Training Tracks: Jessie Vetter
When Olympic hockey goalie Jessie Vetter is in the net in Sochi, she'll constantly be surrounded by her team's goal: gold. Designed by artist Ron Slater, with whom Vetter has been working since she graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Vetter's Olympic mask includes gold leafing, along with an image of the Statue of Liberty and other patriotic representations. (It used to include the phrase "We the People" from the Constitution, but that had to be removed on the order of the IOC. "Ron brings the whole vision together," the 27-year-old said. "I'm not creative at all."
What Vetter, a four-time world champion and 2010 Olympic silver medalist, lacks in creativity she more than makes up for in superb goaltending. Here's a look behind her mask and training:
As we get ready for Sochi, we typically lift weights two to three days a week, and skate five to six times a week. We usually do a weight circuit of eight to 12 stations for 45 to 60 minutes: we'll do everything from core work to bench presses to chin-ups to sled pushes. The point is to build strength without wearing us out. Then we have a good break, following by a skate of from 90 minutes to two hours.
On the ice, we do a lot of goalie-specific conditioning; we're not doing too much sprinting. We do a lot of drills, looking to control the puck as much as we can, work on stick control, maybe do some side-to-side drills.
A splitting illusion
I'm not as flexible as you would think; the big pads I wear make it look like I can do the splits easily, but I only do them when I'm on the ice and basically have no choice. If you asked me to do them on land, I couldn't. We goalies do have extra stretching sessions, though, and we roll our muscles on softballs and tennis balls to stay loose and healthy.
I see pucks
A good goalie is a good athlete first. Having the ability to adapt to what comes your way is huge, as is having quick reflexes. The puck is a very small object to which to react, so you have to be able to read the play and move with the puck. You want to be consistent, and make the tough plays look easy. At this point in my career, I hope my ability to follow the puck is almost a sixth sense; it should be second nature right now, because I'm practicing with some of the best players in the world.
Loud and loose
My best games are the ones when I'm feeling loose and having fun; I don't want to get too tense. I've got to be the right amount of ready, which basically means I have to continually follow the puck and not fall asleep when it's in the other end. I keep myself focused by being pretty vocal during the game. I definitely yell a lot.
I'm not a very picky eater: I eat everything and anything, but do a good job of keeping my nutrition on the healthy side of things. That said, I'm a good Wisconsin girl, and I could eat cheese on most everything. My Midwestern favorite splurges are a brat and sauerkraut or a good burger.
For us to have a successful Olympic tournament and make it to the gold-medal game -- and win the gold -- we have to focus more on ourselves and not worry so much about who is on the other side of the ice. We are preparing to be the best we can be, so now it's just about this team.