Kukla's Korner

Kukla's Korner Hockey

Being Al Montoya

from Al Montoya at The Players' Tribune,

I was seven, playing in a house league at the old Glenview Park District ice arena back home in Illinois. And at that point, on that team, being the goalie was like losing a bet or something. We used to have to pass the goalie bag to a different player before each game. No one wanted the job. And the beat-up bag with recycled equipment didn’t exactly help sell it.

But for me? As a little kid looking for new ways to have fun? Are you kidding?

To me, it was like that bag was filled with gold. What was inside couldn’t have been any more special — the old-school leather pads, one of those ancient chest protectors where it was just the chest and you had to slide on the arms, the whole thing. It may as well have been Patrick Roy’s or Eddie Belfour’s gear. In my eyes, it was beautiful.

And when the bag landed at my feet one day, I strapped on the mask and … I fell in love. Immediately. With that mask on, I felt like I could block out the noise around me and trust my instincts to respond to whatever came my way.

To fully understand why, you have to understand what it’s like to navigate two different worlds: The one shaped by being the son of a Cuban refugee — my mom, who had come to America after fleeing the Castro regime with her parents when she was 10 years old — and the one I had to create for myself, as an everyday American kid born in Chicago.

Let me be totally clear: I’m proud of every part of my identity. But moving between two completely different versions of yourself on a daily basis can be challenging. It’s not that I didn’t know which one I most belonged to. It’s that I didn’t feel like society would let me be everything I was — Cuban, American, the son of an immigrant — all at the same time.

read on

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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com