The Backup Goalie

Every team has a starting goalie and by definition this means the other goaltender will have to fill the role and expectations of the back up position. No one wants to be a back up for more than a short period of time, if ever. I always hear about how someone would love to play in the NHL as a back up for the type of money they get. However, the true athlete longs for and hungers for the chance to be the starter. If you are currently the back up this article will outline how the situation should be handled and give you valuable advice on how to make sure it isn’t a permanent designation.

The starting point in this discussion is your attitude and many back ups fall into familiar attitude traps. These traps include bitterness, jealousy, resignation and hopelessness.

To discuss this issue in detail lets focus on what positive attributes a back up should possess. You can surely infer what the negative attributes would look like. I like to look at things from this positive perspective.

At practice, attempt to outwork the starter. Be sure to be out on the ice early and stay out after practice working on your game. The back up sometimes gets the drills that aren’t the most fun in the world but treat all practice drills as if your job was on the line.

In fact many times the puck seems to be shot at the higher parts of the net on the back up. Take these shots without complaint and accept it as part of you job.

On games days approach things as if you were the starter. Try not to be the loud, funny guy in the dressing room. Be as quiet as the starter and focus on the game as if you were playing. Obviously this will serve you well if you have to go in.

Be sure to give the starter his bigger share of shots in the warm up. He will appreciate it and will be sure to reciprocate when you are starting. On the bench be supportive of the team and try to “stay in” the game. Follow the action and in your mind try to anticipate the developing plays and which opposition players appear to be particularly dangerous that game.

Around the team and the coaches never make negative comments about the fact that you are the back up. If you have questions about the position you are in approach the coach privately and discuss your concerns. My advice is not to ask things like when you are going to get to play or why the other guy is the starter. You will have much better luck by asking him what parts of your game you can work on that he sees as weaknesses. Whether you agree with him or not make a conscious effort in every practice to address the areas he revealed to you.

A quality back up goalie is an extremely valuable thing to a team’s success. You need to be able to play well after long periods of inactivity, come in to pressure packed game situations and be a genuine team player. If you follow these guidelines you’ll be successful in this role and destined to become a starter sooner than later.

Chuck Thuss was forced into the role of a back up goalie for three straight years at Miami University. Since Chuck had played a little Major Junior, his first year was spent practicing only so he could regain his eligibility. The following two years he couldn’t break into the line up and paid for the majority of his schooling out of his pocket. In his senior year, injuries to the other goalies gave him his chance to play. By the end of the year he was an All-American and signed a pro contract. I can’t imagine a bleaker situation with a more impressive outcome.


Copyright © 2005 Stephen McKichan