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.
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.