This weekend is the NHL All-Star Game. Part of the festivities will be a so-called skills competition featuring stars seeing who can skate fastest , who can shoot hardest, and who can score the fanciest breakaway goal. NHL goalies will stand in the net but in 2009, an amateur was in the crease and, according to Don Cherry, ruined the event.
Jason Maggio, a goalie for the AA Dollard Vipers, was recruited for the job when the League decided not to put a pro goalie in the net. This may have been because, in 2008, the goalies actually tried to stop shots, even going so far as to poke check the forwards. After all, if there’s one thing a goalie hates it’s to have that damn disc sitting behind him. But the League wanted to see goals so they asked Jason Maggio to stand in the crease.
That was a mistake. Jason stopped all but five shots.
Jason really didn’t expect to do that well. He was excited going into the game: “Up until now, it’s got to be the No. 1 thing I’ve ever done in my life,” he said. “Nobody else ever gets this chance to skate on the ice with all of these guys.” That’s true — no amateur had ever taken part in the skills competition before and, after Jason’s performance, probably none will ever do so again.
Don Cherry was very upset. “The people aren’t here to see him stop them. One reporter here in Montreal thought it was great. But the people didn’t come here, 19,000 of them, to see a Junior B goaltender stop the guys and make them look stupid!” Of course, the dignity of the game is very important to Cherry who makes a point of never looking stupid.
The players didn’t seem to feel that Jason had done anything wrong; they congratulated him in the dressing room. Nor did they seem to mind looking a bit silly. After all, this was entertainment, not a real game on the line.
Jason didn’t try anything fancy, he didn’t poke check, he just stood in there. But when players are trying things like bouncing pucks off their head into the net, they’re liable to miss more often than not. Even so, Jason wins bragging rights for stopping the NHL’s best. He is likely to be the only amateur ever given the opportunity to do it. “It was awesome for me, so it would have pretty cool to keep that going and have other kids experience it. It’s something different, something no other league does. I guess maybe Don Cherry’s complaint got through,” he says. Jason’s dad got really excited afterwards; he spoke of his son getting Italian citizenship and playing in Europe. Jason, a very level-headed guy, took a job with CCM instead.
This post inspired by Puck Daddy’s column. And here’s Puck Daddy in 2009.
Complete video of the Super Skills Breakaway contest.
News story. Cherry was particularly upset by this article that praised Jason’s performance.