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Lessons from a Beer League Goalie

Hockey Goaltender

All those tough moments in games are what we really live for

“If I only knew then what I know now….” Words repeated by many a beer league player.

As I was enjoying a rare few minutes of rest in a very one-sided game the other night I realized that now in my 40s I am finally getting it. Oh, I’m sure my parents told me years ago and I wasn’t ready to hear. But now I’m getting it.

We’re playing this game for fun.

So why is it that so many goalies, myself included, get so upset when goals go in? Why do we get even more upset when they go in because someone wasn’t backchecking or someone didn’t cover those two guys sitting on the back door or when those two other guys were screening them?

No, now at 42 years of age I’m finally getting it. Those are the best moments in every game!

Why did you start playing goal? Fun. Cool gear. Sure, most goalies feel that way. For the challenge? To improve? To make the highlight-reel saves? Now we’re getting somewhere.

When you get right down to it, how many of us began this to win? How many began so they could stop only 15 clear long distance shots from the periphery every game? When our tempers get the best of us we’re acting as if that is what we want – but that would be shear boredom.

The moments we all love are the big saves. The impossible saves. Even the routine saves with the perfectly controlled rebound are things to appreciate. The long point shot you only saw at the last minute is awesome. In short – the ones that wouldn’t happen if a bunch of people (me included!) hadn’t made some serious mistakes. The saves you made in the driveway when hockey really was all about fun. Those are what we live for.

The guy getting 45 or more shots per game, and many of them great scoring chances, he’s the lucky one. The girl who has to find a way to track the puck through a mess of bodies in front, she’s the one to envy. They are the ones who get a chance to improve every day. The ones who can test themselves and can make all kinds of big saves.

If the price to pay for that is watching a bunch of goals go in, that’s fine by me. My name’s not going on the Stanley Cup. Next week nobody will remember who won the last game. Next week I get to do it all over again and that’s what I love about our game.

So, when you’re getting frustrated with yourself or a teammate remember – those mistakes are what you live for. Enjoy them. Even if the puck goes in 10 times a game – without them, you don’t improve.

Of course there’s an added benefit. If you can keep your head under those circumstances you’ll be a better goalie.

The next time you see that guy sitting on the post all alone don’t get angry. Smile. It’s your chance to shine.


If you liked this one, I have added another from the Beer League Goalie on the Zen of Goaltending.

About The Author

David Hutchison

David is one of the founders of InGoal Magazine which he began in 2009. Of course he finds time for some goaltending of his own as well, and despite his age, clings desperately to the idea that some NHL team will call him to play for them - though in his mid-forties (OK, late 40s) it'll likely be for a practice when everyone else on their depth chart has the flu and the shooter tutor has gone in for repairs.

9 Comments

  1. 2honest4u

    Great concept and I naively still support your view. The hard part is when your daughter ends up on a losing team and sees over 80 shots per game. Then players who are only doing it for fun don’t find it so much fun and don’t show up. Then a bad season haunts her statistics and chances of moving up.

    Reply
    • coachgruss

      I know your daughters pain! When I started in net I decided to play on the girls team NOT knowing that they play against Midget boys. So it was REALLY rough for me. But gradually as our team got better and starting working together better I saw my goal tending get better. It seems in my case confidence in my team mates gave me the confidence boost i needed to NOT mentally shut down after 5 goals…Good to see another female goaltender! Best! Michelle

      Reply
  2. Randall A Courts

    You are right,I never got a chance to play as a kid but luckily I was fortune to pic it up later in life . Guess what it gives me so much pleasure it is astonding . I play with people with good skill to people who just what to play . I am fortunate to enjoy the game in all aspects .Even play’in with beginners ,because I was and still remember when I was able and was encourage to try to play the game so many take for granted . go play and enjoy a fantastic game and encourage those who try . See’in the joy of the game through many eyes keeps me always coming back for more !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Randy

    Reply
  3. Andrew Heffron

    Totally agree! I never worry about what my teammates are doing. We want to win, and if I have some suggestions for them, I’ll give them, but I never blame them for what happens.

    Like all goalies, I always feel like I should be able to stop any shot, never mind how I wound up in a given situation. So if a guy walks out of the corner and beats me top shelf from the low circle, I’m not complaining that nobody picked him up, I’m just wondering if I should have played him differently, and acknowledging that it was a good shot.

    At my age, my physical skills are no longer improving, so it’s all about the mental part of the game.

    Reply
  4. Simon

    Your article made me laugh. As a beer league goalis, it is not about what my team or the other team does or fails to do. I do not go over board with the many shots that go in, but I do think about what I can do just a little better. Positioning, timing, go out, move back, etc. Enjoying those rare NHL hightlight worthy stops is great, enjoying the ice time with my friends on the ice is even better. When they feel good about the successful deke, top shelf slapshot, wide angle wristshot that slips between my pads and the post or even the slow motion dribbler that slid right through interstate 5-hole; the game is complete because everyone comes away with a story to tell until next weeks game. At our age, the Miracle is made every week when the roster is full and we gain a few more of those moments in life that make memories.

    Reply
  5. Todd

    Great article! Of course the young up and coming goalie will not relate to your concept yet as it is a totally different situation with their career still being on the up swing. As a fellow beer leaguer, I could relate to every thing you mentioned here and wanted to add another aspect. If you are playing with the right group of guys, you will find out that they are less concerned about your mishaps than you are.

    After what was a less than stellar night on the ice for me we had returned to the dressing room. I took off my mask and upper body gear and was sitting quietly, head down arms on my pads, reflecting on how I had let the guys down in the game. All of a sudden I got an open handed SLAP across the chest from one of my teammates who had walked up beside me. I was so involved in my self evalution I had not seen him. I looked up and he shook his finger at me and very sternly said “cut that out”! I asked cut what out? He replied quickly “you know what I mean, cut it out”! I looked around the room and everyone was in full agreement.
    At this point in our careers, we all still think we can be the game saver on any given night and we still can be. For those nights when we are not, God Bless good friends and John Molson!

    Reply
  6. Aaron

    Good article, and so true. Ironically, the only time I learned to control my temper was when I was playing for an absolutely AWFUL team up in the higher ranks of my local roller hockey league. People were dropping out of our team mid-session we were so awful, and I was letting in tons of goals. It was so bad that other teams were congratulating me, even after I had just allowed nine goals, just for all the odd-man rushes and breakaways I was seeing.

    Anyway, I learned to find some positives about the whole thing,and learned to just treat those games as kind of a drop-in hockey session: I learned to play my hardest, even though the odds were always against us, and to never give up on any shot. It showed through in the other three leagues I was playing in at the time, as well, as I had a renewed patience and appreciation for the game.

    However, I lost all that once I quit the team. Now I’m back to yelling at teammates for blown assignments, cursing at myself when I let in the soft goal, tackling opponents when I have an off-night and someone pisses me off, and breaking goal sticks at an average rate of one every three months.

    Oh well, the positives were good while they lasted.

    Reply
    • Roger

      I guess I’m one of the lucky ones for not are not great and I have plenty of opportunities to make highlight saves. However at 40 to practice doesn’t make us better . 42-year-old players can improve their hands with practice but at 42 our reflexes and our skills are diminishing as we speak . The more we play the more tired We get. It sucks tonplaybgreat and lose 5-1 cause the D can’t clear the third rebound or allow 4 2 and ones a game….. But it is worth it when you make that glove scoop. Doesn’t really matter how good a goal is people generally don’t react much… But when you make an unbelievable save .. The rink erupts and that is worth it all!!!

      Reply
  7. Matt

    I just started playing goalie last June. I have 7 real games in a beer league under my belt. Its a brand new team I play on, made up of guys who have just started a C2 league here in Charlotte, NC. I was pretty pissed off after my last performance, an 11-6 loss. After reading this I have realized that it is for fun. Its not likely an NHL team is going to be looking for a mid 40’s goalie who is just starting off at that position. I find playing goalie much more fun that all my years on Left Wing.

    Reply

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