Up Close With David Hutchison: From Classroom to In Goal

David Hutchison in action! Photo credit: David Stark/InGoal Media

by Amy Johnson, Managing Editor, HockeyPub.com

PHILADELPHIA, PA — When you were young, how many times did grown-ups ask you what you wanted to be when you grew up?  What was your answer?  For me, I would proudly announce that I was going to be a marine biologist.  How else would I get hired as a dolphin trainer at Sea World?  Unfortunately, I wasn’t as keen on dissecting frogs in Biology class as I was for swimming with sea lions, so I eventually chose a different path.

But for some, their future is evident right from the start.  Just imagine the possibilities for a young middle school entrepreneur with a penchant for hockey.  “I remember in grade six I used to do sketches of goalie masks and sold them to kids at school,”  recalls David Hutchison, who sold those drawings for ten cents each.  Unbeknownst to him at the time, they were just a preview of what he would eventually build in the business of hockey.

inGoal mag logo 500 pxThese days, it’s more than just artist’s renderings of masks that grace the pages of his popular InGoal Magazine website.  It’s a hub where, among other things, mask artists are given the opportunity to put their craftsmanship on display for a very targeted audience.  “I figured that most of these mask artists were probably independent guys and just struggling to make a living and could do with some exposure in the world.”

InGoal Magazine is a digital publication which was established about five years ago.  From editorial features and “Ask a Pro” segments where readers can submit questions for NHL goaltenders, to reviews of new goalie gear, educational articles from goaltending coaches, and, of course, profiles of new goalie mask designs and artwork, InGoal has everything an enthusiast could ever want to learn about life between the pipes.  “We want to be the center of the universe on the web for goaltender education,” states David.

He and his partner, Kevin Woodley, are well on their way to accomplishing that.  The January 2013 issue alone had more than 40,000 unique readers.  That’s a lot of growth in just five years, and David attributes it to the wide variety of information the site provides.  It’s a product that has been shaped by dedicated people with a lifelong passion for hockey.

From the time he was old enough to put on a pair of skates, David knew that he was destined for goaltending.  At the tender age of five, he recalls, “My mother said ‘Now David, the coach has called and he’s wondering if you’d like to try being the goalie?’  And I said to her very dramatically ‘Oh, mommy it’s what I’ve wanted my WHOLE life!'”

His parents were also keen to “champion” Ken Dryden as David’s role model from the beginning.  “When I started playing goal it was Ken Dryden’s first season when he burst onto the scene as a rookie and went straight to the finals.”  But it wasn’t simply Dryden’s on-ice abilities that drew their attention.  “He was intellectual, he had a life outside of hockey, and the academic side of him was as important as the athletic side.”  David adds that Jacques Plante and Bill Durnan left lasting impressions on him over the years as well.

David fondly thinks back to his childhood when a family member had gifted tickets to a game at Maple Leaf Gardens for him to see his first NHL game.  He remembers how struck he was by the colors all around him.  “Just how bright and vibrant the whole experience was, coming from watching on, I’m guessing, a black and white TV at the time.”

But despite the colors, sights, and sounds, David still couldn’t take his eyes off of the goaltenders – a trait that he’s retained to this day.  “If I watch two teams, I’m just enjoying watching both guys play and I’m rarely cheering for one [team] over the other.”

David Hutchison in action!  Photo credit: David Stark/InGoal Media
David Hutchison in action!
Photo credit: David Stark/InGoal Media

Describing himself as “an introvert who needs to be around other people,” David believes that being a goaltender has been a perfect fit for his personality.  “I really like the intellectual challenge of it as well.”  Growing up near Toronto gave David plenty of opportunities to hone his craft.  He played minor hockey in Mississauga and in high school at Upper Canada College.

He then followed his parents when they moved to Montreal, attending McGill University and joining the hockey team for a brief period of time.  “My first year there, I was very solidly ensconced as number four on the depth chart, out of four guys,” he says lightheartedly.  He eventually went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science from the University of Toronto, and even spent a few years working on a doctorate degree in the same field, working with U.S. Swimming at the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs.

During his time in Colorado, he realized that he enjoyed the teaching portion of his doctorate work much more than the research part, and ended up at Shawnigan Lake School on Vancouver Island, where he now teaches eighth grade math, physics, and computer science.

PicsArt_1366655521062He still plays hockey in a local men’s league and, just like any other goaltender, it’s his mask that tells David’s story.  A blue base color resonates throughout the artwork, representative of the colors of the InGoal website.  On his chin, David’s nickname “Hutch” is displayed.  The right side of the mask features the InGoal Magazine logo above translucent stars, as a tribute to the site’s American readers.  The left side shows the stars replaced by maple leaves to honor Canadian readers, as well as an iconic image of Ken Dryden.  “I can certainly remember as a kid at all of five feet tall trying to reach up to my stick and hoping that I could lean on it someday like that, and maybe I’d magically grown overnight and been able to figure it out.”  Finally, on the back, is David’s family crest bordered by the names of his wife and two children.

Calling it a “window into somebody’s personality”, David believes that goalie masks are incredibly unique because of how customized their artwork can be.  “It’s the only time that anybody does anything individual in terms of their uniform.”  He also believes that personal touch is what makes mask designs so popular for hockey fans to learn about.

David discovered the public’s “thirst” for knowledge about masks in the early stages of InGoal Magazine.  After watching a game in which he noticed Ryan Miller wearing a new mask featuring a very different design, David contacted the artist responsible for the artwork, Ray Bishop, who agreed to provide an interview and some photographs for his young website.  According to David, it turned out to be one of the most popular posts he had published to date.

The next event David labels as “fortuitous” in the development of InGoal Magazine’s mask features came when he sat down to share a cup of coffee with artist David Arrigo in Toronto.  Arrigo mentioned that he was currently working on a new design for Jason LaBarbera and offered to provide some pictures in advance, on a promise from David that they wouldn’t be released prior to the mask being presented to LaBarbera.

Some time later, while David and his family were camping on vacation, he recalls that one night after the kids had gone to bed he was relaxing and watching hockey.  Suddenly he noticed the new LaBarbera mask sitting on the bench and, knowing that he had already pre-written an article on the design, scrambled into action.  “I madly started driving around the campground looking for a wi-fi connection somewhere, and I hit ‘Publish’!”  Fortuitous indeed: by the end of the game, the article had already accumulated a few thousand hits on the website, fueling the fire to develop a regular mask series.

But when asked what the key was to really making InGoal Magazine the unique publication it is today, David had an immediate answer.  During the Vancouver Olympics, he was waiting in a Toronto airport and received a phone call from Kevin Woodley that would change InGoal magazine March 2013_CCM Price_special edition coverthings forever.  Woodley was covering the Vancouver Canucks and the Olympics for the Associated Press, but reached out to David to propose a partnership.  Woodley greatly believed in what David was doing with his magazine, and wanted to be involved.  David said yes almost immediately.  “Kevin is brilliant, really knows his stuff, and I’m really fortunate to have him as a partner.”  He also says that he and Woodley “clicked” instantly, and working together was a natural fit.

The new partnership provided an opening to paths previously inaccessible to David, with his partner on-site and up close to the action.  “He’d send me little clips from interviews, stuff that would be of zero interest to the mainstream media, but would fit the sort of thing that us goalie geeks really like.”  That kind of unique coverage made InGoal Magazine a destination for the latest news and updates for goaltenders, propelling them into the online spotlight.  Together, they have assembled a talented team whom David credits as being the driving force behind the site’s success.

In fact, that’s really what David believes good business is all about: the relationships and communities you nurture and support.  He says he wants people to be comfortable contacting him and his colleagues and getting involved in a dialogue, whether it’s by email, on the website, Facebook, etc.  He claims another key factor refers back to one of the first articles he published, which was about the “zen” of goaltending.  He says the biggest lesson hockey has ever taught him is how to have patience.  All of those things have combined to give David something he’s incredibly proud of and excited about.  “The newness, the innovation, the creativity – and that it’s all about hockey.”

David's son tests out a youth version of Carey Price's new CCM gear.  (He even taped his stick like Carey does!)
David’s son tests out a youth version of Carey Price’s new CCM gear. (He even taped his stick like Carey does!)

So what’s in the next chapter for InGoal Magazine?  “More of the same in increasingly sophisticated ways!”, exclaims David.  The website itself has recently undergone a makeover, and one popular feature that continues to grow are the equipment reviews.  They recently released a special edition of the magazine featuring Carey Price on the cover which focused on the rebirth of CCM and gave reviews of their newest equipment line.  David tells us they take an individualized approach when writing reviews.  “We look at a piece of equipment, explain all the key features of it, what they mean to your game (probably beyond what you would see in a typical marketing piece from a company), we try to explain what they all mean, and then we try and say whose game this fits.”

Additionally, readers can expect to see more and more enhanced content: articles which are accompanied by multimedia components, such as photographs and video.  One example that stands out to David the most is a recent article featuring Carey Price that included a video of Price having an on-ice session with Montreal Canadiens goaltending coach Pierre Groulx, where Groulx is working on honing the very basics of goaltending with Price.  “To be able to open up a publication and learn about exactly what it is, why he does it, when he does it, how he’s a little bit different, and then be able to see him practice it.”  (A link to that story and video can be found at the end of this article.)

In fact, the article was also written by Groulx – an invitation that David and Kevin extend to goalie coaches at all levels.  “We’re a great place for people to come and learn about things, but at the same time you’re learning about some of the great coaches out there that would be good to work with.”  There’s that community-minded approach popping up again!

From what started out as something David says he “accidentally” fell into doing, to currently having more than 23,000 free online subscriptions, InGoal Magazine has transformed into something more than they ever imagined it would.  “It’s just a really down-to-earth, positive community and we’re really happy to be a part of it, and we want our readers to feel a part of it as well.”

It’s that passion and emotion about hockey that resonates throughout his publication; an instinctive quality that David also possessed as a grade-school boy selling mask sketches.  He knew even then that there’s a lot more to hockey than just business.

As an extra feature to our story on David Hutchison, we took some time to chat with him about current hot topics in hockey and goaltending that would be of particular interest to our All Habs readers.  David told us he was more than happy to oblige, and says, “Montreal has obviously a special place in my heart since we lived there for a long time and Montreal was my first and favorite team growing up, and I’m thrilled to be able to be talked to by one of the leading Canadiens websites.”

Goaltending gear is a popular trend right now.  David believes there are plenty of indications to suggest that changes in gear could be imminent.  “I think they’ve got to be really careful that they don’t make any steps in haste and see some unintended consequences as a result.”

The trapezoid rule:  David would like to see it go away and states that watching a goaltender play the puck is very exciting.  “I think you’ve spent your career developing a skill that makes you an asset to your team, like a Martin Brodeur; to have that skill take away from you by a quick change of the rules is really unfair.”  He adds that the current rule also limits a goaltender’s ability to help his teammates.  “Some of the goaltenders can’t now relieve that forecheck pressure for their team and defensemen are getting run that might not have otherwise.”

Habs prospect Dustin Tokarski: David says that he feels Tokarski’s style of play fits Montreal’s game very well.  “He’s a guy that thrives in a more sophisticated system and that’s certainly what Montreal promotes.”

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Habs fans are also welcomed to check out some Carey Price features at InGoal Magazine:

“Up Close” is an All Habs Hockey Magazine feature that gives readers a back-stage pass to athletes, management and sports personalities via our exclusive interviews.  Previous guests have included HNIC’s Steve Porter, NASCAR’s Andrew Ranger, Habs prospect Mark MacMillan, Montreal’s Annakin Slayd, Canadiens’ assistant captain Josh Gorges and Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender, Ken Dryden.