What makes one goalie better than another?
1. Daily Work Ethic
Today there are many kids who simply believe they should be named to whichever team they want (not to mention the “starter”) without any understanding of the work it takes. Like the real world, there is no entitlement in goaltending or hockey. Every start, every save, every win must be earned and those are only available to hard working goalies.
I recall growing-up with my Dad telling me “Kevin, somewhere someone is working harder than you.” I never wanted to hear it but it taught me dedication to hard work is the only path to success. To this day, whenever I’m comfortable, I recall his words and focus on working harder.
Goalies, who want to excel, must work hard every drill in every practice. Every shot must be competed for as if it’s during a game.
For kids who are entering Bantam-age, off-ice work is vital. Improving strength, speed, flexibility and reviewing game film (if available) is a must to any serious goalie.
The goalies with incredible daily work ethics achieve success, those who don’t eventually wish they had.
2. Passion for the Position
A great goalie has a burning desire to make a difference for his team and become the best. He is never afraid of any challenge (facing a breakaway, playing in sudden-death overtime, etc) because he relishes anytime he is in net (including practice). Goalies with passion make themselves and their team better.
Many goalies spend time worrying about their playing time and stats. Simply, those players are selfish and rarely have respectable careers. All successful goalies continually work to improve, want to be the difference for their team, refuse to place blame on others for failures and recognize no success comes without hard work. Goalies concentrating on effort and what is best for their team succeed while others are disappointed.
Hard work, success and having passion creates confidence in a goalie. Confident goalies command respect and leadership opportunities. Goalies are not allowed to wear the “C’ or “A” but they can lead the team even more effectively than the team’s designated leadership. All teams follow the path of their goalie.
5. Love of the Game
Hockey is a special game and goalies should embrace the fact they are playing the most important position in the world’s fastest game. Any chance to watch a game, from their own level through the NHL, should be taken advantage of. The speed, grace, physicality, and intensity create a game unparalleled in the world of sport. All goalies should appreciate what the game offers and watch at every opportunity.
6. Resilience/Mental Toughness
Through the years I have said hockey prepares young men for life. This is particularly true for goalies. Jacques Plante, considered by many as the greatest goalie to ever play, asked, “How would you like it if at your job, every time you made the slightest mistake a little red light went on over your head and 18,000 people stood up and screamed at you?” Goalies must learn to be thick-skinned, deal well with adversity, remain relaxed and focused among chaos and rely on themselves within a team atmosphere. All of these are vital traits for real life. The best goalies know what they can control and realize the rest is “noise.”
7. Understand the Position
Being a hard working athlete and having excellent skills takes a goalie only so far – there is much, much more to the position. They must play “smart” and be familiar with the ongoing consistent “patterns” that occur throughout the game – none of which come naturally.
How are these assets formed? It begins with the willingness to learn, followed by good coaching, experience, and watching other goalies.
8. Knowing Your Strengths/Weaknesses
The best goalies own a mirror and aren’t afraid to look into it. They know their strong and weak parts of their game. Constant reflection on ability/performance is a must with the commitment to work on problem-areas and reinforce strengths.
9. Ability to Adjust
Hockey changed dramatically with rules on obstruction/interference three years ago. Attacking players were given more time to shoot – creating more accurate shots. Blocking goalies (i.e. butterfly style) had to change their game to succeed or risk the chance of getting left behind. The game will always change and goalies must recognize the differences and be willing to adjust their game.
10. Fighting Spirit
When the puck is loose in the crease (or just outside) the goalie must do anything to get their gloves/pad/stick on it. As well, if the goalie is caught out of position, they must fight to make the save no matter the likelihood of success. This seems like common sense but, apparently, it’s not. I’ve witnessed many goalies at all levels allow unnecessary scoring chances or give up when out-of-position. I’ve never understood this! A goalie’s main responsibility is to prevent goals and they need to do whatever it takes (within the rules) to get the job done.