|"It was a lot of timing. I just had to get up to speed," builder Bubba Crickmore says.|
Few North Carolinians grow up with an appreciation for ice hockey. Fewer still play it. Home builder George "Bubba" Crickmore is an exception. His father, also a home builder, took him to see the minor-league Carolina Thunderbirds as a child, and Ray LeBlanc, goaltender for the 1992 U.S. Olympic team, inspired 8-year-old Bubba to become a goalie.
After college and a few years of professional golf, Crickmore returned to Chapel Hill to start his own building company. Eventually he found his way back into hockey in a local league.
Crickmore began making goalie masks as a sideline and befriended the equipment manager for the National Hockey League's Carolina Hurricanes. Soon, Crickmore was in the net helping Hurricanes players work out in one-on-one tuneups for the season. But that didn't prepare him for what happened April 1, 2003.
Backup goalie Kevin Weekes was injured, and coach Paul Maurice asked Crickmore to fill in for a full-fledged practice. He practiced with the team that day and again three days later. "It's not how hard they can shoot, it's where they can shoot it," Crickmore says. "It's how accurate they are. I did a lot better the second practice than the first."
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