Growing up in Canada, then in Detroit as a child, hockey has been a part of my life since I could stand on skates. And as if hockey wasn’t expensive enough for my parents (the saints that they were and still are), I wanted to be a goalie. Many people have asked me over the years why, as most people see it as a “crazy” and not such a safe position on the ice. The answer to that question has always been simple; I didn’t want to get off the ice. Having watched plenty of NHL games, I knew all too well that the goalie plays the entire game. Perfect!
Something many casual hockey fans don’t realize is that the position of goalie is very much a game within a game. We don’t practice the same way forwards or defenseman practice. For that matter we have our own coaches, who only coach goalies, and often are not even affiliated with the team you play for. So really a goalie has two hockey families, the team they play for, and the team of other goalies they train with.
I met what would become my goalie family, and its fearless leader in 1995 when I was 10 years old. His name is Stan Matwijiw, and at the time he had just retired after his professional hockey career, even getting the chance to spend a season with the historic Toronto Maple Leafs. That day, and the following 15 years working and training with Stan and the Bandits goaltending family would change my life.
Stan was, and still is a very serious guy, and did not allow you to slack or “cheat yourself” as they say in sports. He is also a man of numerous sayings, many of which are so ingrained in my mind they are practically part of my DNA, trapped in the marrow of my bones. There is however one saying that has and always will stand out to me above all; “Don’t let the highs get too high, or the lows get too low”.
This saying is part of several different tactics designed to ensure you have a “short memory”. As a goalie, when you make a mistake, let in a bad goal, you must forget that event, focus on the future, or you will certainly not play at your top potential. We have all seen this happen live during a professional sporting event. Player A makes a mistake, and then things start to snowball. One mistake turns into 4 before you can blink an eye. We cannot allow this to happen.
This is equally important, if not more so, in your work and personal life once you have hung your skates up on the wall. At the time when learning this lesson, I had no way of knowing what a deep impact this statement would make on my life. I can’t tell you how many different times in my life when something good, or bad happens, and I literally see Stan standing in front of me on the ice telling me “Don’t let the highs get too high, or the lows get too low”. I take a breath, and move forward regardless of what that event might have been. I have had numerous people ask me in those situations either; “how are you not letting this bother you”, or “how are you not jumping up and down celebrating”? The answer is simple, I must be ready for the next one to come my way, what happened has happened, and it’s time to get back to work.
Who knew all those hours on the ice were actually life training, and not simply working on the next stick or blocker save. Hell, I don’t even know if Stan knew at the time what he was really preparing us for. But I know I can’t thank him enough for making me always remember; “Don’t let the highs get too high, or the lows get too low”.