Why Jose Theodore Plays in Goal
Caps goalie Jose Theodore first found himself between the pipes when he was maybe four years old. And why, you're wondering, would a kid that age volunteer for such a job?
"Four older brothers that needed a target," he explained. "That's pretty much it."
See, three of Theodore's older brothers were hockey players, and they would all join the jumble of kids who played street hockey in their Montreal neighborhood, 10 or 20 kids gathering outdoors a couple blocks from Theodore's home for two hours at a spell. And Theodore didn't choose his position; it was chosen for him.
"I had no choice," Theodore said. "They were older, so they said, 'You're the goalie,' and you go. And then at one point, even though they were older, they had a tough time scoring. So they said, 'You should try it [on the ice], and that's how I started."
The young ice hockey goalies would rent pads and equipment, and Theodore said his family was supportive from the jump, but street hockey was different: smaller nets, and whatever beat-up equipment you could find.
The older kids "would take it easy, obviously," Theodore said. "They were not shooting that hard, but hard enough that sometimes I didn't want to play any more....You would have bruises. Sometimes you would stop playing, because I was going home, crying. But it's all part of it, I guess."
When he started his ice hockey career at the age of 3 or 4, Theodore was always a forward, but after his success on the streets, his brothers convinced him to make the switch. Initially, he would alternate between positions, but by the time he was 6 or 7 he became a full-time netminder.
And he continued playing with his brothers, especially the next-youngest, Rock. One time, they were at an outdoor rink, when Theodore's helmet broke. They played on.
"I said, 'Ok, just make sure you keep your shots low,' " Theodore recalled. "But, you know, he didn't really keep it low."
And so the nine-year old Theodore took one off the top of his head and was off to the hospital for stitches. "That," he said, "was my last time I played with no helmet as a goalie."
Rock could get under Theodore's skin, chirping after goals and controlling the matchup until the youngest brother was about 12 or 13, when things evened out. They would go to the outdoor rink at the local park for some one-on-one showdowns, which often ended poorly.
"I would be chasing him down the street or he would be chasing me, just because he won the game or I won the game," Theodore said. "Just good memories."
Theodore turned out to be the family's only pro. His hockey-playing brothers gave up the game when they were around 14; some wanted to ski and snowboard, and serious hockey required a serious time commitment. I asked Theodore whether his siblings take credit for his career as an NHL goalie; "all the time," he said with a laugh. "They should, because they're the ones who did it. I used to like playing as a forward, I used to like scoring goals."
A few years back, they all gathered on the ice again. One of Theodore's brothers has a small rink in his backyard, where he plays with his son. Theodore was out there, messing around with his nephew. His brothers began bugging him to put some pads on. All that was available was little kids' equipment, but Theodore finally obliged.
"They couldn't score," he said. "I was just giving it to them, big-time. I was just toying with them....All three against me, making passes. So that was pretty much payback time for all those years."
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