ECHL: From The Military to Pro Hockey: A Talk With Parker Gahagen

Most hockey players go from juniors, to college, and eventually go professional if they choose. Goaltender Parker Gahagen took a road less traveled. Gahagen started off at West Point Academy after he completed basic training at West Point.

“It’s definitely a big adjustment, especially going from juniors. When you go to West Point, hockey is second or third on your priorities. You have the school component along with the military piece. You’re spending a good amount of time at West Point or different training. It’s a more demanding school to go to.”

Gahagen went on to play for the U.S. Military and jumped directly into playing professional hockey. Reading Royals is now his 8th home since 2017, while serving active duty along the way, and he has been on AHL contracts on that road.

“I went to West Point initially because of the challenge. They set you well for life after hockey. Between those two things and there was a good opportunity going in. My freshman year, there was a senior goalie there, after that, there was opportunity to be had there. I ended up starting for 3 and half out my 4 years there. I feel like one of my philosophies is always just kind of going to places where you know you’re wanted, and I considered going other places, but at the end of the day, the opportunity was there.

Being a well rounded player and goaltender comes with it’s advantages. Gahagen has played for different teams over the course of his career and he touched on a few of the arena’s he has played in.

“As far as weather, I played at the Everblades in Florida and Jacksonville. Between those two teams and go to the rink everyday in flip-flops and shorts and having the access to play golf or go to the beach every day, it helps over the course of a season. I played in Colorado one year. It was nice because my wife and I live in Colorado and we were able to be close to home.”

Separating the mind from the game is important for any player, but very important for a netminder because they, arguably, have the toughest job on the ice.

“Having a dog is always nice, it’s a quick easy way to separate yourself. I have a Pembroke Welsh Corgi and she is a lot of fun. She has her own agenda and a lot of attitude. Golfing is huge when I’m able to do that. I like to make bread, i picked that up over COVID. During the summer, I fly fish and do some regular fishing.”

Stopping shots and making saves- most people think it looks simple. Goaltenders have the toughest job because they are the last line, sometimes the first line of defense in the game to stop that puck from hitting the inside of the net. Some shots are harder than others to stop.

“Backhanded shots are hard to stop but I’d say the ones you can see would be the hardest to stop. If you are screened and you can’t see the release or the shot at all, it’s tough to stop.

Every netminder has that one goaltender that they try to model their game after, or just plain and simple admired. It was no different for Gahagen.

“I always liked Carey Price growing up. I wouldn’t say I modeled my game quite after him. Each goalies game is just kind of dependent on what works for them. I appreciated Carey Price because he did everything with ease. He had a calm, cool, and collected approach.”

Everyone has heard that Goalies are the most superstitious position on the team. Some grow out of the superstitions and some continue throughout their entire careers.

“I have a routine for sure. Early on in your career, you can be a bit more superstitious because you have a little bit more control over your pre-game and there is less to juggle. Once college and pro happen, there are a lot more things that you don’t have control over. I have a routine that consists of vision work, reaction ball, juggling, series of stretches. It puts me in a good place and the best position to be successful.”

During the course of this season so far with the Reading Royals, Gahagen has played in three games. He currently has a 2.37 Goals Against Average and .927 Save Percentage.

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