Hockey Canada Network |
Goaltending Skill of The Day: Mental Toughness
June 11, 2007

It happens to every goaltender a couple of times a season – a shot from centre ice eludes them, the puck takes a funny hop off the boards and into the net, the puck hits the defenseman in the rear end and ends up behind him in the goal.

Depending on how mentally tough they are, a bad goal can quickly erode their confidence, or it can just be a bad bounce, and they can come back stronger than ever.

For Corey Hirsch, Hockey Canada’s goaltending consultant, mental toughness for a goaltender comes down to one thing.

“You will get scored on,” Hirsch says. “As much as you’d like to, you’re not going to stop every puck. If you can accept that, a lot of the nerves go away and you can focus on the game.”

According to Hirsch, if a goaltender is not mentally tough they are not going to go far in the game. If they cannot find the right way to handle a bad goal, they will lose confidence and be far less effective.

A veteran of 108 NHL games and one Olympic gold medal game shootout, Hirsch knows a little something about mental toughness, as do Tyson Sexsmith and Jacob DeSerres, both of whom have faced big game situations.

Sexsmith, a member of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants, played in double overtime of Game 7 of the WHL championship series and a third period tie in the Memorial Cup championship game within two weeks of each other – about as high pressure a situation as a Junior goaltender can face.

“As far as my thinking goes, it is 90 per cent mental, and 10 per cent everything else,” says Sexsmith. “If you’re not mentally tough, you can’t shake off a bad goal, and if you can’t shake off a bad goal, you’re not going to be successful.”

DeSerres, meanwhile, was between the pipes for the Calgary Buffaloes in their three-overtime classic in last year’s TELUS Cup National Midget Championship gold medal game against the Prince Albert Mintos.

“It’s everything,” the Calgary, AB native says. “You can’t go anywhere in hockey if you’re not mentally tough.”

Both goaltenders say their approach to staying mentally tough is fairly straightforward.

“Just relax,” DeSerres says. “Try to forget about it and move on. If you let it bother you, another one is going to get by. It’s just a game, and you need to treat it like that.”

“You can’t go back and fix what just happened, so you need to put it behind you,” Sexsmith says. “You will have bad games, and you will give up bad goals. Just learn not to think about it.”

Both Hirsch and Sexsmith believe visualization plays a major role in developing mental toughness, although they have different views on when it should happen.

“Take five minutes before a game, go somewhere quiet, and visualize yourself making saves,” Hirsch says. “Think about game situations, think about being in the proper position, think about stopping the puck.”
“I always start with my visualization the night before,” Sexsmith says. “I just sit somewhere quiet and picture myself making saves. Every save should be routine, nothing flashy. No big glove saves, just being in position.”

Ask any successful goaltender – from Patrick Roy to Jean-Sebastien Giguere – and they will all tell you the same thing: if you’re not mentally tough, you won’t succeed. Go out, play the game, have fun, and as long as you keep your mind clear, the success will come.

For more information:

André Brin
Director, Communications
Hockey Canada

Francis Dupont
Manager, Media Relations/Communications
Hockey Canada

Jason LaRose
Manager, Content Services
Hockey Canada

Kristen Lipscombe
Coordinator, Communications
Hockey Canada

Keegan Goodrich
Coordinator, Media
Hockey Canada

2014 WWU18C: CAN 5 – USA 1
Mar 30, 2014
U18 women win gold.
2014 WWU18C: CAN 1 – RUS 0 (OT)
Mar 29, 2014
Canada edges Russia in overtime.
2014 WWU18C: CAN 5 – CZE 0
Mar 26, 2014
Canadians shut out Czechs.
2014 WWU18C: CAN 7 – FIN 0
Mar 24, 2014
U18 women blank Finland.
2014 WWU18C: CAN 7 – JPN 1
Mar 23, 2014
Canada starts Worlds with win
2014 PARA: CAN 3 – NOR 0 (Bronze)
Mar 15, 2014
Billy Bridges scored a pair of goals to lead Canada to a Paralympic bronze.
2014 PARA: USA 3 – CAN 0 (Semifinal)
Mar 13, 2014
Corbin Watson made seven saves, but Canada will play for Paralympic bronze.
2014 PARA: CAN 1 – CZE 0 (Preliminary)
Mar 11, 2014
Westlake scored the lone goal to help Canada to a perfect preliminary round.
2014 PARA: CAN 4 – NOR 0 (Preliminary)
Mar 09, 2014
Adam Dixon scored twice to lead Canada to its second straight win in Sochi.
2014 PARA: CAN 10 – SWE 1 (Preliminary)
Mar 08, 2014
Gale, Dixon and Rempel had four points each to lead Canada to a win.
2014 PARA: Welcome to Sochi
Mar 02, 2014
Canada’s National Sledge Team has arrived ahead of the Paralympics.
2010 OLYW: Flag Raising
Feb 10, 2010
Canada's National Women's Team taking part in the Flag Raising ceremony at the Olympic Village in Vancouver, B.C.
Photo Credit: