Recently I came across an article in the New York Times that talked about “hustle culture” and how the growing popularity of the “Rise and Grind” mantra has been having a very negative impact on people’s overall health, as well as job and life satisfaction. There’s pressure from endless posts on social media that are constantly pushing working harder and harder.
Unfortunately, it seems as though this has affected the goaltending world as well. I talk to a lot of very well meaning parents and goalies who are very proud to talk about how much their son/daughter is on the ice. I think we can lose sight of what the most important thing is when it comes to ice time.
Quality Over Quantity
The problem is not even necessarily with the quantity of hockey alone, but that most of it is super structured. In my opinion, the best thing for a goalie’s development is to have some of their ice time be structured, as in with a qualified goalie coach or with their team, and for some of their ice time to be unstructured play, where they can experiment and react and build those skills in situations that are hard to replicate in a structured environment.
Opportunities to make saves like this one might only happen once a game, if that, but I guarantee that the skills that allow elite goalies to make saves like this were learned in unstructured environments. The game of rebound after practice. The summer shinny. The cross ice 3 on 3 tournament.
I’ve heard it said that unstructured ice time like this leads to goalies developing bad habits. In my opinion as long as you take it for what it is and avoid the temptation to cheat to make the save, it should be beneficial. Goalies develop bad habits when they stop playing situations “honestly” knowing that the odds aren’t in their favour. In those situations, train yourself to be strict with your habits, and as unnatural as it might feel, don’t worry about actually making the save.
So to tie it all together, more is not always better. Whether that’s more ice time, more shots, or even more coaching. Better is better. Better ice time, better shots, and better coaching. Don’t get hustled by the #hustle.