The Goalie by Angelo R. Lopez is a Wintertime Reading pick #literaryfiction #sportsfiction #hockey
Title: The Goalie
Author: Angelo R. Lopez
Genre: Literary Fiction/ Sports Fiction
Despite a difficult childhood, Ben Sloan stands near the top of the World International Hockey League cementing himself as one of its best and brightest goaltenders. Only one step away from reaching the highest hockey league in the world: The National Hockey Federation. On the ice, he is collected, fast, and explosive. But when the roar of the crowd quiets and the bright lights of the game fade, Sloan is far from okay. Anxiety and harmful thoughts are the norm. Silenced only by handfuls of pills and the pass of a blade across his skin. A single shot, an act of hopelessness and spun rumors by the media cast a dark shadow across his life dragging Ben suddenly from the top of the league to adjusting to a life away from the pros. Years pass, when a familiar face comes calling with the promise of a better life across the country and a chance to escape the mundane life Ben has faded into. All seems quiet until a run-in with one of the NHF’s best breathes new life into the Sloan name. All eyes are suddenly on Ben again and a rare second chance makes itself known. A chance for Ben to learn that the biggest saves he can make have little to do with hockey.
2021 Best Literary Fiction N. N. Light Book Award Winner
“WHERE IS HE?” a man with salt and pepper colored hair shouted into the face of one of the Crusaders many interns. The grey suit and red tie he wore ruffled from sprinting down the many flights of stairs of the arena. The young girl’s arm shook as she pointed in the direction of the locker room, fighting back the urge to run “ He…he….he’s in the locker room sir, in the back room….I…I…called you just like the coach asked” she stuttered as she spoke wanting the interaction to end even before it started. The man huffed, rushing past her towards the Crusader locker room. He burst in looking around. Several players sat wearing full uniforms, the same black and red jerseys the fans outside wore graced their shoulders. They talked amongst themselves, talk of strategy and hockey giving way at times to talk of pretty girls and which way one or the other would celebrate after they won the championship. In their minds, they had already won the game. Playing was just a formality. The mindset of a group who was used to winning and had an almost egotistical faith in the man in the net.
“Anyone seen Sloan?” The grey suited man asked nearly shouting again. He succeeded in breaking up the conversation of the players. One of the players looked his way, pointing his hand towards the back room, a sort of second locker room, “ Yeah Mr. Kilorn, he’s in the backroom gearing up or something…we haven’t seen much of him, but that isn’t really all that weird with goalies. You know the head cases they are” he finished, going back to his conversation as Mr. Kilorn angrily flung the door of the back room open.
Mr. Kilorn shook his head staring at the man sitting in the far corner of the dimly lit room. The man was dressed in full goalie gear, the large leg pads on his legs were predominately black. A contrast of the ice they danced on. Crimson red slashes lined their face. The man’s glove and blocker, which were the same color and style as the pads, rested on the floor in front of him waiting to be called upon for battle. He wore the same jersey as the other players only several sizes larger to accommodate the bulky chest protector hidden beneath it. The number twenty seven and the name Sloan rested across his back.
Sloan rested his heads into his palms, his hair drenched with sweat. Mr. Kilorn inched closer, shutting the door gently behind him. He could hear Ben’s breathing, it was rapid and shallow; something he had gotten used to with Ben throughout the years. “Ben…..are okay my boy?” Mr. Kilorn said at almost a soothing whisper as he stepped closer into the light. Ben cocked his head towards him, the redness on his face and sunken look in his eyes was a bad sign. “I….don’t know, Max…I’m not feeling so good tonight”. Max Kilorn slapped his hand to his forehead, rubbing the spot softly with irritation, “You’re just a bit nervous because of the big game” He said a mock kindness in his tone. Ben said nothing. He stared at Max in silence. Max rubbed his forehead feverishly, “we’ve been through this more than a few times Ben, have you taken the pills the doctor gave you?” Ben lifted a small orange medicine bottle up, it’s white cap twisted off “Yeah…I..I took them….couldn’t keep the first two down….but the second time….I managed”. He put the bottle on the bench beside him before bringing his hands to the sides of his head, rocking his body back and forth slowly with little restraint.
Max darted towards him, dropping to one knee in front of the goalie. He grabbed the bottle of pills staring at them for a moment as if the secret to this problem was written across the bottles face. Max’s hand rubbed against his forehead again, his teeth gritted together. The game was going to start in fifteen minutes and he needed to get this man into shape for it. He could feel the anger pulsing inside of him, raging inside trying to escape. He pushed it down, breathing deeply a few times gathering himself. “I know you aren’t feeling that good right now kid, but tonight’s a big game for the both of us” he paused waiting for a reaction that didn’t come “After a quick warm up, you’ll feel fine and before you know it, the guys and fans will be carrying you out of the arena on their shoulders like a damned king” He said with the tone of a man attempting to exert his own excitement and fire onto another, but with little success.
Ben sat, bringing his hands down from his head, resting them in his lap. He looked down at Max. Ben’s face reddish and puffy, tired lines moved across his cheeks like grooves in freshly cut ice, “I don’t think I can play tonight Max….I don’t feel good at all” He said sinking his chin into the chest protector like a turtle hiding its head in its shell. Max paced the small room, breathing deeply trying to push the down anger building inside. The man in front of him was his ticket to the big time, how Ben performed tonight would define not only his future as a professional goalie, but the managers who found this diamond’s future as well.
He stopped, sighing under his breath as he stared at Ben sitting on the bench. He didn’t see the bad ass goalie whose picture graced the front of posters and wall scrolls along the building tonight. He didn’t see the man all the fans outside in the stands came to see, the man with the fast glove and reflexes that made skaters swear and look towards the sky after being robbed of a sure goal. Instead, he saw a man whose selfish thoughts were about to blow both of their chances at the show, everything they’d worked so hard for.
What makes your featured book a must-read?
I feel “The Goalie” is a great mix of action, emotion and inspiration. I believe it carries a strong message that everyone needs to hear especially in the current age we live in where mental struggles seem to be more and more common. This book, on the surface, may be about a sport, but it is so much more and I believe it can help others who may see themselves in the main character or those who know someone who struggles with mental illness.
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Hello, my name is Angelo R. Lopez. I am 33 years old and fairly new at the writing game. I am just a working stiff trying his hand at a chasing a dream I never thought would come ( unless I made it happen). I am a huge sports fan and dedicated towards helping others who struggle mentally ( As I myself do at times). I look forward to creating many stories that create a feeling that inspires or leaves a mark on readers. I come from very humble beginnings ( the first draft of The Goalie was hand written as I did not have a computer) and believe that books have the power to change the world.
Social Media Links:
@unmasked.writer ( On Instagram)