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Better Late than Never

Want to be a goalie? Even an adult can take up the game today!

This guest post is from Christopher Littlefield, who first tried goaltending at 22 and is obviously hooked today. He offered to share a bit of his experience with inGoal readers knowing there could be lots of goalie-fans like him who are chomping at the bit to strap on the pads and hit the ice.

Beginner Goalie adult

You’re too tall for this. I thought to myself as a 3rd grader standing a foot above the 4th graders in my school.

You’re way too old for this. I thought as a 6’-4”, 200 pound, 22 year old as I stepped onto the giant slab of ice for the first time in my life.

You don’t have money for this. I thought as I pulled another couple hundred dollars out of the ATM for my first set of goalie leg pads.

This has to be the stupidest thing you’ve ever done. I thought as I stood in front of the net for my first beer league game.

Luckily in my life, I’ve been wrong 75 percent of the time. The other 25 percent? Well, I still don’t have money for this.

At the ripe age of 23, I’ve spent a total of one year as a hockey player and 7 months as a goalie. I’ve been embarrassed, but I’ve had my triumphs. I’ve been blown out, but I’ve shut out. I’ve had month long confidence issues, but I’ve had winning streaks. I already feel like I’ve been playing for years.

Starting something new can be a tough decision, especially something so expensive with a huge risk of failure. Goaltending is one of those decisions I made; I’ve never regretted it.

A year ago, I started playing hockey for a lot of reasons; my roommate plays, my co-worker plays and he’s in great shape – as a 45 year old, I was single again and frankly, I loved the sport.

My local ice arena (Johnny’s Ice House in Chicago) was holding a Hockey 101 class that I came across and I signed up immediately (to find your local ice arena, a great resource is Arena Maps). I did my research and bought all the required skater gear and began the class a month later. I learned the basics, how to skate, how to stop, stick handling and shooting. I believe I excelled; not only beyond my expectations but compared to my fellow beginners. I took two more classes and started playing rat hockey as well. Even though I was excelling as a skater, I knew it wasn’t for me. I loved pressure, I had quick reflexes and I loved spending money. I was a goalie.

And so the process began:

  • Leg Pads: Used Reebok X-Pulse 6.0 – Craigslist – $225
  • Blocker/Catcher: Used Heaton Helite – Play it Again Sports – $60
  • Chest/Arm: New Itech X-Factor – Craigslist – $100
  • Mask 1: Old & Rusted Itech – Play it Again Sports – $60
  • Mask 2: Itech 1400 with Cateye (The Widowmaker) – eBay – $120
  • Skates: Old & Rusted CCM – Play it Again Sports – $35
  • Pants: My Skater Pants – Previously Owned – $Pain & Bruises
  • Stick & Misc. Items – Local Hockey Shop

My first time as a goalie was a late night rat hockey session- one in which a local D3 college team also decided to attend. I let in a goal every possible way imaginable but I learned something valuable; I was capable of stopping shots and it wasn’t too embarrassing.

A month later, I found my first team. I lost my first game 4-6 but there was not a person on the team who blamed me or had a negative thing to say. We lost the next 4 or 5 games as well – still nothing but positive remarks for a losing goalie.

During this time, I knew I couldn’t keep letting my team down so I continued playing rat hockey, I sat at Blackhawks games now focused on Cristobal Huet (I know, not the way to learn), I purchased the No Rebounds Goaltending Instructional DVD set and I learned the game from a goalie’s perspective.

Not-so coincidently, we started winning here and there, including a big shoot-out win against one of the top teams. Then I picked up a goalie clinic and two more leagues, one in which we are currently sitting in first place.

I also found that I had made a life investment, and I spent a little more money:

  • Leg Pads: New Vaughn Velocity V3 7400 – Total Hockey – $800
  • Blocker Catcher: New Vaughn Vault – eBay – $200
  • Pants: New RBK 9K – Goalie Monkey – $150
  • Mask: Used Warwick Miller 357 – GoalieStore (a goalie specific forum and classified) – $450
  • Skates: New Bauer One75 – Total Hockey – $175
  • More Sticks & more miscellaneous equipment – Anywhere – $?

In all, I’ve spent thousands of dollars on this sport including equipment, gas mileage, training schools and doctors appointments. But I believe this is the best investment I have made in my life; and yes, this is an investment. I want to be that 45-year old co-worker in great health still playing hockey. Hell, I want to be that 60-year old retired guy who the kids criticize me for my then “old-school butterfly style.”

I’ll carry with me the feeling of my first win, my first shoot-out win, my first shut-out and I’ll learn from the hundreds of mistakes I make every night on the ice.

So what’s my point? You’re never too young or too old, never too tall or too short, or never too slow or unathletic enough. There are a thousand ways to play the goaltending positions. I’ve found that the hybrid style has fit me the best; relying on solid positioning and quick reflexes. Make the investment, try it out and find out what works for you. I’m willing to bet that you won’t regret it. And if you do, there are plenty of people like me scouring eBay every day.

About The Author

21 Comments

  1. Jeff

    As a 38yo overweight man, I can say I felt the same way. I just started playing 10 months ago and 9 months of it has been in net. It has been an amazing journey and the only regret I have is that I did not start playing sooner! Great article!

    Reply
  2. paul szabo

    Great article Christopher. There certainly are some things that are much harder to learn at a later age, like a new language, a musical instrument or a technical sport like being a hockey goalie. However, in all of these cases the recompense is a lifelong pleasure. Hockey is such a graceful sport to watch and play; and so ungraceful when you are a learner. I too started playing goal in my 20’s, and 20+ years later some of the guys I play with ask me where I played my elite or AA minor hockey. That’s the best compliment I could ever get. So after about 10 thousand pick up game I am sort of half-decent. Too bad my body only has about 5 years left before it falls apart…

    Reply
  3. Kevin

    Way to go guys! I’m 45yo and I’ve been playing since I was 6. It’s a passion (but I don’t play goal). As my 2 boys both play goal, I’ve learned a lot about the position and I’m even a goalie coach now. I even ended up playing goal for my beer league team once last year.

    If there was any advice I could give you it’s to spend as much practice time as you can find (public skating even) working on your crease movement: shuffles, t-pushes, butterfly slides…

    My boys spend a lot of time working on their movement and I think it’s the best way to improve. If you move better, you can get into position quicker and easier.

    Reply
  4. Lauren

    I made the jump from goalie-obsessed fan to actual goalie at 31 and have never looked back. I can totally relate to the doubt, the cost (in money as well as bruises) but especially the payoff. Being a goalie rules. And Kevin’s right- skating is KEY. Work, work, work on your skating.

    Reply
  5. ShogiBear

    I played all through high school and stopped for 7 years. Now at 25 I am back in the crease! My two months of piecing back together all of the gear from all over the place has been worth the memories alone.

    Reply
  6. Dennis van Onna

    Great article! I couldn’t agree more. I used to be a soccer goalie when I was young and started playing hockey at 37. I’m a goalie for 3 years now and totally addicted. And if you think that the gear is expensive in the states, try buying it in Europe (I’m Dutch and a lefty, and full right gear is as common as a dodo out here). Here the prices are times 1,5 or 2. but it never stopped me from playing. I bought me a book and a DVD (hockey goaltending by Brian Daccord) and watched youtube a lot. That’s how I learned to play goal, my style is a mix of hybrid and butterfly, just about anything to stop the puck. If you’ve been between the pipes you’re hooked for live (at least in my case).

    Reply
  7. Daniel D'Amour

    GREAT article Chris! And I can SOOOO relate. I started ice hockey at age 44 to get my son, Max and daughter, Dominique into the sport that has been my passion since I was a 10 year old rink rat. I started playing goal at age 46! (about 2 months into it now). It has changed my life in a most incredible way! I decided to play because I convinced Dominique that goalie is a great postition for girls. She has taken to it like a duck to water. I was coaching her when I realized that the best way to show her how was to be able to do it myself. Who knew it could be this fun? We play hockey as a family and life couldn’t possibly be better! It truly is NEVER too late for anything! Thanks for the encouragement… I’m in training for some “over 50” tournaments that are bound to be out there!

    Reply
  8. Shane

    Glad to hear I am not alone!! I played D back in highschool but always longed for the crease but our goalies had been playing sinse dieapers and I had no chance at that time to compete with them. So I settled for defense and enjoyed it. I stoppes playing totaly for 18 years when I moved to Texas, but did manage to find my way back on the ice when my daughter wanted to start playing. One thing lead to another and I started playing beer league as a goalie. The first time I put the pads on was for my first game in which I was schooled 9 to 1. Thank god I had a good defense utherwise it would have been a lot worse!!! It’s been 3 or 4 months now and am now looking for my first shut out! I agree when you say that it is addicting!!!! Love it!!!

    Reply
  9. DKR

    Well, i’m glad to see i’ mot the only one who wishes he had gone between the pipes at an earlier age. I am 45yrs young and have been playing hockey for 25years. My normal position was power foward and a little defense here and there. I was known for going into the scrappy areas and causing havic in front of the tender, I was a walk-on at a Division 2 college but only played for 2years. I left school and hockey, but stayed in shape at the gym. At the age of 35 i came out of retirement and started to play in men’s leagues but more importantly for our Police team. I got the itch to play goalie on the ice last year (May). As a kid i played goalie in street hockey. Playing between the pipes as returned passion to the game for me. I’ve played against all levels including former AHL players to All-State High school players. I love the challenge, love the pressure and love hearing how old are you and when did you start playing? I will be attending Mitch Korn’s camp this June here in Ct.

    Reply
  10. Gaffer

    It would appear that Christopher has struck a chord, here…

    Reply
    • David Hutchison

      I think he certainly has. Great to have him on the team and it’s fantastic to hear from so many who learned about the most amazing position in sports as adults. Thank you all for sharing your stories. We’d love to hear from more of you!

      Reply
  11. Zandra

    Although I don’t have immediate plans to learn the game of hockey, this article reinforced the fact that you are never too young or old to follow a dream. While Chris began by listing all the reasons he couldn’t play hockey he didn’t allow those reasons to stop him.

    Life would be great if we all followed Chris’ lead – dream big dreams and pursue them.

    Congratuations Chris – you are a champion.

    Reply
  12. Mat Laskowski

    Chris.. great story…

    I too started playing goal later in life. Dad’s from Duluth and Mom’s from Montreal, so I’ve been on skates before I could walk. I grew up playing in travel leagues, playing all of the skating positions at one time or another. I capped off my career playing for a couple of seasons playing on an ACHA College Club Team. Oddly enough… the NHL never called for my services, so it was off to the beer leagues… where the men are men and the defibulator hangs on the wall nearby.

    At 31, after some adult beverages and another night with our fill-in “sieve-du-jour” (I wouldn’t be so critical if the guy actually acted like he cared). Someone joked… “Hey Mat.. you should get some pads and be our backup.” This was after a recent game when we didn’t have a goalie and I played “Third D” the whole game… we won 5-3… I had a goose egg going into the 3rd period.

    So I figured what the heck… and I started to piece together my gear. I found a lot of it on clearance on the web, picked up some things on E-bay, and a few new things from Simmons directly. I started with a Fusion mask, Itech Vamp blocker, Simmons UL3 glove (both gloves were new… I’m a lefty (full-right) so they cut me a great deal on some gloves they had lying around), used Simmons Matrix pads, Simmons 993 C/A, Maltese neck gaurd, Vaughn Epic double cup, Bauer Vapor 19 skates, Sherwood 9950 Lalime pattern 27″ stick.

    People thought and still think I’m nuts for switching to goal, including some NHL goalies I’ve bumped into. I remember Steve Valiquette looking at me like I had three heads when I mentioned to him that I started in goal at 31… to which I said to him, I might be nuts but you’ve stood between the goal and a slapper from Chara (on numerous occasions)… so who’s more nuts??? He thought I had a point there.

    Back to my story… I did what Chris did and played goal in the Hockey 101 clinic at my rink… it was free for goalies since they needed targets. It was there I got used to moving around in the gear and getting used to the goalie skates.

    The time came for my first “fill-in” game, we lost but it wasn’t too terrible. As time went on, our regular goalie became so flaky that I was driving around with my goalie and skater gear in my car since I didn’t know what I was going to need that night. Eventually our goalie told our captain that he wasn’t going back playing only roller hockey and I became the full-time netminder.

    In the meantime, I picked up some goalie DVDs and some books, but it wasn’t getting the job done. I was still doing the clinic, but the “coach” there really wasn’t teaching me anything.. other than saying things like, “yeah… you left the whole right side of the net open”… really.. thanks… care to help me so I don’t do it anymore?

    It was then I knew I needed a coach… but where? It seemed like most of the goalie camps are geared towards kids, and I don’t need to train for the entry draft combine… I just wanted to suck less. So one day I came upon the Weekend Warrior Adult Hockey Academy (weekendwarriorshockey.com). I totally bought their philosophy, basically… they wanted to help make beer-leaguers better AND they have a dedicated goalie coach… perfect! Sign me up! They limit the goalies in camp to 4 to 6 depending on the camp so you get more than your money’s worth in terms of one on one time and shots on goal.

    I now been to three of their camps, two in New Jersey and their DC camp (which was cool since you get to play a game on the ice down at the Verizon Center) and I plan to go back at least once a year. My goalie coach has been Jimmy Copel (nolimithockey.com) from Lake Tahoe. The amount he and the other coaches taught me in the first weekend with angles, challenging shooters, movements in the crease, it turned my game around in four days. Each time I go back, I have the basics reinforced and then Jimmy works with me to fine tune things. He’s also available to me in between camps in case I have something come up and I need advice. I also like to fill him in when something good happens, since I have no problem saying he is directly responsible for it.

    The camps run from Thursday afternoon to Sunday morning, with 6 on-ice sessions or 12 hours on the ice. All of the coaches are top notch and just fun to hang around with… I’ve had the pleasure of closing many a bar with them.

    After going to the camps I started winning more games (including a championship), adding some shutouts to the resume, stealing some shoot-out wins, and above all… just being more confident in net… which then gives your team more confidence in you.

    If you are going to spend the money to be a goalie, you really owe it to yourself to invest in some proper coaching. It’s like buying a Porsche and never learning to drive stick. Its work, but you have fun doing it too.

    As a present to myself for sticking with being a goalie for a full year, I upgraded my pads to new Simmons 993 and a Hackva helmet, which I then shipped out to be custom painted by Tony Jarrett down at Masked Expressions.

    This month is 2 years that I have been a full time goalie and I only wish I did it sooner!!! If you’re thinking about doing it… go for it… you only live once and we’re not getting any younger!!!

    Reply
  13. Chris Littlefield

    Sorry I haven’t commented sooner, I’ve been on a brief hiatus due to sickness. I really appreciate the comments and it has been great to read other success stories. It’s amazing how many people took a hiatus from goaltending only to return later in life.

    A little update on my end, had my second shut-out in the last 1.5 weeks last night; I think my game is really coming around. I think the biggest single improvement to my game was getting the backside butterfly push down – really has helped me recover from any poor rebounds I have given up. Interestingly, I haven’t had a coach or read anything online emphasizing the use of it.

    Reply
  14. Dr.John Manousos

    I am a Montreal native that lives in the US.I loved playing goal as a child but never played ice hockey,just street hockey with the neighborhood kids.It was a passion that was rooted in me since I was 10.Coming from a struggling immigrant middle class background there was no time or money to go around so I could never ask mom or dad more than just the necessities I fabricated all my equipment,puffed up winter jacket served as a chest protector,pj’s under jogging pants padded my crotch area,foam pads made from an old couch ,banded to my legs with old underwear elastics,cardboard mask,fashioned like the canadiens superstar Ken Dryden and one like Richard Sevnigh. First basemen’s glove (my cousins old hand me down) ,blocker a piece of plastic strapped to a heavyweight winter canvas glove.The kids laughed at first but I earned their respect……Today I am 40.My son is 12 years old, who has chosen to pursue our common dream of being between the pipes.I am so proud of him as he is spectacular and has also played in the Montreal Canadiens Kids camp! I started being a goalie coach last year and followed through this year too.Guess what I purchased real goalie equipment last year,have played 4 games on ice (one dislocated shoulder to report!) and this year im in a mens league.I am so excited,nervous and ambitious to put my dream on ice! Its never too late to be a kid.

    Reply
  15. Robert Munro

    It’s simple, I screwed up and now I am working my way back! I was a pretty decent goaltender in the North (Northern Ontario). I can even remember when Darren Turcotte (former NHLer) taking shots on me in the summer at Doublerinks in North Bay…I fared well for being only in Bantam AAA at the time. As migdet AAA came, I was 3 or 4th in the league with GAA of 4.00. Problem was that I was being overshadowed by another goalie that the coach kept pushing in the net regardless of his play. The final championship game in the SOO (Ontario) and this was the final straw for me, we lost 9-3 and the other team scored 3X in the first 3 minutes of the game but the coach would not pull him (the other Goalie)….something was fishy here…the team wanted me in the net but not the coach. I found out later in the draft year that I again was ‘painted’ as a bad tempered goalie” to the Peterborough Petes (OHL) by a mom who overheard the coach telling Peterborough staff. I gave up since it was my only hope in a small town with Sudbury being too far for me to play. I played 1 year highschool after and brought a quiet unknown team from the north against powerhouse teams “stacked” in the Toronto area and only lost in double overtime in the final game (OFSSA) 1991-1992 year. I think I won the MVP too. But that was it……20 years later I got the nerve to back in the net, my wife noticed every winter without me saying anything to her that my body language was missing something. I played with a group of guys once a week and they told me that I should be playing with a higher caliber league. I asked them what league, they told me Senior AAA Ontario, Dundas McMoys. I laughed at them but they were not laughing or joking. Two guys who played pick up (former AHL players) asked why I didn’t play Junior or AHL…but I skirted the issue. Yah, I played with some great players such as Greg DeVries (solid Defense), Craig Rivet (again solid Defense), Mike Yeo (now Head coach of Minnesota Wild-NHL)to name a few. I guess its never too late to put yourself in the net, I don’t want to regret never trying before it is too late. Too bad for rules of having an Agent to get you on the ice for AHL such as the Hamilton Bull Dogs. God knows my determination for stopping that puck goes beyond contracts or popularity! Never say never! Rob

    Reply
  16. Mickey

    Well I’ve played forward most of my life and have grown bored of it. I considered myself pretty good (especially at skating) and succeeded at a competitive level. I haven’t put the skates on in 3 years. But I’m thinking I need something new. I keep thinking I’m too old for goalie at 32. I’m still in good shape but after reading all of these comments. I was thinking of Ref but thinking I should give goalie a shot. I don’t mind spending the money at all. BUT would used gear be a better option since it’s broken in? Appreciate any replies. Thanks

    Reply
    • David Hutchison

      Go for it and enjoy the position!

      You might start used while you decide if the position is right for you – but not because it’s “broken in.” Modern gear is almost game ready out of the box…most pros only use it a few times before taking it into game action.

      Reply
  17. Terri Lee

    I’m a 45-year-old mother of three girls who play hockey. I took up the sport at age 40 when my oldest was an Ice Mite, though there were spans of 10-12 months during that time when I didn’t play in any games (I’m an Ice Mite coach too) and a hockey mom/chauffeur. But last weekend I attended an AHA clinic for my D2 (lowest level there is) women’s team and tried goalie. Of course someone forgot to bring the goalie gear, so I was taught positioning and such. But during the 90-minute clinic, with 3-on-3 games and session-end scrimmage, I didn’t let in a puck (the goalie in full gear gave up half a dozen). Now I’m hooked and trying to figure out what gear I should buy first. Stick (composite, wood or foam core–it’s not like these ladies have blistering shots), leg pads (I’m taller than most so the pair donated to the team will likely be on the small side), chest protector (or are my skater shoulder pads OK), blocker/glove, etc.? Any advice is greatly appreciated!

    Reply
    • Matthew Driskell

      For leg pads, you may want to go to your local store and just try on a pair. Your knee should rest in the knee cradle when standing up. I would get a goalie chesty in case someone has a blistering shot( would you rather spend a few hundred dollars or end up with a broken collarbone?) wood stick should be fine to start out. For glove if you shoot left then the glove goes on your left hand and vice versa for right. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  18. Nathan

    hey guys i want to get into goaltending, im 24 and have been in the military for a few years so im a fair bit more active than the average bear but ive found my muscles namely my low back and legs getting very stiff the past couple years(i used to be very flexible, even to the point where i used to think contortionists were really cool). I know you are all saying just wait a couple years, i know, im very afraid haha. Anyway i recently played goalie for some floor hockey and although the pads were much too big and i couldnt move i loved it and it reminded of when i was 9 and i used to watch chris osgood(huge redwings fan) take shots and i would throw a tennis ball at the tv unit so it would bounce back and i would make an epic save like he did,using a coffee table and the couch as posts. It feels like what i should have been doing my whole life, but my question is more that i havent really skated since i was about 10(so obviously that needs to happen) and i wanted to know if and what challenges physically you had to overcome, how you did it, if there was a workout/stretch routine you found useful. Ive been looking at youtube for a few days trying to find routines and all i can find is stretches, not workouts specific to aiding a goalie(apparently there are a handful that are extremely counterproductive for goalies).

    Thank you in advance

    Reply

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