Help! My 6 year old is really interested in playing goalie. What do I need to know?
Goaltending is an interesting position. It’s a bit isolated from the team and tends to appeal to kids who aren’t quite as team-oriented and a little more “inside their head”.
It’s also stressful for parents, because, the goaltender is the only player that’s always on the ice and all goals against go past them. It can be difficult to avoid feelling like “their fault” when games don’t go well. Goaltendering (especially with very young kids) tends to be hard on kids who dwell on failures or mistakes and works well for kids who let thing slide off without too much worry.
Young kids also struggle with boredom, since the play is in the other end of the ice, sometimes for 5-10 minutes at a time and they have to stand there watching, without getting to distracted. It’s funny but some kids just hate it because of this small thing.
Where can I find Pads?
Most hockey organizations I’ve worked with have free goaltender pads for the 6yo players, since they’re just testing out the position.
Most goaltenders tend to decide after a year or so and get their own pads. There’s an active market for used kids goalie gear since they outgrow it every 2 years and goalie pads last for years.
You can start goaltender work as a 6yo with player skates and a player helmet, however after awhile, probably within a year, they’ll want to get goalie skates, as they’re a lot more effective for the necessary movements once they have the basics down. A goalie helmet can come a year later as kids begin to shoot higher and harder. A significant padded neck protector is recommended, as well.
How much does it cost?
The cost is a little higher than normal skaters, mainly due to equipment costs, but it’s a position where as the player gets older they start to get discounted or free ice time. Many adult league goaltenders pay nothing to play, since teams really love reliable goaltenders.
The cost of hockey leagues ranges from $400-$1800 per season (more at the highest levels). Goalie pads will probably run you another $600 every 2 years (opposed to $150/yr or so for a skater).
I think ice time will still be your biggest cost, even for a goaltender, however equipment is more noticeable.
Be aware of the challenges
One caution I’ll point out. Some kids get a little obsessed with the goalie equipment (pads, helmets, big stick, etc), but when they actually have a couple of rough games in net, they’re just done, because they don’t handle the stuff I mentioned above very well.
Most Tyke/mini-mite (6yo) teams will rotate goalies to let every skater play the position. Only after I’ve seen them in a few games and how they handle it, would I recommend going all-in on a position for a parent. We strongly discourage 5-7yo players from settling on a position, since their preferences often change.
Get them into a hockey program where they have loaner pads. Make sure the coach knows your kid wants to play goalie a lot, but they should also probably learn to skate out and play as a skater, at least at first.