What it Takes to be a D1 Goalie (Part 2)

What does it take to be a D1 goalie?

In Part 1, we examined the extraordinary amount of talent, commitment and hard work required for a goaltender to reach elite level hockey, as well as the tenacity it takes to succeed in the role of a team’s number one goalie. For insight from the crease, we began with Joe Calvi, a senior and starting goalie for Bentley University.

In Part 2, we move on to the WCHA, where Joe Howe of Colorado College hit the ground running his freshman year as the Tiger’s starting goaltender last season – an impressive feat in itself – and hasn’t slowed down yet.

Howe is a sophomore at Colorado College, majoring in Mathematical Economics. He was one of six Division I players in the country named to the College Hockey News All-Rookie Team and earned Freshman All-America accolades from Inside College Hockey.  In his freshman season he logged the most minutes in conference play of any goalie in the WCHA, starting 36 of 39 games and recording three shutouts.

Before college, he played for the Waterloo Blackhawks of the USHL and Wayzata High school in Minnesota, and was a member of the 2008 USA World Junior Challenge Gold medal team.

Collegiate honors thus far include:

WCHA Rookie of the Week
Bob Johnson Award as Rookie of the Year
Co-recipient of the Tony Frasca Award for Team Playoff MVP
2009-10 WCHA All Rookie Team
WCHA Co-Defensive Player of the Week

During the game, most of the attention of opposing fans is focused on YOU and they do everything they can to get inside your head. What do you do to keep that from happening? How do you handle the pressure to play well?  How do you handle it off the ice?

“Every game brings a new environment; you have to just control what you can control, and that is how you play. I try to enjoy the environments between whistles; it’s not every day of your life you get to perform in front of thousands of people, whether they are rooting for you or against you. Then when the puck drops, I just remind myself that it’s game on. Off the ice I try not to pay attention to any of that stuff, just block it all out.”

Does being a high profile player ever have an effect on your daily life around campus? Has there ever been a time when being so recognizable has been a hindrance? Has there been an instance when it has been particularly helpful?

“Going to Colorado College, it doesn’t affect my daily life much. It is a very small liberal arts school and hockey is the only D1 Men’s sport on campus. Most of our supporters are from around the city of Colorado Springs so once in a while I will be recognized around town, but on campus we are treated pretty normally, the students here aren’t too interested in hockey. Being recognized if I am has never hindered me. I always make time for fans of the team and program and try to be a good ambassador for CC hockey at all times.”

How do you handle what is said about you in the press and on message boards? How do you stay focused when sometimes it seems there is an entire city that has an opinion on how you should play?

“I don’t read the papers or message boards. My dad has always told me ‘never too high and never too low’; during the good times you can’t read what is said about you and get a big head, and when you’re playing poorly reading about it won’t help. Not to mention the reality is not always reflected in the media. I know what happened and how I am playing as well or better than anyone else and if I need help, I talk to my coaches and mentors. The only times I will read something online is the box scores from games around college hockey.”

How do you manage to keep your grades up AND keep up with a demanding hockey schedule? Where do you find the time? How does it affect your life outside of school?

“CC is a very demanding academic school. Hockey is like a full time job but you cannot put school on the back burner. Time management is a huge skill to have and master as a student athlete, but it is definitely do-able. It leaves a little less time for relaxing and fun but at the end of the day it is worth it. Hockey is what I love so it is hard sometimes to focus on school, but my dad gets on me about my grades so I have to keep those up as well.”

You spent a long time dreaming about being a D1 goalie, how does the reality compare to what you expected?

“It is a great experience. I love playing hockey and playing at this level is awesome, working to win a NCAA national championship. When I was young I dreamt of playing in the NHL and that is still the number one personal goal of mine and this is a great step along the way.”

What do you do after a bad game?  How do you mentally prepare for the next one?

“When you have a bad game, you always have to learn from your mistakes and take the positives out of it. If you don’t learn from your loss then that is the true loss. After I go over the film or learn the lessons, I put it behind me completely. The next game starts 0-0 and the night before or weekend before means nothing.”

What does a typical day during hockey season entail? Is there anything you wish you could change in that schedule, something you’d like to have more time for?

“We have class Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to noon, after that I will grab lunch and do some homework or grab a nap before practice, then I will practice and lift weights until about 7 p.m. where we grab dinner, then it’s back to the dorms to study and do homework. I like to get to sleep early and then its wake up and do it again. I would always like to have more time for hockey, to have that be my only job/focus is a dream of mine because it is what I truly enjoy doing in life.”

When you are a high profile athlete that is playing well you get all kinds of offers all the time. Some players end up partying too much, it affects their game and before they know it, they have ruined their chances for a pro career. Why hasn’t that happened to you? How do you keep from getting distracted?

“At the end of the day there are always distractions, especially in college. You need to learn to still have fun off the ice or you will get too stressed out and also it’s good to bond with your teammates. However, a way I use to stay focused actually goes back to a poster in my high school weight room I remember. It says, ‘Sacrifice now, enjoy later. Don’t sacrifice now and sacrifice later.’ I always try to keep my mind focused on my goals in life and where I want to be.”

What sacrifices did you have to make to become a D1 goalie?  And now?   Is there one that you regret?  Something you wish you could have done differently, or an event you wish you hadn’t missed?     In the end, has it all been worth it?

“I left high school after my sophomore year to move to Iowa to play in the USHL for Waterloo, that was a definite sacrifice. Also, it is very time consuming during the summer and the season. You don’t have as much time for friends and partying and a lot of things normal kids do.

“Not once do I regret a sacrifice I made for hockey. It’s what I love to do and what I’ve always wanted to do. There’s no use in saying, ‘ I wish I would have done something differently’. All you can do is learn from those mistakes, if there was one, and do it differently in the future. I’ve missed plenty of things socially in my life but the benefits and fun times and friendships of hockey far outweigh any of those things.”

What is the one bit of advice you wish someone had given you when you started college hockey?

“My dad played college hockey and has always given me good advice. I don’t know if there’s anything he didn’t tell me about the experience, but maybe some things he knew I still had to learn on my own or I didn’t realize exactly what he was saying at the time. Also, two years in the USHL prepared me tremendously for college hockey.

One thing I learned on my own though is that no matter what happens, at the end of the day you have to remember that you are an unbelievably lucky individual to play college hockey and it is a privilege. It goes by faster than you can imagine, so take advantage of it!”


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  1. What it Takes to be a D1 Goalie (Part 3) | INSIDE HOCKEY - January 26, 2011

    [...] Part 2, we move on to the WCHA, where Joe Howe of Colorado College hit the ground running his freshman [...]

  2. What It Takes to be a D1 Goalie (Part 4) | INSIDE HOCKEY - February 2, 2011

    [...] In Part 2, we move on to the WCHA, where Joe Howe of Colorado College hit the ground running his freshman year as the Tiger’s starting goaltender last season – an impressive feat in itself – and hasn’t slowed down yet. [...]