PLYMOUTH, Mich. - If you are one of the brave men or women who volunteer to stand in front of a hockey net and throw your body in front of frozen rubber, you have earned a spot in a prestigious fraternity.
Within the USA Hockey community, it’s called “Goalie Nation” and it’s a tight-knit group.
For two members of Goalie Nation, there’s a friendship that extends past the usual bond formed between ‘tendies.
Daniel Linn was in Plymouth, Mich., competing in the Chipotle-USA Hockey National Championships with his 14U Team Wisconsin squad, but he was also cheering for his goalie friend fighting a different type of battle back home.
Coby Clark, a 9-year-old goaltender from Linn’s River Falls Youth Hockey Association, recently began a battle with brain cancer.
“I went to elementary school at Greenwood Elementary and his mom was my second grade teacher,” Linn said. “Coby’s a goalie for the River Falls Wildcats Squirt B team, and I’m also a goalie. We have done camps together and we’ve seen each other a lot through school and hockey.”
When Linn heard that Coby was sick, he sprang into action. The elder netminder set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for Coby and his family.
“I heard about his situation a while back and, our school motto is to treat others how you want to be treated,” Linn said. “That stuck in my head and obviously, it wasn’t going to be easy for them with their kid having to go through what he has had to do. So I just thought, give back to people who have given to me.”
Initially created with a $1,200 goal, the ‘Get Coby Clark Rollin’ Again page has 463 donors as of the evening of March 30, with more than $40,000 raised thus far.
Linn was following Coby’s battle while preparing for and competing in his first USA Hockey National Championship. He said that Coby’s latest ANC (white blood cell) count was at 990 and he needed to get up to 1,000 for his second round of chemo; while Linn was wrapping up his first start at the national tournament, Coby’s mother posted on the family’s CaringBridge page that his latest test hit 1,300.
Linn made 23 saves but his Team Wisconsin squad fell to the Rhode Island Saints 4-1 in their first matchup. No matter the outcome, however, he and his TW squad - an all-star group that plays together in the fall before playing for their respective associations during the winter – were enjoying the opportunity to compete at Nationals.
“It’s great competition,” Linn said. “Obviously our team came here to battle and I think it’s just a fun opportunity. It doesn’t happen that much, being from Wisconsin you don’t get opportunities like this a lot so it’s very, very fun.”
“I play for the River Falls Wildcats Bantam team, and we have a before-and-after season, so I’m with Team Wisconsin up through November-ish, then with my bantam team until March, and then we start back up after that,” Linn continued. “You don’t see them very often, and you play against them during the winter season, so it’s fun to come back together and be around them.”
Team Wisconsin head coach Chase Drake said he’s incredibly proud of the work Linn has done to help out a fellow hockey player in need.
“He’s a very, very humble and very soft-spoken kid, but at the same time a fierce competitor on the ice,” Drake said. “You couldn’t ask for a better player, better teammate and obviously a better community man.”
That’s just what two members of Goalie Nation do for each other, of course - especially when one knows he’s a role model for the other.
“He’s younger than me, so, he looks up to me, he drives to be who I am,” Linn said. “Obviously I want to help the best I can, especially us playing the same position - you really strive for each other and really help each other out through hockey and off the ice. I don’t know, it’s just a really close bond.”