Minnesota Hockey Magazine

Being Bobby Goepfert

Goepfert_5x4_Diashow

A fantastic journey into the unique mind of a goaltender …

over the lineThere aren’t many things in this world for which I would consider myself an expert. Reluctantly, however, after much self analysis, the reality is that giving up goals is my area of expertise as I have had much experience in the matter. It is an inalienable truth that if you play the position of goalkeeper, you are going to give up goals; it’s an undeniable fact. For those “guardians of the goal” reading this, you will understand what I am talking about. For those who dare not strap the pads on, I can only offer you this little glimpse, via the typed word, into the many sensations and feelings that only us goalies can know when we see that small sinister black disk lay lifeless behind the line we have sworn to protect.

Now close your eyes as I take you on this existential voyage of us crease dwellers….WAIT. Open them, you need them for this written part.

A whistle blows, opponents celebrate in an affectionate embrace, the deafening horn permeates your ear drums while the rays of an oscillating red light circle above you. And the goal songs! Curse the goal songs! The crowds chanting in unison, pointing, smiling, high-fiving, reveling in your misery. Alone in your blue arced haven you take it all in. Nothing conjures up more emotions in a goaltender than when that rubber disc eludes your grasp.

This is what we, as goalies, signed up for; this is our cross to bear. The public spectacle that are our failures celebrated by the opposition crowds in a thunderous roar. Even groans of our home crowd can be just as deafening. The gut-wrenching pain, angst and shame of it courses through your body like an electric current. Alone you stand, with nothing but your friendly water bottle that lay on top of your net. That is of course if he wasn’t injured or destroyed in the goal-letting. Oh the horror…

Some nights when I close my eyes I can still see the shattered remains of my water bottle cap scattered behind my net. I see its dented green body lay but a few feet away, motionless, having only moments ago witnessed him flying in the air helpless. The life-giving sustenance of H2O pools the ice around my crease like a homicide crime scene, a truly horrific sight.

You mourn him. And vow never to let it happen again. But it probably will. Never forget a fallen water bottle, and never forget the faces of the opponents who treat your tragedy like a badge of honor, probably looping their murderous shot on Youtube, or re-telling the event for the next 20 years. Skaters have no sympathy, forwards no heart for tenders of twine.

Growing up, you often hear advice about forgetting the goals you give up or, in my case, the better advice I got was: Analyze. File. Forget. However, the forgetting part is the toughest thing to do. Every goalie is different so I don’t want to group the entire position of padded men in my possibly ‘committal’ habit of remembering the goals I have given up. Though it makes me feel better if I believe everyone does it and I am not crazy or losing my mind. But goals stick with you. For me, all of them. Perhaps for others, some of them. But goals find a way into that memory bank and never leave, like scar tissue on the goaltending soul.

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Ryan Potulny puts one of his four goals past Bobby Goepfert (l.) (photo: Jason Waldowski/USCHO).

I have given up about 1743 goals and counting. And even though a good majority of those were in the Final Five, every one hurts just the same. Whether it be Luke Fulgham’s backhanded breakaway in Dubuque to spoil my first USHL shutout with 28 seconds left, or Ryan Potulny’s 4th goal one-timer to send the game to overtime with 14 seconds left, or Trent Campbell’s deflection in the second period of an obscure ECHL January game in 2007 or … I can go on and on. Like the time Justin Bourne scored on … who am I kidding? Bourne never scored on me.

I sometimes also equate giving up a goal to getting your heart broken by this small friend you have grown with and embraced numerous times. The great times of cuddling it in your bread basket, saying in a faint whisper, “I love holding you.” The intimate times of smothering it on the ice, “I love you.” The times holding it in your glove, high in the air for the world to see. “Look how beautiful it is?!” Such great moments that you think will never end, until it does.

The errant rebound that goes onto an oncoming players stick. “HOW COULD YOU LEAVE ME LIKE THAT?! FOR HIM!!!???”

The harmless looking shot that yearns to be hugged only to find a hole. “WHY?! HOW CAN YOU DO THIS TO ME?!?!”

To be fair though, just as in relationships, there are two sides to every coin. Sometimes it is your fault, and you have to own up to it. Look in the mirror. Instead of an enraged angry tirade, your approach is sincere and apologetic, “It wasn’t you babe, it was me,” or “I’m sorry, it will never happen again.” (These phrases work better on pucks than on women.)

But regardless, you need to realize pucks are strange creatures. Give them too much attention and they need space. Don’t give them enough attention and they will move on. No matter how many times it doesn’t work out with a puck, just know there are many more out there waiting to be stopped, smothered and redirected away from that 4×6 holy twine guarded by you and your red metal “friends”. (Do not get me started on those guys…Friends? Yea, always kissing my puck and howling about it…)

Looking backOh the life of a goalkeeper. And how fitting the word is? Goalkeeper. Keeping the memories, feelings and sensations for a life time of the goals we could not ‘keep’. As we grow older and our goal count rises, we suffer from more and more severe effects from the hazards of the job. When we walk by a shipyard and hear the foghorn of a boat, it brings a sudden and unexpected form of Tourette’s Syndrome, mothers covering their children’s ears as we spew foul crudeness from our mouths well, like sailors I guess. Standing at a train platform and hearing the steam whistle, our nervous system shutters as we abruptly turn around to spray our face with an invisible water bottle. And each and every one of us padded masked men have this irrational urge to punch Gary Glitter for his “Rock and Roll Part 2″ song.

My intentions were to seek neither pity nor sympathy from this. I only wanted you to take a couple shuffles and T-pushes in our white cowlinged skates for a second. Goals, like sh*t, happens. But the next time your goalie gives up a goal, a little tap on the pads goes a long way. Or don’t touch or go near him. Every goalie is different. All goalies are different and a little “out there”. Some more so than others.

 

Follow Bobby on Twitter at @GeffMan47