Kukla's Korner

23 Intently Staring Goalies

Czeching in on Junior Hockey

There's been a serious paucity of goalie stories this past month. August is usually the month of signings and first look at new masks (and yes, Chris Mason has once again come through with a way cool Iron Maiden themed mask!)

Luckily, Junior Hockey has started up. They're currently in the pre-season, and teams are deciding who's in goal, which means there's a lot of new kid getting used to the bump up to Junior hockey, and for a lot of them, getting used to playing in a new locale.

Mario Annicchiarico from the Victoria Times-Colonist writes about the Royals newest goalie, and his acclimation to the North American game:

In his short stay in Victoria, Patrik Polivka has become infatuated with the city.

Now, he's hoping he can make Victoria Royals fans fall in love with his play as he sets out on a major junior goaltending career after being selected 14th overall from his native Pizen, Czech Republic, in the Canadian Hockey League import draft in late June.

The 18-year-old officially signed a Western Hockey League Standard Players' Agreement on Thursday afternoon then stood tall stopping the first 17 shots he faced in the team's first pre-season game in Kamloops later in the evening. He allowed just one goal over 24 shots as Tim Bozon scored on a 5-on-3 power play to lead the Blazers to a 4-2 victory over the Royals.

Coleman Vollrath came on in relief for the Royals, who went with an extremely young lineup with an average age of 16.5 years. In fact, 15-year-old Tyler Soy — who also signed a player agreement earlier in the day — had both Victoria goals as the Royals were out-shot 44-23.

"It's a beautiful city. I like it so much and the guys are so cool. I am so comfortable and I am so happy I am here," Polivka said of the opportunity to be in Victoria.

Thrown into a tough situation, the six-foot, 170-pound import is still adjusting to life away from home, not to mention a different hockey style.

"The angles are different [because of the smaller ice surface] — lots of shots, lots of hits," he said of the variances to the North American game. Last season he suited up with the HC Pizen U-20 team, where he posted a 3.20 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. "It's actually a faster game, that is the biggest difference."

And that's just on the ice.

"He's been here now about a week and we're just getting to know him," said Royals general manager Cam Hope. "He looks good on the ice and off of it he's a terrific guy, speaks English perfectly.

"When he arrived here, after a 17- to 18-hour travel day, he didn't want to go home, he wanted to come straight to the rink because he knew the guys were skating. He was out there and he's fitting in just great."

Which isn't always an easy task, venturing from home to a new surrounding.


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About 23 Intently Staring Goalies

23 Intently Staring Goalies comes from the 23 close-up photos of goalies that used to line the walls of my office.

On the good side, it kept down interruptions, but it also made sure I had to leave my trash outside my door if I wanted it picked up.

I've been watching and analyzing goaltenders for going on 40 years. Some of that was spent drawing goalies on my grade 8 math homework. Then it was taking my card decks and printouts to Indianapolis Racer games. Luckily, the Internet took off, and by 1991 I was half of the duo that would ultimately become the Plaidworks hockey mailing lists. I wrote "Handicapping the Goalies' for the San Jose Sharks mailing list, and took a lot of photos of goalies in action. I have around 5000 slides of mostly goaltenders in action from 1989 through 2001 from the WHL, IHL and NHL. Since I've gone digital, I've added about 10,000 more images to the library. During summers and when the league went dark, I was reading through multiple SF By area news papers, tracking ice hockey from the 1917 recreational leagues up through the California Seals.

We'll be talking about goalies and goaltending. We'll talk about whats going on now, who's in the system, and when the doldrums hit, I'll haul something out of the big bag of history, or something from the photo archives. We'll talk about who's hot and why, and who's not and what they can do to get back on track. We'll take a look at the trends in scouting goalies, and why a style may work for one team but not another. I'll battle with my dictation software to get it to understand Bryzgalov and Bobrovsky.

It should be interesting--hope you want to come along for the ride!