Ask Amanda Leveille and she’ll tell you she doesn’t fit the goaltending cliche. Like any other player, she has her game-day routine, a methodology to her warmup and ways she likes to prepare. That’s run-of-the-mill professional athlete stuff. But the NWHL Minnesota Whitecaps goalie isn’t one of those obsessive netminders you hear about. She doesn’t have to dress left to right. She doesn’t have to put her glove on before her blocker. And she isn’t one to have a minutes-long conversation with her posts in order to thank them for their service.
“Honestly,” Leveille said, “if I tried to have stuff like that, I would probably forget and stress myself out more than necessary.”
So, no, if you ask Leveille, she isn’t an eccentric. No superstitions. No off-the-wall habits. She’s as normal as normal can be. The trouble is, not everyone shares the same assessment. “She might disagree with this,” said Whitecaps defender Amanda Boulier. “But she’s definitely that stereotypical quirky goalie. And the fact she dresses up in public in her goalie gear says it all, in my opinion. That kind of encompasses her personality pretty well.”
Now, to have “dresses up in public in her goalie gear” as an encompassing personality trait suggests this is more than an on-occasion occurrence for Leveille. And that would be because it is, as a quick visit to her Instagram account indicates. There you’ll find a photo of Leveille sipping a coffee on a patio. There’s one of Leveille on rollerblades, being pulled behind an SUV. She’s even posted images poolside, in the library, in the bathtub, on the bench press and even shopping for a wedding dress – the 25-year-old got married this summer – and every single one sees her decked out head-to-toe in her equipment. “People think I’m crazy doing it,” Leveille chuckled. “And they’re probably right.”
On the surface, Leveille waddling around in full gear for all to see is nothing more than good fun, a sight gag to coax a laugh out of her social-media followers and those who spot her in the wild. Dig deeper, though, and funny and eye-catching as it may be, it actually serves a purpose.
During her time with the Buffalo Beauts, with whom she spent her first two pro campaigns after backstopping the University of Minnesota to an NCAA repeat, Leveille’s outfitted antics sparked a number of conversations with onlookers about the women’s professional game, and it’s done much the same since she signed with the Whitecaps last season. “I’ve met a ton of people in an interesting way, and I’ve had pretty good feedback on social media from people,” Leveille said. “And it seems to spread the word that there’s a professional team in Minnesota. That’s all I really care about.”
Leveille’s effort to grow the women’s game goes beyond the slapstick suiting up, however. The native of Kingston, Ont., has put every ounce of focus and effort into guiding the next generation. Her departure from the Beauts coincided with an opportunity as goaltending director for Os Hockey, the program run by Whitecaps captain Winny Brodt-Brown, and Leveille’s brief tenure has already opened more doors.
This season, she has branched out to three additional youth associations and will serve as a goaltending coach for three separate high schools. Altogether, Leveille estimated she’ll work with anywhere from 30 to 40 goalies this season. “I didn’t have the opportunity to be coached by any female coaches, and at Os Hockey, it’s all female coaches,” she said. “A lot of them are playing on the Whitecaps or they’re playing collegiately, whether that’s at the D1 or the D3 level, which is so cool for these young girls to see. Just being around them so often, I can see the impact it makes on them and how grateful the parents are that there’s a program for their girls to be coached by females who are playing at a high level.”
It isn’t entirely a one-way street, though, and there is something of a symbiosis in the relationship between Leveille and her pupils, who can range in age and experience from novice to late teens. Communication is an important part of the coaching process, and having to explain her own approach to the physical skills or mental aspects of the game has helped Leveille reflect on her own play and heed her own advice.
“I’ve learned a ton even from watching an eight-year-old goalie do a T-push,” Leveille said. “How do we make them get across the net faster? Where are their balance points? What’s going on with their hands?”
The refinements Leveille has made to her game shone through last season. On a dominant and star-studded Whitecaps team, Leveille was the brilliant last line of defense. Starting all but two of Minnesota’s 16 regular-season games, she posted a career-best .923 save percentage and 2.09 goals-against average, leading the league with 11 wins and two shutouts.
She then stopped all but two shots in two games in the single-elimination post-season, backstopping the expansion Whitecaps to the Isobel Cup.
But after an off-season of upheaval in the women’s game changed the complexion of the Whitecaps – gone are notable national-team players such as Lee Stecklein, Hannah Brandt and Kendall Coyne Schofield – this season brings with it a new challenge.
As Boulier explained, however, the moment Leveille put pen to paper, there was a collective sigh of relief among those players who were set to return and a greater sense of confidence among those pulling on Whitecaps jerseys. “She’s an elite goaltender,” Boulier said. “If you look at the number of championships she’s won, I think that’s telling. She’s someone that rises. When the moments get big, she gets bigger. She’s just a competitor.”
Early on, Leveille has already seen the changes. Not once last season did she face more than 40 shots in a single outing. By the second weekend of the 2019-20 campaign, she had done so twice. But that hasn’t put so much as a spot of doubt in Leveille’s mind about Minnesota’s potential to fill the void. “Even though we’re missing some pretty key players from last season, we know we have to step up and fill those roles,” Leveille said. “I have no doubt we have the talent and the ability to do that this year.”
And if they’re to defend their crown as NWHL champions, they’ll do so with Leveille, who Boulier called the “foundation” of the Whitecaps, leading the way. Then, who knows, maybe Leveille can add to her collection of equipment-clad photos with yet another of her with the Isobel Cup hoisted high above her head.