On April 15th and 16th we conducted our Goalie Tryout Sessions for the York Simcoe Express. The goalies participated in a variety of drills that hopefully gave each of them a better opportunity to show their skills to the coaches in attendance. Before adopting this procedure, prospective goaltenders were given limited action in scrimmage sessions where they often came in “cold” and had little opportunity to show what they could do. Following the sessions completed last Tuesday, the coaches will now bring a more manageable number of goalies to the team scrimmages. The process seems to work well and I hope it was a good experience for everyone involved.
At the end of the last session, I called all of the goalies into a huddle to tell them that even though they played well and may be good enough to play Triple A, the decision may not go in their favour. Should this happen, there will naturally be an initial sense of disappointment but they must not let this linger into discouragement. There are very few goalies that haven’t had a coach shake their hand, look them in the eye and say, “thanks for coming out”.
I can think of one goalie in particular who heard those words several times while trying to break into Triple “A” hockey. However, he continued to play for the love of the game and he never stopped believing in himself. Finally, at around the age of fourteen or fifteen, he finally made one of the YSE teams and proved he belonged in Triple “A” hockey. When it came time for the OHL draft, his talents were again overlooked as goalies with less ability heard their names called.
Undaunted, our young goalie attended many Jr. “A” tryouts in the OPJHL. The teams he most wanted to play for in this general vicinity gave him the old “thanks for coming out” line he had heard so many times before. It was not until he skated with the Ajax Jr. “A” team that his talents were recognized and he signed his first Jr. “A” card. The Axemen, as they were called, were one of the weakest teams in the entire province but it gave this young goalie the opportunity he needed to show what he could do. While in Ajax, he faced an average of 45 shots a game and gave up lots of goals. But every shot and every goal was a learning opportunity and it wasn’t long before he won the attention of some NHL scouts. In the NHL draft, our young goalie was the last player to be selected. But, that didn’t matter… his talents were finally being recognized.
Just before the start of the next season, the University of Wisconsin found themselves in a dilemma. The goalie they had recruited was declared ineligible by the NCAA. They resolved the problem by putting in a call to the Ottawa Senators to ask them about the goalie that was the last pick in the previous draft. The Senators reported that they thought this young man was a diamond in the rough and that he was an excellent candidate for a full scholarship. So, it was off to Wisconsin to play for one of the best teams in the NCAA. It took two seasons before he earned the starting job and led the Badgers to an NCAA Championship… the young prospect was also a finalist in the voting for the Hobey Baker Award as the best player in the NCAA. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, he went on to star for the Ottawa Senators and last year, as a member of the St. Louis Blues he was selected to play in the NHL All Star Game.
By now, most of you know that the goalie in this little story is none other than Brian Elliott. Brian is an outstanding example of dedication and perseverance. He never gave up on himself and when a door closed in his face he looked for another opportunity to play. So, when someone tells you, “thanks for coming out”, just remember that Brian Elliott had those words spoken to him on numerous occasions. He continued to play because he loved the game and made the most of every opportunity presented to him. So, although being cut is often difficult, remember that no one knows the future. Use every opportunity to hone your craft and be the best goalie you can be every time you step on the ice.