Though never a hockey player while growing up in suburban Toronto, Minnesota United's Dayne St. Clair received a career boost as a soccer goalkeeper from Canada's No. 1 winter sport.
"Growing up, our goalie played hockey," St. Clair said. "So the tournaments when he was gone, I would go and play in the net."
Around age 14, St. Clair made the keeper position his own.
"That might be a little late for some people," he said. "But it's worked for me."
The proof is all over St. Clair's growing résumé: NCAA champion at Maryland. MLS All-Star Game MVP. Backup for the Canada national team for the 2022 World Cup. Minnesota United career leader in victories and clean sheets, heading into Saturday night's home game against Toronto.
And he's not stopping now. St. Clair's diving save robbed Alexander Ring of an 8th minute goal Wednesday at Austin. Then he hopped to his feet, pumping his arms in delight. Though the effort became a footnote in a 2-1 loss, St. Clair's play pleased coach Adrian Heath.
"What you don't want to do is give teams a lift [when they score] an early goal," Heath said. "That gets the crowd going. So I think that save might have kept us in the game."
At least until Austin's Jon Gallagher scored in the 19th minute. Such is the life of a goalkeeper, who must possess both the heart of a lion and the memory of a goldfish.
"You could be having the worst game but then 90th minute, your team needs you to make a save to get a win or a tie," St. Clair said. "And vice versa, you could be having the best game of your life and in the 90th minute you make a mistake and everyone's gonna remember that. So never getting too high or too low is definitely something that sticks in my mind."
While hockey goalies are best known as eccentrics, the quality carries over to the soccer field as well.
"Goalies are very unique, I'll tell you that much," defender Zarek Valentin said. "You stand in goal and have guys pelt you with balls. You get hit in the face and other parts, and then to walk back out there and do it again. You have to have some sort of screw loose.
"The attackers go out there and they want to create art together," Valentin said. "As defenders, we want to go and battle and get bruised and fight. That's what jacks us up. So there is a very unique bond between goalies and defenders."
St. Clair, 26, is a second-generation keeper. His father, Fabian, played the position growing up in Trinidad and Tobago but never reached the heights of his son's career. That trajectory owes in part to extra father and son practice reps at the park.
St. Clair said his father is happy to be a goalkeeper dad. His mother is another story.
"She definitely bears a lot more of the stress," St. Clair said. "But they are both happy that I'm doing what I love to do and I'm fortunate enough to make a living out of it."
Saturday's match will be St. Clair's last at Allianz Field for a while. The following week, he will join Minnesota in Montreal. Then he joins Canada for the CONCACAF Nations League for a June 15 semifinal game against Panama in Las Vegas. Later in June, the CONCACAF Gold Cup takes place.
St. Clair could miss as many as five MLS games with Minnesota. And he's not even assured to be a starter since Milan Borjan, a captain, is on Canada's roster.
"First and foremost, it's an honor to play for your country," St. Clair said. "So in whatever capacity that they call on me, I'm willing to be there to support my country. You're probably only coming in if there's an injury. But it's just shifted my focus to supporting the team in whatever way I can, even if I'm not on the field on match day."