Last Line of Defense

You tap your goalie stick on your pads, and then glance up at the scoreboard. Less than a minute left; your team is up by a goal. The puck is way up at the other end of the ice, but an opposing defenseman takes control. He makes a pass across the ice to an open forward. The forward sends the puck to the center, who is skating fast toward you. He sneaks by defenseman. It's just you and him. Closer now, he cocks his stick and lines up to take a wicked slapshot. You see the puck leave the ice. You have less than a second to react...

Pressure: There are few positions in all of sports more pressure-packed than a hockey goalie. They are truly the last line of defense. True, they have five teammates playing in front of them. But if a goalie makes a mistake, everybody knows it. Their sole responsibility is to keep the other team from scoring. Many fans expect goalies to be perfect every game, which is of course impossible.

Skills: A goalie's most important skill is the ability to react quickly. When an opposing player takes a shot, the puck is moving very quickly - usually over 100 miles per hour. Goalie's have very little time to figure out where the shot is going and stop it. They also have to be the most flexible athletes on the ice. Goalies stop pucks with their arms, chest, gloves, leg pads and even skates. Sometimes they have to reach all the way across the net to keep a puck from going in. They always have to be sharp, both physically and mentally.

Superstition: Because goalies are under so much pressure, many have certain quirky routines that they follow. They are firm believers in luck, and will do anything to keep luck on their side. Patrick Roy, a legendary goalie for the Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche, used to talk to his goalposts. He said that they were his friends and wanted to treat them well. Many goalies eat the same meal, listen to the same music and put their equipment on the exact same way each game. Others hop over the blue and red lines on their way to the bench.

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