Monday, March 19, 2012
A Pause to Reflect: Calvin Pickard
The image of Calvin Pickard, at the end of the final game down in Portland slumped over in the crease, down on his knees with his masked forehead resting on the ice, staying there seemingly forever, will be one that lasts with me for awhile. It was an emotional reaction from a fierce competitor who realizes a goal won't be reached.
Then I remember back just 48 hours earlier to the final horn in Spokane Friday night after a thrilling 4-3 win over the Chiefs that had kept Seattle's flickering playoff hopes alive. The image there of Calvin hopping up and down on the ice, arms raised high in the air as he literally bounced from the crease to the blueline. Pure euphoria at the joy of victory. Another kind of emotional reaction from this fierce competitor.
Then there he was down on the ice after the home loss Saturday to Everett. Calvin, like his teammates, still in uniform, his pads still on, down on one knee on the ice during the postgame team awards ceremony. There was sweat dripping off him, his hair matted against his head, his eyes staring off into the distance at nothing and everything at the same time trying to come to grips I'm sure, with the gravity of the situation. the chance to clinch a playoff spot had slipped from their grasp. Yet another show of emotion.
They say you have to keep your emotions in check and try to ride an even keel in this game; don't get too high with the ups and don't get too down with the lows. But when you love the game that is easier said then done. Besides, I'd rather see the human side of these players, After all, they play this game because of their passion for the sport. No one has more of that passion then Calvin Pickard. Sunday it was as if he died just a little bit with each goal Portland scored Sunday. But he kept fighting and twisting and throwing his body at every puck. He wasn't going down without leaving everything on the ice. It was like the end of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and Robert Redford and Paul Newman are surrounded by the Bolivian Army. They know it's over but they were going to go out on their terms, even if that end was under a hail of bullets.
Calvin wanted the playoffs so badly, to play at least one more game as a T-bird for his teammates, for the fans....for himself. It was just not to be. I think the significance of the situation hit him as that final horn sounded down in Portland. His record-setting WHL career was over. A big chapter of his life was done. Dreams he had when he entered the league four years ago went unfulfilled.
So, as he lie there in the crease after the game Sunday for what seemed like an eternity, with teammates like Cason Machacek and Mitch Elliot coming over to console him, you understand why Pickard wasn't thinking of the bright future that lies ahead of him. The only thing that mattered to Calvin at that moment was "the now". The reality of a finality to his junior career.
I ran into Calvin after the game outside the locker room, just before he boarded the bus for the ride back to Kent. His uniform and gear had long since been packed and stowed for the final time. His hair slicked back, nattily attired in suit and tie but his eyes still red; still wearing the emotion of the situation. I shook his hand and tried to think of something clever to say but could come up with nothing significant. Just an awkward sort of "thanks". really, what else can you say?
Think about this; goalies are on the ice for more minutes then any other player on their team, sixty minute on average per game. And no goalie has been on the ice in his WHL career more than Calvin has. This means he's spent more minutes on the ice then anyone in Thunderbirds history. He's faced more shots and made more saves then any WHL goaltender ever has. Did the team win any titles or claim any banners while Calvin was here? No. But Calvin tried to make every one of those minutes he spent in a Thunderbirds jersey count.
They say you don't know what you're missing until it's gone. But Calvin Pickard isn't gone just yet and we already miss him.