Insight, News, and Opinion by Nick Abramo
  • June 20, 2021
Here’s To Mike The Goalie, And We Hardly Got To Know Ye

Frickin’ Canadian.

Eh, I say that in jest. My grandparents were from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, and my mother was born there so I kind of just missed being one.

The Canadian I speak of is Mike Pennell, who I know as a calm, cool and collected goaltender.

Pennell didn’t listen to his wife on Monday night and that was our good fortune at Kapolei Inline Hockey Arenas. I’m pretty sure by Tuesday morning that his marital status was still absolutely fine, too.

Mike Pennell during a break at an outdoor game at the Mililani rink. (Image credit: Elijah Abramo).

But on Monday, the man was six days removed from having a melanoma surgically removed from his shoulder and so the sane ol’ wife was just looking out for his health and well-being.

“My wife doesn’t want me to be here,” Mike said when I first saw him just before he started to get ready for our 35-and-over division game.

About five minutes later, he showed me and a few other players the bandage on his shoulder.

Many times at KIHA, due to a relative shortage of goaltenders, sometimes you don’t know if you’ll be on the same team or going against a particular goalie until the game starts, so I said, “If you’re on my team, I will proudly protect you and your shoulder, but if we are going against you, I am going to shoot right at it.”

I was kidding.

So, sure enough, good ol’ Mike gets out there and withstands the pain and discomfort as well as the incidental bumping that is inherent in the sport.

At the first intermission of a three-period game, an opposing player patted him — hard — on the shoulder without realizing that that was exactly where he is hurting.

Well, Mike ended up a 6-4 loser in this one, but — as usual — he made some incredible saves.

Many in the KIHA community got to know Mike about a year ago when during outdoor pickup games (with social distancing, of course) at the Mililani and Hawaii Kai rinks. At the time, the beautiful tw0-rink facility in Kapolei was shut down because of COVID-19.

The funny thing, though, is Mike, for the first half year, wore workboots instead of inline skates. It did look odd, but he played really well. When he finally switched to skates, we thought there might be a drop-off in his play, but NO. He was even better.

There are certain guys that can’t get enough of the sport and Mike is one of them. He’s always willing to get into that net and stand in the way of pucks being fired toward him.

That dedication is why, perhaps, veteran defenseman Rob Moylan will ALWAYS save one of his post-game beers for Mike.

“For the goalie,” Rob will inevitably say to any beggars who wander over and ask for a cold one.

The story gets a little better when you realize that Mike was a forward growing up and only switched to goaltender about 10 years ago, when he was playing the colder version of the game at the Ice Palace and there was a shortage of netminders in his division.

“I ordered goalie equipment and figured I’d give it to some big guy from here in Hawaii, but nobody wanted to try,” he said after the 6-4 loss.

It should be noted that Mike was hurting after the game — bleeding in that spot, actually — but he wasn’t bitching about it.

“I better not say anything at all to my wife (about any kind of discomfort) because she’ll give me the ‘I told you so.’ ”

Mr. Mike Pennell, a former U.S. Coast Guard captain and current lifeguard in Kailua, will finish out the 35-and-over season at KIHA and will be moving back to Ontario in mid-July.

Hockey’s mother ship, also known as Canada, will be getting a good, dedicated player.

And we’ll miss the guy.

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