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‘Just simple instinct’: Act of kindness from N.B. goaltender draws standing ovation

Goaltender T.J. Sullivan, left, offers tips to opposing goalie Davan Cloney during the first intermission of Saturday's high school boys hockey game.
Goaltender T.J. Sullivan, left, offers tips to opposing goalie Davan Cloney during the first intermission of Saturday's high school boys hockey game. Facebook/Paul Cloney

They say goaltenders are a unique breed. Who else would stand in front of a bunch of players pelting pucks at them for fun?

But goaltender T.J. Sullivan of Perth Andover, N.B., is special for a different reason.

The 16-year-old is the starting netminder for the Southern Victoria Vikings. The team’s off to an OK start, going 3-4 in their first seven games, good enough to sit in the middle of the Boys AA standings.

On Saturday, Sullivan’s team was taking on the St. Stephen Spartans on the road. The Spartans’ season has started with a seven-game losing streak.

Rubbing salt in the Spartans’ wounds, the team’s starting goaltender was out with an injury. Senior defenceman Davan Cloney put his hand up to step in the crease instead.

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Unsurprisingly the Vikings went up quick, scoring five goals in the first period alone. However, it was Sullivan’s actions in between periods that caught everyone’s attention.

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“After the first period I saw Davan struggling a little bit,” said Sullivan. “I knew the feeling because my first time playing goalie, it was a hard start.”

“So when my team was in the dressing room, I skated down, got in my butterfly position and gave Davan a couple pointers.”

Man with cerebral palsy able to stand for national anthem at Moncton hockey game
Man with cerebral palsy able to stand for national anthem at Moncton hockey game

The referee even chimed in with some tending tips. The gesture was appreciated by fans still in the stands during the intermission, who gave Sullivan a standing ovation.

It was also appreciated by Cloney himself.

“I was just thinking about how nice it was of them and the coaching staff because of how they responded to the situation,” said Cloney. “I never met (Sullivan) before, so I just thanked him and said I’d try to do my best between now and the end of the game.”

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Sullivan’s generosity didn’t stop there. Every time Cloney made a save, Sullivan would bang his stick on the ice in support. That, too, drew cheers from the crowd.

“It was just simple instinct,” said Sullivan. “I just decided to do something small and it just turned out to be so big … it was a great feeling but it definitely was not expected.”

The Vikings ended up winning the game 11-0, but Cloney says it was clear that by the end, nobody really cared about the score.

“I think it just shows people the sportsmanship that comes along with teams like this, and what they can do when they want to be nice,” Cloney said.

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The teams are scheduled to face off against each other again Saturday night. But Cloney says this time you won’t be seeing him wearing the pads.

With files from Shelley Steeves.