‘Don’t let it hit my beautiful face’


An interview with the world’s most shamed/famed goaltender

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Formerly published by The Other Press. Feb. 17, 2014

I first met Charlie Winston on a rainy day at a coffee shop in Tsawwassen, British Columbia. I approached the man and bought him a cup of decaf. We sat in the back corner—we had to, for fear he’d be recognized—and he told me about the most traumatic moment of his life.

It all began in third grade when Winston was just a fragile little prepubescent boy with an afro: “There are two things kids do when they are growing up in Canada,” he told me in a hushed voice as if he were gossiping about the homeless man at the adjacent table. “One, we don’t talk about Fight Club, unless we mention how great Edward Norton is in it. And two, we play hockey.”

Such a statement left me caressing my soul patch, a personal project that I don’t care to mention in anymore depth. As I began encouraging him to delve further into his deep dark memories, he shuddered, almost breaking down into tears, recovering enough only to excuse himself to go to the bathroom.

Winston left me at the table for 45 minutes before he returned. What he was doing is still unknown.

“Every recess, while all the girls made up rumours about me,” said Winston, “I would be alone, making rumours about them.”

“Strange,” I thought, before vocalizing that same sentiment—“Strange.”

“Yes, very strange,” he agreed before continuing. “One day, the boys saw me sitting there on a tuffet, eating my curds and whey. They shyly walked over and asked if I wanted to play hockey with them or talk about Edward Norton. I told them that I thought Norton deserved an Academy Award for his performance and they agreed.”

According to Winston, the boys were satisfied by his opinions about the acclaimed actor and left him alone; he continued eating his food and gossiping to himself. Suddenly another boy appeared out of nowhere and asked if he would like to join them in a game of hockey. Never thought of as athletic, Winston declined.

“Pleeease!” said the boy. “You’d make such a good goalie.”

Never athletic, but always easily wooed, Winston agreed.

“Before I knew it I was standing there in front of the net feeling like Little Miss Muffet,” said Winston. “I was so vulnerable, more so when they started shooting rubber discs at me. I freaked! See, I didn’t really understand the rules of hockey at that time, so I thought they were trying to kill me with a thick novelty flying disc. I had to defend myself, you see! I could not die this way! They had to die!”

One save, two goals against, three fatalities, and 17 injuries were the result of Winston’s first game in net.

“I can still remember the screams,” he told me as his voice dropped to a secretive level. “I’m not sure if it was me screaming or the children—but I heard it: ‘Don’t let it hit my beautiful face!’ It still haunts me to this day.”

At the end of our interview, I stood up and shook the man’s hand. And then it dawned on me: I was shaking Charlie Winston’s hand.

Charlie Winston, the simple man, the murderer, and the new starting goalie for the Vancouver Canucks.

Ain’t no butterfly style

Washington Capitals v Philadelphia Flyers

Toughest active NHL goalies

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Formerly published in the Other Press. Nov. 2013

Philadelphia Flyers’ Ray Emery has a reputation: he’s a fighter and a competitor, which are quality traits for any professional athlete—most of the time. He’s bounced back from avascular necrosis, a disease that interrupts blood supply to joints, to win the Stanley Cup and the Williams Jennings Trophy, along with Corey Crawford, as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks. There is no doubt that Emery is as tough as they come, but despite all his achievements, his legacy might simply be the hotheaded bully who strayed too far from the crease.

While others debate whether “Sugar Ray” Emery’s actions—which include an altercation with his then team trainer in 2009 when he was with the Atlant Moscow Oblast, and recently instigating a fight against a passive Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals—are appropriate for the sport of hockey, I can’t help but wonder, if goaltenders were to enforce each other, whom would I choose to go 20 rounds, fist to fist against the undisputed heavyweight of goalies.

5. Mike Smith: The Phoenix ‘tender is known for having an aggressive style in net—and for pulling Flames’ right winger David Jones’ hair after the player crashed into Smith. More often than not, Smith lets the opposition know when they are too deep in his crease by giving them a slash or a trapper to the face. He doesn’t wait for the defencemen to come in to protect him. Smith is always a part of the kerfuffle around the net.

4. Tim Thomas: After his yearlong sabbatical, the goalie we remember so well from the 2011 playoffs has returned to the NHL as a Florida Panther, only to be injured early in the season. Although he isn’t at his healthiest state, I believe his track record can speak loudly for him. Thomas is as blue-collared as a goalie can get, and he has often made claims to being a big fan of mixed martial arts. When it comes to his style, he’s as active in the crease as he is out of it. He has scrapped with the likes of Alexandre Burrows, Sean Avery, and Jason Chimera—all tough guys.

3. Jonathan Bernier:  The Toronto Maple Leafs finally have a tough goalie. Gone are the days of Vesa Toskala, Mikael Tellqvist, and Jonas Gustavsson. Although his only NHL fight was against the often tepid Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres in a preseason game, Bernier showed that he indeed has some tenacity. He is young and so is his career, but I foresee many more bouts involving him.

2. Carey Price: The Montreal Canadiens’ goaltender has never shied away from confrontations, and his spunky attitude has both won and lost approval from fans. The days of him mocking the home crowd are now replaced with him standing up for his teammates. Price has matured as a player and is no longer simply looking out for himself. His most recent fight with our number four ranked Thomas showed off Price’s strength, when he pulled Thomas’ jersey over his head and dragged him a few feet across the ice. As tension builds in games, I’m no longer surprised to see Price drop the mitts and throw some hits.

1. Semyon Varlamov: The Avalanche’s goalie has never been in a fight, but due to the charges he is currently facing, I feel he deserves to be first on the list—if for no other reason than to picture him being pummelled by Emery. Varlamov may not have fought any opposing hockey players, but he did allegedly kick his girlfriend, Evgeniya Vavrinyuk, in the chest, knocked her down, and then continued to stomp on her. On October 30, he turned himself in on charges of domestic violence, including second-degree kidnapping and third-degree assault. So, wouldn’t we all like to see this tough guy get what’s coming to him?