Gerry Pang holds a photo of himself from when he played as a goaltender. He currently coaches Ghostriders’ goalies Jeff Orser (left) and Brandon Butler (right).

Guardians of the goal line

Our reporter, Bryn Catton, sat down with goalies Jeff Orser and Brandon Butler and their coach Gerry Pang for a chat about hockey.

Goaltenders tend to be one of the most overlooked players on the ice. Last week, The Free Press got a chance to sit down with the Fernie Ghostriders’ blue paint defenders Jeff Orser and Brandon Butler along with the club’s goaltending consultant, Jerry Pang, for a couple of questions after a team practice.

The first logical question to ask was, “Why do you enjoy being pummeled by pucks?”

“I wasn’t very good at putting the puck in the net. I got the chance to be a goalie and ran with it, I ended up getting pretty good at it too, so I stuck with it,” said Orser, who has been with the team for two seasons. “When we were eight or nine, pucks didn’t really hurt, now it is a whole other challenge to see that blistering shot, and pucks seem to find their way through the padding.”

Throughout the hour-long interview one of the topics returned to was what the goaltenders thought of rink sizes.

“I don’t really care for a smaller ice. It is harder for me because I do not like to play as deep [in the net],” said Butler. “I’m 5’6 so I have to come out a bit more to cut off the [shooting] angles.”

Pang, a veteran goalie who played before helmets were mandatory, summed up the goaltenders’ preference for larger ice by saying, “There is no benefit to a smaller ice. It should be to our skaters though.  You lose seven and a half feet on either end so the puck travels quicker.”

Both Butler and Orser are grateful for the support of their family, friends and the Fernie community. Butler describes his parents as “very encouraging” and remind him that “if you’re not having fun, don’t do it.”

Orser thanks his father, who has helped him so much over the years.

“He comes up as much as he can especially since it’s my last year. A three-hour one-way trip for a game is easy to take for granted but it is really cool. He does a lot for me,” said Orser.

The goal line defenders also credited their billet parents for welcoming them into their homes during the season.

“I am with Al and Judy Ebert and they are awesome.  Judy is the best, she is doing way more than she needs to. If I could just give her the biggest thank you because they are incredible,” said Orser, who now lives with Keagan Kingwell at the Ebert home.

“I live with Tom and Ruth Murdoch. It’s my second year with them and it’s great. Small world, between my family and their family, we are friends, once they figured that out they trusted me a bit more,” laughed Butler.

According to Pang, he has discovered the team’s vice.

“These guys are heavy on the scratch and win [tickets], it feels like whenever I look around I see someone scratching something, usually it’s a card,” noted Pang.

While we were not let in on any jackpot wins from the team, the goaltenders added their favorite activates outside of the sport.

“Golfing, over the last couple years it started as a joke but lately [Cole] Keebler and I have be going out a lot. It is a lot more fun when you can hit it into the green rather than shanking the ball on every shot,” said Orser.

“I like hanging out on my boat on Lake Koocanusa, going fishing and playing some video games,” said Butler.

Pang brought the interview to a close with showing his appreciation for the players.

“I could not be more happy with these two young men as the goaltenders of this team. To find two guys that get along this good especially on the ice and in the dressing room is amazing,” said Pang. “They are not scared to share a moment in the dressing room if they feel like something should be done, like a play that went awry, or whatever the case is. I really admire both of them and their skills. I only wish that I had either one of their skills at their age because I would have played professional hockey.”