By Richard Harris, GGSUnited member since 2010
I’m sure you all know Ben Scrivens, the well travelled Cornell grad that plied his trade all over the NHL and is now stopping pucks in the KHL. Some of you may too know his wife Jenny. She was also a goalie at Cornell. Last year she gained some fame as a goalie for the New York Riveters in the NWHL (she’s also a great social media follow).
Well this blog isn’t about them. It’s about my wife Melanie and I – THE OTHER GOALIE COUPLE.
I’ve been a goalie since I was a kid. I played my minor hockey in Owen Sound, Ontario. Then on to Jr C in Wiarton, many seasons of Sr AA, Rec leagues and old timers. But enough about me…
It all started when some of my wife’s friends started a women's team 15-16 years ago. My wife was 21- years-old and just done university. She didn’t play hockey growing up but did know how to skate. They called Melanie. “Hey, isn’t your boyfriend a goalie? We need a goalie for our new women's team. Do you want to play? Does he have some old gear you could wear?”
My excitement was through the roof. I jumped at the opportunity to suit Melanie up and get her on the ice. Melanie was excited too. She’s a great athlete; basketball, volleyball, baseball, but had always wanted to play hockey. We assembled some of my old gear and hit Play it Again Sports to finish Melanie’s set up. Old Vaughn Velocity pads and Koho Revolution gloves were the crowning jewels. It didn’t take long for Melanie to fall in love with it. She was awesome right off the start!
The local women's league was a great training ground for Melanie, but she needed more. We had moved to Port Elgin, Ontario, an area thriving in the women's hockey scene, with some great players too. In 2012, a group of local female players decided to put a team together to compete for the Ontario Women's Hockey Association Sr BB championship. They won the first year they entered, and have continued to compete and do well.
Melanie, being the really good goalie she is, plays in our local men’s league and is probably the best goalie in the league. Here’s the trouble. I take a lot of heat for this from my buddies that play in the league. “Glad your wife is our goalie and not you.” “Hey Rich, has your wife taught you how to play yet?” You know, idiot friends just being idiot friends. All in good fun.
Truth is I do play a few times a week still, just not in that league. I’ve played Sr AA on and off for the last 15 years in Wiarton, Saugeen Shores, Shallow Lake and again this season in Saugeen Shores for the Winterhawks. I also play in a fun old timers team.
To bring this full circle as a “goaltending couple”, the coolest thing we’ve ever done together was attend the first annual GGSU Legends Camp in Chicago for our 10th anniversary. As the camp was announced in 2014 I thought it couldn’t hurt to float the idea to Melanie. She was all over it, maybe even more excited than me. Aside from my occasional on-ice appearance’s at her woman’s team skates, because Melanie didn’t grow up playing hockey, she never really had the advantage of formal coaching. My buddies are still amazed I got my wife to attend a hockey camp for an anniversary trip. Yah I know, my wife is the coolest wife ever. What a great time in Chicago. We still plan on getting back to a Legends Camp. Maybe for our 15th anniversary.
Over the 16-ish years we’ve both been goalies we’ve only played against each other once. It happened last season with my old timer’s team. For one of our intrasquad games I was struggling to find a 2nd goalie when my usual partner couldn’t make it. I asked a few guys on the team if they’d mind if Melanie came out. No problem, they said. Actually, as one of my team mates put it, “the only problem is she’s better than you and she’s probably going to steal your spot.” Thanks bud…
What a great night. Melanie was awesome as usual. I played my balls off to make sure she didn’t upstage me. Mission accomplished. I won and was able to keep my spot, barely in the estimations of a few of my teammates. I’m just sorry it took us so long to play on the same sheet of ice. It was a blast to have her out there. The worry is when worlds collide it could be trouble. Melanie is awesome, she’s an awesome goalie, and my team is a great group of guys so in the end it worked out great.
We haven’t been able to do it again since, but hopefully we can a few times before the season is over.
I also run a weekly goalie development on ice program for our local minor hockey association. It’s a free clinic for all the young goalies. Melanie comes out and helps as one of my coaches. We get a lot of comments from parents about how great/unique it is to have a goaltending couple, us, out there.
In my mind, if couples can share a passion, it helps bring them even closer together. For Melanie and I, sharing our passion for goaltending has become a huge part of our relationship. Whether it’s watching each other play, chatting about NHL goalies, watching YouTube videos of drills for our personal goalie development, or browsing cool gear on GGSUnited, we’re in this together and for me that’s the best way to do it!
Happy goaltending to all of you,
Richard Harris (and his better goaltending half Melanie)