Get the latest from Women's Hockey Life straight to your inbox

“Why Did You Choose To Be A Goalie?”

“Jen, why did you choose to be a goalie?”  It’s a question I am frequently asked.  Even though the days of thin chest protectors and never-healing bruises are long gone from hockey, somehow it often seems that the goaltenders are still regarded with a degree of caution and/or amusement.  And it’s understandable; after all, it’s not a natural human instinct to throw oneself in front of hard, fast projectiles.  Who would willingly choose to play such a position?  I still hear the comment “oh, she’s normal – for a goalie” from time to time.  And there are times when (after taking a few hard shots off the head) I even think to myself “Jen, you are a bit crazy.”  But there are few things in my life I love more then playing goal.  I am living my dream!

I’ve loved hockey from a young age – growing up Vancouver certainly was instrumental in that.  My desire to play goalie goes back nearly as far.  I often trace it back to a couple of NHL games I watched on TV in the late 90’s.  Even now I can clearly recall Dominik Hasek guarding the net for the Buffalo Sabres and being mesmerised by his mask and goalie pads.  As I watched him skating around before the game, I kept thinking about how cool the gear was and how much fun it would be to wear those big pads and hold that big stick.

In the particular games I watched, Hasek was brilliant in the net, making unbelievable saves with his usual acrobatic flair.  I was hooked.  Soon I was taking out books in the library about goaltending and reading as much as I could about playing the position.  The more I learned, the more playing goal fascinated me.  Everything about it – the gear, the movements, the mental aspects of the game – seemed so interesting!  I never really had a desire to play forward and score goals.  I’d imagine that one day I would be wearing goalie gear and playing hockey for a real team.

My family couldn’t afford to put me in ice hockey, so I turned to street hockey to live out my little dream of playing goalie.  When I played hockey on the deck with my brothers I would pull on a battered old helmet with a rusty cage that looked more like a football mask.  I had a huge wooden stick with a broken blade that my dad had nicely bolted and glued back together.  My trapper was a baseball glove and I would use rubber bands to hold my makeshift cardboard pads on my legs.  How excited I was when I got a pair of street hockey goalie pads for my birthday – no more snapping elastics!  Eventually the pads were followed by a CSA approved player’s helmet, a new stick, and a lightly used blocker and trapper.  As wonderful as those games were, I still wanted to play “real hockey” – on the ice.

My chance to play on the ice came about quite by accident.  In November 2009 I found out from a friend of mine that a group of girls from my church were getting together to rent some ice and play shinny.  One of them mentioned they had no goalies.  I thought that this might be a chance to try being a goalie on ice, so I packed up my flimsy street hockey gear and old skates and volunteered to be the target for the morning – without any arm protection save my Canucks jersey (yes, I am a little crazy).  Stepping onto the ice to play goal for the first time was almost indescribable.  I will never forget how much fun I had that day – not getting scored on was a bonus!

I played a few more pick up games with the girls, and each time I became more determined to find a league to play in.  After carefully saving some money, I bought a full set of low end goalie gear and I signed up for a local goalie camp.  While at camp, I met another adult female goalie playing recreational hockey and she directed me to the Adult Safe Hockey League in Burnaby.  I quickly found a team to play on – I soon discovered that there is a goalie shortage – and in September 2010 I finally realized my dream!  I lost my first ever game 2-1 in overtime, but the final score never bothered me; I was playing hockey!  Ten games later, I got my first win.  Those special moments will be remembered forever.

Two and half seasons later (I missed the second half of last season due to a shoulder injury), my love of goaltending grows stronger all the time.  There is something great about the feelings you get after a big save or a hard fought game.  The camaraderie of the teams I play on is something I wouldn’t trade away.  When I am asked why I’m between the pipes, I guess the simplest answer is that it was just meant to be.  The crease is my space, my passion is stopping shots.  As I often tell people, the reason I don’t like playing basketball is because goaltending is a foul!  

As a postscript, there’s a reason my jersey number is #39.


More about Jaclyn Hawkins