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Goddard: Back on the Rink

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

December 12, 2005

(TORONTO) -- I know, I know.  It's way overdue.  Pleasantries should have been extended long ago.  Instead, the written version of a "Hello, My Name Is..." lapel decal comes just as the St. Louis Blues find themselves already out of the hunt for a playoff berth and, if I may, it also comes in concert with a multitude of Leafs fans wringing their hands, and declaring in unison "woe are we who pledge allegiance!"

You liked that bit of dramatic touch, didn't you?  Hey, there's nothing better than getting up in the grill of of all of Leafs Nation... a Swirsk-ian facial to the fans, if you will! 

"Facial"?... "in the grill"?... wha'?... Hoop colloquialisms in a hockey article?  The nerve!  Well excuse the digression, but I'm here to say a few things that should have been said long ago.

Hello, My Name Is... Damian Goddard.  I'm no Troy McClure (c'mon, aren't we all Simpsons fans for cryin' out loud!), but you may remember me from such networks as Rogers Sportsnet, or more recently, as host for a three-year stretch on Raptors NBATV. 

For the record - and I get this all the time - I don't feel that I "got out of the Raptors "schtick' at the right time".  Conversely, I'm a fan of where that organization is going.  I'm a big fan of Sam Mitchell, Chris Bosh and I think... uh-oh.  There I go again.

Alright, as for the pre-meditated Buds bash, let it be known that I grew up idolizing the Blue and White.  I'm a Darryl Sittler guy.  I was a late bloomer where the game is concerned, starting organized hockey at the age of eight. 

I vividly remember sobbing on my bedroom pillow after being cut by the Don Mills Flyers Midget club.  I "skated' for a couple of seasons for the old Vaughn Raiders Ontario Jr. B squad.  If you interpreted "skated' as lacing "em up in a couple of training camp practices and games only to be cut days later, you're bang on.

Somewhere in the basement of my parents Scarborough home, I still have the Toronto Star insert for the Canada Cup '76 tournament.  In a fit of anger after getting scolded for not keeping my room clean, I tossed two hockey skate boxes full of newspaper clippings of the Leafs and other NHL teams down the apartment incinerator.  To this day, I still blame my mom.  To this day, she still laughs at me. Moms. 

I must be honest with you.  There was a time where I had - get ready for this - kind of abandoned the game.  I know, I know, as sacrilegious as that may be coming from a Canadian kid, a few things really bothered me about where this beautiful game was headed.

First of all, my younger brother Christian was more a player than I ever was!  He was all of 5'5" and barely 140 pounds when he walked onto the campus at Laurier University and made the darn hockey team! 

I still remember watching as a Western Ontario grad, my younger bro scoring once and assisting on another in a 3-2 loss to the powerhouse Mustangs at old Thompson Arena.  I will, as long as I live, never forget that effort.  I will also never forget going downstairs to ice level following the game to shake the hand of then-Laurier head coach Wayne Gowing. 

"Thanks.  Thank-you so much for giving Christian a chance," I heaved while successfully managing to hold back welling emotion.

"Are you kidding me?  Christian was our best player out there.  Don't think this was a sympathy call.  He's earned his spot," Gowing corrected.

My brother would go on to win a couple of MVP awards in various tournaments, played against some US Colleges, but the grind was too much for his body. To this day, he still battles chronic pain.  It hurts to say it, but the game didn't treat him well despite his giving his everything. 

Why wasn't skill being allowed to prevail, I would ask myself. Even though, as a member of the media, I was called upon to cover all things hockey, I had a tough time getting excited about it. 

So when I was afforded an opportunity to be the lead guy for Raptors NBA TV, I made the tough decision to leave a family-like atmosphere at Rogers Sportsnet to cover basketball.

I did it for three seasons and it was a pleasure to work with so many talented people.  I truly enjoyed my gig and was willing to return for a fourth season, but then hockey came back after a bitter work stoppage.  Err, lockout.  I guess that depends upon where your allegiance lies.

Just over two months into the season, I couldn't be happier with my decision to jump over to Leafs TV and, with the way the game is being played today, it's back to being an art form for me.

Geesh, at this moment I find myself incredibly thankful the opportunity that's been handed to me.  It's been many years since I've harkened back to the days of an excited boy clipping a story on Wayne Thomas and key third period saves. 

I'm now thinking of my parents, natives of the sun and surf of Trinidad, freezing their buns off watching their son's Cedar Hill house-league game at Centennial Arena.  I remember the friendships that were forged during those cold, yet heart-warming Saturday mornings.

My brother, working over in London, England, will be home for the holidays and we will do more than share a laugh over a pint.

Indeed.  In more ways than one, this move back into the hockey world, was way... way overdue.

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