Thursday, January 04, 2018

Phoenix (part three)

Well, I thought he was ready.

Eli 16.5 had put in consistent, solid work. He was still progressing at a rapid rate, even during the season.

He had a quality.

Still, though, this was against the best team in the country. Three years ago, he was playing "B" in Texas.

It was a lot to expect of anyone.

What a moment for him, though. Dr. Seuss said it best, I think: oh, the places you'll go!

This was a big game, but at the same time, it needed to be a regular game. I wasn't going to see him, so I texted him this:
You're the best athlete. You've overcome 
more than anyone else to get here. You 
have the certainty of years of hard work. 
You shouldn't be nervous when you 
skate out tonight--you should be inspired. 
We both know that you'll play on much 
bigger stages than this one day, but this 
is still a really nice moment. 
Be happy and have fun. 

And his three keys (which he doesn't even need anymore, but we both still like doing it) in a separate text:
Three keys:
--Control the puck
--Expect quick shots around screens
--Play certain and with power

Love you, buddy!

The "play certain and with power" was the most important. When he does that, he looks like a goalie who still has a long way to go before he hangs up his skates.

I'd like to give you a dramatic retelling of the game, but there weren't enough twists and turns for that. The #1 team was incredibly skilled and very fast, and we were on our heels the entire game,  fighting to survive.

Eli, though, wasn't on his heels.

It was a culmination of so many hours and so many miles, with so many more to come.

31 shots. 29 saves. A few that stunned me.

The save reel (including the two goals):

We couldn't score, but we never backed down, either. It was a 2-0 loss, but everyone gave everything they had, and no one could ask for more than that.

Eli came through the lobby after the game. I hugged him, and smiling, he said, "I stretched every night for a year to make that save."

Then he went to the bus.

There was nothing more he needed to say.

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