If you haven’t thought of how hard hockey actually is, consider this. The players on razor-thin blades wear dozens of pounds of equipment (up to 50 in extreme cases) and spend forty minutes trying to out-play and out-maneuver the opposing players who are far from being gentle.
If you want to succeed in hockey, you need to be extremely strong, but you must be as resilient as a marathon runner. The icing on the cake? Hockey requires you to maintain an incredibly high level of focus as you attempt to shoot the tiny puck into the opponent’s net.
It’s no joke.
But the toughest hockey position to play is the goalie. Here’s why.
The Time to Reach Mastery
When you’re 18 and you’re on the offensive side, chances are you’ll get drafted in the first round. If you’re good, of course. You might play the first season, sit out a few more while you finalize your professional development, and make a glorified entry in your early twenties.
Goalies rarely get picked in the first round. A few exceptions are Marc-Andre Fleury and Carey Price. Others, like Bishop, Bobrovsky, and Lundqvist, were picked later on.
The reason is simple – it takes very long to develop as a goalie, and it’s a difficult endeavor to try to predict the player’s long-term capacity when he’s 18. Most goalies reach their major milestones by mid-twenties and only then are they fully ready for the NHL.
High Mental and Intellectual Threshold
So what do goalies need in terms of skills? Lightning-speed reaction and developed reflexes are a must, but you also need an all-encompassing vision of the game. Goalies must analyze what’s going on in front of them and predict what’s going to happen.
It really is a complex game of chess in their head, with numerous nuances and experience-based insights. Why is intellect so important? The puck is simply too fast to rely on reflexes alone.
Positioning, anticipation, prediction of speed and possible angles, the list of things to consider when it comes to saving the goal goes on and on. A lot of players can be exceptional physically, but few have the mental stamina to become a good goalie.
Speaking of physical aspects, most goalies will play only ~60 games per season, while other positions have no issues demonstrating high performance in all of the 82 games.
There are no breaks for goalies, so they must endure the whole duration of the match while dressed in heavy armor. The energy consumption is not very drastic as with the players who burst into full-speed action every so often, but it is continuous – the goalies get no rest.
The demanding nature of the job is also the reason a lot of Stanley Cup winners didn’t allow their goalies to play more than 60 games in a season. It’s just impossible to be fully recovered for the play-offs otherwise.
No Room for Error
Sure, you can fall short of your top performance and your team might carry you, but how often does that happen with goalies? Other positions – sure, but if a goalie is making mistakes, it can cost the team a game – or even a season.
It’s fascinating to dive into the nuances of the sport and understand just how much mastery and dedication it takes to become the best.
Do you agree that goalie is the most difficult position to play? Let us know in the comments.
Also, you can read about 5 Weird NHL Goalies.