Last month, almost 5 years to the day I played my first game in net, I played my last.
I suppose it's nice to go out on top, with a women's league championship, but if you know my passion for the position and how hard I worked in the early years to become even moderately adequate at the position, you can imagine how bittersweet it is.
There's not a lot of benefit to me getting into all the reasons, but it will have to suffice to say that it was taking more from me than it was giving and that, to me, is when it's time to walk away.
But there's no doubt that, through the years, goaltending gave me more than I ever expected. I met amazing people, I learned more about the position than I ever could without playing, I learned so much about myself (primarily the depths of my humility), and made friends for life with other goalies for whom I have so much respect and love. It really is a fraternity of folks who "get it" when nobody else does.
Since my last game, I feel like I've actually grown to appreciate the position more. I can watch goalies play with full appreciation for the skill set required, but when things go badly for them, my first thought is no longer, "Yeah, that happens to me, like, once a game. Ugh." In fact, just in general, I enjoy watching hockey more now because there is less "ugh"... I appreciate goals more because I'm not putting myself in the goalie's shoes all the time and feeling their pain.
Best part: No hand-eye coordination required.
My beautiful mask sits on the credenza in my office now. One of these days, I'll send the back plate to Jessica's mom, but for now, it still means too much to me.
This week, I'll start selling my gear and spend the money on massages and race registrations. This prospect feels more like a catharsis than something sad, so I'm taking that as a good sign.
Say goodnight, Goalie Heather.
Goodnight, Goalie Heather.