The Starting Goalie

On many teams and for a variety of reasons one of the goaltenders is defined as the starter. As you progress up the hockey ladder your goal of course is to be the starter – the go to guy.

A starter by definition is the goaltender who plays the majority of the games, the big games, the tough games and the must win games. To be a starter you must relish the role, accept the responsibility and hunger for the pressure of being a crucial factor in the game’s outcome.

Practically, the starter’s preparation is typically different than the backup’s on several levels. Proper rest, nutrition, physical conditioning and recovery must be considered extreme priorities. A starter can’t be often injured, tired or unprepared. Being ready to play at a high level all the time is crucial or your starting spot will slip away.

Proper Rest

Of course proper rest is important for both goalies but as a starter you must earnestly protect your time to allow proper rest. There are many distractions on game day but you must force the proper amount of rest into your pre game routine.

After years of study you’ll have learned exactly how much sleep / quiet time you need. Rooming with the back up goalie on the road should be avoided where possible, as they may not feel the need for a quiet atmosphere when they are not playing. On a side note, avoiding colds and flu is important and you surely can’t have both goalies down sick so room with someone other than the back up.


Eating properly takes on more significance when you are a starter. Consistent long-term performance can’t come from a diet that is inconsistent in schedule and quality. To play 60 – 70 games a year at a high level requires a well-fueled machine.

Physical Conditioning

Elite athletes train incredibly hard during the off-season and these gains tend to be lost as the season winds down. Clearly we can’t work at that level during the season but to be as strong, flexible and explosive in Game 72 as we are in Game 1 takes in season efforts. Daily significant flexibility work is probably the priority of all the fitness components. Cardio and strength programs can be prescribed for your personal profile.

Beside the preparation issues a starting goaltender must behave differently. You must be the hardest worker on the ice during practice without excuse. You must not take shortcuts as the starter and stay on whenever possible after practice to work on your game. You must treat every practice as if someone is trying to steal your job. ( by the way – they are!)

A starter doesn’t blame teammates or coaches for their performances; they take ownership of their individual and team results. In this regard and many others they are leaders.


Copyright © 2005 Stephen McKichan