‘Absurd in the best kind of way’: The all-goalie hockey game in Bellingham that went viral

The fact that Sean Vacca, a Seattle art teacher, scored a hat trick in a pickup hockey game on Feb. 17 wouldn’t have been all that notable if it wasn’t for the fact that he was wearing full goalie gear.

“That was wild to me because I [was] like I don’t know what’s going to happen, I just hope I don’t look the dumbest way possible,” Vacca said in an interview with The Herald.

Vacca wasn’t the only player in goalie gear to score that night — every goal-scorer, and every player to take the ice for that matter, was a goaltender.

“It was kind of non-stop hilarity and fun,” Bellingham resident and participant Sean Miller said in an interview with the Herald. “Everyone in the rink was smiling the whole time. It was a sight to behold.”

The game, which was called “Oops! All Goalies” as a nod to the Cap’n Crunch cereal, gave hockey’s most defensively-focused position a chance to take the spotlight. The brainchild of Oak Harbor, WA resident Kyle Sorenson, who coaches youth hockey in Bellingham, it was a standard five-on-five hockey game, except every player was a goalie, and none of them were allowed to play in goal.

According to Sorenson, a goalie himself in Seattle’s Kraken Hockey League, he came up with the idea after a few experiments with goalie-against-goalie hockey.

“Any time I’m playing against a good friend … even if it’s a league game, we’ll do goalie face-offs in center ice to start the game, just because it’s silly,” Sorenson told The Herald. “From there, I just thought it would be really fun to do a game with only goalies.”

When Vacca, a friend of Sorenson’s, heard about the idea, he thought it sounded equally crazy and exciting.

“I just told him, ‘This sounds like the most ridiculous thing on Earth, I’m 100% down for this, just tell me when,” Vacca said. “‘If you tell me when and I can do it, I’m going to do it, because this sounds absurd in the best kind of way.’”

The idea was so absurd to Vacca, that he felt the need to double-check that he’d heard his friend correctly.

“I actually had to re-ask him later, ‘When you say it’s all goalies, you mean we’re all goalies, right? Because I don’t have player equipment.’ He was like, ‘No, no, no — it’s all goalies, like full equipment. And I was like, ‘This is going to be the best thing ever.’”

Miller also said he knew the game would be a hit from the moment Sorenson told him about it.

“Kyle reached out to me directly,” Miller said. “He knew that I was a Bellingham-area goalie. [He] asked if I was interested and I couldn’t have been more excited about it, just hearing about it. I’ve never heard of this kind of thing before.”

Sorenson said it’s relatively common for goalie clinics to host quick all-goalie games, but that he’s never heard of a full-length, structured game like his.

“As far as I know it’s completely original,” Sorenson said.

Sorenson started to spread the word and had nearly 50 people signed up at one point, although turnout ended up being a little less than 30. According to Sorenson, goalie can be a lonely position so people jumped at the opportunity to meet other goalies.

“A lot of these goalies don’t know other goalies, because you sit in the crease by yourself and then when you go to the locker room, you talk to your teammates … It’s really cool to see all these goalies come out of their shells and meet other goalies,” Sorenson said.

In addition to the community building Vacca’s hat trick, a highlight of the night was Jeremy Fountaine’s clothing. Fountaine, who lives in Seattle, managed to fit a hot dog costume over his pads, and played the entire game in it.

“I’m amazed that that costume is not destroyed yet,” Sorenson said.

Seattle resident Jeremy Fountaine played in the “Oops! All Goalies” hockey game while wearing a hot dog costume.
Seattle resident Jeremy Fountaine played in the “Oops! All Goalies” hockey game while wearing a hot dog costume.

Vacca first heard about Fountaine’s costume because he heard there was beer in the opposing team’s locker room – his team’s only had snacks.

“And of course, I didn’t want to just run in there, grab beer, and run away. So I started talking to all the goalies in there,” Vacca said. “I heard one of the goalies say ‘Should I do the hot dog?’ or something to the effect of that … He said something that was very vague about a hot dog, and I was like ‘What does that mean?’ And he goes ‘I feel like there’s only one way to interpret that.’ And I’m like ‘I don’t agree with you but I’m excited to see what it means.’”

Sure enough, the game made waves in the hockey world. A tweet with a clip from the game has nearly 2 million views.

It was picked up by the NHL’s official account, too.

Sorenson said he’d consider hosting another edition of the game but that he’d have to decide whether he wants to turn it into a bigger event and fundraiser in Seattle, keep it small and casual, or host one of each.

No matter what the future of the event holds, Vacca said he’s glad he got a chance to connect with other local goalies.

“Goalie is a fun position but it’s very isolating,” Vacca said. “Even when you fill in for teams, you don’t really get to know anybody, let alone the other team’s goalie. So this was the first time I’ve ever been with so many goalies that wasn’t at a clinic or a goalie camp.”

Vacca said he hopes the game can help build a sense of community among goalies in the area.

“Directly after, I posted on Facebook just to be like, ‘Hey, if you were at the event, please add me, because you were all great humans and I’d like to stay in contact with you,’” Vacca said.

Participants gather at center ice during the “Oops! All Goalies” hockey game at the Bellingham Sportsplex on Saturday, February 17.
Participants gather at center ice during the “Oops! All Goalies” hockey game at the Bellingham Sportsplex on Saturday, February 17.