Blog

Providing the best advice for Goaltenders globally!

Don't let size limit your options

“SIZE" “SIZE” “SIZE"

Normally this is not a factor at a young age, but, unfortunately, as you move up the hockey chain, some coaches believe it is a factor. I have seen it creep into decisions at the U13 & U15 level and most certainly it becomes a major factor at U18.
But don’t despair. Not everyone grows at the same rate & oftentimes, those who are above average height at 12 – 14 years will not grow at the same rate as they get older or may even stop growing.  And those who are average height or less at those years will catch up or exceed the norm.
In any event, there is room for the smaller goaltender beyond Minor/Youth Hockey or High School.   And, there is still a place in Major Junior/Tier I for the smaller goaltender &, most certainly, the smaller goaltender can flourish at the Junior A or Junior B/Tier II level.

Beyond that, U Sport, NCAA, ECHL, AHL and European teams are options open to those who have the skill but do not achieve the "supposedly ideal" 6' 2" height for an NHL goaltender.  Understand, reaching the NHL is no easy task, even with the size factored in.
On any given night, there are only 64 goaltenders on NHL team game rosters and they come from every part of the world.  So, your competition is not only the kid on the next block or in the next town, but the kid playing minor hockey in Switzerland, Sweden, Finland or Germany or the US.

My advice to any goaltender, who is shorter in stature than your peers, is to not bury your dreams, but understand what your situation is and take steps to improve your chances at playing at a higher level (if that is truly what you want) by working on and improving those parts of your game to get you there.
So, here are some things you need to be to maximize your ability to compete at any level, no matter what your size.  If you are really motivated, you can likely achieve proficiency in a short period of time with the help of an experienced goaltending coach.

- athletic (possess incredible agility, balance & co-ordination with speed) These elements can be developed away from the ice surface, but a certain amount requires on-ice time (see the next element below) *not all goaltenders will have the physiological capabilities to achieve a high level of athleticism.  So then, positioning becomes a much more important factor

- a superior skater (a master at using inside edges to position, or reposition on skates in control and on balance)
Spend on ice time working on inside edge control, crease skating drills & team skating
- unmatched in lateral movement (controlled speed & power in lateral movements on skates or in a slide)
- a student of the game (watches games played at all levels; observing player tendencies and play patterns and how shots are generated and the locations in the defensive zone from which they originate)
- excellent at reading the shot release (using complete puck focus and shooter information such as hand/puck/shoulder position to determine height, velocity and shot location immediately as the puck is leaving the stick blade)

- near perfect at tracking shots (actually sees pucks make contact with their equipment (stick, pads etc.) & rebounds moving away from your equipment & can FIND the flight path of the puck through screens & front net traffic situations)
- a master at being patient & staying up and on skates (patient and confidently remaining on skates and only moves to make the save after the PUCK HAS LEFT THE STICK BLADE when the velocity & trajectory is known) The exception being close in, tight, shot situations where the higher percentage play is to use a down, butterfly or RVH, blocking position
- near perfect at positioning (an angle first mentality always. Plus proper depth whenever possible.  Must arrive "on time", every time, so feet are set and skates, hips & shoulders are square to the puck "BEFORE" the shot released – in the case of a lateral slide the same squareness must be prioritized)

- strong mentally (develop your mental toughness & “grit” to handle the ups & downs of goaltending)

A few other non-technical, non-tactical necessary elements.

has a “never give up” attitude  

works harder than any of his team mates every off or on ice session  

wants to be the best  

wants to learn  

ENJOYS PRACTICES AS MUCH AS THE GAME

 

 

Continue reading
  161 Hits
  0 Comments
161 Hits
0 Comments

The "Separator" - Details

The difference between something "good" and something "great" is attention to detail. 
Charles M. Swindoll

Given a group of goaltenders are roughly in the same age bracket & playing in the same category (U18, U15, Major Junior etc.), what really separates one from the other?  Sure, there will be differences in size & styles but, most will have similar characteristics to their game. So, then, the REAL SEPARATOR BECOMES THE DETAILS in their game.  Make no mistake, when a scout/recruiter/team GM puts their stamp of approval on a goaltender as a draft selection or as a successfully candidate to make their team, DETAILS are the determining factor. 

 
Unfortunately, far too often goaltenders neglect the DETAILS.  And, the result of not paying attention to DETAILS is to forgo long term success because they don't want to take the extra few seconds or minutes to do the drill or movement as best (not perfectly) they possibly can or as they are asked to do.  Or maybe they think they don't have to because they believe they are a top end goaltender at their level & really don't have to work on those things.  Better buckle up then, because the road ahead will be rocky. 
 
If professionals have to work on DETAILS, you probably should, at least, think about it 
 
So, what are these dang DETAILS?  
 
DETAILS are found in your off-ice training.  "That last rep doesn’t matter.  I’ll just do 9. After all, is there any real difference between 9 & 10." "Yeah, I can skip this work out and take in a movie with my buddies. I’ve already trained once this week.  Don’t want to tire myself out too badly, plus I can make up the work out next week."  "I don't really need to push myself hard, just make sure I'm not last in line".   
 
DETAILS are part of the things you do (or don't do) during your games.  Do you have the post totally sealed off every time you move into an RVH?  Do you always track pucks completely into your body/equipment and track the rebound (if there is one) out and away?  Do you lean your upper body in the direction of the shot trajectory when executing a glove save?  Do you bring your catching glove under & up when you trap pucks against your upper body?  Do you often shoulder check & scan the ice peripherally when opposition players do not have the puck in a scoring position? 
 
These, folks, are just a very small sample of the DETAILS that should be part of an elite goaltender's game.  To understand where all these details are, I suggest that every goaltender should, at some point early every season, sit with paper & pencil and list every detail of every save movement, every positioning movement & every re-positioning movement they use during a game.  (get lots of paper) 

 
Yes, the attention to DETAILS require discipline. But, understand that, from attention to DETAILS (or not), you develop habits whether good or bad.  And that strong, good habits formed from mindful attention to DETAILS are the foundation of a successful, elite goaltender.   Yet, day in and day out, goaltenders neglect to pay attention to them.  Hopefully YOU are not among THOSE

 

Continue reading
  126 Hits
  0 Comments
126 Hits
0 Comments

Look Beyond the Obvious

Carey-Price---Montreal-Canadiens

(Before I begin, I want to emphasize that none of what I describe below is possible without the use of video) 

There is a saying, “Things are not always what they seem.”  And, sometimes, this is exactly true. But most times it isn’t. Because what we see in a game; a goal scored, a bad play read or a poorly executed save selection is a “result”. And, if we really want to understand THE WHY, we should dig a little deeper or else we just might head off in the wrong direction attempting to make a correction to one thing where the answer might lie elsewhere.  
 
Here is one example from a game situation. 
 
Odd man rush 2 on 1 defender.  Both offensive players in their respective wall lanes just outside the dots. Puck carrier makes a pass to his partner when the partner reaches a point in line with the face off dot on his side. Defender sprawls to intercept the pass but the pass is completed. The weak side player receives the pass & releases a wrist shot on net. The goaltender t-pushes over to gain position on the shooter & moves to a BF on the shot release. But the shot goes off the goaltender’s blocker & into the net. 

Good goal? Bad goal? Stoppable? Not stoppable? 

Let us work backwards & look at a few things (or combination of things) that could have happened in this scenario to cause the goal. 

  • Did the goaltender arrive “on time” & feet set, squared to the shot & positioned at a reasonable depth, on angle & in a “shot ready” position (similar details if a lateral slide is chosen) when the shot was released?  

  • If that wasn’t the issue, then perhaps it was a poor release read or maybe just a good shot. 

  • If the goaltender didn’t arrive “on time” was it because the goaltender’s direction across the crease wasn’t an “angle first” path which would allow the goaltender to arrive at angle quicker? (Was the goaltender late by attempting to gain angle and depth in the one movement?) 

What about the goaltender’s actions prior to the pass?

  • Was the goaltender’s depth overaggressive based on the situation making it impossible to cover the required distance in time to challenge the shot? 

  • Was the goaltender’s feet set as the puck carrier approached preventing backward flow & so natural momentum couldn’t be used to pivot effectively into a strong lateral push or slide to the new puck location? 

  • Or, as the puck carrier approached, was the goaltender already in a wide, “shot ready” stance thereby limiting the ability to produce a powerful push off & generate speed across the crease? 

I am sure there are a couple of other teaching points I missed, but the point is, when we dive little deeper & BEYOND THE OBVIOUS, things might become much clearer & not be as they appear at first.

Continue reading
  169 Hits
  0 Comments
169 Hits
0 Comments

All Shots on Goal ARE NOT Equal

net

 

In our sport of hockey, it is common to lump shots on goal into one “basket”.  Of course, this is makes it easier to compare apples to apples (or goalie to goalie) without having to dig too deeply into any details. And, if you aren’t prepared to dig deeper, then this becomes your only means to determining a goaltender’s save efficiency.  After all, there was a shot, and the goaltender prevented it from entering the net.  Simple, right? But really, these stats are just numbers and have relatively little significance to what happened.  For example, I saw this article in our local newspaper a short time ago that a particular goaltender has a .917 save percentage and 2.62 goals-against average.  Most everyone will look at these numbers & will either agree or disagree that the numbers are good or as good as or worse than so & so goaltender.

 

But, as I said right off the top, not all shots are equal.  So, let’s take a closer look at shots on net.  Recorded shots (which are not terribly accurate at any level) can be from any location on the ice.  For example, it might be a clearing attempt from the opposite end of the ice, or a dump in from the neutral zone. Or it could come from any point in the defending zone (and, sometimes, even from below goal line).

And this is where things get a little tricky. Because, for a true evaluation of a goaltender’s performance every shot should carry some “weight” or quality depending on the circumstances surround the shot. For example. Does a clear-sighted shot from the perimeter (outside the scoring box) have the same degree of difficulty for the goaltender as a shot from the low slot? Is a shot from a net drive equal to a wraparound attempt?  Where does a slot line possession carry inside the scoring box stack up against a breakaway? How about a one timer from inside the scoring box where the pass crosses the slot line? How about a 2 on 1 and the puck carrier shoots? How about a 2 on 1 where the puck carrier passes & his partner shoots?  And the shot from the point with a static screen, moving screen or layered screen? Etc. Etc. By the way, we could throw in 5 on 5 shots versus penalty kill situations, but let’s not complicate things further.

 

It is not that easy then to evaluate a goaltender’s true performance just simply based on a save percentage (shots minus goals divided by shots)

 

If you are a hockey fan, this information is probably more than adequate.  But if you are a coach or recruiter or scout, you need to dive a little more deeply into the quality of shots on net to really understand just how efficient a goaltender really is. Otherwise, you might be shortchanging one goaltender over another.  

 

Continue reading
  154 Hits
  0 Comments
154 Hits
0 Comments

Playing At The Next Level

Playing At The Next Level Put in the work - Every day

Some time ago I did a short survey with a goaltending coach who had worked at U18, Junior A, & University level & also, a goaltender (not from the same team) who had played through each of these levels.  My intent was to attempt to get a perspective, outside of my own, on some of the major skills & attributes necessary to play "up" at each level.  Most of these will also apply if you are playing U15, U16, U18 or at a higher level. My question was as follows: 

  
"List 6 things you feel a goaltender must have or develop as they move up those three levels”.  Obviously, there are others, but these were the first that came to mind for the coach & goaltender 
 
(Coach Perspective) 
 
- need to develop their anticipation of play in the defensive zone 
- ability to recognize and be able to react to opposition systems such as (PP) zone entries etc. 
- excellent rebound control 
- ability to find loose pucks in traffic (the amount of front net traffic increases as you move up each level) 
- the physical strength to handle traffic to fight for loose pucks when play is in tight to the net (not only is there more front net traffic, but the players get bigger as you move up each level) 
 
(A goaltender's perspective) 
 
- able to balance (time management) all facets of their life 
- keep the different aspects of their life separate (hockey time is hockey time, study time is study time, off ice training time is off ice training time etc.) 
- confidence in their skills (confident that all the work & practice will make for a successful transition to the game) 
- a short memory (live the game in the present) 
- deep motivation to succeed  
- knows game time is battle time 
 
I think you can see, from the responses, there are some key things you need to understand about moving from level to level.  One thing, I would like to add is "SPEED".  Everything gets faster moving from level to playing level...shots travel faster, passes are quicker, players skate faster, plays happen faster.  The whole game moves faster. 
 
And to quote the goaltender who helped me out, "many times, especially at the start of your first season at a higher level, it is as much about being able to "keep it all together" as it is about how well you stop a puck" 

Continue reading
  154 Hits
  0 Comments
154 Hits
0 Comments

Best Practice "Practices

Sammie-Goguen

 

Well, here we are again.  Back to practice only & games cancelled because of the virus.  Understanding this is incredibly disappointing for everyone in hockey, we

goaltenders need to turn this negative into a positive & look at this “hiccup” as an opportunity to really build the technical part of our game. This will all start with a  

commitment to “get better at getting better” & an understanding that even a 5% improvement in skills over this down time will translate into a substantial uptake in

your game play when the season resumes.

​​Before I move on to the best practice "practices", I want to emphasize that the saying "you play like you practice" is exactly true.... if you give your best effort in

practice, you'll do the same in the game; if you pay attention to details in practice, you will in a game.  For the goaltender, this so much more important because your

play, good or bad, can determine the outcome of a game.  Every goaltender needs to take responsibility for their development & engage in a certain amount of self-

coaching. Practice is the only opportunity a goaltender gets to really work on skill development.

 
So, here are best practice practices for goaltenders:

prepare for the ice time: make sure your body is warmed up and stretched before you get on the ice.  Time on ice is meant for developing skills, not for warming

up and stretching


drill explanations: potentially you DO NOT need to be at the board for every drill explanation (unless head coach insists) unless it involves breakouts, power play or

penalty kill.  So, ask head coach to signal you when these are up next, so you can jump in.  During these times, think about the role you could play in drill (don’t

hesitate to ask your coach how you could be a part of the drill, particularly in the case of a transition or zone exit). Use the times when drill explanations don’t

involve any of the above to work on some technical details... movements into & out of RVH, tracking pucks behind the net, using rink markings to find angle & depth,

etc. 

have a plan for each practice: you need to go on the ice with a goal or an objective.  Otherwise, you will tend to just “float” through practice & come off ice without

really producing any positive result except for a bit of perspiration (maybe). Discuss this with your position/goaltending coach, if you have one, before going on the

ice.  Perhaps he/she has something in mind.  Or, if not, suggest something you want to improve on from your last game such as keeping your hands ahead of your

body in stance, keeping your stick on the ice and in your 5-hole.  Basically, anything you want to become better at


get your skating in first: as soon as you step on the ice, take two HARD, QUICK LAPS AROUND THE ICE & head for a crease to work on footwork drills.  You need to

work on skating/footwork every practice.  Ask head coach first so he can keep one net clear from player shooting at the beginning of each practice


puck tracking: from the time it leaves the shooter’s stick, as it comes into your body, and you smother it or catch it or direct the rebound away with your blocker,

pad or stick keep your eyes focused on & your nose pointed to the puck.  Remember puck tracking includes plays which cross behind the net below the goal line

 
physically reposition on rebounds: if you cannot, (sometimes the spacing between shots does not permit time to physically reposition on rebounds) at least

continue to visually track pucks after you make the save 

 
work on your in-game communication skills: vocalize information to your team-mates when the team is working power play or penalty kill or breakouts.  It will be

easier to transfer this skill to games if you have already practiced it.

  
battle hard to stop every shot: even those you know you don't have a chance to stop.  Your team-mates will appreciate your effort when you challenge them (plus

it helps them improve their puck skills) & it will show your commitment to improving.  Secondly, your “battle mentality” will transfer to your game play & help you

make that "game saving" stop from time to time


handle pucks every practice: make it a point to get out & stop, set, or play any rims or pucks that come near the net to get a feel of how you want to react in

different situations.  Better to make a mistake in practice, than in a game. (ask your coach to put a plan together with your teammates on how you should handle

rimmed pucks or dump-in situations to help your team make zone exits easier)

Continue reading
  148 Hits
  0 Comments
148 Hits
0 Comments

The "Most Important" Season

For most of you, the hockey season has wound down. Whatever else you do, make sure you take a little time to stop competing and relax.If you are a younger goaltender, you may choose to play “spring hockey” before shutting down while others will gravitate to another sport immediately after season.  However, whatever you chose to do, make sure you play an alternative sport during the off season. Try to pick a sport that will help you replicate some of the athletic skills of goaltending. (Tennis, volleyball, soccer is among the better) 
 
But, if you play at a competitive or developmental level, you will also want to take time as soon as possible to plan your strategy for improvement throughout the summer.  Pencil in the start date of your tryouts or training camp and work backwards from there. Right now, next season’s tryouts/training camp might be the furthest from your mind, but trust me, it will be here before you know it.  

 
I say this, because in my view is, the so called “off-season” should really be renamed "The Most Important Season".  Why?  Because it can't literally be time "off", especially if you play at a developmental/competitive level in Youth/Minor Hockey, Junior or above.  

 
Here you have an opportunity to retool, refine and develop your physical tools, mental skills and, at the same time, make corrections to your on-ice game at a goaltender specific training camp.   
   
Most definitely, you need to keep your skates on the ice a minimum number of times during "The Most Important Season".  But, don't associate playing "pick up hockey" or going to non-goalie specific camps/clinics with the idea of developing your technical skills.  Understand as well, that, for the most part, these will expose you to many situations you will hardly ever experience during games. Simply put, THESE ARE NOT GOALTENDER FRIENDLY.  So, there is potential here to develop unwelcome habits over the summer which will be EXTREMELY DIFFICULT, if not impossible, to retrain when the season starts.  Take these for that they are, FUN and an opportunity to get your equipment on and keep the “rust” off.  
 
Of course, as always, we strongly recommend an off-ice, goalie specific, training program working with a certified trainer.  Generally, you can find one who will provide you with an effective program (even if you don’t have access to a gym) & at a reasonable cost. Now add a week-long goalie camp and you have your "Most Important Season” training covered off.  You might also take the time to investigate opportunities to engage a Mental Performance Coach and/or sign up for a Vision Enhancement/Training Program.  

 
So, consider this as your Most Important Season development plan: 

 

  1.  Get you skates on the ice at least every second week (weekly preferred) 

  1.  Sign up for a Credible & Professional goalie camp 

  1.  Search out a Certified Trainer who has experience working with goaltenders 

  1.  Investigate the other opportunities I mentioned above 

 

Enjoy your summer.  Prepare early & prepare well.  Next season is just around the corner! 

Continue reading
  349 Hits
  0 Comments
349 Hits
0 Comments

Time IS NOT on your side

(Let me begin this article by saying that it was prompted after many discussions with a gentleman who has been through this exact situation and who, I feel, offered an unbiased insight into the recruiting & scouting process.  And, I thank him for sharing those insights.) 

“I HAVE LOTS OF TIME” - you have probably heard this many times. 

Almost every goaltender gets this wrong. TIME IS NOT ON YOUR SIDE.  Time goes by quickly and, before you realize, you are playing someplace you never dreamed you’d be playing, you are now 20 years old and the season is ending in a couple of weeks.  No offers from universities or pro, semi-pro teams & perhaps little education beyond High School.  

Unfortunately, this is about that point in time when reality starts to kick in.  And, if you see others around you getting opportunities, this only compounds this reality. 

So, NOW is the time to get actively involved in your future.  

YOU JUST CAN’T LEAVE IT TO LUCK! 

If you look at the best athletes in any sport, what you will find is that they all have: 

  1. A seasoned, experienced coach who is able to see the broader picture and who has THE PLAYER’S best interests at heart 

  1. Trainers (off ice, mental etc.) 

  1. Often, but not always, there is someone not directly connected to their training (advisor with experience in the path they want to follow) who can give them career advice 

Understand, as much as we think we might be able to handle all parts of our own development, YOU CANNOT DO IT ALONE. 

And the secret sauce about this is that all you will have to do is play, prepare & practice.  And really, if you are presently at an elite level & factor in the demands of school and a wee bit of discretionary free time and there isn’t much time left over.   

YOU NEED A PLAN! 

At one point I might have believed that if you are good enough, they will find you...not so today.  Too many players, too few recruiters/scouts AND NOT ENOUGH TIME.  Plus, a goaltender’s rate of development is not always steady & consistent. 

YOU CANNOT DO IT ALONE.  YOU NEED TO SURROUND YOURSELF WITH THOSE PEOPLE 
MENTIONED ABOVE. (FINANCES TAKEN INTO CONSIDERATION) 

For example, if you goal is to play at University in the USA, the volume of research required to learn the academic requirements, rules regarding recruiting, finding reputable contacts, and not to mention finding a place to play prior to attending University if recruited & selected is enormous.   

On the other hand, if your goal is to play Major Junior and you are draft eligible and talking to a team, you’ll need to understand the depth of that team’s present goaltending (how many goaltenders on their protected list), where you will fit on that list, the education package the team offers & billeting situation (after all you are going to be living with another family for some time if you make the team).  Plus, a million other details you’ll need to consider especially if you are living away from home for the first time. 

YOU CANNOT DO IT ALONE 

Remember folks (and I quote a friend of mine here) “there are only 10% of University eligible, Junior eligible players who have a straight path to the highest level, the remaining 90% will only get there if they have help & direction” 

 

Continue reading
  342 Hits
  0 Comments
342 Hits
0 Comments

A guide to better playoff performance

Playoffs! 

And that is the time when every play, every mistake, every save & every goal comes under the spotlight and becomes especially important. 

Continue reading
  386 Hits
  0 Comments
386 Hits
0 Comments

Put in the Work

What separates the Elite from the rest?.......WORK 
 
After my many years of watching & training goaltenders, it still amazes me how many do not have any idea how difficult it is to be/become an elite athlete, and, more importantly, how much effort it really takes. 
 
Understand, putting in the work not only means working hard at practices but also your pre-practice/game day preparation, off ice training & mental training where you build your confidence, ability to focus and manage all the stresses of a hockey goaltender. 
 
Here is a comment I saw on Twitter today from a pro hockey player: today, I am 30 years old & I finally realized, no one screwed me out of making the NHL.  I screwed myself; I did not put in the TIME and the WORK 
 
Perhaps those goaltenders, whom I mentioned at the beginning, think that doing what everyone else is doing will get them to where they want to be.  Unfortunately, “wanting to”, “wishing” or “would like to” does not cut it in the competitive world of an athlete.  And, so I wonder sometimes, how much talent goes to waste simply because of lack of effort.  
 
At about this time I can hear someone saying, “but it is so difficult to put in the effort every day plus I’ll have to sacrifice (give up) many of the things I enjoy doing”.   

Here is what long-time coach & author Allistair McCraw has to say on the topic of “sacrifice”.