Top Ten Reasons for Goaltending Success – McKichan

May 25, 2009

McKinchanStephen McKichan is a well-known goalie coach who was the Toronto Maple Leaf’s goalie coach until this past season. He runs a very successful goalie school in the Toronto-area, Future Pro (, and contributes to Goalie’s World.

Below is an article he wrote a few years ago about ten characteristics of success in goaltending and making to the NHL. All goalies who want to become the best they can be, regardless of pro ambitions, should take McKichan’s Top Ten Reasons seriously and adapt them into their development plan.

“Over the years I have often pondered why hockey players and goaltenders in particular rise above and make it to the NHL. Why do so many end up driving the ice resurfacer, selling value meals at a fast food restaurant, or eternally reminding the customer,”You must pay before you pump after 11:00 pm, Sir.” (Not that those are bad career choices!) From the home office in Sioux City, Iowa here are the Top Ten Reasons for Success:

 1. Want it more than your parents
2. Ability to recognize and study successful peers.
3. Willing to experiment.
4. Able to handle praise and attention properly and with perspective.
5. Hockey is a healthy full-time obsession.
6. Able to work longer and harder than real or imagined peers. If you already work harder than anyone you know does, you must recognize that there is probably someone you don’t know doing more than you. This is a powerful motivator.
7. Able to internalize confidence. Show people how good you are, don’t tell them.
8. Able to handle constructive criticism. If you are already that perfect why aren’t you in the NHL?
9. Continued practice on weakness. You must assess, recognize and accept weakness in certain areas. Develop and perfect weaknesses. Challenge weakness, don’t ignore it.
10. Continued practice on skills already mastered. I always run into goalies that don’t need to work on a certain element of the game because they already have it down. All goaltenders in the NHL continue to work on basics like movement, rebound control and recoveries.

99% of current NHL players never made it there solely on the talent they were born with. They experienced benching, political team cuts, lost parental popularity contests, bad injuries, bad timing, bad teammates, bad coaches and a litany of other potential career stoppers. They rose above doubters, they rose above jealousy, and they rose above common and uncommon excuses for failure. Simply put, they single-handedly did it.”


Intro to Goalie Management 101 – Manage Your Mind

May 25, 2009

TurcoAccording to Dr. Saul Miller, author of “The Complete Player” and “Hockey Tough” there are three key operating principles for managing the mind effectively.

His first principle is the mind is like a TV that is always on thinking thoughts creating images and feelings. This mental TV is controlled by the individual who has the ability to “change the channel” when thoughts become negative. If the goalie begins to doubt himself he needs to “change the channel” and visualize he is at the top of the crease making great saves.

Miller’s second principal of managing the mind is a player gets more of what they think about. Whatever we focus on becomes magnified while everything else is downplayed by the mind. If the goalie is worried about failing, his anxiety increases leading to negative thoughts and poor performance. A goalie sitting in the crease worried about a specific player on the other team or whether he can lead his team to victory will increase the likelihood of a poor performance.

 Instead, if the goalie concentrates what he what he wants to do on the ice Backstrom(quick crisp movement, aggressive positioning, making key saves and crisp passes to teammates), the chances of positive results increase. It is vital goalies battle their human nature of negative thinking and think positive thoughts to put a “power” program into their mental TV.

 The third principle of managing the hockey mind is “our feelings affect our thoughts and our thoughts affect our feelings.” This explains why players who know they need to think positively still can get trapped in negative thoughts. This boils down to the way humans are “wired” through our nervous system. Every human feeling is accompanied with a thought. If the feelings experienced are uncertainly, pain, confusion, the thoughts tend to be stress-inducing which affects performance. Negative, limited feelings produce negative, limited thinking which, in turn, feeds back to create a negative loop that can be a trap, know as a “slump” Of course the opposite is true – feelings of power, strength, and energy lead to more positive thoughts which lead to more confidence and better chances of success.

Next Goalie Management 101 entry will build on this blog post and focus how to integrate the mind and body to create a state where the goalie can perform his best.

Intro to Goalie Management 101

May 18, 2009

“The three things a goalie must learn to manage are his emotions, his focus, and his attitude. Of course, these are the same three qualities that any player must master, but the challenge a goalie faces are unique and more intense. Everyone can make a mistake, but for the goalie the puck (and accountability) stops here!

Osgood“Tending goal means tending your emotions. Your shift lasts the full 60 minutes, during which you must maintain a razor-sharp edge whenever the opposition has the puck. To survive and excel you have to be able to stay sharp and keenly focused, to be on edge as the puck moves towards your end of the rink, and then be able to release unnecessary tension when the pressure subsides.Ward

“A goalie has to maintain a sharp focus on the puck and the play for long periods of time. He must know who is on the ice as well as where they are, and he must often fight for clear sight lines to see the puck. He must also be able to tune out such distractions as being jostled or bumped in the crease or allowing a soft goal to bother him. Nothing must affect the goalie’s focus or judgement.

“Attitude is what sustains any player through the hockey wars. The key attitude components for goalies are the same as for forwards and defensemen: commitment, confidence, and a positive identity – ‘I am’ and ‘I can'”

MillerThe above quote was taken from Saul L. Miller’s excellent book “The Complete Player: The Psychology of Winning Hockey” which is out-of-print but can still be found ( Miller’s follow-up is “Hockey Tough” (

In the following weeks this website will include posts on how goalies can better manage the three areas Miller described in the above passage. A goalie can have all the physical talent in the world but if he can’t manage these three areas, he will never achieve his potential.

A Few Insights on Goaltending from Roberto Luongo

May 17, 2009

The goalie many consider the best in the NHL offers insight on improving his craft, the importance of a good partner in the team’s tandem, and whether good goalies are born or created.

Finding the Right Level of Motivation

April 30, 2009

The latest in a series of videos of sports psychologist Adam Naylor discussing the mental part of the goaltending. Here Naylor discusses finding the right level of motivation for the goalies.

Goalie’s Mental Game a Priority for Personal and Team Success

March 31, 2009

pogge1Linked below is an article from Canada’s National Post about Toronto Maple Leaf’s rookie goalie Justin Pogge and his struggles in the NHL which can be linked to his weak mental game. Although this deals with an NHL goalie, much can be learned by goalies at all levels as it applies to the position in general.

As Brian Burke is quoted-

“…whether you can be a starter and that’s mental. Can you handle the pressure? Can you carry a team on your back? Can you not allow a soft goal in the third period? That’s where most goalies fail.”

 Article –

Mental weakness comes in many forms during competition including –

  • runaway nervousness
  • intimidation
  • poor concentration
  • negativity
  • lack of confidence
  • inability to let go of mistakes or bad breaks.

Any of the above will create problems for the goalie, his team, and prevent the goalie from ever reaching his full potential. If the team cannot count on their guy between the pipes there is little future for either of them.

pogge-down2As much as a goalie works to succeed on other parts of his game (technical, tactical, conditioning, etc), he must dedicate time to the mental as well.  Does that mean he needs to meet with a sports psychologist? No, not in the least bit.

There are several inexpensive, or free, alternatives to the sports shrink. Consider striking up a friendship with a more experienced goalie and/or work with a goalie coach who has played the game. Both should be able to provide insight and advice while acting as a sounding board to the struggling goalie.

As well, there are numerous websites (see Google) and books written about sports psychology that are easily understood.

The best sports psychology book I read happened to be based on hockey. Dr. Saul Miller’s Hockey Tough ( provides insight to many sports perfomance issues with excellent solutions.

If you can’t find a copy of Hockey Tough look for a used copy of Miller’s The Complete Player: The Psychology of Winning Hockey ( which is out-of-print and was replaced by Hockey Tough.

Regardless of what level the goalie is playing, from Squirt to the NHL, if they can’t control their mind and emotions, their career will fall short of where they are trying to get. Any goalie serious about becoming better needs to dedicate time to improving their mental make-up.

Make sure to keep checking back to this blog as I have been granted permission by Dr. Miller to post some of his exellent advice.

Back to the article, will Pogge become a starter in Toronto as projected or will he spend the rest of his days in the minors? His talent gave him the opportunity to play in the NHL but only his mental game will keep him there.

Advice for Playing the Breakaway from the Pros

March 31, 2009 posted a great article for all goalies to read – “Goalies Advice: Watch the Puck, Not the Moves” – about how to play shootouts (i.e. breakaways).


Martin Brodeur suggests the following: pay attention to shooters tendencies while watching them play other teams (i.e. scout), focus only on the puck when player is approaching, and force the shooter out of his comfort zone.

On puck focus – “He (the shooter) can do whatever he wants to do all the way down the ice because it has no bearing on what he’s going to do when he shoots the puck. As a goalie your shootout starts alomst from the hash marks or top of the circle. That is really where your challenge is, instead of watching him go fast or slow…”.

On shooter comfort zone – “It’s patience and trying to know what he’s going to do before he does it. If you take it away, now he has to go to option two, and within a couple of seconds to go to option two, you better be right. And option two isn’t usually as good as option one.”

Marty Turco adds unpredictibility is also key.

turco“The other guy (shooter) doesn’t have a clue what I’m going to do, and I don’t really know, either. That’s a good thing, and the instinct to never give up shows through. I’ve been downright beaten, guessed the wrong way and still happen to make maybe half the saves. They say lack of style and instincts hurt, but it helps in a split-second situation.”

Read the entire article here –

Watch NHL Top 5 Shootout Saves from 2008-09 Season