These four things could cost you a game if you don’t think about them in your next warm-up
The Stanchion, Zamboni Door, Ice Nipples and Excess Water are a few things that you can easily check in warm-up to be sure there will be no unpleasant surprises when the game starts.
While the range of warm-ups in minor hockey games is considerable, there are things not always done in warm-ups that may be of benefit to your goaltender and the outcome of a game. Let us look at four of these factors.
Stanchions have been known to cause bad deflections in the past. The most recent example that comes to mind is Game #5 of the Western Conference Final last season and Kevin Bieksa’s goal on Antti Niemi. During the warm-up, it can be important, especially when you are on the road, that your team practices shooting some rims into your zone both along the boards and around the glass. This may reveal a strange bounce, or altered direction, that may otherwise not have been detected. It may prevent your goaltender from being too aggressive in coming out to play the puck if he knows some strange and weird bounces exist.
The second area of concern is the Zamboni door. Despite best efforts, these doors do not always close completely flush with each other. Re-surfacing of the ice is also not usually the best in this area as a big pile of slushy ice is lying there as the rink attendant scrapes it off prior to closing the doors. The Zamboni tires also leave marks as they cross this area. Re-directs may once again cause the puck to go towards the front of the net. If any correctible problems are identified, bring it to the attention of the official or rink attendant.
Another factor to consider is that of ice nipples. These are nothing more than small elevations that can occur in the corners and behind the net. These should not really be a problem at junior and professional games with proper ice maintenance but I see it often in minor hockey. Depending on the barn you play in, condensation can drop from the rafters and leave bumps of varying size all over the ice. These elevations may alter angles as a puck is rimmed in along the ice. The puck may also bounce over a goalie’s stick blade as he comes out to stop the puck. The goaltender assumes the situation is under control but now potentially has to scramble to prevent a goal.
Another issue prior to puck drop may be that of excess water on the ice. Excess water can, and does, result in turnovers in one’s own end. We have all seen parents and coaches go bananas when this annoying problem adversely affects their team. If the game is about to start and excess water is present down low, behind the net, in the quiet zones or slot, bring it to the attention of the official. He will get the rink attendant to squeegee the affected area. Otherwise, he should delay the game until the resurfacing is frozen. It could prevent an unnecessary turnover and a goal.
Goals from these types of problems are fortunately not common. They may not declare themselves within the confines of a brief and limited team warm-up. So what recommendations do you make to your goaltender? If nothing declares itself then you have to play things honestly and based on what the situation calls for. If a simple rim is shot in you assume there will be no strange re-direct. You determine if you can get to the rim, stop and control it, and what the likely outcome will be as far as puck possession and a breakout. Sometimes staying in your net is the best decision; however, the more you play in a certain arena the more you will become familiar with the natural tendencies of the boards and glass.
Warm-ups involve stretching, passing, shooting and getting the goaltender comfortable in the net; however, assessing the boards, glass and ice in the end where your goaltender will play two of three periods, especially on the road in an unfamiliar barn, may identify some hazards that may prevent some weird and annoying goals that could be the difference in the game’s outcome!