecting to make the save."
He didn't say anything, and I let him think about it for a few seconds.
"But a goalie--" I started, but he cut me off.
"A goalie should never be surprised when he makes a save," he said.
"That's right," I said. "Because if you act surprised, it makes the shooter confident. But if you act like you expected to make the save, like you make that save all the time, then it's intimidating."
"I get it," he said. "Thanks, Dad."
The next night, he was standing on his head again, like he had all week. But every time he made a terrific save, he just flipped the puck away, like he'd been doing it his whole life.
Business as usual.
By the end of practice, a few kids--the best ones, in particular--were visibly frustrated, banging their sticks on the goal as they skated past after Eli stoned them. By acting as if saving their shots was a regular event, he was, in effect, refusing to acknowledge their status, and by banging their sticks, they were unconsciously giving him status.
"Buddy, that was just great," I said later. "You made some of the best saves of your life tonight."
"I do it every day, Dad," he said, smiling. "I do it every day."