The Unsung Hockey Position: How Goalies Are Made


Ben Novosyolok, Staff Writer

In hockey, everyone remembers the players. They’re the ones who score all the points, and who get all of the attention; however, few seem to care about the goalie: the one who looks plump and has two pillows strapped to his legs. Here, I’ll be diving into the world of goal-tending and the effort it takes to become one.

As a goalie myself, it is a bit difficult to be appreciated by fans and teammates alike. Everyone looks at the goalie on the ice: far from athletic with different gear and a stick twice the size of others. Despite the foreign nature, I assure you there is a lot that goes into being a goalie.  

The questions most ask of a goalie: Why? How? The answer is simply because I was born to do it.  Playing hockey, I was never aggressive. I didn’t go down to the corners to do the dirty work, and I was never fast or skilled enough to keep up with others my age. Whenever I watched an NHL game on TV, specifically the New York Rangers, the person I admired the most was the goalie, Henrik Lundqvist; the way he played was nothing like I’ve ever seen before. I loved watching him make an impossible glove save, or go into the splits and stop a puck from going into a wide-open net. Watching Lundqvist, I fell in love with the position. I begged my father to let me play goalie, and he ultimately gave in, so when I was around ten or eleven, I decided to permanently switch to goalie.  

The next question people often ask me about being a goalie centers on the athletic skills which go into it. First of all, your reflexes need to be tremendous. I mean, you have to save a puck going around 80 mph so you need to react very quickly. The next thing you need is an unnecessarily strong lower body.  As a goalie, in practice, I do close to 500 squats, and in games, I push 1000. On top of that, when I am on the ice, I push with my skates to go in either direction, commonly known as a power slide. To do a power slide well, you need to use your glutes to turn yourself in the direction that you want to go and explode with your thigh, pushing you closer to the puck. I feed off adrenaline, as that gives me a boost in a tight play. I feel strongly that what goalies have over other players is endurance. We can endure holding a squat for close to two minutes as the other team is passing the puck around in your zone, sometimes taking shots every few seconds. Obviously, you also need a strong core and upper body. Your shoulders need to be active for a very long time, holding your arms up in every stance, regardless if you are on your feet or on the ice.  A strong core is needed to keep you up so you don’t fall down on your stomach and flop around like a fish. And, most importantly, your mind needs to be strong so it can react and deal with the stress. 

This brings me to my next point.       

Doing the motions of a goalie is only half the battle. You can do every single motion right, but you still might be beat. In a hockey game, there is always a winner and a loser. If you are a goalie and you lose a game, you are going to hear about it from coaches, teammates and fans. This criticism may be misguided, but it’ll be there at times. If you truly felt that you had a great game, humbly compliment yourself; make sure you don’t beat yourself up and have an upbeat attitude coming into the next game. Hockey is a game of bounces and sometimes more bounces will go the other team’s way. If you had a bad game, and your coach tells you that, don’t beat yourself up. Work harder in practice, watch a few game films, do 100 squats after every class. Do something every day that will make you better the next time out. If you honestly tried your hardest on the ice, everyone will see it, and they will help you out. I cannot tell you how many times my dad has told me that I played a great game, even if my team lost.  The last piece of advice that I will tell you is to find a goalie coach the second you decide that you want to be a goalie.  There are few out in the world, and facing practice shots will only get you so far.

Playing goalie is different than learning the position, and when you master the position, you are unstoppable.