Silence pervaded the car as my daughter and I drove home last night. I was exhausted. Between a 7-mile run earlier in the day and my evening ice hockey game, the day had certainly been action-packed! Kaitlyn looked at me and shrugged.
“You played really well,” she offered.
“Yeah,” I answered. “It was a fast game.”
The game had ended in a 2-2 tie, but the two goals I let in were both soft goals. In other words, I should have stopped both of them. The first was a shot from about 15 feet reminiscent of the “knucklepuck” in Disney’s Mighty Ducks movie. It glanced off my chest just under my right arm and managed to nestled itself into the back of the net. The second goal was a rocket from just inside the blue line that also beat me to my right. I’d cheated a little to the left, anticipating he would try to bury it in the far corner. I’d been wrong, and I paid the price. It was a great shot against an erring goalie. Lesson learned.
“You looked tired out there,” Kaitlyn continued.
I smiled. “Nah, just disappointed with those two goals. We should have won 2-0.”
I wasn’t angry, just contemplative. And the rest of the way home, I thought about those goals, dissecting the sequence of events in each situation and the ways I could have, and probably should have, reacted differently.
In the end, by the time the Jeep pulled into the driveway, I was at peace with the outcome. I’d made a fair number of good saves, and even a few great ones. I’d kept the team in the game, and although we hadn’t won, we’d played well….all of us.
My contemplation wasn’t self-critical, however. It was, alternatively, about continuous improvement. You see, even if we had shut out the other team, there would have been things about my play in goal that I would have critiqued, aspects of my game that could have been better.
I didn’t blame myself for the lack of a victory….well, not overly so. I simply recognized my own role in the overall outcome of the game, and I focused my attention on those areas of my play that could have been better. In the end, I did play well. In fact, the game was faster and the shots harder than usual. The skill level of the opposing players was fairly impressive. And honestly, the opposing goalie was much better than I am. So, our offense did its job, netting two hard-fought goals. Our defense did a good job clearing the puck out of our zone for most of the game. And I made some critical saves when they counted most.
As we walked into the house, I smiled again at Kaitlyn. “Yeah,” I said, “It was a good game.”
And next time, I’d do my best to react better to the shots I faced. Some I will stop. Others will inevitably get by me. But I’ll never stop analyzing and working to get better. It’s just what I do.
But there will always be knuckle-pucks….and that’s just life, too.