The Shot This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Like a sonnet is to writing, a penalty shot in ice hockey is the rarest and most beautiful part of the sport. A season ticket holder would be lucky to see five in the same decade, but, despite its rarity, every hockey player spends hours practicing and perfecting the art of making this shot, and we all dream of scoring one in the overtime of the "big" game.

Finally I got the chance. Our state team made it to the finals of an 8-team tournament in Binghamton, New York, and no participant in that game ever played with more intensity. Our emotions were on a rollercoaster, rising and falling as the puck went from one end of the ice to the other. With only three minutes left in the game, neither team had penetrated the other's defense. Then, my linemate Matt Pollin's shot hit the goal post and bounced in front of the net. Without thinking, one of their defensemen picked up the puck with his hand to stop it from sliding past their sprawled out goalie. That forced the referee to blow the whistle, and, after conferring with the two linesmen, he held his right arm parallel to the ice with his palm facing upward, signifying a penalty shot for our team.

Our coach called a timeout, and we all knew that if we scored, we would win. He looked around at our faces and asked for volunteers. Everyone, including the two goalies, raised their hands and shouted, "Me, me, me!" He paused and then said, "Popovsky, you do it." For an instant I was elated at being the "Chosen One," but that quickly turned to utter fear, as I thought about a thousand eyes and the hopes of my teammates all resting on me. My knees shook, my entire body perspired, and my stomach churned; I did not think I could make the shot. The ref came to our bench saying, "I need someone," and my coach pointed to me.

I stood alone in the middle of the ice, waiting for the ref to blow the whistle. I knew what I would do; I had planned it since I was six. I was going to skate down the center of the ice, at the blue line I would lift my stick shoulder-high and fake a slapshot. Then I would carry the puck to the left, quickly pull it back right, pause for an instant, and finally fire a wrist shot into the upper left-hand corner. I was sure the crowd could hear my heart beating; a million thoughts rushed through my head. The whistle blew, and like the half of a schizophrenic who is not talking, my mind turned blank. If it were not for videotape, I would not be able to describe the shot itself; I remember nothing.

I skated down the center of the ice, making no moves, then I weakly pushed the puck to the goalie. Luckily for me, he misjudged the puck; it deflected off of his left skate, and went in the net. Nothing like I hoped for; it was ugly, but a goal nonetheless. I should have been ecstatic, yelling and screaming, but rather, I stood still, reticent and dejected.

Everyone in that ice rink thought it was a success, but I knew that it was a failure. I felt terrible when I should have felt wonderful; I scored on a penalty shot in the big game, but I was on the verge of tears. Success and failure all depend on one's perspective. My reasons for being upset were shallow; I wanted to show off what I could do to everyone, but I didn't. Remember: Put the puck in the net, and don't worry about how good you look doing it. n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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