Praise for the first edition:
"A wealth of information about goalies... the photographs are stunning." -- Resource Links
Hockey Hall of Fame Book of Goalies features the most distinguished and influential men and women who ever patrolled the crease, exploring the careers of such stars as Georges Vezina, Johnny Bower, Jacques Plante, Ken Dryden, Tony Esposito and Patrick Roy. These are the goal keepers that forever changed the game, raising the bar for all who followed.
This new edition includes the addition of two star goalies, Dominic Hasek and Ed Belfour.
In this comprehensive illustrated reference:
Hockey Hall of Fame Book of Goalies is the official Hockey Hall of Fame book on goalies and the definitive book on the topic.
The Hockey Hall of Fame and Museum in Toronto honors and preserves the history of ice hockey and those who have made outstanding contributions and achievements in the development of the game.
Steve Cameron is an editor and author, a men's league goaltender and a hockey fan. He has developed 11 titles with the Hockey Hall of Fame and worked with Canada's best sports writers.
IN THE 1970s, a lion-masked kook of a goaltender named Gilles Gratton haunted the National Hockey League and World Hockey Association. I've chosen "haunted" because Gratton, better known as "The Count," professed a belief in reincarnation. In one of his previous lives, Gratton insisted, he had been a 16th-century Spanish nobleman.
The Count laid it all out during the 1976-77 season in a joint question-and-answer session with the New York Rangers and New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden for the enlightenment of major corporate sponsors. To the astonishment of emcee Marv Albert and the assorted mucky-mucks, Gratton explained that in the 16th century, while pulling Iberian royalty duty, he amused himself by lining commoners up against a wall and stoning them.
"God has taken his revenge," he told the crowd, in apparent seriousness. "Now I am a goaltender." Alas, Gratton quit after one game in the minors the following season -- his abrupt retirement marking the first day of the rest of his lives.
Many of the stereotypes about goalies have changed since The Count's comet briefly arced over the professional hockey landscape. Today's generation of netminders isn't your father's: The modern goalie is no longer the ex-fat kid who was stuck in net because he was not fit enough to play anywhere else; nor is he the guy who practically needed cheese cutters to skate. He also hasn't learned to play the position by thumbing through a dog-eared copy of Jacques Plante's book, On Goaltending.
The modern goalie is, instead, a well-conditioned athlete who is often one of the strongest skaters on the team, and certainly one of the most rigorously coached players. In fact, goal is now the most coached position in hockey; and there are, by last check, no left-wing coaches or summer hockey schools dedicated to right wingers.
But, as much as the conventional wisdom about the position has evolved in the past 30 years, one thing hasn't. Refracted through the prism of all those "part-timers" (the forwards and defensemen who talk big about "playing 60 minutes" but who spend less than half of the game on the ice), goalies are still regarded with a degree of caution and sometimes amusement. They remain "The Count's sons," at least spiritually. Yet this unenlightened view is tempered with a degree of respect because even fourth-line grinders know goaltending is 70 percent of hockey, unless, of course, your team isn't getting any, in which case it's 100 percent. Says Nashville Predators center, Derek Roy, "I definitely will never say anything bad about goalies because mostly they're covering up for our mistakes."
Brian Hayward shared the William M. Jennings Trophy three times as Patrick Roy's partner with the Montreal Canadiens in the late 1980s, which makes him a competent authority on the position and the seeming oddball comportment it propagates. He thinks skaters view goalies suspiciously out of ignorance -- the root of most prejudice. Hayward estimates 90 percent of NHL players have zero grasp of the position, which is why a goalie might be screaming about crashing the opposing net or getting in on the fore check, but no forward will ever offer his goalie even a sliver of advice.
Maybe forwards are better seen than heard, because the goaltending position, dripping with nuance, truly is beyond their grasp. Ex-NHL goalie Glenn Healy, now, like Hayward, a TV analyst, recalls studying videotape of everything from a shooter's angle on tip-ins to the color of tape on the stick knob in case a player had recently changed it (an indication of a slump). "My guess is Tie Domi might have known whether a [goalie caught] right-handed or left-handed," Healy says, "but that's about it."
In a typical 25-save night, a goalie might make 100 distinct movements: preparing for blocked shots, faked shots, shots that miss the net, angled passes that require an explosive burst across the crease, not to mention all the puck-handling and puck-moving responsibilities that come with being the last line of defense. The iconic image of Ken Dryden leaning on his goal stick and gazing godlike out at the play might have been applicable to the Canadiens of the late 1970s -- dynastic teams that provided goalies with their healthy share of May tag repairman moments -- but he was an anomaly in the hyperventilating world of modern hockey. Suggests Sabres' goalie coach Jim Corsi, "There has to be an outlet for all the pent-up energy, for the frenetic nature of the job. Some goalies adopt weird ways. Some are just crazy."
That word, again, in its pejorative splendor. Even a former goaltender like Corsi, deeply embedded in the fraternity, can wallow in the stereotype: goalies are "flakes," or someone "is normal -- for a goalie." This is shameless profiling, one rooted in an absolute historical truth.
Tending a net prior to November 1, 1959, when Plante defied Canadiens' coach Toe Blake and wore a crude mask in a game, meant a man had to have been a few strands shy of a comb-over to willingly stand between the pipes. For those seeking a lobotomy, common sense suggested it should have been performed by something other than a streaking vulcanized-rubber disk one inch thick and three inches in diameter.
Glenn Hall, whose brilliant NHL career began in 1952-53, was said to have hated training camp. The reason: training camp is where all the slapshots were.
Crazy? This is the zenith of rationality.
But even the widespread adoption of the mask in the decade following Plante's rebellion, which was supposed to eliminate the fear factor that induced Plante to knit and Hall to toss his lunch before every game, was hardly a panacea for the brave souls who played goal. While Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita were curving the blades of their sticks into missile launchers, the men charged with foiling them were practically naked. Columbus Blue Jackets president John Davidson, who had shared the New York goaltending job with The Count, remembers playing back-to-back games, with 50-plus shots in each, against the Flyers in the late 1970s. After the second match, the Rangers' physician pulled Davidson aside and asked him to report to the medical room at 10 a.m. the next day. The doctor had noticed the deep bruises that had turned Davidson's torso into a painted sunset of purples and yellows and wanted to run tests for leukemia. The goalie bridled. He held up his chest protector and shin guards and said no, he didn't need any blood work, but he sure could use some protective gear that didn't look like prizes out of a Cracker Jack box.
Thirty years on, goalie equipment has caught up and kept pace with the technological revolution in sticks. Now a goalie is as likely to bruise his ego as injure anything else. Sure, perils persist -- Al MacInnis slappers got Jocelyn Thibault (broken finger), Chris Osgood (broken hand) and Rich Parent (bruised testicle) in one season -- but goalies have lost the terror. They are allowed to be normal now. . . and not even "normal -- for a goalie."
"My cousin Taylor and I are the goalies among a lot of forwards and defensemen in our family, and they still hit us with the obvious clichÃ©s," says Vancouver's Ryan Miller, the leading American-born goalie from the distinguished Michigan State University hockey clan. "I realize goalies got the reputation back in the day because they were the ones willing to take a puck off the face. . . to take some stitches for the team. They probably did have to have a screw loose. But you look around the rinks now, around the dressing rooms, and guys pretty much blend. I don't think they can give us a hard time about being different."
But goalies will always be "different." Even a cursory glance can confirm that. They sport different jerseys, wield a different stick, wear specialized skates and get to tug on a mask that might be a museum-caliber work of art. Everything about the goalie screams look at me. Even dull-witted enforcers can't miss the egocentric nature of the position, which today is more likely to attract the kid desirous of attention rather than the one with the poor stride. The inherently negative nature of the job -- basically, all a goalie tries to do is say "no" to shooters -- is a Control issue for Miller, akin to who gets the remote or who makes the final call when the family is debating Chinese takeout or pizza. "I'm obsessive-compulsive in that way," Miller says. "Maybe that relates to some psycho-social thing where, when interacting with a group, you have to have control. At least I get the last word on the defensive side of the puck." Smart, self-aware guy that Miller.
The introspection, not to mention the conspicuous tics, is why Derek Roy says skaters are only too happy to leave goaltenders alone. They can be finicky. Patrick Roy talked to his goal posts early in his Hall of Fame career and never wittingly stepped on the blue or red line. Eddie Belfour's pre-practice routine was so involved that former Dallas Stars' coach Ken Hitchcock had to push back the longstanding start time to accommodate his goalie. Jeff Hackett was paranoid that a teammate might touch his gear in the dressing room. Roman Cechmanek might not have had any of these particular predilections but every match seemed to be Mr. Toad's Wild Ride for the Czech goaltender, including a memorable 2003 playoff game for Philadelphia against Toronto when he ignored the puck to pick up the trapper he had dropped and ceded a goal. A newspaper columnist in the City of Brotherly Love made a snap medical diagnosis and labeled Cechmanek the "bipolar goaler."
"As much as we might like to think that we're viewed as just hockey players, there is something different about guys who know their mistakes are going to end up on the scoreboard," Healy says. "I remember when I was with [the Maple Leafs]. We'd be on the team charter, and [Curtis Joseph] would be studying these horseracing books about breeding and bloodlines. So there's one guy discussing horse semen while the other guy, me, would have an electronic bagpipe chanter, playing and trying to write tunes. At the time I'm thinking there can't be two quirkier goalies in the league.
"But honestly, you can't blame all this on us. Blame our parents. I mean, when we were seven, why did our parents allow us to become a goalie? What were they thinking? They wouldn't let us drive at that age. Why would they let us go in nets? They could have easily persuaded [us] not to play goal if they had promised to take [us] to Dairy Queen. 'I'll buy you a DQ if you agree not to play goal.'" For Healy, his NHL career apparently hinged on soft ice cream -- on any given sundae.
So in honor of Gilles "The Count" Gratton and all those before him and since -- who persevered beyond the lure of soft serve and the stigma of being a few fries short of a Happy Meal -- immerse yourself in the culture, legend and lore of the best goalies the game has ever seen.