For a guy who so often was the center of opponents' attention, Wes Goldie sure knew how to get lost.
We like to say this hockey player was "invisible'' or that one "disappeared,'' and those are usually one-game indictments of a player from whom much is expected, yet little is delivered.
For Goldie, though, vanishing was a deliberate part of his act. You wouldn't notice him for stretches, and neither would the other guys. He would lurk, away from the puck, searching for soft spots in the defense, those little seams he could exploit, the calm amid chaos. Then, boom -- another goal. And, unless it was a late go-ahead goal or came at a particularly pivotal point, he would hardly celebrate, as if he wanted to maintain what little anonymity a sniper can muster.
Back when Goldie played for the Victoria Salmon Kings, prior to joining the Alaska Aces, Aces broadcaster Jack Michaels and I used to share the occasional laugh about Goldie. Between periods sometimes, we'd note he hadn't done much. The start of that conversation so many times that the rest -- "just wait for him, this is when Goldie strikes" -- at some point simply went unspoken. Then Goldie would score, and Jack would turn and flash that smirk. Told ya, it said.
Goldie wasn't the fleetest skater. He did not possess the hardest shot. He did not regularly flash stunning stick-handling.
What he did, exquisitely, was score goals -- a ton of them, 370 actually, the most in ECHL history.
And this weekend, there's no getting lost for Goldie. The spotlight will fall upon him as one of four 2014 inductees into the league's Hall of Fame as part of the circuit's Hockey Heritage Weekend.
Goldie will be among four men inducted Friday, and Saturday he will drop the ceremonial puck at Sullivan Arena and see his No. 16 Aces sweater retired before the Aces and Stockton Thunder play.
Goldie became an Ace, of course, for the final two seasons of his ECHL career. He helped the franchise seize its second Kelly Cup, in 2011, when he led the league with 46 goals and coaches voted him Most Valuable Player. In his two seasons here, he racked 81 goals.
In 11 ECHL seasons, he stamped his name in the record book as the only player in league history to generate five consecutive seasons of 40 or more goals and one of only two players with eight seasons of 30 or more goals. Those are just two of his standards.
What Goldie seemed to sense more precisely than his contemporaries was where a goaltender was most vulnerable or which small part of the net was most exposed. That sixth sense, and a quick release and piercingly accurate shot, were his greatest weapons. He couldn't really fully explain how he knew those things. He just did. That was his gift.
Granted, Goldie wasn't shy about shooting. True goal scorers rarely shun opportunity. Yet, consider that his 75 regular-season goals against goalies as an Ace -- that's taking out six empty-net finales -- came on 529 shots. That's a shooting percentage of 14.2. If you're not particularly a puckhead, allow us to provide perspective -- that's quite good, roughly one goal for every seven shots Goldie unloaded. And that means the goalies he faced in that time produced a collective save percentage of .858. That isn't a number a goalie would bold-face on his rink resume.
Talking once to Aces goaltender Gerald Coleman, who backstopped that 2011 Kelly Cup team and was the league's Goaltender of the Year that season, he marveled at Goldie's goal scorer's knack. Where another player in practice might fire a strong shot that Coleman could snap up in his glove, he said, Goldie's shot might just barely tick the edge of his glove and end up in the net.
Part of Goldie's gift, Coleman said, was that he possessed a quick release that enabled him to catch a goalie before the masked man was properly set to defend the shot. And even though Goldie loved to shoot high to the glove side, Coleman said, he could sniff out when a goalie was cheating in anticipation of a shot there.
Goldie arrived here with a reputation as a goal scorer, and curiosity whether that's all he was. Turned out he was much more. He killed penalties and his team-leading plus-25 mark was fourth in the league in 2011. He wasn't immune to shedding his gloves either.
Goldie, now 34, was a prized teammate too, easy-going, yet a strong presence. He was a mentor to young, dynamic winger Scott Howes, the Kelly Cup Most Valuable Player in 2011, who laughingly called him Dad. And Goldie, Howes and former NHL center Brian Swanson gave the Aces a wickedly good first line that furnished 92 goals and 211 points that season. Goldie also proved durable, The only two games he missed in his two seasons with the Aces were because of a two-game, league-imposed suspension for elbowing. He once went five consecutive ECHL seasons without missing a game.
He also sacrificed, as did his wife and children. While Goldie played here, his family was back home in Ontario, and only rarely, given the grind of the regular-season schedule, was he able to get back home for a quick visit.
Goldie's family is here with him this week to share in his honors and take in some games between the Aces and Stockton Thunder. He'll drop a ceremonial puck, see his Aces sweater hung in honor and be showered with love from the Cowbell Crew. We imagine he'll be sitting in the owners' seats at the top of the bowl on the north side of the rink, taking it all in.
For once in Sullivan Arena, Wes Goldie won't have to get lost.
This column is the opinion of Daily News reporter Doyle Woody. Find his blog at adn.com/hockeyblog