ECHL: Reading Royals: A Talk With Nolan Maier

Photo Credit: Sarah Pietrowski/Reading Royals

Being a Goaltender is arguably, the most important, and stressful position on the ice. If the team wins the game, the Goaltender is the hero. If the team loses, it’s the easiest position to blame for the loss. For Nolan Maier, in his young career, has seen both ends of the spectrum, and it has made him a better person and player.

Practice Habits

Most netminders have practice habits to get them ready and in the mindset for the upcoming game. For Maier, tracking and working on his stance is the most important for him:

“I think there’s certain days I try to work on different things, kind of play around with my stance, or if I’m trying to just work on tracking kind of thing. I think just the hard work and kind of competing on every pocket really helps going into the weekend, just to get those practice reps. Those are kind of the big things I try to do.

Hardest Shot

Facing so many shots a night, with the talent that is in front of a goaltender every game, there are so many different shots faced. Maier speaks on which shot is the hardest for him to stop:

“Id say probably one timers. I know certain guys are really good at it. It’s been going away for a little bit or not many guys doing it anymore, but one timer with traffic in front is really tough.”

Playing Former Teammates

The hockey world is small. If a teammate leaves, there is a high chance, a player will play them again. This is no different in the ECHL, where Maier has recently faced former teammate Colin Felix. He speaks on what it is like to play them again:

“You do. You definitely remember if, especially the year before, their tendencies and where they like to shoot. You’ve seen the puck come up their stick so many times during the year that you kind of understand it. It’s tough as a goalie to assume where it will go.”

Biggest Strength

Every player in the world of hockey has strengths and weaknesses that can be exceeded and worked on. For Maier, this is no different and he speaks on what his biggest strength is:

“My speed. Not being a huge goaltender, I think anytime I can be first to the puck and just be there before the play kind of sets up is the big advantage for me.”

Goaltenders Watching Goaltenders

Players watch players. Players model their games after others or those who have retired from the game. Maier speaks on who he enjoys watching:

“Guys i enjoy watching are Juuse Saros. It’s pretty cool to watch a guy or guys that are similar in size to you that can be so patient and tall because they can lose any inches when they are in net.”

Biggest Lesson Throughout The Years

Learning lessons is what makes a person who they are. Lessons shape humans as they go on through life, especially within the world of hockey. Maier talks about what biggest lesson he has learned:

“Everything happens for a reason. There is so much that happens, and so many things that can’t happen. It’s kind of going to the process and believe that it will come around”

Routine, Routine, Routine

Most players have a routine pre-game that gets them in the game mindset. Some players are very superstitous, and so many others just go with the flow:

“I have the same routine and everything that I do. I don’t have a ritual that i have to do something crazy. Ill juggle and do certain stretches before games and stuff.”

Starting Out

Surprisingly, most goaltenders do not start as goaltenders. They start as forwards or defensemen. Maier talks about what position he started in and what made him switch to netminding:

“I started out as a defenseman when i was really young. I think I was watching hockey with my dad and I saw some of the masks and gear and mentioned it to him one day. One day we were on the outdoor rink during the weekend and I kind of just started playing goalie and then he let me switch full-time.”

Trustworthy Netminding

Maier played his junior career in the WHL for the Saskatoon Blades. He is the all-time wins leader in the WHL with 122 career victories. He broke the record in April of 2022 with a second consecutive shutout (2-0) and passed Kamloops Blazers Goaltender Corey Hirsch and Vancouver Giants Goaltender Tyson Sexsmith. Maier holds the all-time Blades record for games played at 216, wins at 122, shutouts at 12, and career saves at 5,788. In the 2021-2022 season, Maier played in 60 regular season games and 5 post-season games. He speaks on what it was like to be trusted to play that many games during the season:

“I think i was lucky enough to be trusted to play all of those games. Just my routine and everyday kind of games. Near the end of the year, your body starts getting tired playing a lot of games.”

Coming In Hot

When a player is trusted between the pipes, you are facing so many shots and the puck throughout the night. Sometimes that puck can come up and become stuck in the mask or fly by at such a high rate of speed that it smells like burning rubber:

“It’s just so close that you can’t react to it. You just try to be as big as you can. I’m just happy that I’m able to stop the puck and my helmet has been holding up pretty good. Sometimes it can hurt. The one’s I’ve had recently have been in tight and kind of little flips in the mask.”

Life to Professional Adjustments

Going from juniors or college to making the professional hockey ranks, there is some adjustment that comes along with it. Maier speaks on what his biggest adjustments have been:

“I just wasn’t used to living on my own and not playing every night. In junior, I was fortunate enough to play every single night. To come here when there are so many good goalies in the system and you are switching out back and forth. You might only get one game on a weekend. It was a learning curve for sure. I’m getting used to it and good with it now.”

Summer Livin’

Every player has a summer training regimen to keep them in shape for the next season and to keep them in routine. Maier talks about what his summer is like and what he does to keep up with off-season training:

“There is a big group of pro hockey players where I’m from and we have a trainer that we go and workout with from 8am-10am. After that we have a group skate. We skate, we practice and have games. We stay on the ice for a couple of hours and then you are kind of done for the day.”

During this season Maier has dressed in 28 games. He is currently at a 9-13-3-2 record with a 3.27 Goals Against Average and a .895 Save Percentage. On February 24th, 2024, Maier carried the Royals to a 13-round shootout, which is the longest shootout in Reading Royals Franchise History.

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