St. Stephen – At a time when the sport of hockey seems to be getting negative attention, a bright light shone on one game between the St. Stephen High School boys’ hockey team and Southern Vic. The St. Stephen team was without a goalie for a recent game, and had to throw in a player who had never played net before. Not only did the opposing team support the last minute add, the Southern Vic goalie, TJ Sullivan, offered up some help to the inexperienced goaltender.
Coach Don McCallum said the normal starting goaltender was out with an injury, and the backup goalie they usually use was also unavailable. So, he asked Spartan player Davan Cloney if he would mind jumping into the net to play goal. Although Cloney had never played this position, he didn’t hesitate to come to his team’s rescue.
“I think he thought I was joking, but he definitely didn’t back down and went in,” said McCallum. “Of course, he had never played goaltender before. It was kind of awkward for him I’d say. But, at the end of the first period, goaltender TJ Sullivan from Southern Vic came down. It all started with the official, Jeff McGinn, who teaches at the middle school. He was talking to Davan about positioning and then TJ raced down and joined in the conversation to help.”
Cloney said Sullivan talked to him about what to do with the puck when it came at him, where to deflect it, butterflying, and positioning. He told Cloney not to worry about how many goals were put on him, because it happens to every goalie, not just new ones. He then proceeded to cheer every time Cloney made a save.
“It was pretty cool,” said Cloney. “I’ve never played goal before, and maybe I’ll do it again.”
McCallum said before the game, he had a discussion with the other team’s coaching staff, to let them know what was going on. He said they were very respectful in their response, and told him not to worry. They had some things they wanted to work on anyway, which would limit the amount of shots taken at the net.
“They were good as far as their approach to the game, and not trying to demoralize him at all. It was good for them, and it was good for us. It was very classy. It would be easy to run up the score, but they were 100 per cent all class for sure. It was nice,” said McCallum.
McCallum added he never expected the game to receive as much attention as it has. He said the crowd was cheering, and he was clapping for both Cloney and Sullivan. He never left the bench while the two teens were having their on-ice conversation, and he thought it was “very cool” that Sullivan would do this for an opposing player.
“We thought this was neat, but we didn’t realize it was going to expand into such a big story,” said McCallum. “It went across the country, and maybe even further. A lot of the feedback we’re getting is great. With all of the negative media around hockey, it was kind of a breath of fresh air for the sport.”
Cloney said he wants to thank the Southern Vic team, and Sullivan, for being such good sports about the whole situation. The help he received gave him the encouragement he needed to get through the game playing a position he had never played before. McCallum added that Sullivan and Southern Vic have gained much respect from St. Stephen High School.
“We’re grateful for the whole experience,” said McCallum. “It was really cool. It was an 11-0 game, but maybe the most positive experience of the year. It became bigger than just hockey. It became about communities really, and about a kid that’s very selfless.”