Toronto Maple Leafs goaltenders Matt Murray, left, and Dylan Ferguson fist bump during the first day of training camp in Toronto, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022. Every week some of the top goalies in North America get together to talk about their feelings. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Professional goalies work together to develop mindset in weekly meetings

Every week some of the top goalies in North America get together to talk about their feelings.

The Zoom meetings are divided, with goalies from Canada’s major junior leagues, the American Hockey League, and the NHL chatting together in their own respective meetings. The goalies share their fears with each other, their personal goals, and even agree to think positively about each other’s “ask” of the week.

Dylan Ferguson, who’s currently with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, said that from the outside it might seem odd for opposing players to discuss these things, but that it’s a form of friendly competition.

“Obviously, at the end of the week, you want to be the one having a better week if you’re playing someone in the group,” said the 24-year-old Ferguson. “But we all understand that we’re all trying to get to the same place.

“There’s never any hard feelings at all, no matter what, that I’ve experienced.”

The nature of the position makes these group sessions possible.

Goalies can’t cross centre ice without being penalized unless they’re headed to the bench. They rarely fight each other. It’s virtually impossible for them to shoot on each other. That means that ultimately, they’re just responsible for their own performance.

“You know that the other guy at the end is going to give his best when you’re playing someone in the same group,” said Ferguson, who notes that he has played against groupmates Beck Warm of the Rochester Americans and Zane McIntyre of the Utica Comets. “It always just makes the game that much more fun.

“At the end of the day, we just do our best to stop the puck for our team and that’s the job.”

Evan Fitzpatrick, a goalie with the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers, said that it’s been helpful to him to have a conversation with a group of other goalies because there’s only one other on his team.

“Hearing the other goalies go through (the pressure and anxiety) almost helps you relax in that sense because it’s just a normal thing,” said Fitzpatrick. “You go out there and you play well, and it almost pushes me to be better mentally be in a group with these guys. That’s a good thing.”

The so-called “mastermind workshops” are the brainchild of Pete Fry, a goalie coach based in Coquitlam, B.C. Fry played goal in the Western Hockey League for five years before getting drafted into the NHL by the New Jersey Devils. He’s written books on how goalies can improve their mindset, has private sessions and hosts the weekly group meetings.

Quoting poet John Milton — “The mind is its own place and, in itself can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven” — Fry invites his clients to try and reframe their concerns in a more grateful light. Fry cites a conversation from his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League group, where one goalie was complaining that he was facing too many shots and another felt he wasn’t getting enough.

“I’m like ‘well, how about you’re grateful that you’re getting a lot of shots, and you’re grateful that you’re not getting very many,’” said Fry. “There’s always a way to find the good in what we’re doing.”

The agenda of the weekly meetings reflects the importance of that positive reframing, with each goalie asked to list of their successes from the past week. Then they’re invited to share what they learned about themselves over the past seven days. Finally, Fry will lead a discussion about a topic for the week like confidence or a visualization process.

“I really believe that we walk into the picture we hold of ourselves,” said Fry on the importance of having goals and visualization. “That’s the big thing that I do right away with guys is I help them get a clearer picture of them being the goalie that they want to be.

“I get my graphics guy to put together a picture of them in an NHL uniform, so they see themselves they could look at it every day and then take it from there.”

RETURN TO FENWAY

NHL legend Bobby Orr will “throw out” the opening puck on Monday when the Boston Bruins host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday in the NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park.

Orr, who set records as a defenceman with the Bruins in the late 1960s and early 1970s, is just one of the former Boston sporting greats set to participate in the pre-game ceremony.

Former Red Sox captain Jason Varitek, pitcher Tim Wakefield and former Bruins Zdeno Chara and Johnny Bucyk will also be part of the introduction.

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