by Jack Falla……
He is living back in the bop – shoo – bop world of the unreal Fifties when the biggest thing in life was to get home from school in time for American Bandstand and Mickey Mouse Club. It may have all changed for you and me, but for Ted Gernaey a Mickey Mouse Club rerun is the high spot of his day and rock and roll the soundtrack of his life. And he is very happy, thank you.
No one has told him that playing goal in the National Lacrosse League is an unsettling occupation. Nor has he got around to learning that some people think pro sports is not fun and games but the ultimate American sociological metaphor. Heavy stuff. To Ted Gernaey it may not be all fun but it’s still a game and one he plays very well.
About the biggest problem in Ted Gernaey’ s life is a double session practice that runs so long he can’t make it home in time for The Three Stooges and Mickey Mouse Club. Other than that, he has it pretty much together. He has been playing goal for about half his life — or since he was 12 years old — and in that time has come to grips with the two central realities of a goalie’s existence:
First, that every mistake is there waiting to be made; and, second, that every move is there if you can only see it. Gernaey has the moves and the records to prove it. He was three times MVP for the Burnaby Jr. A team in the Western Lacrosse Association. He was three times the WLA all star goalkeeper and, in 1971, was named MVP in the championship Minto Cup playoffs. When you have the credentials you don’t have to worry and Ted Gernaey’s credentials are very much in order. He can afford to watch Mickey Mouse if he wants to.
Of course, the NLL is a little tougher than Jr. A, and life in the pros hasn’t been a piece of cake. For openers, Ted Gernaey started the season as a backup to Bob McCready. For another thing, he had a tough game at the Boston Garden against Montreal on May 3, at which date he learned a few things about the fragile and fickle relationship between Boston fans and hometown goalkeepers. “They can be a little rough,” he said afterwards of the mock cheers for routine saves.
But Ted Gernaey isn’t a worrier.
He doesn’t take bad games. — or good ones either — home with him. What he takes home is records. Rock and roll records. Lots of them. Joe Cocker, Doobie Brothers, Elton John. Your basic top forty stuff. Music is a part of his lifestyle as well as part of his pre – game preparation. Music displaces thought. And when you have a job like Ted Gernaey’s you don’t want to dwell on it too much.
Maybe that accounts for the Mickey Mouse Club kick. It’s easier than thinking about the Paul Suggates and John Davises and the 100 mph bombs they throw at you. Ted Gernaey gets himself up for a game when he gets to the rink. Not before. He doesn’t waste psychic energy anymore than he would waste physical energy. Taki Vohalis, Gernaey,’s teammate since Jr. A days, says that his roommate’s pre-game naps are marathon affairs.
But when game time rolls around Ted Gernaey usually has himself up as high as anyone in the place. “He’s unbelievably quick,” says defenseman Chris Hall, “and he plays to that strength. “Like he’ll be on the post and it’ll look like you’ve got half the net on the stick side but, when you go for
it, up comes the stick and he picks the thing off. He tempts you to shoot to his strength.”
Clearly, his strength is his stick and he uses it to cover the entire right side of the net. He brings it up with a flick of the wrist, so quick that sometimes the stick takes off through the air like an Atlas rocket at which point he is forced to cover the low corners with his hands while someone retrieves the stick.
His weakness, or at least the shot which appears to give him the most trouble, is the same shot that gives all lacrosse goalkeepers trouble. The bounce shot to the glove side. Lacrosse goalkeepers don’t have catching gloves or big leg pads to use in blocking this type of shot. But, as the Bolts first season wears on into the summer months, Gernaey is getting hotter with each game. In a May 19 game at Montreal he came up with 43 saves to be named defensive star of the game. Two nights later he threw 44 saves at the Quebec Caribous in a 17 – 13 Boston win and then came up with 39 saves, about a half dozen on breakaways, in a May 24 game at Philadelphia.
“He’s playing with a lot more confidence now that he’s got the number one job,” says Chris Hall, ” and the better he plays the better we’ll play in front of him.” Gernaey is what’s called a “western style” goalkeeper meaning that he, like the other goalies in the western Canadian leagues, likes to stay in his net, make the saves, and let the defensemen and forwards start the counter attack. The NLL teams, for the most part, play a fast breaking style that requires the goalie to come out of his net and make an occasional pass or rush down the floor.
When he came to Boston Ted Gernaey figured that this rush – down – the – floor action was something for the Canadian Football League and that throwing long passes was for Big Ten Quarterbacks, not big league goalkeepers. “But now he’s getting the ball up to us more frequently and he knows that if he makes a bad pass he isn’t going to end up on the bench,” says Hall. “It’s just confidence and experience.”
So Ted Gernaey is learning. He is learning about the National Lacrosse League, and Boston fans and bounce shots and fast breaks and 56 game schedules. And mostly he is learning about life in the play – for – pay leagues. He is learning all the time. But he still rushes home from school to watch Mickey Mouse Club.
And he is apparently very happy.