Goaltenders have a reputation for being odd or calm; they’re either happy facing down flying pucks, or they enjoy being the stabilizing force where it’s needed most — between the pipes. For Josef Kuchaslo, it’s the latter.
Like many goalies, Kuchaslo didn’t start in net. As a young hockey player, he played defence and enjoyed it. He liked being behind the play and being someone that the team can rely on. Being the last man back, there’s no one else to bail you out of a mistake, meaning Kuchaslo has to handle the pressure, which he does in a few different ways.
“I just try to treat every game the exact same. It doesn’t matter if we’re going to play the worst team or league or the best team in the league,” said Kuchaslo.
Kuchaslo treats most of his games like any other, but occasionally some games feel different. For example, when playing last year’s rivals in the Teck Cup Championships—on those special games, Kuchaslo allows himself to get swept up in the excitement with the other players.
“That one was pretty important to me,” said Kuchaslo.
When it comes to preparation, players take different approaches. Kuchaslo chafes at the idea of having any ritual that’s too rigid, but one thing that he likes to keep consistent is his breakfast at Big Bend Café on game day.
“Every time I always get the three pancakes for breakfast, and without fail, every time, I always go there—it always fills me up,” said Kuchaslo.
After his breakfast, Kuchaslo tries to stay loose and not get uptight before games. To stay relaxed, he likes to play NHL or the MLB Show games on his PlayStation.
One attribute that has helped Kuchaslo in his development is one that he feels is the most important trait for goaltenders: a short-term memory. If Kuchaslo has a tough game, he tries to put behind him quickly.
“If you dwell on it, and you think about it too much, you overthink about it, it’s bound to happen again,” said Kuchaslo.
Kuchaslo loves playing at the Revelstoke Forum in front of the local fans. While he acknowledged that his fellow goaltenders on the opposing team are catching grief from the fans, he said it’s only fair—besides, he likes the effect the fans have on the Grizzlies too much.
“The atmosphere they create for us helps us win games. I honestly believe that, because they pump us up when I make a big save, and I hear everyone banging on the glass,” said Kuchaslo.
Asked about his favourite save to make, Kuchaslo responded with laugh and smile and started recreating the motion, rotating his right hand.
“Of course, glove side! Windmill glove saves,” said Kuchaslo.
The big save, puck in his glove, and the fans banging on the glass are all the ingredients for a good night for Kuchaslo.