When you ask an adult what the best day of their life was, how often do you hear “the day my kid was born?” Some people will say it was the best day of their life, some people will say it was the most important day of their life—but every parent acknowledges that it was the day that changed their life forever. One day. One moment changed the next 40, 50, or even 60 years of their life. That’s some serious shit.
So what makes people think that having a child is any less moving for an athlete? We hear news from beat reporters that follow our favorite teams that so-and-so has left the team to be with his wife while they await the birth of their child.
On that note, Jonathan Quick and his wife had their first child earlier this month. He missed ONE single game. One. Women miss 3 months of work. Husbands (or Baby Daddies) usually miss a week or two. But a guy that plays the most mentally/psychologically taxing position in all of sports, missed a single game. Add in the fact that he’s played more hockey than he EVER has in his life and the pressure of the stretch run is building, and is it any surprise that Quick’s game has slipped?
Yogi Berra quite possibly could have been a goaltender when he said, “… is 90% mental and the other half is physical.”
It’s not just Jonathan Quick—it could happen to any athlete. And it does. Preparation before the game isn’t quite what it was before fatherhood. Focus might not be as easily accomplished as when it was the #1 priority in their life. Endurance might not be what it once was when their house goes from a quiet abode to the home of an infant that sleeps 2 hours at a time. Things change and hockey is put into perspective.
But it’s interesting how we hold them to a higher standard, when the guy we’re talking about happens to make millions of dollars per year and seemingly holds our favorite team’s destiny in his hands. But if we take a step back, sometimes we need to remind ourselves that we’re talking about a kid who just had a kid. Becoming a father can be tough on anyone—no matter HOW much their annual salary happens to be.
Put yourself in their shoes. Most of the time fathers will stay with the newborn and their wife (or baby’s mama) for about a week while all 3 of them adjust to their completely changed life. Almost universally, the parent realizes JUST how hard life will be for the next few years. Sleep is a thing of the past. Quiet time with their spouse? Gone. Running away for the weekend just to “get away” on a whim? Yeah, not for the next 20 years. Mix in diapers, strained marriages, added responsibilities, family members that are trying to help, and life is nothing like it was before.
And all that stuff is just from someone that doesn’t have a kid. I can only imagine things that parents go through that I haven’t experienced yet.
Now that you have this visual of a life turned upside down in your head, imagine that your place of employment was in front of 18,118 people that don’t give a shit about your personal life. 99% of those people don’t know (or have forgotten) that you just had a kid and that your life is completely different. All they care about is that you perform at your job as well as you did BEFORE you had a kid.
I don’t even have a child, but I DO know all of the things that go through my mind when I start trying to decide if I’m ready to have one. I can only imagine the overwhelming sense of responsibility that would smack me in the face the day that all of those thoughts became reality.
Most of the time, these athletes are in their early 20s when they have their first kid. When I was in MY early 20s, I was avoiding student loans, LIVING the Office Space life, traveling all over the country to watch live music, and trying to live my life without regrets. The last thing I was mentally prepared for was caring for another human being. In fact, I was having a hard enough time caring for myself.
On the micro-level, Quick hasn’t been the same goaltender that he was at the beginning of the season. It’s not necessarily any statistic that you’ll find on NHL.com, but it’s more of a feeling that you’ll find among Kings fans. It’s a feeling that even if the defense (read: Randy Jones) made a glaring mistake, Quick would be equal to the task to bail his team out. Now, those bad bounces around the net and poor reads by defensemen are ending up in the back of the net. It could be the percentages catching up with the young netminder. Or it could be a function of fatigue—both professional and personal. After 67 starts and new found fatherhood, no one would blame him.
Here are some statistics if you are the kind of person that has to have solid numbers to prove a point. Since he became a father, he has a goals against average just over 3.00 and a sub-par .897 save percentage. But it’s worse than that. If you take out a 1-0 shutout against the Islanders when he wasn’t really tested for 55 minutes, his numbers look even worse. Take out that game and Quick’s stats drop to a 3.57 GAA and a .878 save percentage. Aside from the aforementioned shutout, he’s given up at least 3 goals in every game he’s appeared in. Want a little perspective? Try on his season totals: 2.53 GAA and .908 save percentage. Like I said, numbers don’t tell the whole story here—but they give a glimpse into the lower quality of play.
Looking at the bigger picture, the Kings desperately need the goaltender that they’ve depended on all season. With goalie-of-the-future Jonathan Bernier called up from the AHL, the Kings organization is pushing to win games NOW—no matter who is between the pipes. (Editor’s Note: Yes, we know that Bernier was called up because Erik Ersberg has a “pulled back.” Let’s just say we’re skeptical.) Like any other person, Quick will learn to balance his personal life with his professional life. He’s going through the same things that every parent goes through—just on a much bigger stage.
Hopefully people understand that there’s a lot more going on than just hockey and goaltending.