For the past 24 years of my life, I’ve been wearing a mask.
Not just any old flimsy mask, either. No, this is a true military grade bulletproof battle helmet, complete with a stainless steel cage, high-density foam padding, and some screws to hold it all together. It’s even custom molded to better protect, perform, and intimidate.
So what exactly is this piece of armor, you ask? It’s none other than the iconic goalie mask.
Every day, thousands of brothers and sisters around the world join me as we put on this mask and engage in a fierce battle known as the game of hockey. With unwavering passion, we uphold our sworn duty as the team’s last line of defense by placing ourselves directly in harm’s way. We willingly sacrifice our body and endure countless bruises, cuts, and injuries all while being the difference between winning and losing. In the blink of an eye, one mistake can turn a superhero into a scapegoat. This is no simple task, but someone has to do it, and therein lies both the danger and the glory of the goaltending position.
Meanwhile, underneath the mask, there’s another battle raging: the one inside our minds.
Due to the lofty pressures we face on and off the ice, goalies are prone to a slew of mental illnesses. Many of us struggle with fear, performance anxiety, and various obsessive compulsive disorders. The very nature of the position can even shape us into emotionless and detached beings. As if riding this endless wave of melancholy isn’t mentally taxing enough, goalies still have to fight this outdated stigma of being labeled as “weird” or “strange” by others. Many hockey coaches and parents still lack a solid understanding of what goalies truly go through, so instead of getting the help we need, we’re often left to our own devices or expected to figure it out on our own. This is not only unrealistic, it’s oftentimes unhealthy.
Simply put, we spend so much time hiding our faces, feelings, and emotions behind the mask that we show the outside world almost nothing of who we really are. Our masks certainly protect us, but they can also hurt us; like a shroud, they may hide thoughts or feelings that need to be shared.
I’ve personally experienced my own mental health issues over the years, so I’m writing this letter today in the hopes of helping the goalie community for years to come. In fact, upon earning my college degree in 2004, I’ve dedicated my entire professional career to the goaltending position. I first launched The Goalie Guild in January of 2009, and from there, I’ve gone on to enjoy four years as a goalie analyst for NHL.com and three years as a goalie scout and consultant for USA Hockey. I’ve also written four books on goaltending, two of which include stories from some NHL greats on how they’ve overcome many of these mental struggles.
Truth be told, I’m committed to doing whatever I can to better mold future goalies. That’s why I transformed The Goalie Guild into a 501-c3 nonprofit foundation back in 2015, and why I now advocate a holistic approach to goalie development through our social media channels. We also offer annual scholarships for underprivileged goalies and coaches.
After everything I’ve been through and with everything I’ve learned, I want people to know that goalies can still have amazing success and lead fruitful lives despite struggling with OCD, anxiety, and depression. In an effort to preach that message on a bigger platform, I am now reaching out to partner with ADAA to help goalies lift their proverbial masks by offering them a chance to receive proper and professional support from certified mental health workers. Through my new #LiftTheMask initiative, I also hope that more goalies will openly share their stories and bring more awareness to some of the mental struggles that we face on a regular basis.
Knowing that a partnership with the ADAA might help even one member of the goalie brotherhood is all the motivation I need to do whatever it takes turn this idea into a reality.
Founder & Owner
The Goalie Guild, Inc.