David Littman was drafted in the 11th round (211 overall) by the Sabres in 1987. (THN Archives)
In Part 1 last week, former Sabres and Lightning goalkeeper David Littman discussed his road to becoming and NHL goalie and went through his daily routine. Here is Part 2...
One of the biggest roadblocks for a goalie can be your coach. There’s a reason goalies stick together and usually become best friends. There’s also a reason they refer to being a member of the “goalie union.”
Unless you’ve played goalie, you won’t know anything about being a goalie. There’s no arguing this and every goalie will say the same thing.
Problems arise when you get a head coach who never played in net (and most of them were forwards or defensemen), but thinks he knows about goaltending.
“Stand up more.”
“Control your rebounds better.”
“Don’t play the puck so much.”
If this is all you hear from your coach, he has never played the position (although “stand up more” doesn’t apply as much anymore with the butterfly style dominating right now.)
A good coach (non-goalie) will understand he doesn’t know what he’s talking about and will listen to the goalie coach. If there is no goalie coach, just smile and say “OK coach,” and then play the way you feel comfortable. The bottom line is this: If you stop the puck, he’ll keep quiet.
That’s the entire job of a goalie. Just stop the puck. It is so simple. From seven years old to 33 years old, that’s all I had to do. It is a clear, concise objective.
When you are stopping the puck, there’s nothing better. Even in practice it’s awesome to frustrate shooters and make great saves. In a big game, it’s even better. Making a save on a breakaway is the same whether you are a little kid or a well-paid pro.
When things are going well, you get into the zone. It is a great place to be; everything slows down. You don’t even need to concentrate anymore. It is like being on autopilot and the best goalies in the world are in this place more often than not.
Then there is the opposite end of the scale. The worst place you can ever be as a goalie is the no-confidence zone. This space creeps up on you and starts with one goal. Then another. Then another. Then you have a tough time sleeping because you keep thinking about your mistakes. You wake up the next day tired and with a little less confidence.
If you play with just three percent less confidence in your game, it causes a few more mental errors. The best goalies snap out of it after a couple of games. I once had a confidence slump last 10 games and by the time I was out of it, the coach traded for another goalie and I went from starter to backup in less than a month. These were the moments I’d wish I’d taken Chico Resch’s advice.
In the end, I will be forever grateful Oyster Bay needed a goalie. It has opened up the world for me and was the best decision I ever made.
Advice for young goalies:
Get a book called Mental Toughness Training for Sports: Achieving Athletic Excellence by James E. Loehr. (It teaches you how to get into the zone.)
Pick up a book called The Journeymen: 24 Bittersweet Tales of Short Major League Sports Careers by Kurt Dusterberg. (It is a great read and I am one of the subjects)
Follow the Three Cs – Concentration, Consistency, Confidence. (It is OK to be cocky on the ice, just not so much off the ice.)
Play to your strengths. (If you are super-quick, don’t come out too far, don’t commit early – just use your reflexes.)
Hang out with your teammates. (It’s OK to be a loner before a game, but you need your teammates to like and respect you.)
Go to Bruce Racine’s goaltending camps (St. Louis) or Joe Bertagna goaltender videos/camps (New England). I am sure there are many more, but these are the two I know are great.
Always keep a positive attitude. (In the locker room, to the media and most importantly on the ice – don’t get mad at teammates because they shoot high in practice, don’t get mad at your defensemen because they didn’t take their man, and when a goal goes in don’t slam your stick – get your head back in the game right away.)
A native of Flushing, N.Y., David Littman was drafted by the Sabres in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft. He spent four years at Boston College before turning pro in 1989. Over the next 10 years, Littman would play in the ECHL, IHL, AHL and NHL (with Buffalo and Tampa Bay). The 40-year-old currently works as a producer for the wildly popular EA Sports NHL series of video games. Read his other THN.com blogs HERE.