Haa uses tall stature in net for Huskies

By Korey Peterson

A regulation size hockey net is four feet tall by six feet wide.

Not many goaltenders have trouble standing taller than the goal, but few are able to cover the width of the crease when they go down to block shots.

This is not a problem for NIU sophomore goaltender Craig Haa, who stands 6-feet-4-inches tall, and a few inches taller on skates.

“Being tall is just one of the many things you need in net along with speed, agility and seeing the puck coming at you,” said Haa, who was in net for both NIU victories this past weekend. “If you’re a really good goalie, you don’t even need the height.”

Haa joins the Huskies after playing his first year of hockey for Eastern Michigan University. While NIU is a Division II team in the ACHA, EMU is considered a Division I school. The physical education major transferred in part because he felt that the physical education program at NIU was better than that at EMU.

“He has great size and plays his angles well,” said NIU head coach Greg Chromy. “He is stopping the first shots, which is what we need from our ‘tender, and has been getting more comfortable with the team every week.”

This season, Haa has played in nine games and has a 3-5 record with a 4.73 goals against average and a .853 save percentage. These statistics may seem less than stellar, but Haa is almost always stopping the first shot. He has faced 253 shots in his 470 minutes of ice time, or 32 shots per game.

But Haa doesn’t just play the game of hockey; the sophomore from Oswego has been coaching it since the age of 12. He is a level three of five certified USA Hockey coach and also works during the summer for the Craig Anderson Goalie Schools. Anderson, a former Chicago Blackhawks goaltender who is now with the Colorado Avalanche, puts on a goaltender clinic for people of all ages every summer in Hoffman Estates.

The Huskies’ net minder almost never played collegiate hockey. At the age of 17, Haa had a chance to play junior hockey in the Central States Hockey League when he was drafted by the Peoria Mustangs. He decided to get his education while playing hockey instead of opting for juniors.

“Every coach told me that if I had a chance to go to college instead of playing juniors to take it,” Haa said.

After college, he plans to continue coaching, in the Anderson Goalie School or elsewhere, and being involved with hockey.