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 2)

click image to enlarge

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.

It's pure grace, and it's a delight to watch.

Unless you're the goalie.

The drills that Dineen scripted are complete. Enroth departs to begin his mental preparation for that night's start. That leaves one net for me alone, the other for Leggio.

I face shots the rest of the way. The onslaught begins with a basic shooting drill. Shooters align themselves in a half circle above the dot. They receive a pass from the corner and shoot. At first, I'm OK. But as the shots pile up, the goals mount. I struggle to keep up with the pace of the shots -- the passes come quickly, the shots come hard. I am slow to recover after each shot and move into position for the next. My save-recovery skills are seriously lacking.

Byron, one of the team's skill players, exploits my weakness on his first attempt. There's a cavern below my blocker and above my leg pad where pucks go to taunt me. He buries his first attempt, then one after another.

Pass, shot, goal. Pass, shot, goal. Pass, shot, goal.

I think I see him smile.

Everything rolls downhill. I am fatigued. Compared to Enroth or Leggio, I have barely seen any action at all, but I probably have faced more pucks in this session than I do in a week's worth of rec-league skates. My legs feel leaden, and my form crumbles. I drop my catching glove too low. I hold my stick too close to my skates. I give up the angle too easily. I open up my five-hole, and commit to shots too soon.

The session-ending one-on-ones are an exercise in humiliation. I make a few saves, including one on Dineen that delights his players. "Way to stuff Dino there at the end," one tells me in the locker room afterward. But these guys toy with me.

Still, I leave the ice feeling triumphant.

I made it through a game-day practice with an AHL team, no worse for wear. The only thing bruised is my ego.

Lesson learned. Only a select few are endowed with the skills, athleticism and commitment necessary to play professional sports, at any level. All my life, I've wondered what it must be like. Now I know.

I leave the rink and will my aching body back to work, and admit something I probably knew in my gut from the outset: It's a good thing Mancari wasn't there.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

bkeyes@pressherald.com

 

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