Jacques Plante — one of the greatest goalies ever — aptly described the pressure of playing between the pipes as, “How would you like a job where, every time you make a mistake, a big red light goes on, and 18,000 people boo?”
His take flies right in the face of the famous maxim of Heywood Broun — one of America’s first sportswriters — who noted, “Sports do not build character, they reveal it.”
But that’s what made Plante one of the best backstops in hockey history: a willingness to shoulder both the heavy pads, but also the pressures of an entire team and their fans.
As a goaltender, you’re a part of the team, but also an island unto yourself. Your shortcomings are immediately apparent and the finger-pointing always includes you.
So when your Baby Brodeur says he or she wants a blocker and glove, don’t leave them alone on as island. While it’s not easy to watch the rubber fly on the games they’re looking like Swiss cheese, if you can get past the understandable trepidation, you may learn something very special about your child.
“We want to protect them,” says veteran hockey mom Diane Pelton of Syracuse, NY. “Chances are, if your child has chosen to become a goalie, they are much stronger than you think.”
Being a goalie parent isn’t easy either. They’re usually the ones standing behind the glass, walking from end to end and yelling from the top of their lungs, “Cover it!” Early on Pelton heeded the advice from a favorite goalie coach, to be seen and not heard. “If your goalie is looking at you, they’re not focused on the play in front of them,” says Pelton.
And if your child is serious about goal tending, be prepared to spend some big bucks. Never skimp on protection, but there are ways to save, like making friends with the local shoe repair shop. “They can fix more than shoes. A few years back Jake’s leg pad was cut by a skate,” says Pelton, “The shoe repair shop did a great job on the repair, saving us from replacing pads before they were worn out.”
Stephen Bowker’s son knew the moment he strapped on the goalie gear, he wanted to be a keeper. Now playing for his JV High School team, the Wilmington, MA dad has learned kids need to be treated as kids and not pushed too hard, “It can be nerve racking at times. They are going to have good and bad games. Be supportive,” says Bowker.
“It’s very hard to watch him get down on himself and go through the emotions of losing a game, “ says Auburn, N.Y. goalie mom Denise Farrington, who says your child should come before the sport, “ Make sure they know that winning or losing a game does not define them. They are more than that.” When there are more lows than highs, Farrington suggests it’s time to move on.
It takes a unique temperament to bear the burden of the pipes. But with the right support and nurturing, you may find goaltending reveals something we all want for our kids — that they are special.
Syracuse, N.,Y. hockey mom Christie Casciano Burns is the author of The Puck Hog & Haunted Hockey