“Goaltending … it’s the jaw dropping save … it’s the flashy equipment and slick paint job … its an up and down mental battle that never ends … all eyes are on you … you are the last line of defence and the difference between a lengthy playoff run and an early exit.”
That is the narrative, spoken over beautifully shot footage of game action, practice drills and behind-the-scenes preparation, that opens WHL Full-On – Goalies, a 24-minute documentary on the puck-stopping position that was part of a series put together for Shaw Cable as part of continued efforts to promote their live game coverage of Western Hockey League games across Western Canada.
The goaltending episode, which originally aired in late June and is now available to watch in its entirety online (full video below), focuses mainly on three goaltenders – Calgary Flames prospect Laurent Brossoit of the Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL veteran Cam Lanigan of the Medicine Hat Tigers, and rookie Coleman Vollrath of the Victoria Royals – at different stages of the WHL season to discover what makes the goalies a unique breed of athlete. It doesn’t take long before viewers are also introduced to their goaltending coaches as well, giving us the sense this is going to be a lot more than the typical lip service look at the toughest position in hockey.
That’s because the filmmaker behind it, Joe Stephenson of RX Films, is also a goalie. He even played in the WHL in the mid-1990s, and his knowledge of the position shines through in this unique and entertaining look at it.
“The goaltender episode was special to me because I played the position in the league for the Red Deer Rebels and Calgary Hitmen,” Stephenson told InGoal Magazine. “It was a lot of fun revisiting the position and utilizing some my own experiences to help drive the direction of the content. … The position has changed tremendously, primarily because the athletes are much better. Today’s goaltender is bigger and just as fast. One of the big reasons I feel are the year-round, dedicated goaltending schools that are out there now. These guys are former goalies who have turned the position into a science.”
Stephenson’s film takes a good look at that evolution, with coaches like J.F. Martel of World Pro Goaltending and the Medicine Hat Tigers, and Dustin Schwartz of OR Sports and the Edmonton Oil Kings talking about those changes and importance of good practice habits in the modern game. Stephenson’s own evolution to filmmaking has benefited from his experiences dealing with the stress and challenges of playing between the pipes.
“Being a former goaltender helps me remain calm, think clearly and make good decisions,” he said. “Top goaltenders are as mentally strong as they are physical. My profession can be a bit cut throat with not a lot of positions available, similar to goaltending with only two spots on a team. You have to be diligent, creative and make the most of opportunities when they present themselves.”
There is plenty of mental advice from the goalies in the WHL Full-On documentary, as well as some great gear and mask talk, which is why the rest of us goaltenders can only hope Shaw Cable chooses to bring the series back next season. Either way, Stephenson will continue working on athletic documentary projects, whether short features for the web, or long form for television.
“I’m just a former tender trying to make his way in the world,” Stephenson said with a laugh.
Judging by this goaltending documentary, that won’t be a problem. Before you enjoy WHL Full-On – Goalies in its entirety below, be sure to check out more of Stephenson’s work on the RX Films website: