What is the Hardest Position in Hockey? (Explained)

Hockey is a renowned sport because it is a physically demanding sport. Thus, if you intend to be successful, you must keep your entire body between the puck and the score. Great goalies make game-saving choices fast by combining their reflexes with the abilities they have refined over time.

The goaltender position in hockey is the most difficult to perform and the hardest in hockey. The goaltender is the position that requires the greatest time to learn, the most mental and physical effort, and is usually the most important component in a squad’s achievement or failure.

Let’s discuss what are the essential factors and steps to playing goalie in hockey.

Goalie takes the longest time to develop the necessary skill set

There is a minimal possibility that an 18-year-old player selected by the NHL will perform in the league the next year. There will be 6 to 12 individuals who make it onto the field in their first year of qualification. But the majority will need some additional time to grow up.

The 6 to 12 individuals who participate in their first season will be attackers with the rare defenseman. Within the next two to three years, the remaining forwards and defenders who make it to the NHL will gradually enter the league.


What about the goaltenders? Well, nobody knows what is an ideal timeframe for goaltender development. It is common for goaltenders to wait until their mid-20s before joining the NHL. The skater must wait 6–8 years after being selected in the draught before joining the NHL. With a goalkeeper, it is impossible to choose a player and determine whether they will develop into an NHL player.

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How can you determine a person’s character at age 25 when they are only 17?

Due to this, goalkeepers are not selected until the second phase of the NHL draft. A goaltender being selected in the first round is unusual. There are some examples, including Andrei Vasilevskiy (19th overall), Carey Price (5th overall), and Marc-Andre Fleury (1st overall), all of whom were selected in the first round.

Goalies are more taken in the final rounds of the draft or signed as free agents from Europe. For example, several of the best defenders were selected later in the draft, including Braden Holtby (93rd overall), Pekka Rinne (205th overall), Darcy Kemper (161st overall), Sergei Bobrovsky (undrafted), and Ben Bishop (85th overall, 3rd round).

The majority of the top goaltenders on a list were selected later than other positions or teammates do not imply that they are less useful. 

It demonstrates how difficult it is to forecast a goalie’s development because the position is so challenging to master. It takes a skater longer to learn than other skills before he is prepared to compete at the greatest stages.

Goalies require intense mental concentration and intelligence

To participate in the NHL, a goaltender must show high levels of skill and knowledge. They have to be highly agile, in the excellent physical condition, and have remarkable reflexes. They also have to be capable of comprehending the match, which is what usually takes the most time.

A goaltender gains the ability to read games, including where players will move the puck, how the ball is being hit off sticks, and how a game is evolving. To stop the puck, one needs to have all of these abilities.

Positioning plays a huge role in goaltending. It would be incredibly difficult and dangerous to depend on your skills when the ball is being hit so quickly. To avoid having to make a reactive stop, the goalkeeper must be in the correct form so that the ball will strike him.


The goaltender needs to be excellent at analyzing and predicting the game to be in the proper position. The goalkeeper is out of line if he exaggerates the situation. The goaltender will be out of place if he does not respond to the play soon enough. 

Before they are capable of dealing with the tempo of the game in the NHL league, it takes years of practice to acquire the timing to be in the post to block off the sides and prevent the shoot.

The combination of all these technical demands makes goalkeepers such challenging positions. That is why so much more practice is needed before a skater can perform in the NHL.

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A goalie is more physically taxing than other positions

A competent NHL forward or defenseman will participate in all 82 matches, if possible. Now, an NHL goaltender can’t perform 82 games in a season. Simply said, doing so would be physically difficult on the goaltender. A top-tier goalkeeper will perform 60–65 games per season.

A goaltender can have played as many as 70 matches five to ten years ago. From 2010–2011, Carey Price participated in 72 matches, and from 2006–2010, Lundqvist participated in an additional 70 games. 

It is now uncommon for a quality goalkeeper to perform more than 65 matches, but this is improving. The goalkeeper performs the entire game without a rest other than the halfway periods. Thus, it is the first and most apparent cause. Yes, they are not skating up and down the rink. But it is quite exhausting to have all that gear and have shots aimed at you.


They also perform fewer games as a result of postseason preparation. The majority of Stanley Cup-winning goaltenders perform in fewer than 60 games every season. It is impossible for a club to simply overuse its goalkeeper during the playoffs. Then they assume them to have much left over for the drawn-out postseason run. 

A goalkeeper will get tired, and the playoffs are the last place you want it to happen. To ensure that their finest goalies are relaxed and prepared for the rigors of the finals, clubs have been more selective about how they use their finest goalies throughout the preseason.

Additionally, goalies rarely play on consecutive days. An NHL player will be required to perform on consecutive nights for around a couple of years every year. On each of these evenings, a club will always start a new goalkeeper.

Even a typical player struggles to keep the necessary energy for both of these, especially a goalkeeper. The best goalkeeper will be given the first night, while the backup goalie will get the next. Yes, having a worn-out squad in front of him generally results in the backup goaltender getting the shorter end of the stick. 

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No off games: when a goalie has a bad game you lose

Being a goaltender is difficult as there is limited space for mistakes and little space for having a bad performance. Everyone in the arena will be aware if you have poor goaltending as your side will defeat as a result of a bad goaltender.

This does not imply that you must always perform at your peak level because squads can succeed with a goaltender. But if you perform badly, your squad will undoubtedly lose. At the NHL stage, matches are so close that one easy score on any given night will determine a team’s status.

Only the goalkeeper is affected by this rule. Even if you are the top scorer but lose games, other individuals can still win. There are still other skaters to assist you if your defensive performance is bad, such as the goaltender.

So, if you perform badly as the goalkeeper, your team will lose because of the high number of goals you allow.

Conclusion: What is the Hardest Position in Hockey?

One of the hardest positions in hockey is goalie because it is the only position on which the entire match relies. A goalie will decide whether a team will win or lose the match. Also, it is the most tricky and challenging position to learn as well as perform.

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