Ice Barn Goalie Blog 1
We have spent a lot of time working on the physical component of goaltending now let’s take a walk down the mental road. Being a goalie is hard, it is a position that requires a lot of mental skills: preparation, the ability to “reboot”, and mental toughness.
How do you get ready every time you get on the ice? Find your own routine, and do things before you get on the ice to get mentally and physically prepared for the ice time. You don't just need to be ready for games be ready for practice too. Sweden has the most NHL Goalies per capita and they do the extra, they get ready for practice not just by putting on their equipment they get physically and mentally ready for it, they stretch, roll out, break a little sweat, do ball work to get their eyes warmed up. Your pregame/prepractice routines can be different that is okay.
I strongly recommend having a routine that is unique to you, having exercises that you like and that have a purpose, visualization is a thing that you can do almost anywhere, and if you picture yourself doing something you are more likely to accomplish it. I will leave the preparation talk with this: “Arriving earlier to practice or staying afterward to put in extra work isn't for everyone. Then again, winning isn't for everyone.”-Unknown
Ability to “reboot”
How do we react to goals that are scored on us? How do we react when one of our teammates makes a mistake and the puck happens to end up in our net? (Steve Smith 1986 Smythe Final, Memories: Smith's own goal eliminates the Oilers) You can control your reactions, you cannot control the actions that happen toward you. Sometimes it is as easy as taking a deep breath and collecting your thoughts. I am going to challenge you to find YOUR way to react positively. Cussing out your teammates, the officials, or even yourself, and slamming your stick on the ice or the post are all recipes for disaster and it will do more harm than good even if it is the first reaction. Poor body language is an inflator for the other team, “we are in the goalie’s head”. The opponents see it and they can take action, it could get them excited. Taking a good deep breath is a way to get rid of all of the bad chemicals in your brain that can harm your performance. Hide those negative thoughts and emotions and find a good way to release them. I was told by a neuroscientist the best way to get grounded again or get a fresh start is to trigger your five senses, eyesight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. Can you watch one droplet of water down to the ice after you squirt some in the air? -Braden Holtby made this one "viral", he would squirt his water bottle into the air and then he would track one droplet of water all the way down to the ice. He would do this often during a game and also after goals. Can you hear the post go cling when you tap your stick on it? Can you taste the sweat on your upper lip? How does your glove feel when it closes? Can you smell the crisp air in the rink? Those are five actions that you can do to get yourself grounded again after a goal. You will see almost every goalie in the NHL will do something different, but they do it almost every time they get scored on, Fleury leaves his net and does a figure eight between the goal line on the boards and he taps the boards each time. Do you think he did that after the very first goal he gave up in his career? Probably not. It is something that he developed over the years. Two things are certain when it comes to the mental side of goaltending. Your routine will not be made overnight and what works for one goalie will probably not work for you.
How good are you at not letting things throw you off? How good are you at handling pressure(both external and internal)? How do you keep yourself consistent? (not getting too high or not getting too low? What tools do you use to get prepared, stay focused on the game, or get back into the game?
I have seen a lot of goalies use quotes/phrases and images to help them keep their minds right. Here are some examples:
Nicole Hensley, USA Women’s National Team, Olympic Gold Medalist, Nicole is a Brian’s goalie and they are known as the Custom Goalie Company, Nicole has an image of an ice cream cone embroidered into the outer cuff of her glove, when she gives up a goal you will see her look at the ice cream cone because “Ice cream always makes her happy”
Eric Comery, Buffalo Sabres, Comery writes “Breathe - Centered” on the backhand of the paddle of his goal stick, he says, “In junior, it was, Breathe and Vision,” Comrie said. “It changed the breathe-centered because of my work with a mental skills coach, who brought up centered to me and said it’s a good mantra because it keeps you from going too far over to the happy side and too far to the angry side. You’ve got to be in the middle. Both can lead to bad things.” (Quote from InGoal)
Cam Ward, Former NHL Goalie and Stanly Cup Champion with the Carolina Hurricanes, would write “Have Fun” right where his stick tape started at the bottom of the paddle. I really like this one because he did it all the way up until he retired and that is what the game is all about, having fun.
Kaeden Edstrom, Former Indy Junior Fuel 18u AAA Goalie now with the Rogue Valley Royals in the USPHL Premier in Medford, OR uses small sayings on his equipment such as Bible Verse Luke 1:37. “I have Luke 1:37 stitched into my glove and it quotes, “For, with God, nothing shall be impossible.” I think it really just reminds me of the power backing me up in this journey. Making it to the top levels of hockey is very hard and it’s reassuring to know I have God helping me.”
Edstrom also uses a trick I learned back in 2014 and that is putting tasks (or short-term goals) you want to achieve in practice and in games on your waterbottle the reason why we can put those on our waterbottle, typically most goalies bring their water to the net and they do not typically drink water while play is going on, especially in their end. Goalies who do this typically will list two to three short sayings that they come up with or things that sit well with them it could be a reboot or could be motivation, this is what Kaeden has to say about the water bottle trick “When you introduced the water bottle advice, it helped a ton. I found it most useful In practice. You pointed out how tedious I was about placing my bottle in the same spots and how it could be useful for me to write things on it. From there, I put habits on the bottle that I want to work on so I can keep reminding myself through my training. I have three spots on it, two stay the same, and one changes from week to week. The two that stay the same are two to three key habits. I want to always have a motivational piece. The one that changes are my three points of emphasis for practice each week. Some weeks I forget to change it since I write the goals down on paper, but it still serves use.”
The mental side of being a goalie can be difficult, it takes a unique person to want to stand in front of a fast hard object for fun, the crease that we stand in can be a very lonely island, one of the reasons why you have a goalie partner. You must be supportive of their mistakes and be the best possible teammate to them if you get excited if your goalie partner gives up a goal, SHAME ON YOU, you are the only other person on their team to feel that exact way when a puck crosses the goal line. Pressure is a privilege, some people want to be ‘the guy” but maybe they cannot because this position we are very fortunate to play is expensive, you will want that pressure back someday. I know I do.
I would recommend finding unique ways to help you get through tough times in the pipes, keep you focused for the full game, and help you break away from the pack. Mental strength is a component of goaltending that will help you for the rest of your life.
Thank you for reading,