Ode to the Backstop Boys – Chapter One – Timo Pielmeier

Joffrey Lupul and Timo after defeating the 'Yotes preseason 2009

Goaltending is a lonely business.  The casual viewer will never recognize your face in public.  In fact, in 2003, when Jean-Sebastien Giguere was the talk of Anaheim, a woman ran up to him with a newspaper featuring a photo of a goalie and asked him to sign it.  He did and she scurried off as happy as could be.  What’s the point of the story?  The photo was of the Los Angeles Kings netminder, but Jiggy didn’t want to embarrass her.

Then there’s the gear and the sport-specific terminology.  35 pounds of equipment, reduced mobility and impaired vision.  It’s not a glove, it’s a trapper.  It’s not arm padding, it’s a blocker.  It’s not a helmet, it’s the cage.  You don’t defend the goal, you patrol the pipes.  As opposed to American football, you don’t pat each other’s fannies, you headbutt one another.

Unlike the other players, the netminder doesn’t get to fly around the ice at 35 mph.  He has to absorb slapshots at 100+ mph.  When there’s a scrum, he glides off out of the way because he knows if he gets involved, someone else will have to take his penalty.  He has to deal with big butts bumping into his face, players charging the crease, blizzards of hockeystop ice in their eyes, flailing sticks and razor sharp metal millimeters from vital organs.

So why would anyone want to defend the twine?  Well, when something speaks to you on an ineluctable level, you have to stop and listen.  When you see something special and/or amazing, you know it immediately. That is what happened to Ducks prospect Timo Pielmeier, one of the two netminders of the ECHL Bakersfield Condors.  A kid with passion, fire and drive.  He’ll leave the goofing around and shaving crème pies to others.  He has more important duties to focus on.  Living in the net.

{To Timo: Danke Shoen and Ich wunsche fur Sie viel gluck in NHL!}

How old were you when you first started playing hockey and how did you come to the decision to become a goaltender?

I started when I was 3.  I was a player and goalie until I was 13 when I decided to stay in net.  I was always fascinated by the way a goalie looks, his gear and helmet. When I was young and went to a hockey game, I might not know what the score was, but I always knew exactly who the goalie was.

I never wanted to be a backup and sit on the bench. My dad was my coach and he told me being in the net was better than sitting on the bench and watching the game. I was like, really? So I did it and it was fun. In the end I am more than happy with my decision.

Do you pattern your style of play on any particular player?  Do you prefer butterfly or oldschool stand up style?

I like goalies like Martin Brodeur or Nabokov. They just try to stop the puck any way they can. I like old school style. I like that and since I am young I want to play like them. I try to stop and save the puck instead of just blocking it and giving up rebounds. I like playing the puck a lot. 

With players coming from so many different countries, do you ever have difficulty communicating with your team on the ice?

No, they all speak English.  It was different when I started at St. John’s (junior hockey), but now it’s very easy. Even players in Germany speak English on the ice, so it’s much easier.

How do you keep your cool when you are getting scored on? Do your teammates give you encouragement on the ice?

As soon as I get scored on I take a sip out of my bottle and focus on the next shot. Most times, I don’t even remember how it happened. I look at the goals after games, but there is no time to think about it during the game. If you ask me, if you think about it during the game, that means you are not IN the game.  This season, my teammates were unbelievable.  Such a great bunch of guys. We talk about it after games, but there is no time during the game.

Many goaltenders say they feel personally responsible, especially after a loss. One NHL netminder said he doesn’t remember all the stops, but he knows exactly how many pucks have gotten by him in his career. Do losses ever get to you or do you generally put it behind you and concentrate on that next win?

I always want to win, I want to win every game I play in and I always give my best. I want to look in the mirror after the game and tell myself I did everything to win. You will loose and win games in hockey. You have to learn both things – win and loose.

Do you ever worry about getting injured?

Not really.  Like I said before, I want to stop the puck and react to it, so if you are focused and in the game, it’s hard to get hit. I don’t think there is time to think about getting hurt. We work out hard all summer to be in top shape and to be ready for the upcoming season.

Has an opposing player ever goaded you to distraction?

Players have tried, but I am too focused to listen. I just smile at them.

Have you ever been in a fight?

No, I am out there to stop the puck and not to fight, but if I have to because one of my teammates gets hurt, I obviously would help out.

Finally, any truly memorable moments you would like to share?

I scored a goal this season which was more than exciting. It’s a great feeling.

Background info from the Condors:

Timo Pielmeier, a rookie goaltender out of Deggendorf, Germany, became the 10th goalie in ECHL history to score a goal, shooting it into the empty net. Pielmeier became the youngest goalie in hockey history to score and was the first Condors goaltender to score. Pielmeier said this is the first goal he has ever scored in a competitive hockey game in his career at any level. The Condors won the game on Saturday, December 19, 2009, 6-4 against the Utah Grizzlies.

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Tags: Anaheim Ducks Bakersfield Condors ECHL Goaltending Hockey Jean-Sebastien Giguere Martin Brodeur Nabokov NHL Slapshot Timo Pielmeier Utah Grizzlies

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