Hockey goaltenders may be the most scrutinized players in any sport. Make a save? Cool, now make the next one. Give up a goal? Not cool, why isn’t the other goalie playing? Fans, media members, even parents of teammates, have all rolled their eyes when a goalie gives up a goal. A lot of times, unfairly.
In speaking with Tera Hofmann, who made her pro debut in January with the NWHL’s Metropolitan Riveters, she basically said it comes with the territory. Granted she only got to play one game (of the three-game covid-wrecked Riveters’ season), but it was kind of shocking for us when we saw her name on the list of players trying out for the Connecticut Whale on June 12 (and the next day for the Rivs as well).
“I think as a goalie you are always having to prove yourself and I think that’s the mindset I try to have every day when I’m practicing,” Hofmann said following the second 90-minute session of the weekend for her. Those Yale kids – always, always so smart.
“It was nice to get back on the ice with high-caliber shooters, which in the summer is usually harder to get everyone together. Having back-to-back days with high-caliber shooters has been very invigorating.”
Hofmann was the 16th overall pick (3rd round) by the Riveters in the 2020 NWHL Draft after finishing four seasons at Yale University. She left Yale with the seventh-most saves in program history (1,904), fifth-most shutouts (6), fourth-best save percentage (.914), and third-best goals-against average (2.64). At one point as a senior, she recorded three consecutive shutouts.
Following her second day of tryouts at Free Agent Camps in Newark, New Jersey we spoke with Hofmann about why she made the jump from college to the pros, why the Toronto-native became a goalie, playing only one game in a calendar year, goalie gear, and more.
Not Going Out Like That
The Hockey Writers: Last year you were drafted by the Riveters. How did that process play out from your point of view?
Tera Hofmann: I honestly didn’t expect to play after college, I thought that was going to be the end for me. I didn’t really see an opportunity in the NWHL. But then in my very last game in college, we lost to Harvard in triple overtime, and I was on the team bus heading home and thought ‘I’m not done with this yet, I have more to prove.’ So on that bus ride, I filled out a form online that says your willing to be drafted (to the NWHL). After that a few coaches reached out to me via email and set up some calls, so we got into a bit of dialogue there. And eventually, I ended up with the Riveters.
THW: After all of that takes place, the Riveters draft you, you’re stuck in Canada for a bit and unable to get across the border to skate with your teammates, find a place to live, etc. At what point were you able to get to New Jersey?
TH: I was able to get here in early October to start practicing. We were on the ice two times a week and a few times, just out of precaution, we had to take a week or two off. We had a pretty vigilant system as far as getting tested once a week, wearing masks when we were inside. It was really nice to get on the ice, especially at that time when there was so much uncertainty in the outside world. Just getting on the ice was mentally refreshing, especially after a summer of covid. Ultimately, covid put a wrench in our plans to win the Cup – but we have our revenge season coming up.
One and Done
THW: The Riveters only got to play three games in Lake Placid, and you yourself only got one game in…
TH: I got to play one and I was so happy I got to play one. Getting on the ice for a game is just the best feeling. It had been more than a year since I had played a game. Sometimes in practices, working on skills in the summer you just get lost – like why am I doing this? And then as soon as you get back out in a game you’re like – this is why, this is the feeling.
We approached the season with a lot of uncertainty in a lot of different ways. But it was nice to have a group of people to navigate that with and I think that made a huge difference, just in terms of actually having some social interactions – which a lot of people were lacking, and having something to work towards. Whether it was for this year or the following year. It was nice we got to go there, I had never been to Lake Placid and it was beautiful – the rink was awesome.
THW: When you finally do get a chance to play, you pick up the win (33 saves) in a wild 4-3 game. What were your emotions like and how did you feel throughout the game about how you played?
TH: I mean I spent a whole year preparing for it, so I felt pretty prepared (laughs). I thought I would be more nervous than I was, and I honestly felt really calm. The best way to describe it – it was like stepping into your home after being away for so long and you just instantly connect again. I just felt really dialed in. Yeah, we let up some tough plays but I also think I made some big saves, had a couple of breakaways – those are always fun. I get excited for those. Nobody else is excited, but I am! I have the puck from that game, my first win as a pro, at home somewhere.
THW: So what led you to become a goalie? Why stand there and get frozen chunks of rubber shot at you?
TH: First off, can we talk about the fact that skaters block shots and they’re not wearing as much gear as us? I actually chose the better position. No, I wouldn’t stand in front of a puck if I was wearing what they were wearing, but I’m wearing full gear that is protecting me.
I actually played center in house leagues until I was 10-years-old and then, random story, my friend needed a goalie for her single-A team and they looked at me like ‘hey you’re athletic, you play tee-ball’, so they recruited me for that. I just kind of connected with the position and went from there. I’ve never looked back. It’s a different game (as a goalie) there are not so many tangible breaks for you. In terms of, if a player has a bad shift they get off the ice, they can reset, and come back out. (As a goalie) you kind of have to do it mid-play sometimes, so that can make it a little harder to refocus. That is something that you definitely learn over the years.
THW: A lot of NHL and NWHL goalies we’ve spoken with like to break the game into segments of five minutes. Is that something you also do?
TH: I have done that in the past. Now I do more of something like breath-counting. Something like counting 1-2-3-4, keep repeating that and it becomes a kind of mantra. Then I just find my flow on the ice. Something that one of my goalie coaches taught me in terms of resetting is just that you have to reset the same way after a big save and a goal against. If you’re practicing resetting the same way after a big save the same way as after a goal – then you will be focused the whole way through the game. Unfazed by both.
THW: Did you have a favorite goalie growing up?
TH: Oh for sure Carey Price. Day one. I mean, look at my red setup. I like them! I usually go really subtle, I usually go white with an accent color. I said what the heck, I wanna look like a fire hydrant this year. I got these about a month ago. They were supposed to come in during the season but our season didn’t really happen.
THW: Well you threw us off because seeing you the past two days wearing Sonjia Shelly’s Connecticut Whale mask, we just assumed that the pads might be hers too! Never assume!
TH: No. No, no, no. She wishes! Those (pads) are sick! No (laughs) she has nice pads too. She actually very graciously lent me her helmet because mine is in Toronto right now.
THW: So what is it like wearing someone else’s mask? I know they are generally form-fitting.
TH: It’s funny that you asked this because I asked somebody else for their mask and they were like: yeah, no sorry. Fair enough! For me, it was weird for like one second, and then it was fine. I guess we do (have the same shaped head), but no complaints from me.
THW: So what’s next for you as far as your off-season?
TH: I’ll stick around here in New Jersey for a little bit longer. Probably head home sometime in August, visit my family. As a Canadian, I have to go home for a little at least. Then I’ll wait for my visa before heading back down here for Season 7.
We’d be shocked, stunned, and surprised if the Riveters gave up on Hofmann after just one game and let her sign with another team. But less shocked, stunned, and surprised than we were before the two Free Agent Camps. Maybe the Riveters have their eyes on another goaltender, or maybe they miscalculated the risk. We’ll all find out together this summer.
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.