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Ingoalmag Writer Takes on TV Reality Series, Part 2

"Come on Bergie, send me in, sacrément!"
“Come on Bergie, send me in!”

No matter whether we tend goal in the best garage league, with the corporate logo uniforms and the hot-shots who played Senior AA or semi-pro, or in the worst pick-up leagues, where guys wear non-matching socks and those ridiculous square-headed helmets made (in)famous by the Soviet Red Army, we all have dreamed of our 15 minutes of glory. Call me an incurable romantic if you wish; I maintain that goalies in particular understand and cultivate this notion of the dream. Every time we flash the leather, even if it is against a guy who uses masking tape on his antique Sher-Wood 5030 wood stick, for one shining moment, time freezes with the puck in our mitt, and we are in our glory.

Jesus, somebody call George Plimpton. Or maybe a psychologist specializing in delusional behavior.

I just got back from my audition for the TV reality series « La série Montréal-Québec ». 28 standouts to be chosen from 10000 hopefuls doesn’t leave great odds, particularly when you are over 40 and the smell you drink in after the game isn’t that of victory as much as it is Ben-Gay rub and warm beer.

Nevertheless, even if I don’t get called back, I have to say it was fun. We were brought in, on time, by security guards with black uniforms and ear-phone intercoms just like it was a Rolling Stones concert tour. Nervous smiles and waves to some garage league buddies, a file photo while holding our lucky contestant number, then downstairs to dress and stand along the boards watching the forwards and defensemen in action on the ice. I was surprised by the lack of ego in the dressing room; in fairness I think that just looking at our own waist lines with our shirts off was enough to kill any ego trip. But everyone was chatty and in good spirits, with most of the talking done by two guys who were the garage league equivalent of « Fern » from the movie « Les Boys » (Fern is the goalie in the film who can’t stop the puck but who knows every hockey statistic by heart and will never shut up talking to everyone about it).

When the on-ice session began, we found ourselves at center ice with Nancy Drolet (Olympic gold medalist 1998) and Bob Hartley (Stanley Cup winner and former head coach, Colorado Avalanche and Atlanta Thrashers), who quickly put us all at ease with their humour and unassuming manner. Hartley in particular, who told a short story about his working in a factory and dreaming about once day becoming an NHL coach, then having it actually come true. «At 40 years old, you are here strictly because you love hockey. You have every right to dream, and the next 30 minutes is your chance. Enjoy yourselves to the fullest, no matter how short the time is. »

Then he made fun of the guy with the ancient Jofa helmet-cage à la Arturs Irbe (noting that Michel Bergeron made him promise not to pick any hard-luck Russian goalie for his team), as well as another goalie with a Thrashers jersey (saying that from personal experience, anyone wearing that uniform wasn’t likely to win too many games).

Lots has been written about the « brotherhood » of goalies; how the guys who strap on the pads are in a league all their own, which only other goalies can grasp the nuances of. With tongue in cheek I have to say that this tryout seemed to confirm this. Contrary to the players, who seemed more in their bubble, during the three 30 second tests the goalies eagerly cheered each other on, slapping their sticks on the ice and giving high-fives all around. Even the goalie who showed up with player skates and couldn’t do a T-push to save his life got cheers (the fact that he stopped as many friggin’ pucks as me is beside the point).

The guys firing the pucks were players brought in just to shoot. It was interesting to note how easy the first shots were, and how by the last series they were roofing the puck like they had « Brett Hull » stitched on the back of their jerseys. Guess that’s where they separated the men from the boys. I managed to stop 7 of nine shots, but I think there were at least two guys who did better. One goalie faced Bob Hartley himself for a sequence, and he stonewalled the former coach three times in a row, which brought cheers all around. After we finished, go figure, the goalies spontaneously gathered at center ice and did a team cheer. You read right, a bunch of strangers just a-gushin’ with brotherly love. But even I have to admit that if it had turned into a group hug, I would have been heading for the exits. Goalies can be a weird lot sometimes. Guess that’s part of our mystique.

In any case, if I don’t receive news by October 17th, that means I’ll have to go on living the dream in my garage league games rather than on this TV reality series. Apparently the next step is for 100 guys to be invited to a three day training camp. If by some miracle I get the call, I’ll have more news for you…

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  1. David T

    My old bones are aching even thinking about this article.

  2. Nick

    I’m SO jealous. I’d love to have a chance to see or take a shot from a present or even former NHLer. For a goalie, isn’t the rush of seeing a puck fly towards you the next best thing to stopping it from going into the net?

  3. paul szabo

    Hey Nick;
    Actually, the rush of seeing the puck fly towards me is usually accompanied by the terror of visualizing it blowing past my outstretched glove or pad, plus a sort of raspy, sucking sound which is my laboured breathing as I huff and puff in a vain attempt to get some appendage of my body into the right postion…