I was nervous, which is weird because I never get nervous when I'm playing hockey. Trying to brush up against a girl's boobs and making her think it's an accident, I might get nervous, but not playing hockey. Maybe it's because I hadn't played in a year, or because I had to borrow a helmet and it felt like if I took a puck to the face then I might get a concussion (the thing literally had one piece of foam in it, I was better off not wearing a helmet), or maybe it was because I had never played with these guys before. The point is, I was nervous.
It's weird, playing goaltender when you're nervous. Goaltending's a position that relies on complete confidence in what you're doing: confidence in your teammates, confidence that you're in the right position, and confidence that you are fast enough to break the other team's heart. When you don't have that, everything gets called into question: am I in the right spot? Where's that guy that went behind the net? Why is my guy doing that? It really is the loneliest positions in sports. To keep from going crazy, you have to develop little things that keep you focused on the game without actually focusing on every little thing you're doing. What do I do? I make up little backstories for my opponents. Goaltending is a sadistic position, one that derives pleasure from making others feel bad, so I usually counteract that by making the other team bad people:
-That guy over there doesn't put his shopping carts back in the parking lot
-The guy next to him talks on the phone at movie theaters.
-The other guy, the one with the visor, asks for a cup of water from the cashier at fast food restaurants and then fills it up with Sprite.
And the guy playing defense, the one that's probably the best player on their team? He listens to U2 and loves Newcastle. Bastard.
So there I am, nervous and with an upturned bucket on my head, when the guy who inflates his SAT score whenever he mentions it comes down on the left side. He chips it over to the guy who never walks his dog, who proceeds to blow by my defenseman. This guy, this asshole who buys a dog and then never even shows it the simplest courtesy, comes down and tries to score a goal on my net. Nu-fucking-uh. He fakes right and then moves it to his backhand and tries to flip it over my glove; he fails, or doesn't count on me being any good because I haven't really faced a shot yet, and I snare it with little problem.
And like that, my nerves are settled. All the little things you do when you play hockey, the little routines you develop after thousands of hours of play, come back to you. You move the same, you act the same, you feel the same. Then you remember: this game is fun as hell. Seriously, if you've never played or haven't played in a while, go as soon as you can. Sign up as a single player and join a team of random dudes; it doesn't matter that you don't know them, you'll be best friends in a couple weeks. Hockey is a great game and there's only one guy I can think of that disagrees: the best player on the team I face next week.