“SIZE" “SIZE” “SIZE"
Normally this is not a factor at a young age, but, unfortunately, as you move up the hockey chain, some coaches believe it is a factor. I have seen it creep into decisions at the U13 & U15 level and most certainly it becomes a major factor at U18.
But don’t despair. Not everyone grows at the same rate & oftentimes, those who are above average height at 12 – 14 years will not grow at the same rate as they get older or may even stop growing. And those who are average height or less at those years will catch up or exceed the norm.
In any event, there is room for the smaller goaltender beyond Minor/Youth Hockey or High School. And, there is still a place in Major Junior/Tier I for the smaller goaltender &, most certainly, the smaller goaltender can flourish at the Junior A or Junior B/Tier II level.
Beyond that, U Sport, NCAA, ECHL, AHL and European teams are options open to those who have the skill but do not achieve the "supposedly ideal" 6' 2" height for an NHL goaltender. Understand, reaching the NHL is no easy task, even with the size factored in.
On any given night, there are only 64 goaltenders on NHL team game rosters and they come from every part of the world. So, your competition is not only the kid on the next block or in the next town, but the kid playing minor hockey in Switzerland, Sweden, Finland or Germany or the US.
My advice to any goaltender, who is shorter in stature than your peers, is to not bury your dreams, but understand what your situation is and take steps to improve your chances at playing at a higher level (if that is truly what you want) by working on and improving those parts of your game to get you there.
So, here are some things you need to be to maximize your ability to compete at any level, no matter what your size. If you are really motivated, you can likely achieve proficiency in a short period of time with the help of an experienced goaltending coach.
- athletic (possess incredible agility, balance & co-ordination with speed) These elements can be developed away from the ice surface, but a certain amount requires on-ice time (see the next element below) *not all goaltenders will have the physiological capabilities to achieve a high level of athleticism. So then, positioning becomes a much more important factor
- a superior skater (a master at using inside edges to position, or reposition on skates in control and on balance)
Spend on ice time working on inside edge control, crease skating drills & team skating
- unmatched in lateral movement (controlled speed & power in lateral movements on skates or in a slide)
- a student of the game (watches games played at all levels; observing player tendencies and play patterns and how shots are generated and the locations in the defensive zone from which they originate)
- excellent at reading the shot release (using complete puck focus and shooter information such as hand/puck/shoulder position to determine height, velocity and shot location immediately as the puck is leaving the stick blade)
- near perfect at tracking shots (actually sees pucks make contact with their equipment (stick, pads etc.) & rebounds moving away from your equipment & can FIND the flight path of the puck through screens & front net traffic situations)
- a master at being patient & staying up and on skates (patient and confidently remaining on skates and only moves to make the save after the PUCK HAS LEFT THE STICK BLADE when the velocity & trajectory is known) The exception being close in, tight, shot situations where the higher percentage play is to use a down, butterfly or RVH, blocking position
- near perfect at positioning (an angle first mentality always. Plus proper depth whenever possible. Must arrive "on time", every time, so feet are set and skates, hips & shoulders are square to the puck "BEFORE" the shot released – in the case of a lateral slide the same squareness must be prioritized)
- strong mentally (develop your mental toughness & “grit” to handle the ups & downs of goaltending)
A few other non-technical, non-tactical necessary elements.
has a “never give up” attitude
works harder than any of his team mates every off or on ice session
wants to be the best
wants to learn
ENJOYS PRACTICES AS MUCH AS THE GAME