The Most Challenging Position In Ice Hockey

Most Challenging Position To Play In Hockey: Goalies

When people talk about ice hockey players, there is usually a lot to say about the forwards and defence, but not many people credit ice hockey goalies. Even though each of these positions is vital, the position of a goalie is usually undermined. 

The position of the goalie in ice hockey (regardless if it is in a professional, amateur or junior league) is the most challenging. At times, when people talk about the roles of goalies in ice hockey, they view it with simplicity because they believe the only job of a goal is to guard the net.

Although that is their primary role, the means to do it effectively is more tasking than the roles of the forward and defensemen.

What Makes The Position Of The Goalies So Challenging 

What makes the goalie's position so challenging

The entire weight of every ice hockey game rests on the shoulder of its goalie. No matter how good a team’s forwards or defensemen are, failure is almost inevitable if they have a below-average goalie. 

Why is this? 

Goalies, even though have one main task, they need specific skill sets to keep the dreams of a team alive. Here are some of the skill sets and reasons why the position of an ice hockey goalie is the hardest. 

Goalies Need Unwavering And Focused Mindset

Goalies Need Unwavering And Focused Mindset

The one player that is not allowed to space out during a game in ice hockey is the goalie. Spacing out for a short period can cost your team a playoff or a Stanley cup. 

Goalies always need to have a focused mindset on the game. They must be clear-headed and not temperamental or bickering during matches. Opposing players will try and get to the heads of goalies, but they must be able to keep thinking straight. 

Furthermore, goalies must overcome the intense pressure and expectation from fans during games. Even though they are playing a Stanley final and are being booed by fans or are playing in overtime, where a goal is needed to end the match, they must be able to shun all that doubt or urgency and focus on performing their role perfectly.

Quick & Sharp Ice Hockey IQ

If having a focused mindset is not enough, goalies in ice hockey need to be able to anticipate opposing players’ actions. However, the fact that ice hockey is a very fast game makes it that they have to do this in split seconds.

Good goalies do not excel simply because they have fast reflexes. This is because sometimes the puck can travel at speeds that are nearly impossible to stop with their hands. 

In instances like this, a goalie must be able to position himself at a calculated distance that will enable him to stop shots from any angle. 

In addition, goalies should be able to read how their opponent passes and makes shots and the range of shooting. This gives them a split-second head start to brace themselves for a direct goal or assist from a nearby player. 

All this requires fast thinking and superb IQ. 

Physical Demands Of Goalies

Physical Demands Of Goalies

The physical demands of goalies are so much that they play fewer games than actual players. Even though goalies do not move around the rink as often as skaters, their position is more physically draining.


Apparently, of the 82 games in a regular season, only highly skilled goalies get to play a maximum of 65 games in a season. Meanwhile, players in the NHL are known for playing the full 82 games in a regular season. 

This is why drafts, waivers, restricted, unrestricted free agents, and other rules that depend on the number of games usually give reduced gameplay for goalies. 

Also, goalies wear heavy body gear. Unlike goalies, the body gear of skaters was made as protection but not too heavy to restrict movement. That of goalies was made for one purpose – to stop the puck

The bulky body gear generates a lot of heat and restrains the players from moving freely. Some of the other physical demands of forward include:

  • Stamina
    They must be able to take up positions and maintain them for an extended period. 
  • Reflex
    Goalies need quick hand-eye coordination to stop incoming pucks readily. This is a main physical requirement for goalies. Slow reaction time means you are vulnerable to fast puck shots or sudden passes while your opponents are close to the net.
  • Flexibility
    Lastly, goalies must be able to stretch their full length and be flexible in the joints to be able to turn and shift quickly. 

Designated Development Level

During NHL drafts, the least drafted position is that of goalies. The draft situation for goalies in the NHL is so bad that goalies are mostly never drafted, while those who get drafted do not make it to the NHL. 

This is because, unlike positions like defence and forwards, goalies are considered more valuable the older they get. However, only a handful of goalies ever get signed to the NHL from draft picks. 

It is this way because the experience level of players from junior or collegiate leagues is not considered to be up to par with leagues like the NHL. 

Therefore, drafted goalies are often sent to a minor, affiliate or European league to get enough experience on the actual purpose of their position. After gaining experience from these leagues, they can then enter the NHL.

Even with their experience from other leagues, they must improve as they become more familiar with the league. This is why the average age of goalies in the NHL is 27 years

Consistent Performance Level

When forwards or defensemen have a bad day game, are not in the zone, or losing their touch, they always have a partner or partners that can carry the game. 

If a defence is not playing well, he has another defenseman and centerman to carry him. The same goes for forwards.

However, if the goalie is not playing well, it is evident and even the defensemen can’t do much in such a game. There is only so much protection a defenseman can give with a stick compared to a goalie’s ability when it comes to guarding the net. 


The position of a goalie is both physically and mentally tasking. This is why not just anybody can take up the position and also why it is the most challenging position in ice hockey. 

Thanks for reading. 

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