Thursday, September 24, 2015

Stress goalies

I'm a nervous guy. There's always been a healthy level of anxiety in my daily existence. It's just part of who I am. Nervous. Cautious. More nervous.

When you're an anxious person you find different ways of coping with stress.  You go through life trying and discarding many methods until you find the ones that work best. You create constants that you go to. Comfort food for your mind.

My comfort food has always been hockey. Goalies, specifically.

From an early age I was obsessed, like many other Canadian kids, with hockey. I collected cards. I checked the standings in the paper every day. I watched HNIC on Saturday nights. And I of course played in a house league hockey league. I also drew. A lot. I was a much better drawer than I was a hockey player. That balance in my life still hasn't shifted much to this day. Naturally these two worlds came together for me in a steady stream of goalie drawings. I gravitated to goalies for obvious reasons. With all the pads and mask they just looked the coolest. They were like modern knights in leather armour. The blocker was a shield, the goal stick a lance, the mask as a medieval helmet. Too cool. There was no way to resist drawing that when you're a hockey fan who likes to doodle. As a kid it became part of my daily routine.

As I grew older and life increased in complexity and responsibilities, the 'goalie' habit became a welcome refuge away from the swirl of challenges I was surrounded by. The familiarity of sketching out the pads, blocker, and glove had an instant calming effect on my racing thoughts. The way the equipment looked was very specific. I always remember getting absurdly irritated when I'd read a story in my Archie digests or some other comic about hockey and the equipment was drawn all wrong. The artist obviously didn't give two shits and figured just drawing a bunch of dudes with skates and wooly sweaters with pads randomly attached would suffice. It drove me crazy! All they needed to do was just a few minutes of research to figure out how the pants and socks worked and where to draw the tape on the stick! Gah! Simple!

The goalie pads (if they even realized there was a different position called goalie involved) were always the most horrendously effed up. Lumpy pillow-y pads and a ribbed back catcher's chest protector were standard misinterpretations of what actual goalie gear should look like. I knew that THIS was what goalie pads were supposed to look like:

Of course, all my preferences were based on the pads of the 70's and early 80's at the time. So, with the exception of Billy Smith and Grant Fuhr, pads were always brown leather. And goalies wore masks! I'm all for better protection and visibility for players but I do miss those days of the full face goalie mask. It's no mystery why Jason donned a hockey mask in the Friday the 13ths. Old school goalie masks were wicked. And honestly a lot easier to draw than the present day cage/mask combos out there. All those lines for the cage part are just tedious and confusing to render. Back in the day you had all these greats to draw:

As a young adult, and well into my thirties, I'd be the victim of seemingly random panic attacks. They were paralyzing experiences. Largely attributed to my naturally nervous demeanor, I'd try all sorts of things to swing me out of them. Drawing goalies or something familiar always helped. Whenever a panic attack began and there was paper and pen available I'd start drawing a goalie. Stacking the pads, making a glove save, or diving for a loose puck in traffic, it all helped steer me away from the madness. Working out the jersey to render and coming up with a design for the mask took me away from whatever freakout I'd been about to embark on. They weren't always the greatest drawings (a lot of shaky lines) but they almost always helped.

Thankfully I'm no longer the angst-ridden person of yesteryear that I was. Age, experience, a wonderful wife, and a general downgrade of energy, I'm sure have all contributed to the mellowing of my soul. Which is great and I'm thankful for it.

But some old habits do persist.

Even in a chilled state of mind I still enjoy doodling a good goalie every now and then. But only brown pads. I can't totally let go of the past.


Bob King said...

This is awesome. We share a love for goalies. I drew them as well when I was a kid. There was something about the detail of the waffle pad (blocker) and all of the leather compartments of the leg pads that was transfixing to me. The catching glove was always the toughest to draw. In action photographs, it always mooshed itself into an undrawable pancake of straps and webbing.

Denis Herron, Penguins, blue uniforms was always my go-to guy. I sent him a drawing once when I was 9. he sent me an autographed photo back.

grickleguy said...

Agreed, the catching glove was always trickiest! I always put that black oval of leather that said "cooper" in it to help define the glove.

Ha! I drew a lot of Denis Herron too! But always in a Habs uniform. :)

Unknown said...

This was very interesting to read!
A few days ago I was reading an interview with a woman suffering from panic attacks and her final words of wisdom were that you should not be ashamed of that, get help and talk about it. Well, I guess by sharing your experiences (especially how to deal with the problem) you did a good thing.

Personally I don't have panic attacks but I'm very familiar with anxieties and I also prefer to keep me occupied with pencil or brush and paper in order to distract my mind from fear (wether it's random or out of a certain reason). Unfortunately there's no sport to be obsessed with (also no hockey because hockey may be existent but is not that popular where I come from).
You told that you found your way of pretty much "beating" this problem. That's so awesome and I'm happy for you as I am for others who find working methods! I'm still on my way but I wonder if this way will ever find an end...until I find out I keep drawing ;)