The NHL has seen its share of space cadets between the pipes, as goaltenders are hockey's quirkiest players. So it's only fitting that a goalie jersey will literally be in orbit next month, boldly going where no NHL goalie jersey has gone before.
Space Shuttle Discovery is due to launch from Cape Canaveral on Nov. 1, on its final mission before being turned into a relic at the Smithsonian Institution. (Much like Battlestar Galactica, right before the robots attacked. Prepare yourselves.) Among its crew is Colonel Tim Kopra, who will bring a Nashville Predators jersey featuring goaltender Pekka Rinne(notes) with him into space.
Jim Diamond of The Examiner had the interesting back story behind Kopra and the Rinne sweater. His brother-in-law, Tim Morrell, is a Predators season-ticket holder, and took Kopra and his wife to their first-ever game in 2007. When he discovered Kopra would be going back to space in Discovery -- his second, and last, trip into orbit -- he inquired about taking a Rinne sweater as a personal item.
Rinne is from Finland; Kopra's grandfather immigrated from Finland in 1910, and Tim Kopra has since become the adopted astronaut son of the nation, which doesn't have a space program. From Diamond and the Examiner:
"It is a big deal even in Finland," Rinne said. "He has been on the news several times. That's something that Finnish people know well."
And for a guy that rarely shows much emotion, Rinne was quite taken aback when he received the news that one of his sweaters will soon be going to a place significantly higher than the shoulders that sit near the top of his 6'5" frame.
"I was really surprised when I heard about it," he said. "It is awesome. Obviously I'm proud of that. It is such an exciting thing."
According to the paper, Morrell was inspired partly by Canadian astronaut Julie Payette taking a Montreal Canadiens jersey into space last year ... that of the appropriately named Maurice "Rocket" Richards. According to NHL.com, Commander Lee Archambault was "going to wear his personalized Chicago Blackhawks jersey on the space shuttle Discovery during a 14-day mission" in 2009.
Quite an honor for the Predators and for Rinne, who could have the jersey presented to him later this season, according to The Examiner. We can only hope this sparks a new phase of the space race in which the Russians bring a Sergei Bobrovsky(notes) sweater into orbit next time they launch.
(Of course, the next step would be to have an actual goaltender in obit to test the effects of zero gravity on the NHL. We have to imagine the forwards would have the advantage on the goalies; in space, no one can hear you screen ...)
All of this leads to a natural question for the readership: If you could take one hockey jersey into space, which one would you take?