Goalie musings

by barbaragarn

… you don’t know what KIND you’re going to be until you actually DO it.

Will you laugh a lot?
Get upset?
Lose your temper?
Be chatty and giggle?

I have played goalie only twice, back in the early days of JMS Hockey. In 2004, when there were only two levels and we skated only on Fridays, I needed a goalie two weeks in a row. So I strapped on the pads down at St. Thomas Ice Arena. (Yes, that is how much I love JMS; I made a fool of myself so people could shoot at me and not a board.) I was TERRIBLE, but it was fun.

At the time, my regular position was defense, and I always felt a camaraderie with my D partner in the hierarchy of play: if someone on the other team was driving our way with the puck, the forwards would try to stop him first. Then my defense partner and I would try to shut him down. But I always knew the goalie was truly the last line of defense.

My perception changed when I took the net.

Where previously, as a defender, I had felt twinned with my partner and backed up by the goalie, now as netminder I felt I was part of a team together WITH the defense. The forwards were “them” and we were “us.” If the puck got by “them,” then working together, “we” would stop it.

And so trying net for the first time, it turns out I’m a chatty goalie–who knew?

I also found myself unwilling to do anything but stand solid in front of the net. Running JMS, I’ve watched new goalies go through the same phases: they never go down, they ALWAYS go down, and then they figure out the happy medium.

I’ve also noticed that the bigger people, slower skaters, sometimes gravitate towards net. And for the wrong reasons. Several big guys approached me, unsteady on their skates, asking if I could loan them the goalie gear. Hrm.

I’ve heard it said that your goalie should be your BEST player. Not someone who can barely keep to his skates and takes net as refuge from skating up and down the ice. I think this is a good strategy–the goalie has to be adept on skates like no-one else on the team, so the goalie had better know how to move… not be wary of footwork.

When I took my net, I fell over a lot. It was a lower level session without airborne pucks, but I still let in PLENTY of goals. The toughest part was calculating vectors–like, as forward, receiving that breakout pass from behind you and planning where to be. The shots came in and I kept under- and overestimating the angles. Whether they know it or not, I think goalies must be good at instantly calculating speed and direction and knowing where to BE as a result.

Hm, I bet goalies are pretty good at playing pool, too, with all those angles of banked shots…

The other thing I appreciate–and something I couldn’t even begin to appreciate after just two sessions of pickup hockey–is the way goalies have to be so FOCUSED. How does a goalie stay in a game after being scored on eight, nine times? How do they do that mental thing, just shake it off, square up in net and treat the situation like the last goals just didn’t happen?

I have a LOT of respect for goalies.