Why? Why would you ever want to be a hockey goalie? A chuckle, and then a shake of the head. A friend and teammate rallies to his aid, "He can't skate--that's why he's the goalie."
Another laugh and then Brian Petrovek, Harvard goaltender and Eastern college hockey's top netminder, assumes a more serious manner.
"I grew up in a hockey family in a hockey town (Norwood, Mass.) with a brother who just happened to be a goalie," he said. "It was just natural for me to follow him. I started out as a goalie, and believe me--I wouldn't want to be anything else."
Petrovek arrived at Harvard through the grace of an unlikely character, former B.U. head coach Jack Kelly. He had originally gone to Hotchkiss at the suggestion of Kelly, a close family friend.
When Kelly graduated into the big leagues as the coach of the New England Whalers, he suggested that Brian shoot for Harvard rather than B.U. Needless to stay, Petro scored.
As goaltender for the Yardling squad last year, Petrovek was frustrated. Although the squad posted a strong 14-4 record, he didn't find the competition keen enough to sharpen his play.
Petrovek spent last summer working at a hockey camp. When he returned this fall he was determined to take over the starting goalie position, a position many felt kept the Crimson from winning the national championship last spring.
Petro exudes this determination and confidence when he talks about Harvard's chances this season.
"I think we should win it all this year and I'm going to be sure that I'm not the reason that Harvard isn't the national champion come March," he said.
Petrovek is a low-keyed individual. The heckling and antics of rowdy fans and the rough emotional intensity of the game do not faze him. He writes it all off as being part of the game.
He says he feels that the collegiate rule imposing a game's suspension for fighting promotes a lot of cheap shots.
If the rule was eliminated, a player could let out his frustration in fight rather than resorting to the potentially more damaging buttends and slashes that are now found in the game.
"A Physical Game"
"Hockey's a physical game, and it seems artificial to have such a rule. The NHL has successfully contained fighting in that league, and I feel college hockey could do so also."
It's hard for Petrovek to divorce his hockey life from his role as a student. He's majoring in history mostly from an interest cultivated from travel as a hockey player.
Petro's career interests don't take him far from the rink either. He would like to have a shot at the pros, but right now his concentration is centered on this Friday's showdown with Ivy league challenger Cornell.
Petrovek is as concerned with the Ivy title as with the Nationals: "Cornell will be the biggest game of the year for us. The squad is very league-minded."
Petro continued, "I'll go through my preparation very carefully. I'm very superstitious. Thursday night I'll go walking through the Yard and then up by Radcliffe. A goalie's lonely job, and I have to get prepared individually.
"Friday morning I'll have breakfast at Pewter Pot and then walk my particular route to the training meal. And my black turtleneck, I almost forgot. I don't think I'd play without it."
Unless Cornell can successfully sabotage one black turtleneck, the Big Red will see a lot of their scoring drives turned away by number 26. And despite it all, reminds a friend, "He still can't skate."