Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Eli 11.7 and the Goalie Fraternity

Eli 11.7 hasn't been lucky the last few weeks. Cast on his hand, the flu for a week (he's not sick anymore, but he's still not fully recovered), and none of the things he likes to do during spring break, like play tennis.

Tonight, though, we went to a Texas Stars game.

You may remember the post about Jack Campbell (Stars goalie and future NHL player) and Eli having such a good time when Campbell came to one of Eli's practices. So Eli wanted to stand by the tunnel where players walk off the ice and say something to Jack as he came off the ice, hopefully getting him to sign his cast.

Kids always stand outside the area, which is roped off on each side, so waiting for players isn't unusual. Most of the players are incredibly nice, bumping knuckles with every kid as they walk past.

I didn't expect Jack Campbell to remember him without his pads on, but I didn't know how to gracefully explain that, so I just hoped for the best.

At the end of warm-ups, Campbell skated off, and as he was walking up, Eli said, "Jack! Would you sign my cast, please?" He stopped, he signed, they chatted for a few seconds, and then he said, "Great to see you, Eli," and walked up the tunnel.

Jack Campbell has a levitation effect on Eli. I don't think his feet touched the ground the rest of the night.

The coolest thing is that Jack never treats him like a little kid. He treats him like a fellow goalie, which completely inspires Eli. It's one of the nicest things I can ever imagine an athlete doing for a young player.

Nilstorp started in goal, but he got slashed early on in the second period (or something--it was hard to figure out exactly what happened), and Campbell came into the game. And proceeded to play lights out, with seventeen saves on eighteen shots, and the Stars won 4-3.

We talked on the way home about goalie technique. "So there are two broad categories of goalies," I said. "Engineers and artists."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, some goalies understand playing the position at a very technical level. They take an engineering approach to the position--very methodical, very precise, and very detailed. Tomáš Vokoun is an engineer. Now who's an artist?"

"Fleury," he said immediately.

"Right," I said. "Huge amounts of energy and passion, and brilliant, but not nearly as technical, and his technique isn't strong. And the best goalies are what?"

"Both," he said. "Jack is both."

"That's right," I said, "and so are you. Everyone who sees you play comments on your technique and your athleticism. You're the only kid your age I've ever seen who has both qualities at such a high level. I don't know where you rank right now, but because you're a super freak, your upside is huge."

Eli noticed tonight that Abbotsford's goalie, Barry Brust, had a few goalie tics. Some goalies have a ton of them (Braden Holtby, for one), but most guys seem to have at least a couple. Eli noticed that Brust had two. One, during stoppages in play, he would start tapping his pads repeatedly, in rhythm. Eli swore that he  tapped them thirty-three times (Brust's jersey number), then he'd stop.

The second was even more interesting. When Brust felt comfortable during play, he would retreat to a specific spot and stand there like a statue. Wouldn't move an inch, until the puck started coming in his direction. Here's the pose:

Brust stood like that for up to forty-five seconds during play, not moving a muscle. It was something to see.

Here's a nice picture of Jack Campbell in action, by the way:

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