The kid was now hunched over.
His shoulders shuddering up and down. In most arenas you wouldn't be able to hear what was happening on the ice, but between the superior acoustics and the intensity of his crying, the sounds of a soul defeated were heard to the very back row of the raised bleachers.
The insult to the injury was that the adults didn't seem to believe he was hurting. Not physically, because at least that would have been tangible, but deep in the core of his being. The sounds emitting from him were those of pain from a wound of the heart. A sound no child should ever make.
What should have been a thrilled victory in a playoff hockey game was quickly becoming a freak show. Adults acting like children, children acting like animals and finally a broken boy sobbing on the ice.
First Born Son is a goalie. It's a thankless position. You will never be credited for the win, and you will ALWAYS be blamed for the loss. If you can't handle that - get out of the crease.
But in this game, the goalie was obviously a little green. He showed his frustration with every smack of the stick against the posts and then the ice. He was annoyed that his teammates stood and watched while our forwards walked right in and smashed away at the puck with little if any resistance. Two goals in five minutes, and he was frustrated. He slams his stick into the metal posts.
"I HOPE YOU BREAK YOUR STICK LITTLE BOY!" Shouts a mother from our team, who then laughs with her friends. I'm am embarrassed at the comment, and the fact that she would yell so directly at a player.
By the mid point of the second period, the cracks were showing. If there had been a backup goalie, this one would have been pulled. One of our forwards rushes the goalie, who covers the puck for the save, and eats a face full of snow, thanks to the forward. The forward is removed for the penalty - and rightfully so - and the ref, sensing that there was a problem, gives the goalie a moment to collect himself. After all, we are talking about 12-year-olds here.
The forward's stepfather is in the stands and feeling self righteous I suppose? Embarrassed? Divinely appointed? yells out "ARE YOU OKKAAAAY GOALIE?" in a tone that left no room for interpretation - "buck up you little punk." The child - looks up into the stands, takes a breath and yells at the top of his lungs "SHUT UP AND LEAVE ME ALONE!"
While the "mature" spectators respond with a rousing "OOOOooooh" that would make any Grade 3 bully proud, the child is left at the centre of his end of the ice and he is overcome.
One of the more genteel mothers thinks he could be coughing - maybe he's got a respiratory problem. I know better. I can hear him and he's gasping for air because he's sobbing. It doesn't matter that the referee chides the "adults" for their immature behavior, and he can't hear his mother venting that the offending fans should be removed. He's just broken and hurting and he's on the ice so everyone can see him. The period ends and he flies to the bench as fast as he legs can carry him.
"SEE!" Says one parent "He seems ok now!?!"
Asshole. The little goalie collapses on the bench and doesn't move for the rest of the game. His coach props him up against the wall and his coach has to put his helmet on his head once the game resumes.
Mercifully he is replaced by a fellow player who doesn't normally play net. The third period begins and we continue on. More asinine comments - none nearly as pointed. The goalie just sits on the bench - never moving.
We won the game. But in fact - we lost. We lost our self respect, our pride in representing our community. Our humanity.
I see the Home team mother in the parking lot and take the chance to speak to her. She's still rabid about the public flaying her son endured. She yells at me. I take it because damn it, she deserves to vent. I explain that I too am a Goalie Mom, that I disagree with what our fans said and did. And that I was sorry. She seemed to calm down a bit and in the end, I gave her a hug.
And if her son had been there, I would have hugged him too.