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article imageBeer-league goalie answers tweet, plays with Vancouver Canucks Special

By Marcus Hondro     Sep 11, 2014 in Sports
For Vancouver's Tristan Jones, a beer-league hockey goalie and a professional goalie instructor, last Monday started out a typical day. It didn't end that way though, not by a long shot, as the 27-year-old wound up playing goal for the Vancouver Canucks.
In fact after answering an out-of-the blue tweet from Canucks' forward Alex Burrows - it pays to follow your hockey heroes - the affable Jones wound up playing goal at unofficial Canuck practices both Monday and Tuesday. It was a great challenge for a guy used to players with considerably less zip on the puck but by all accounts Jones acquitted himself rather well.
On Monday only one Canuck goalie could make their ice-session at Britannia in Vancouver, their likely number 3 man, Jacob Markstrom; Eddie Lack is in town but had another commitment and Ryan Miller, who announced this week that he and his wife are expecting their first child, is not yet in Vancouver.
So forward Alex Burrows sent out the following tweet: The boys need a goalie for the 11:30 skate at Britannia. First one that shows up will get a great workout and a free lunch from @zkassian9. Jones, who has been a big-time Canucks fan "since birth" got the tweet at home and quickly responded.
Tristan's only caveat was that he didn't want to leave home if he wasn't going to get on the ice, which he noted in his response. Soon after he received a private message from Canuck Zack Kassian saying his response was the first and that if he was coming then he was indeed their man. Mr. Jones was out the door in record time.
Tristan Jones: Vancouver Canuck for 2 days
The Canucks were true to their word and even though other goalies showed up hoping they'd get the call, Jones dressed and joined bona-fide NHL players on the ice. Virtually the entire Vancouver Canucks line-up was there, including Burrows, Kassian, former NHL points leaders Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Dan Hamhuis, Alex Edler, Nick Bonino and youngsters Bo Horvat and Hunter Shinkaruk.
Was it hard going from beer-league players (no offence, guys) to NHL snipers? "It was difficult to adjust my game to that speed at first," he said. "You face some players that can move like them at the Junior level and even occasionally in Div 1 Beer League, but the biggest difference was the consistency at which they did everything. They were all extremely good skaters and shooters, very few weaknesses to pick on."
It turned out that he was needed Tuesday, too, and so the next day he and another amateur goalie named James Farmer were in the nets. Canuck players praised Jones and Farmer, in particular for how they played in a scrimmage, with Kassian telling CTV News they expected the scrimmage to end quickly but the goalies played so well it took awhile to finish it. Footage on CTV showed big-time saves from both goalies.
"It was unreal, surreal really," Jones said of his time on ice with the Canucks. "It was great to get a taste of something you've dreamed of your whole life. The pace was the toughest part to adjust to but for the most part I was able to keep up with the plays. The players were great and it was a great experience."
Hockey goalies face "the most pressure"
How'd he wind up being good enough, and gutsy enough, to pull it off? After playing Rep in North Van, he played Junior A but was later hurt while playing for the Univ. of Alberta at the age of 21. He was pursing the dream but damaging his left knee's MCL, PCL and meniscus left a lengthy recovery period and, though he tried a comeback, it ended the dream of going any farther as a player.
His injury didn't end the passion though and Jones, who also works at 'Time out Source for Sports' in North Van and is considered one of the better advisors to young goalies in the city, couldn't shake the hockey, in particular the goalie, bug. Why goalie?
"Goalies are faced with the most pressure out of nearly any position in professional sports," Jones said. "Much like the pitcher in baseball, the QB in football, the team relies on you to lead them while at the same time the whole game can crumble if you can't pull your weight.
"Needless to say the position comes with a lot of pressure and at times that can be difficult, but it's also what makes it so much fun. Being able to single-handedly change the outcome of a game, for better or worse, is something that I've always been attracted to."
BehindTheMask Goalie School
Five-years-ago he and fellow-goalie coach Graham Hallenbeck opened a training school called BehindTheMask for young puckstoppers. He says that most days during the hockey season he's up at 5 a.m. and on the ice doing one-on-one sessions with goalies, and doing group sessions. He and Hallenbeck run camps in the summer.
Monday and Tuesday's experience gave him lots of memories, such as being hit by an Alex Edler slapper in the neck (it hurt but naturally he had on his neck guard and is fine) who "most definitely" possesses the hardest shot he's ever faced. In the scrimmage he made a big glove save on Henrik and got scored on by Daniel, Chris Higgins and Burrows (getting scored on by NHLers can be kinda cool).
Tristan also enjoyed meeting the players and said they all treated him kindly and with respect. Jacob Markstrom gave him a goalie stick and Jones said that Kassian was "super-friendly" as well as being "...extremely welcoming and exactly what I expected from a fun guy like him. (He) made me feel like a part of the team." And Jones said he didn't really feel out of place, and why should he have? After all, in the final analysis he is, like the Canucks, a hockey player.
By the way, he didn't get that lunch from Kassian but only because he, Jones, had commitments after his on-ice sessions with the Canucks. But the Zack Attack is going to contact Tristan and make it up to him, possibly with tickets to a Canuck regular-season game.
Is there a lesson in his experience with an NHL club, one he might impart to younger goalies? "Just try to have fun with any situation you're presented," he said. "I think that the best takeaway for me was that I just went out there and had a blast, I didn't worry about who was shooting on me."
He just took a typical day and, with the help of the Vancouver Canucks, turned it into a very special one indeed.
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