Osgood’s Retirement: The Final Lesson
When I was growing up in Dallas, Chris Osgood was my hero. I collected his hockey cards, I watched every single Red Wings game I could, I cut out his newspaper clippings and I followed him on a daily basis. It was a religious aspect of my life as a young athlete.
He was the reason I became a goaltender. He was the reason I played and practiced incessantly. He was the reason I wore a Cooper combo mask in college and he was the reason I dedicated my life to playing the position.
And now, after 16 years of battling through adversity, overcoming hurdles, learning from mistakes and winning 401 games, he has finally retired.
But I don’t want to think about today being the end of his career. It’s not an easy thing for me to comprehend. I just want to think about the good times. I just want this to further fuel my fire for what I do and what I stand for.
Maybe the most meaningful moment for me was to be in attendance when he picked up his 400th career win, one that came in overtime against the Avalanche right here in Denver. It was one of those ethereal moments in my life when everything seemed to come full circle and my life’s purpose was clearly defined.
After that game, with so much adrenaline and excitement coursing through my veins, I wrote about how that 400th win was a microcosm of his career.
I really don’t think there will ever be a way to truly explain just how much Osgood’s journey has influenced my own. All I can do is write about what I feel and what I know. So I’ve included photos of just a few of the sheet of hockey cards I collected as a kid.
Each card has a story behind it. A story of how I obtained the card, a story of the moment that is tied to a save or a situation in Osgood’s career. Each card strengthened the bond I held between he and I. It was just my passion as a teenager, but it was so much more than that.
He molded my mentality. He shaped me and my game. He influenced my thoughts, the way I visualized the game, the way I analyzed the position.
Everything he did had some kind of impact.
As it stands today, I own 101 Chris Osgood cards. He played in 744 games. He has 401 career wins, 50 shutouts and was 10th all-time in wins. He won three Stanley Cups and attended two All-Star Games.
But more importantly, he had one heart of a lion and was the ultimate battler.
I don’t even care about the endless Hall of Fame debate. Too many people feel the need to try and discredit his career by spilling trivial stats, or using the powerful Red Wings team as an excuse.
Despite his success, despite the fact that he is respected by goaltenders everywhere, he’s considered by many fans and analysts to be a winner due to the team in front of him.
And regardless of what a panel of judges determines, that debate will forever be the Osgood paradigm.
But that is what makes his mental toughness so special. Whether he was on a good team or a struggling one (Islanders, Blues), he still faced the pressure to stop the puck head-on, and ultimately succeeded. Being on a strong team may limit scoring chances against, but on a team like Detroit, Osgood constantly faced high expectations to win games on a nightly basis.
And even though he gave up some terrible and untimely goals in the playoffs, he was the epitome of the goalie that knows how to learn from his mistakes, focus on the puck and quickly bounce back.
These lessons I learned are of utmost importance in my life. Without them, I wouldn’t have this strong passion and understanding of the goaltending position. But what amazes me even more is the glory and lore that lives and breathes inside the heart of every goaltender that has ever, and will ever, live.
For we all have someone we idolized growing up.
It is what makes goaltending such an intricate fabric in our daily lives. It is proof of the admiration and respect a person has for those who play the position at a high level and for those who dedicate their lives to stopping pucks.
If it were not for Osgood, I would not be here right now. I never would have founded The Hockey Guild. I never would have established The Goalie Guild. I never would have started up The Avalanche Guild. And maybe more importantly, I never would have had the passion and dedication to create and conceive my charity hockey tournament known as Quest for the Crown.
I’ve donated over $20,000 almost single-handedly to Hockey Fights Cancer over the past four years through my annual charity hockey tournament. And you can thank Osgood for that.
So whether you’re a fan or a pundit, I hope you can at least respect the admiration one person has for their idol. I hope people recognize that, regardless of statistics or situation of playing on a good team for most of his career, he still had a positive influence on many young goaltenders because he was mentally tough.
Osgood is part of a dying breed. We will probably never see another goalie wear the Cooper Combo mask again. But he’s also one of the last traditional butterfly goalies to play in the NHL. His game was centered on being a good read and react goalie, but he always seemed to be in control of his movements and just a well-rounded goalie that thrived on skill. His glove hand was all about raw reactions and he worked extremely hard during the lockout to re-invent his game and extend his career.
Yes, there were some terrible lapses. Big, juicy, untimely lapses. Brutal goals that no NHL goaltender should be allowing. But whenever that lapse took place, he was always there to bounce back from it.
And that is why his mental toughness is a thing to behold.
The very first Osgood card I ever collected was from a brand that no longer exists. On the back of the card was a paragraph that really reminds me just how special he was.
“Chris Osgood is a consistently solid goaltender. He was named the WHL’s Rookie of the Year Award in 1990 for its Eastern Division. This hard-working athlete played 103 games in the net for Medicine Hat. One of Chris’ favorite hobbies is collecting hockey cards. He was drafted 54th overall by Detroit.”
Terms like “consistently solid” and “hard-working” go hand in hand and are essential traits to have if you expect to be a successful puck-stopper.
Ultimately, Osgood was so special to me because nobody else really considered him special at all. He was always just seen as an average goalie on a good team, which goes to show just how much the goaltending position is misconstrued and wrongfully perceived by the general public.
And maybe that is why I am so dedicated to analyzing the position for the rest of my life. Because very few people outside of those who play the position truly understand just how much mental toughness matters to a goaltender.
I thank Chris Osgood for teaching me everything I know about the true intricacies of NHL goaltending. I thank him for always showing me how to handle pressure, how to react, how to approach, how to prepare.
I thank him for standing on one leg that night in Denver when he won his 400th game. I thank him for always saying the right things, for showing his emotions, for extending his career during the lockout. I thank the Red Wings for bringing him back.
I thank him for taking a goalie consulting position and I thank him for staying involved in the game.
I thank him for making me who I am today, and who I will become tomorrow.