Hockey goaltenders are some of the most competitive athletes on the planet. They want to start as many games as possible and compete at the highest level.
That mentality is no different for Washington Capitals prospect Mitchell Gibson. The 24-year-old netminder was a fiery and passionate netminder in his early playing days. He would get so emotionally charged whenever he allowed a goal, even in practice. It really started to take shape when he was with the Lone Star Brahmas of the USHL.
“I was a really young kid in the team. They used to tease me a little bit because I would kind of explode and get mad at them and they knew that they could get under my skin,” Gibson said. “I just gotta have a lot of energy out there. We’re only on the ice for an hour and a half a day at the most really. So I think the more I can give them, they’re going to be better off because it’s going to be harder for them to score on. It gets me pretty involved and gets me mentally into it.”
Since then, however, the Harvard product has been more in control and calm in between the pipes. Successful netminders in the NHL can shake off a goal and refocus for the next play.
A big part of Gibson’s offseason training regime this year was to focus on the finer points of his game. The Phoenixville, Pa., native wanted to work on his head movement and ability to track down pucks moving at high speeds. It is a subtle yet highly important trait for today’s goalies to have.
“Everything kind of stems from reading the play and reading the releases because guys are just getting so good at it. So the more I can have my head down on pucks and my chest down on pucks… if we can try to keep that positioning and everything that we do when we move around, that just gives us the best chance to stop the puck,” Gibson said. “So a lot of details with moving and flexibility that I really tried to work on I think are paying off pretty well.”
But while there is excitement brewing for Gibson as he heads into his first professional season, with either the Hershey Bears or the South Carolina Stingrays, the former fourth-round pick is heading into training camp wanting to be with the mentality of not being afraid to make mistakes.
“I don’t know what to expect. I just have to come in here and make mistakes and see what it’s like. I think I did the best I could this offseason just preparing my body for as well as I can physically. I got in pretty good shape, got my legs strong and flexibility amped up,” Gibson said. “I think from now on it’s all what happens between your ears. That’s a big indicator of your success if you can mentally handle being a pro and doing things the right way.”
Whether he is in South Carolina or Hershey, Gibson is going to make his presence felt on and off the ice.
By Jacob Cheris