Goaltender Bobby Goepfert of the Florida Everblades leapt to the national attention of hockey fans back in December, when the video of his goalie-vs-goalie fight with Billy Sauer of the Gwinnett Gladiators made Puck Daddy.
Although he has a two-way contract between the Everblades/Charlotte Checkers (he's in the Carolina Hurricanes system), Goepfert has spent the majority of the year playing for the Everblades, putting together a solid 21-12-0-3 record, with 0.916 sv% and 2.77 GAA, including two shutouts and an impressive 12-round shootout versus the Greenville Road Warriors in February.
He's not of the typical modern goalie mold, either: at 5'10" and 170 pounds, he's closer in size to Tim Thomas and Marty Turco - who are both 5'11" - than the majority of pro goalies today, where the idea of 6'2"+ and "bigger is better to fill up the net" seems to be the trend. But to watch him play, you wouldn't know it - like his role model Thomas, Goepfert is a battler in the net. One of his college coaches, Bob Motzko at St. Cloud State, called him “a fierce competitor.” He's focused on the puck and has good ice awareness; his career stats reflect solid skills.
Goepfert recently joined Twitter (@GeffMan47), and he's been all you could want out of a hockey player on Twitter: funny, down to earth, chats with fans, and enjoys chirping with teammates and fellow hockey players. In other words: an athlete not afraid to show their personality on Twitter - or in interviews.
My thanks to Bobby Goepfert for taking some time today to sit down for an interview with me to discuss what's shaped him into the player he is today.
HockeyBroad: What got you interested in playing hockey?
Bobby Goepfert: My dad was the main reason I got into hockey. He followed the Islanders ever since they came into the league. He took me to my first game when I was 3 and I was hooked. I couldn't take my eyes off the goalies, so my dad bought me some street gear for the backyard and I never looked back. Things kind of took off from there, but I am still trying to make the adjustment from shoes to skates. It's harder on skates.
HB: What led you to become a goalie?
Goepfert: Well, at my first game (when I was 3) I just fell in love with it. I liked the equipment a lot and I guess I liked the attention the goalies got. Plus, I didn't start playing goal on the ice until I was 7. I skated out, and wasn't a real strong skater nor did I understand offsides. So I would just stay back and protect the goal. Then one of the coaches had extra goalie equipment and lent it to me. Offsides isn't a problem for me anymore.
HB: Favorite team growing up?
Goepfert: The New York Islanders. I was very passionate about them, and cried all night then skipped school the next day in '94 when the Rangers won the Cup. My classmates were mostly Ranger fans, and that day would have been torture. That is one story recollection I wished I left out when I was being interviewed by the New York Ranger staff during my draft year. Ooops.
HB: Favorite player(s) growing up?
Goepfert: I think every goalie from my era loved Patrick Roy, and so did I. But I loved watching Mike Richter (mostly when he represented USA, but even Ranger games, too. He was awesome). Stephane Fiset- best mask ever. And Glenn Healy- magical run in 1993.
HB: You've mentioned in previous interviews that Tim Thomas is your role model. How did that come to be; and are there any other goalies you particularly enjoy watching or model parts of your game upon?
Goepfert: I just love the way he plays. I guess I am similar in that respect, in the way he battles and isn't your prototypical technically sound guy in the net, but boy, does he compete. I also love how he persevered through the minors and Europe to reach the NHL. Nothing was given to him and he worked hard to get there. It's great to see a guy like that have the success he is having. He is an easy guy to root for, and somebody that I can relate to. I really look up to him.
HB: You've said before that due to your size (5'10") that you feel you play a little differently, not being the typical 6'2"+, really big, butterfly goalies that seems to be the norm these days. Is there anything you do training-wise (fitness, diet) to help your game? What do you focus on in practice/training to help your game?
Goepfert: Training-wise, I train mostly for explosiveness and working on my reaction time. I'm not sure, but I'd imagine most goalies train similarly. Us goalies don't need to bulk up to throw body checks, but we need to be fast and quick, so we work on our legs a lot with leg strength and plyometrics. In practice, I focus a lot on my rebound control and to maximize my net coverage. I'm not that big, but I try to play bigger than I am. I also try to not get hit in the head, which is tough for a little guy like me and the low stance I have.
HB: Is there a coach who has had a particularly strong impact on you, and why?
Goepfert: I have had a lot of great coaches throughout my career. I can't really single out one, but my goalie coach from when I was 12-15 was ex-Ranger goalie Gilles Villemure, and I learned a lot from him. I loved hearing his stories from when he played, and he really took me under his wing. I think I understood the position a lot better from him. I was at that age when I was still developing my style so he helped tone the "flash" down and become a little bit more conservative in my movements. He also made me appreciate the mask and equipment of my era a lot more.
HB: What has been a particularly memorable game for you?
Goepfert: I remember almost every game I've played in. One of the most memorable games have to be World Juniors, when we were in Halifax and played against Canada. That was a fun game to play in. We lost and it hurt a lot, but I received a nice ovation from the crowd when I got the player of the game award, and it meant a lot to me. Especially after the tough loss and it made me reflect on how far I had come from my backyard in Queens.
But last year's game I played wasn't at the magnitude of that, but has special meaning to me. My father passed away the summer before last year suddenly and it was devastating. I had a real hard time playing hockey. I was at Red Bull Salzburg at the time. Things didn't work out there and I ended up in Hamburg in the DEL. My father's birthday is on New Year's Eve. We had a game in the afternoon that day, and I didn't sleep at all the night prior. I had a hard time focusing, and was real emotional all day. Finally the game came, and I wasn't sure how it was going to go. I was going to tell the coach that I had too tough a time getting focused and thought it would be best for the team if I didn't play. But I didn't, and went about the game as best I could. I ended up getting a shutout, and the great fans in Hamburg chanted my name. I'm an emotional guy and that moment really touched me, and I'll never forget it.
HB: How are the European league (DEL) different from pro leagues over here?
Goepfert: Well, considering over here I have played mostly in the ECHL, the DEL is a lot older and more like the AHL with the speed and physicality of the game (I only have 4 AHL games so take it for what its worth). The arenas are crazy and it's a lot of fun to play in. The cities are passionate about their teams, which make it even more fun to play, knowing you're representing your city and the rabid following of die-hard fans.
HB: Which NHL rink would you most enjoy the opportunity to get to play in (aside, of course, from your own NHL team)?
Goepfert: The Nassau Coliseum. Say what you will about the Coliseum, but I have a lot of great memories there and always imagined myself playing there when I was younger. It would be a dream come true.
HB: Favorite fan sign you've seen, whether for you or another player?
Goepfert: In college, there was a sign for a player that was ineligible to play the first semester due to academics, and the student section had a board that said, "(Player's Name) can't read my sign". For me, I don't remember any signs, but there have been some funny chants and random rude shouts that I remember fondly. Yes, I am talking specifically about Wisconsin, and in the USHL, Waterloo.
HB: You've become known with the Everblades fans for your "star of the game dance" - do you do it for any time you're a star, or just #1; and when/how did this tradition develop for you?
Goepfert: I try to be creative with stuff like that. It changes on how I feel at the time. It's not a set dance or anything. I just felt like dancing. I like to entertain people, but try not to get carried away with it. But I have a couple of dandies up my sleeve. I just have to play better to get a star, so I can show them off!
HB: Todd Miska did your current mask design. What's been the favorite design you've had on one of your helmets? Is there another goalie's mask design that you really love? When you make it to the NHL, what do you think you'd have on your mask?
Goepfert: I really liked this year's gator theme. Todd does great work, and we had some cool ones in college but there was a lot to work with with having an alligator as your logo. I also have a cool NY/World Trade Center-themed helmet I got made when I represented the USA at the Viking Cup. That helmet means a lot to me. But back in the day, I loved Brian Hayward's shark helmet, but my favorites of all time have to be Stephane Fiset's igloo, or the Beezer's Ranger one when he had bees flying around the NY skyline.
I like to design my masks according to the team, so my mask would vary if I were with an NHL team. I think masks should be team-oriented. You can customize your back plate, but the front should be more team recognition and less about what singers you like, in my opinion. Needless to say, my mask would be awesome.
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The Florida Everblades play in Estero, Florida (Ft. Myers/Naples area). Visit their website at FloridaEverblades.com.