There is so much more to the goaltending position than just stopping pucks. Every move and decision made is based on how quickly that individual is able to process information. They must identify where the pressure is coming from, see the puck and understand its angle to the net, all while being 100 percent certain of their net coverage and knowing exactly where the pass options are and where the potential rebound locations might be in order to execute with speed, control and precision. All this needs to be done in a quick second. Quite frankly, if the goalie is unable to maintain a maximum concentration level for the duration of the game, he will struggle.
Not only do goalies have all that to deal with, but they also need to stay in the moment and understand the game is never over until the siren sounds. The goalie cannot stop competing.
Every player hates to lose. However, no player feels a loss like the goalie does. He holds himself accountable for every puck that got past him no matter how it went in. He will review the situation and try to figure out a way to not allow that particular play to occur again.
A team takes on the personality of its goaltender. If the guys know their goalie is going to stay in there and battle and give them a chance to win the game, regardless of the score, they will adopt that mentality and fight for him. On the other hand, if the goalie gives up when he feels the game is lost, all of the energy will be sucked out of his teammates as well.
A great example of this is Grant Fuhr. A five-time Stanley Cup winner with the Edmonton Oilers, some of his biggest saves came late in the game when it was all on the line. Yes, he gave up some preventable goals along the way and, yes, he had a powerhouse of a team in front of him. But like any great squad, they had confidence Fuhr would not give up another goal and that it was just a matter of time before someone would get that goal back for him.
The 1987 Canada Cup is proof of this. All three of the final games between Canada and the Soviet Union ended 6-5, with the Soviets taking Game 1 before Canada’s comeback. Most of Fuhr’s heroics came when the score was tied at five, especially in the final game. He continued to compete, refused to give up that next goal and kept making save after save. And we all know how that game finished: Wayne Gretzky set up Mario Lemieux’s game-winner for one of the greatest goals in Hockey Canada’s history.
Mike Rosati is a former professional goalie and current owner of the Canadian Goaltending Academy in Barrie, Ont. He grew up in Toronto, played in the OHL before being drafted by the New York Rangers. He then opted to head to Europe where he spent 14 seasons in Italy and Germany’s DEL winning eight combined championships. Between 1994 and 2003 he was a key member of Italy’s national team, participating in two Olympics and nine World Championships.