One of the greatest hockey goalies of all time stopped shots by sticking his bare face in the line of fire.
I was listening to an episode of This American Life after dropping off Matt at the airport last night. They talked about the famous Canadian Hockey goalie, Terry Sawchuck, who remains one of the most impressive goalies to have skated the ice to date. He played in the 50’s before goalies wore protective face masks (yes, you read that correctly, as if Hockey wasn’t dangerous enough). To that point in the sport, goalies would stand more upright, with their heads above the rim of the goal, to protect their heads. But not Sawchuck. He was one of the first goalies to bend over at the waist, crouch down lower to the ice. He wanted to stop goals, so he put his face directly in the path of a flying puck shot by an opposing 250 pounds of muscle.
And it worked. He landed in the Hall of Fame and held the record for the most shut-outs (115!) for years. He literally changed the way hockey goalies played forever. The best of the best of the best dreaded playing against Sawchuck.
But it cost him. Dearly. 600 facial stitches in his career, a mug shot that looked a bit like Frankenstein. Major lower back injuries. Surgeries. My stomach started hurting listening to the stories and I quick-clicked off the google images of him.
And it got me thinking on that drive home — about sacrifice and what it takes sometimes to do hard, deeply good things. So often in my life, I want the gain without the pain. I want to be a good mom with thriving kids, but I don’t want to practice love when I’m hustling them out the door and I slept late and someone can’t find socks. I want to be a strong leader, but I don’t want to give up everyone liking me. I want to read more, but I would rather watch copious amounts of Netflix. Essentially, I desire to know things and be things personally, but would prefer for those things be handed to me for free, on a silver platter, that I don’t have to get up off the couch or sacrifice anything to get.
I’d like to stop the puck *and* save my face, please.
And I expect this of others, too. I want heroes to look up to, but I don’t want to admit that the journey it took to get them there may have left some scars that while perhaps faded, still mar the appearance, behavior or outlook on life. I want to read the epic stories but want to skip the chapters with the gruesome details. I want my husband to lead courageously, but I’d rather not deal with the fallout of the pressure and the journey when it affects our social lives or kid’s futures or grocery store run on a Tuesday.
But sometimes, in the matches that really matter, whether they feel big or small, maybe you don’t get to have both. Perhaps there are some goals you can manage to stop with the bottom of your skate or your heavily padded forearm. But sometimes, sometimes the next right thing requires bent knees and a head that dips below the top of the goal.