Between a Rock and A Hard Place: Goaltenders and Their Parents

There’s hockey players and hockey parents and then there’s goaltenders and goalie parents.

We often don’t hear too much about them in the game. The stereotypical expression that “goaltenders are a special breed” is blown way out of proportion at times, but rarely will you ever see a more dedicated group of parents or player. Obviously, goaltenders and their parents go above and beyond and in many cases continue to deal with astronomical amounts of pressure, unattainable expectations all the while dealing with unfair criticism from others that have no idea about the position, financial and personal cost or the toll it takes on the player and family. If you have been around the game long enough you will hear all of the horror stories associated with “hockey parents” but very seldom will you hear from “goalie parents”.

I can remember it like it was yesterday, during the opening parent, player and coaches meeting I took the time at the end of that meeting to try to explain the pressure and scrutiny that goaltenders and their parents are under.

“I don’t want you yelling at Refs, your child, other players and especially our goaltenders.”

“You will not understand the amount of pressure they and their parent feel during games, and you will never understand that, they are our last or final line of defence and tons of mistakes have been made well before the ends up behind them, so let’s remember that.”

I think we all can agree hockey culture needs to change and it begins with the simplest of interactions between everyone involved.

Goaltenders and their parents often feel the brunt of those interactions, usually it’s subtle comments, but it’s those comments that pile up and create a wound that never fully heals.

We haven’t even touched on the highly competitive and politically driven inter-workings of the position, it’s coaching and consulting aspect.

It’s incredibly difficult to imagine the toll it takes on all of those that choose to don the pads.

They are always between a rock and hard place when it comes to playing between the pipes. Their impact should never be overlooked or taken for granted. They are often confronted and have to cope with an aspect of hockey culture is unique to the situation and position.

Goaltenders and their parents are unique, they aren’t perfect, but let’s face it no one is, so let’s all be mindful of their position within the hockey world.

3 comments

  1. Craig,

    Very accurate article. As you know, with three boys in hockey, I can watch Nick & Zach play all day. When I watch Matt, I still get knots in my stomach hours before the game. And I’m just his Dad. I can’t begin to imagine the stress he endures. Goaltenders can go from being heroes to bums in a matter of 1 game. The emotional highs and lows are extreme.

    Matt had a rough year last season with covid and issues outside the game of hockey to deal with. He heard a lot of negative noise. I heard it in the stands of every arena he played in. He didn’t quit or give up and he is back this year and off to a great start. He looks “himself” again. I saw him wear the stress of last year. It was hard to watch but he had great support and my wife, and I will always be there for him. He’s learned to manage and endure all the negativity. Hopefully, the culture will change over time.

    Thanks for being a voice for the goaltenders and their parents!

    Chris Welsh

    Like

  2. Great article, I have played the position, coach the position and have my son play now as well who I coach. Thanks for putting it out there for others to read and hopefully pull back a bit on the criticism, if you never done it you just don’t know.

    Like

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