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The hockey goalie mask of Jaques Plante of the Montreal Canadiens.

Why are Goalies So “Different”? | NSWC Goalie Week

07/29/2015, 5:00am PDT
By Kelvin Cech

Hockey's most important & most unique position.


Any guesses?

I’d love to see the faces of all our goalie readers out there right now. “We’re not different!” I imagine them saying. “We’re just … unique.”

Right. Unique. 

I’d love to write a post about how goalie personalities slowly evolve into throughout the course of their career, but it’s just to accurate. I believe goaltenders are born different. You’ve got to possess some sort of glitch to willingly place yourself in front of rock hard vulcanized rubber every day after all. 

Now that we’ve established that these particular athletes are living in a world of their own, one with motivations and ambitions mere forwards and defenseman shouldn’t even try to understand, let’s look at how they’re different. 

The Mentality of a Lonely Position

When a forward or defenseman makes a mistake, they get to skate to the bench either to be consoled by their teammates or ‘spoken’ t by their coach. For good or ill, those players get immediate feedback. 

Goalies don’t get that luxury. They’re left alone in the net to digest what just happened and try to move on when the next puck drops. They don’t have teammates or coaches to bail them out. Sure, sometimes parents will shout from the crowd, but that never works the way they hope. 

Acquiring a Thick Skin

Playing an individual-based position means you’re left to your own thoughts. Mistakes are heightened - everyone notices the goalie when a goal is scored, no one notices the forward who didn’t back check and pick up their guy.  

As a goalie, you’re part of the reason you win or you’re the entire reason you lost. People they don’t see the 30 saves, they see the one goal in a 1-0 loss. Goalies need to block out those distractions and focus on themselves or the pressure to please the crowd, teammates and coaches can make them play worse. The best goalies in the world, like Carey Price, keep things on an even keel. They manage the ups and downs so they’re able to make the next save. 

A Different Perspective

Goaltenders think more like a coach than a player. They know what needs to be done on the ice to be successful, but they’re only physically responsible for a relatively small area of the ice. Trying to positively contribute in aspects of the team other than the 6x4 cage would be enough to drive anyone crazy. 

For instance, a goalie might not touch a puck for an entire penalty kill, but his alertness is never higher during a game. Goalies put in so many hours of preparation and training for so few touches of the puck or direct interactions on the game that they need to train their minds in a different manner than players.

Like a quarterback in football, goalies have to watch the play develop and predict what’s going to happen. They can’t rely on emotion like players do. 

Perhaps this is where that ‘strange’ label begins, that place of concentration foreign to players and coaches. Goalies visualize more than there teammates because they have to worry about every possible scenario on the ice, not just those that directly affect them. 

The Goalie Guild

Wait, every scenario directly affects the goalie. Goaltenders have an intimate relationship with their position. They cherish the responsibility of helping the team in their own special way. 

Sure, they’re different, they’re basically playing a different sport after all. 

And if being different helps them stop the puck then no player or coach will have the slightest issue when they sit in silence in all their gear an hour before anyone else starts getting dressed. 

photo credit: Jacques Plante goalie mask via photopin (license)

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