January 3, 2011

Reporter suffers only a bruised ego playing goalie

Maine at Work: Bob Keyes discovers the level of athleticism, skill and commitment it takes to skate with the Portland Pirates.

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Reporter Bob Keyes survives a stint in the goal during a Portland Pirates practice.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Reporter Bob Keyes, far left, listens during a pre-practice meeting with the Portland Pirates before taking the ice.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

THIS WEEK'S JOB

TITLE: Goaltender for the Portland Pirates.

WORKERS: Jhonas Enroth and David Leggio.

HOURS: On game days, players are due at the rink by 9 a.m. They have time off in the afternoon, but their day ends 12 hours later.

DUTIES: Stopping pucks.

SALARY RANGE: $500,000 to $900,000.

SURPRISING FACTS: Goalies do not mind getting hit in the head with the puck. It counts as a save.

PERKS: The chance to prove yourself in the National Hockey League if you perform well in Portland.

ABOUT THIS SERIES

MAINE AT WORK takes an interactive look at iconic, visible or just plain interesting jobs done by folks in Maine. This week, Maine at Work author Ray Routhier steps aside to allow his hockey-playing colleague Bob Keyes the chance to play goalie for the Portland Pirates.

IF YOU'D LIKE to suggest a job to be explored in this feature, e-mail rrouthier@pressherald.com or call 791-6454.

One of the first guys I notice is defenseman Dennis Persson, soon followed by Dennis McCauley. I actually hear McCauley before I see him. He's a chirper, on ice and off. He's always yapping, and it didn't take him long to tell me that he was looking forward to drilling me when we got out on the ice.

Matt Ellis, the captain, sets aside sticks he is taping to shake my hand. I introduce myself to Alex Biega, a Harvard alum with whom I share an acquaintance. I make easy conversation with Jacob Lagace, whose stall is next to mine.

All the guys are nice, but it is apparent that most of the players aren't aware I am joining them. Maybe the goalies know -- I presume that Jhonas Enroth and David Leggio were told that some old graybeard would be showing up this morning and stealing their ice time. But few of the other guys have a clue.

One walks in, looks at me, looks at my name tag and turns wide-eyed to Persson and asks, "Jhonas hurt?"

No, Enroth is not hurt, and I am not here to steal his job. I just want to know how it feels.

PASS, SHOT, GOAL

Dineen calls the players together. He shows several videos that illustrate the breakout tendencies of the Worcester team the Pirates are facing that night, and then a few videos of the Pirates' offensive attack from the previous game, highlighting their odd-man rushes. He tells the guys he wants them to pounce on scoring chances when they get them.

"With your skills, I want you to shoot there," he tells forward Paul Byron, pausing the video and urging him to shoot first, pass second when the chance presents itself.

We're on the ice a few minutes later, and the first thing I notice is how bright the rink is; it seems blinding at first. I skate a few laps, stretch and then queue up with the rest of the guys for a quick meeting along the boards to review the drills.

Enroth is that night's starting goalie, and he takes one net to himself. Leggio and I share the other. I am sensitive about his ice time. Because Leggio is the backup, this morning's practice will be his only ice time of the day. I tell him to take as many pucks as he wants. I will pick up his scraps.

But he is generous, and waves me into the net for the first half-moon drill. Skaters receive a pass in the neutral zone, come barreling in on the wing and rip a shot from above the faceoff dot. This drill goes well. The shots are hard, and the guys seem to be trying to score, but I am able to make some saves. I sense my confidence starting to perk up.

The next drill uses the full sheet of ice, and it appears to focus on the breakout on an odd-man rush. Leggio and I defend the net of the offensive unit. I stop a few dump-ins behind the net and set up the puck for the D to retrieve, but there's not much action.

Then come the two-on-ones. Forget about it. I have no prayer. I face only a few rushes, but I quickly realize the difference between old guys who play for fun and young guys who do it for a living.

Their speed into the zone is blazing, their passes crisp and fluid. The shooter softly receives the pass, and pumps the puck into the net.

It's their effortless movements and deft handling of the puck, and their ability to snap off shots with precision.

(Continued on page 3)

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