Vic Marconi knew from the start that he was born to be a hockey goaltender.
Forget the goals, the assists, the hitting, Marconi said he knew as soon as he laced on the skates that he belonged between the pipes, with the game on the line, the one to take the glory with the wins and the vitriol with the losses.
Marconi runs Marconi Hockey at the Tampa Bay Skating Academy and specializes in goaltending. He has the credentials, growing up in Buffalo where hockey isn’t just something to do when you aren’t at the beach. He’s coached and been certified by almost every major ice hockey organization in the Southeast and also works as an off-ice official at Tampa Bay Lightning games. In other words, he knows his stuff.
“I don’t know how I got the passion or knowledge to be a goaltender or a goalie coach,’’ Marconi said. “I was born to do this. I lot of guys can play and a lot of guys can teach, but I am lucky enough to do both.’’
Most young hockey players want to score goals and, as they get older, get away from the criticism that goes to the goalie, the last guy or girl on defense. It takes a special person to want to be a goalie, Marconi said. Someone who is dedicated to the fine details, someone who understands how to square, how to figure out angles, someone with quick reflexes who can react in less than a split second to a deflection.
It isn’t a position for everyone.
“The goalie has to be the leader,’’ Marconi said. “He has to have a vision about the inside of the game. We drill on game situations because there’s no way to just drill. Being a goalie is 90 percent mental and that’s what I emphasize.’’
John Bierchen is a hockey coach at the State University of New York Canton in upstate New York. He’s 24 and grew up in Florida. He’s been working with Marconi since he decided to get into hockey.
“I grew up playing baseball because I wanted to be a catcher,’’ Bierchen said. “My dad got me into hockey and I took skating lessons and realized that being a goalie is a lot like being a baseball catcher. I started taking lessons and I liked all the equipment and I started to stick with it.’’
Part of the attraction of being a hockey goalie is being on the ice all of the time. Most skaters spend 90 seconds or so flying up and down the ice and then get a few minutes of rest. The goalie is out there for 60 minutes unless it goes overtime.
“That’s what I like about hockey,’’ Bierchen said. “Vic calls me all the time to find out how I’m doing. He’s taught me a lot.’’
Marconi knows that Tampa isn’t a hotbed for ice hockey, but he’s doing what he can to promote the sport.
“I’ve had more than 600 kids work with me since we started,’’ Marconi said. “I want to be an ambassador to the game. I can teach hockey every day of the week.’’
The National Hockey League has never had a native Floridian, but Marconi said there are players who can make it. Scouts aren’t flocking to Florida yet, but it’s just a matter of time, Marconi said.
“My goal is to have the first NHL goalie from Florida,’’ Marconi said. “We just have to get out from under the radar and showcase the game. It’s just a matter of time.’’
For information on Marconi Hockey, call (727) 542-5299 or check www.marconihockey.com.