Minnesota Hockey Magazine

A Different Breed

(Bobby Goepfert – Foto © Ice-Hockey-Picture-24/US-Sports)


Columnist Bobby Goepfert talks about the superstitious nature of goaltenders.

Goalies are weird.

Yes, that memo has been received and notarized for decades. Goofy, quirky, bizarre, unique and different are all accurate adjectives that describe us masked men of the crease.

Our “superstitions” play a primary role in getting these labels but it is not just the crease dwellers who succumb to the whims of superstition. Skaters and coaches alike all partake in their own mysterious rituals yet do not receive the backlash nor the public stigma as us split saving, puck catching, blocker blocking men in masks receive for them.

Yet we probably are the more routine oriented individuals, but let it be known that even though we are at the forefront of this topic, we are not alone in the beliefs that methodical habits and customs make us feel better when entering the ice of competition.

If you’re a padded person of the blue paint, and you are sitting there reading this saying you don’t have any, well … I don’t believe you. Every goalie has some form of routine or habit that makes them feel comfortable, perhaps something as small as wearing the same clothes, or putting on the right pad first etc.

You may not want to admit it to yourself but these little idiosyncrasies are superstitions because doing it brings you comfort. You are in a state of denial and the first step in fixing this problem is admitting you have one. Here I will go first to break the ice. “Hi, my name is Bobby Goepfert and I am superstitious.”

Now you go.

Superstition is just a word. Five different, yet similar, definitions of the noun are found in Websters Dictionary. all alike in some aspects. But if we morphed all 5 definitions together it would look something like this: a custom or collection of beliefs with an irrational fear, not based on knowledge or fact, and if not done or followed will bring poor fortune or luck.

Illogical? Maybe. Absurd? Perhaps. But the point I am want to drive home is that no matter how inane these routines you practice, if it makes you comfortable and relaxed before a game then pay no mind to the anti-stitioners of the world.

The anti-stitioners scoff at you tapping the door three times before walking through it. The public giggle and laugh at your innocuous stick taps and your family and teammates cover their nose and curse under their breath at your refusal to wash your lucky underwear. In routine, people find comfort, and in comfort, people are more relaxed, and when people are more relaxed, more often than not they perform well.

Superstitions have often been described as a waste of time, energy that is spent on a “distraction” when your total focus should be on the game. A farce perpetuated by typical anti-stitioner propaganda.

I dare that anti-stitioner to change your pre-game meal or wear a different outfit to the game while you are on a four-game winning streak. I challenge you to tape your stick differently after a shut-out or a hat trick or change your pre-game warm-up when you felt great the game before with that “routine”.

Being superstitious carries this connotation that you are an oddball, a slave to your ritual, furl browed and grimaced-faced. It bears images of you dodging black cats, walking around ladders, stepping over sidewalk cracks and weeping uncontrollably if you break a mirror. That is not the case.

At least not for everyone.

Full disclosure: I hate black cats. I even walk around scaffolding, not just ladders. Cracks in the sidewalk may be unavoidable, yet I still try; but I hold my breath even though that may be an urban legend. And when I broke a mirror in 2007 I buried it, as a Googled article said it would prevent the seven years of bad luck. It didn’t work as the last seven years has been nothing but trials and tribulations, but 2014 should be a great year if that seven year marker is correct.

Hockey is a fickle game where a bounce here and a bounce there can determine the outcome. Are these bounces influenced by what you wore to the game, or how you taped your stick, or what pad you put on first? Probably not, nay, most definitely not, but that ‘most definitely’ changes to the ‘maybe’ if your mind is distracted by not wearing what makes you feel comfortable, or how you taped your stick or if you put your pads on differently. “Feel good, play good”, whatever makes you feel the best when entering that ice surface, do it. Do not let the stigma associated with the word superstition deter you from doing what makes you most at ease.

However, just know that no matter how comfortable you feel by all the ladder dodging, cat avoiding, sidewalk crack side-stepping you take, compounded by the heel to toe tape job in month-worn underwear and tapping doors three times while the same songs play on your iPod, success is never guaranteed.

Hockey, like life, is like eating jelly beans. No matter how great things are going, every now and then, you will get black-licoriced. Do not let that disgusting taste deter you from eating another one. Just do what makes you feel comfortable and optimistic reaching your hand back in that bag again. That is all you can do.

In this world and game where so many questions of “why?” go unanswered, superstitions give us such a subliminal comfort and sense of right that they become ritualistic because of previous successful outcomes. Sure we goalies are at the forefront of the superstition stigma. But we are not alone. Let he who is without superstition cast the first stone! Just be careful, you might break a mirror.  Seven years is a long time … trust me.

My long arduous years of bad luck are finally coming to an end (knock on wood).