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Holtby Incident Shows Importance of Hydration

Holtby Incident Shows Importance of Hydration

On Sunday, Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby had to leave the game against the New York Rangers due to dehydration. As Captials’ head coach Barry Trotz told the Washington Post, “Playing a little bit yesterday, flying and all of those things, I don’t think there’s anything other than that. He just said he was having a little trouble getting focused. He didn’t get hit or anything, so we just think it’s a little dehydration.”

Goaltenders like Braden Holtby can lose more than 2 liters of fluid per hour.

Goaltenders like Braden Holtby can lose more than 2 liters of fluid per hour.

Even for elite athletes at the top of their game, maintaining fluid balance is critical to both performance and health. Symptoms of dehydration include “thirst, irritability and general discomfort followed by headache, weakness, dizziness, cramps, chills, heartburn, vomiting, nausea, head or neck heat sensations and decreased performance.” If you experience these symptoms consult your athletic trainer. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to hydrate as thirst is a delayed response to dehydration.

InGoal’s David Hutchison talked about the importance of fluid loss for goalies in 2009. Even a small amount of fluid loss can impair performance and during practices goalies can lose about 2.9 liters per hour or more. It is best to rehydrate with a sports drink that contains sodium to help you hold onto that fluid; plain water is not as good at keeping you hydrated during practices and games.

As Hutchison wrote:

  • The bottom line is that it is unsure how much this matters for non-elite players. The only way to be sure is to take your bodyweight before and after a game or practice – right before oldtimers, not after that extra hour in the dressing room or local watering hole!
  • If you are losing more than 1% of your bodyweight you have a potential problem.
  • Sports drinks have little value before a game, but are exactly what you need during a game – the extra sodium versions.
  • You need a well balanced meal right after the game – if it will be delayed there are many recovery shake options that are essentially chocolate milk!

About The Author

Clare Austin

Clare Austin is a reluctant "stats nerd" living in Nashville, where she has never worn a cowboy hat or boots.


  1. Eilleen Herbst

    Awesome reminder! Lots of kids just drink the water and it’s not enough. The sodium and sugar found in these drinks is better than not being hydrated. Thank you for the reminder!!

  2. Shawn Baltissen

    Im a goaltender and This happened to me last night at training and scrimmage. I was drinking water but not as often as i should have on other days. I couldnt focus on the puck as much as i usually do and my performance felt a little sluggish. Headache and dizziness occurred just near the end.
    As a goalie we are on the entire time amd can only break between periods. Its important to drink as soon as the whistle blows for anything as we dont have a line change every 2 minutes where we can sit and catch our breath. I started having a redbull before games which i felt gave me that little bump of energy but by the end i was more exhusted then when i didnt drink. Hydration is key to all and especially goalies…. after all no one wants and unfocused goalie.

    • Jimmy D

      Redbull is awful for you no matter when it is. Proper hydration starts the moment you wake up on the day of a practice or game. You need to drink water throughout the day to be hydrated later that night. If you have an early morning icetime then you need to drink the night before. If you wait until during your game or practice to drink it is already too late.

  3. John

    Coconut water is brilliant for hydration

  4. chris

    We’ve been told by goalie trainers, health practitioners and dieticians that sports drinks (IE Gatorade & equivalents) are okay for older players, but should be avoided for kids under ~ 15 yrs as they unnaturually increase heart rate, and to stick with water, but to drink well prior / during / post game to replenish lost fluids. I tend to agree…any thoughts on this?

  5. Dana

    I always just drank water as a kid-however knowing what I know now regarding Pediatric Health and how easily kids sugar stores can be ‘washed out’ with fluid ivs I really think a half and half mix would be best if your kid is REALLY working and sweating hard in their sport. Personally I buy a conteiner of gstorade powder and do about half the recommended amount per bottle of water and usually keep it on the bench and drink between periods. I played college hockey and am a major sweater (career firefighter as well) and this is my first year focusing on rehydration like thjs. I have noticed a difference and I feel a lot better-I have passed out in the past and gotten sick to the point of needing to get ivs due to dehydration.

  6. Johnnyeightoh7

    I could be the odd one out here but I generally have a protein shake before and after and water during sessions. I found one that isn’t milk based and is like a fruit juice so it’s pretty light and easy to drink. Also I sip water every chance I get during the day and maybe TMI but I judge my hydration level by my p*e as it should be relatively clear and if it isn’t, I put an effort to take in more water.

    Regarding stuff like Gatorade and whatnot, I rarely drink them as I get calories (energy) from my protein drink and the sodium I lose in sweat is minimal, that can be replenished through normal diet.

    If anyone wants to know the protein drink I use just ask, I’ve now used it for almost a year and I can’t say enough good things about it.

  7. Johnnyeightoh7

    Oh to further add, I have tried “homemade” Gatorade type thing with orange juice, lemon juice pinch of salt, some honey and sugar. I made it stronger so it was a concentrate which I could just add a small amount to water and I found it also pretty good.

    Guess in the end it’s also about making sure you eat correctly and get your vitamins and minerals in, if you do that then you should be alright.