The Carrier Dome is a cathedral of college lacrosse.
Big time games are played in the Dome. The sea of orange surrounding you, the roar of the crowd – it’s not for the faint of heart.
The Dartmouth men’s lacrosse team arrived at the Dome on May 11th, 2003 to play in their first NCAA tournament game in program history.
In net, they had sophomore goaltender Andrew Goldstein.
After a breakout year in the regular season to help lead his team to the program’s first Ivy League championship since 1965, the young netminder rose to the occasion under the bright lights. He made 11 saves versus a fiery Syracuse offense, including a junior by the name of Mikey Powell. He even scored a goal of his own – the first goalie goal in the NCAA tournament in nearly three decades.
Goldstein and the Big Green’s tournament run ended there, short by three goals. But the week to follow would be much bigger than any lacrosse game.
Andrew Goldstein first started playing lacrosse in sixth grade. Raised in a family of goalies – his brother a lacrosse goalie, his sister a hockey goalie, even his grandfather was a semi-pro hockey goalie – he was drawn to the position. He enjoyed the control of the game from the cage. You could make a save on your own end, but then run up the ball and initiate offense seconds later.
A Milford, Massachusetts native, on the outside Goldstein was an average New England kid. He played lacrosse, he played hockey, hung out with his friends, and went about his life like everyone else. He held a secret inside though – one he felt he may never tell anyone about.
“In high school there was not a single moment I contemplated coming out,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I would probably say I spent most of that time thinking there would never be a time in my life where I would ever be out to anyone I knew.”
It was not until meeting his college teammates at Dartmouth that Goldstein felt ready to share every part of him.
“When you play a college sport you have a family from the day you walk onto campus,” he explained. “From the very first day, you have your group of people. Our team really bonded and came together. That’s what made us exceed expectations in those few years.”
2003 undoubtedly remains the Big Green’s best year in program history. If you were to ask any member of the team, they’d all agree it’s because of the brotherhood they formed off the field.
“Knowing a little bit more about who I was and who I wanted to be at the time in my life, it felt wrong not sharing all of me with them,” remarked Goldstein. “After that season, I felt confident and good surrounded by these guys who had become my brothers. Everything we had gone through together, I knew they would support me.”
And just like brothers, they did.
Goldstein came out for the first time to his teammates in the week after the Syracuse game.
“Coming out to them, after the season we had, I felt the wind in my sails.”
He said the overall response was “very positive and supportive.” Some guys didn’t even flinch – they were cool with it from the first moment. Others needed some time to find acceptance but they showed their utmost support for their brother no matter what.
“Whatever anyone had to do, nobody made it my problem, and nobody got in my way. The only thing people did was go out of their way to indicate that I was supported, respected, and loved. Nothing on or off the field would change.”
Following graduation, Goldstein was drafted by the Boston Cannons in the 2005 MLL Draft. He became the first openly gay male professional athlete.
“My primary goal when I first came out was not to make some grand statement; it was to no longer have to hold this big secret from my teammates,” he remarked. “I felt great getting to play lacrosse and just be like everyone else. The idea of all these ‘firsts’ was not necessarily something I was looking to achieve.”
At the time, Goldstein appreciated flying under the radar. But as the lacrosse community became more familiar with his story, it presented him with opportunities to use his journey to help others – something he’s become very passionate and appreciative of.
In 2005, ESPN interviewed Goldstein for a feature on SportsCenter. His national television debut inspired people from all around to reach out. Whether it was for advice or just to let him know his story touched them in some way, he became a figure for young athletes to look up to.
In 2015, Braeden Lange was a 12-year old lacrosse player struggling to come to terms with his sexuality. After coming out to his friends, he was bullied and at the lowest he’s ever been.
Upon doing some research to help his son, Lange’s father came across Goldstein’s story and reached out to him. Goldstein was moved by Lange’s courage at such a young age and sent him a video with words of encouragement.
Lange’s mother said after that, everything was different. They got their son back.
“The experiences I had growing up, where there was nobody I felt I could look to and feel a sense of belonging in either part of me – the athlete part and the gay part – It was important that when given the opportunity to stand up and be that role model for younger people, that I do it.”
Goldstein said a vast majority of the people who reach out to him aren’t looking for a response. They just want to share the impact something he did meant to them. Whether they’re gay or straight, his story has changed lives – in both the biggest and smallest of ways.
Following his MLL days, Goldstein shifted his focus from the lacrosse field to the lab. He went to grad school and received his PhD in molecular biology. Today, he’s a biology professor at UCLA as well as a researcher in his own lab studying prostate cancer.
Not surprisingly, he finds connections between his work in the lab and in the net.
“When I played goalie, there’d be days where I just could not make a lot of saves. Sometimes your hands aren’t fast enough to catch the ball, or your legs just aren’t stepping properly, but there were always other ways I could figure out how to help the team,” he explained.
“Whether it was extra effort on ground balls, running out the ball to the end line and stealing a possession, or being a really good communicator or cheerleader and lifting up my teammates, you have to be willing to adapt and find a way through. Those are learnings that have really suited me well in science, and that’s something that came from all the years of athletics.”
Outside of the lab, don’t expect to see Goldstein back in net any time soon.
“My body physically isn’t able to go out there and play goalie anymore,” he laughed.
Still, once a competitor, always a competitor. Goldstein now plays on the nation’s oldest LGBTQ+ hockey team, the Los Angeles Blades.
“The people on the team are like family.”
This year he’s celebrating his 15-year anniversary with his husband. The two got married after the Supreme Court struck down Proposition 8 and allowed marriage equality in the state of California. They’ve lived happily together ever since, now with their beloved dog in the mix.
Andrew Goldstein has built himself a beautiful life. His work and accolades speak for themselves. But when asked what he’s proudest of, his mind goes back to the 2003 Dartmouth lacrosse team.
“For all that I’ve accomplished individually, none of it wouldn’t have happened without being a part of that team and being supported by those guys and those coaches,” he said.
“A lot of us went back to Dartmouth in April to reunite. It’s been 20 years since that 2003 season. Going back gave me a chance to see just how unbelievably special that group was. I’m so grateful I got to come out in a scenario like that surrounded by good people.”