Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Social Bobcat goes to camp!

I've been amateurishly goaltending for about seven years now and in that time any development in the art and form of preventing cylindrical objects from entering a netted area has been solely due to my own trial-and-error process and a couple of books read on the subject.

There are numerous aspects to playing the position - stance, angles, depth, gap control, to name a few - and I've always felt that since the only teacher I've ever had (myself) is far from a master in the subject I could benefit from getting told how it is by someone with a few more years in the game than me.

Normally this hasn't really been an option. To clear up a common misconception, Texas (outside of Dallas at least) is not exactly a hotbed of hockey activity; further to that point, the goaltending population is a narrower niche than the regular player population so goaltender-specific training camps are few and far between. When there are any scheduled in nearby areas they're usually week-long all-day affairs; since I'm a working stiff with an 8 to 5 job those camps, while they would be beneficial, are generally ruled out unless I chose to spend half of my vacation days on one (plus they tend to cost a lot of money).

So for years I toiled alone and begged, borrowed, stole as much technique as I could from printed material and by observing other goalies around me. Fate did dole out some kindness to me recently, though, in that the rink where I play brought in a former minor pro goalie to teach a mini-camp of sorts for seven weeks, every Monday for 1 - 1 1/2 hours in the evenings after work.

This past Monday was the first session; I was a bit surprised that the South Houston area managed to produce eleven others besides me who craved goaltending wisdom. About half of them seem to be high-school age and younger; no five-or-six-year-olds in attendance which was a little disappointing as little tykes in goaltending gear are pretty cute and funny to watch. evidence shown here:

Watch that five-hole, little guy!

The instructor, Paul "Wilkie" Wilkinson, has been playing since age five and was at one time a deprecatingly self-described "door-opener" in the big leagues (read: perennial backup goaltender who sits by the bench door and doesn't play unless the first-string netminder is out). Seems like a good guy who really likes the sport and wants to help us out; still, I don't expect him to be a miracle-worker with me, the guy only has seven combined hours to play goalie doctor and he has eleven other puck-targets to work with. He does seem to have things organized, though; lesson plans have been promised before each day's session and some time off the ice afterwards to discuss drills , skills, and what have you.

First day was pretty general; we split up into four groups of three for some basic stick deflection drills (shooters shoot low to each side and goalie has to redirect the puck to the corner, then shooters shoot high and the goalie has to catch, drop, and redirect on the glove side or redirect in the air on the blocker side). After that some endurance drills that left me a little out of breath by the end of it; nothing like five quick up-and-down butterfly saves followed by a sprint to the center red-line and another up-and-down butterfly cycle.

At the end of the session we divided the group in half and started doing shootouts, with the shooters skating in on the goalie in net and endeavoring to score. As long as the goalie kept turning pucks away he could stay; once one got by, he's out and time for the next guy to test his mettle against the encroaching snipers. I did pretty well on this; during my two stints in net i turned away about three or four each time , either through an active save or playing my angles/depth well enough to force shots wide.

After the session, Wilkie said he'd like to be able to learn more about each of us and to that end we could send him an email about our backgrounds and desired goals for the camp. He may have regretted making that offer as I put together a mammoth 1,955 word essay on my background, perceived strengths/weaknesses, and goals; he's yet to respond, hopefully due more to lax e-mail checking than to me having freaked him out with my enthusiasm.

Will post updates as the weeks (and my l33t g0ali3 ski11z) progress.


Anonymous said...

sometimes i wish that my fiance's obsession for hockey was shared with me ;p

but the pics of the goalie tykes are CUUUUUUTE! SUPER CUUUUUTE!

Steven G. Harms said...

Those kids would have been cuter had there been bunnies on the ice.