What Water Polo Taught Me About Hockey (or why Henrik Lundqvist is the best goalie around)

I started watching hockey because I had a crush on a guy in high school who loved the Los Angeles Kings. I watched some games and realized how similar it was to my own sport. And that it was so much better. If I wasn’t land-challenged I would definitely play hockey. Except that ice is a little hard to come by in California.

Then I moved to New York City and went to a Rangers game. And from then on became obsessed with them. Their team. their stadium. I ❤ The NYR. And every single year since then they break my heart when they lose in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Sometimes All the time I am stressed because they make ridiculous mistakes that no one playing at that level should make. But I get even more annoyed at the announcers and Capitals Bruins Penguins Flyers all the fans who don’t seem to understand the game they claim to love. It’s really upsetting.

I don’t claim to be amazing at water polo (I wasn’t) and I’m not currently an ice hockey player, but the similarities are such key parts of the game and its really not that hard to play like you get paid millions of dollars to not suck. Because they do. So in my time as a water polo player, here are a few things I took away that definitely relate to ice hockey:

  • It’s hockey. Grow some balls, be a man, and get up. Alright, this game is basically wrestling on ice. You are expected to get hit. A LOT. When you get hit, don’t slump in a corner pretending you can’t get up. You can. That is what you are paid to do. Stop crying and just play. If you can’t handle the hitting go play baseball.
  • Refs are not objective. Some will hate you and some will love you. But if you retaliate right away you deserve to be kicked out. This is coming from personal experience. I got majored nearly every single game my sophomore year in college. Why? Because when someone hits me I swim over them and hold them under. 5 seconds later. Don’t do that. Then I decided to wait a couple periods to get them back. What happened? They got kicked out and I earned an ejection and then my team scored. I was sometimes a dirty player. But once I learned not to retaliate I scored more and was pissed off less. So hockey players, are you checked into the boards? Are you intentionally tripped, slashed, or hit? Wait a period and then give it back to them ten fold. It’s hockey, you can do that. But retaliation gets you kicked out 98% of the time. I’m looking at you Capitals.

259590_151662201572321_5310855_oprobably about to be kicked out

  • Being a goalie is hard, but not every goalie is great. This is the point where I discuss the glory of Henrik Lundqvist and why anyone who doesn’t think he is the greatest goalie in the NHL is an idiot. I love The Rangers, but I would currently say they are a mediocre team at best, definitely not Stanley Cup material (sorry guys). There is one factor keeping them in the running year after year: King Henrik. The Rangers are blessed with THE BEST goalie which keeps them from sucking. OK, back to goalie skills: 30 saves in a game is impressive but less impressive when the opposing team thinks that shooting at the goalie is the way to score. This doesn’t work at any level. I have the worst-hand-eye coordination of anybody around but put me in the goal, shoot at my face and I will block it every single time. There are a handful of goalies that make way impressive saves, and Henrik Lundqvist is one of those goalies. Playing Division III water polo in college I faced my fair amount of goalies. The only great goalie I can recall played for The Tigers. Yes, my own goalies were the best in our league. But there were countless times that we made other goalies look amazing, when they weren’t. Myself included. My shooting percentage was something like 25-30%. I missed the goal the majority of the time since my main tactic was shoot as hard as I can at the goalies face. As strong as I was, even a crappy goalie will block that shot. Protecting ones’ face is a big deal no matter how talented you are. It was one of our biggest issues, we were fast, had awesome defense, but couldn’t score since we were always shooting at the goalies head/body/arms. Hockey goalies skills seems to be accumulated the same way. For the majority of goalies, it’s not their own skills that make them good, it’s the opposing team shooting at their face. Goalies are essential but the difference between a good goalie and a great goalie is not a slim line and its based on the stupidity of offensive players. Henrik Lundqvist is amazing because he blocks the shots at his face and the shots where he dives, jumps, splits, and falls. He is a regular hockey gymnast.  And saves his teams butt every single time.

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As The Rangers season has ended and preparation begin to prepare for next season (sighning new players, firing an unsuccessful coach) here is my open request to The Rangers:

  1. Keep doing what you’re doing to earn Power Plays. There’s nothing wrong with starting something but retaliation is not your friend.
  2. Please, please ,please, for the love of God, score on Power Plays. 2 for 44? Are you freaking kidding me?? Pass, pass, pass, shoot. It really is as simple as that.
  3. Don’t shoot at the goalie. Simple, but apparently impossible. Cross cage, high corner can work wonders.
  4. Lundqvist is amazing but cannot win the Stanley Cup by himself. He can’t score and can’t block every single shot 100% of the time. Support your goalie like its your job. It is. So make sure you are excelling at that. He wants to win The Cup and its your job to make sure he does it with The Rangers. If The King jumps ship I might have to follow him. Please don’t make me root for The Penguins, The Devils, or anyone else.
  5. And please win next year. The stress might just kill me.

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1 thought on “What Water Polo Taught Me About Hockey (or why Henrik Lundqvist is the best goalie around)

  1. William Sweney May 30, 2013 — 11:16 AM

    So, I hear that tomorrow is your last day at your present job. I think your next job should be as a writer for Sports Illustrated, some other national magazine. This post is amazingly well-written. Keep it up. If you ever need a writing sample for a job application, this is IT! I played hockey in high school and college and you’ve nailed it. Do I know you? Glad I do!

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