Bringing Finnish Goaltending Techniques Back to North America
After spending time in Finland this summer with renowned goalie coach Jukka Ropponen and the GoaliePro crew, Mind Net Goaltending Co-director Travis Harrington noted many similarities to position-specific coaching in North America, but a couple of important philosophical differences also jumped out.
The first was the Finn’s active hands, a trait that has been well documented on both sides of the Atlantic and is already being encouraged by more and more coaches back in North America. But there were other somewhat unique elements on display in Finland, particularly when it came to movement, that have for the most part gone missing on this side of the Atlantic, and Harrington believes it may be time for more goalie coaches here to focus on them.
The biggest difference between the instruction, said Harrington, was the larger emphasis the Finns place on using shuffles for most lateral plays, with a minimal emphasis on the t-pushes typically stressed over here. Ropponen, the GoaliePro staff, and the Pro students feel strongly that most North American goalie coaches over emphasize t-pushes when it is easier to change directions suddenly while shuffling.
It makes sense because during a shuffle the skates stay in a position to push back in the opposite direction, whereas a t-push opens up the lead skate in the direction the goalie is travelling, thus forcing them to turn it back while stopping and setting before they can recover in the opposite direction.
They also believe it is biomechanically easier to transition from a shuffle into a down position, which again makes sense just because there are fewer moving parts to a shuffle versus a t-push, which also requires a goaltender to open up both the hips and the lead skate, and then close both again, stopping and setting them and squaring them back up to the puck before initiating a down movement. It’s a common mantra in movement patterns here – push, set, save – but with a shuffle, there is less rotation at the waist and no opening of the skate, so it doesn’t require as much movement of either to get back to that set, square position.
By placing more emphasis on shuffling both short and long distances – they typically describe a long shuffle as the width of the goal, or six feet, but goalies will often use two shuffles for a long lateral move – the goaltender moves in more straight lines toward the corners of the crease. Once the goaltender is on angle, they rely on a single foot scull to gain depth if there is enough time.
This is in sharp contrast from how long, on-the-skates lateral movements are typically taught in North American goaltending schools, which was once taught as a t-push back towards the post to first establish angle and squareness, followed by adding depth as time permitted, and has evolved towards more of a swooping, concave movement, with angle and depth achieved in unison.
It is also probably the most controversial difference in the Finnish GoaliePro approach.
Harrington details the differences, with situational examples and exceptions, in the current edition of InGoal Magazine, as well as outlining some of the keys to a successful shuffle, and what was becoming the lost art of C-Cuts and Sculling.
In addition to reading the article in the magazine, be sure to check out Mind the Net’s website, their Facebook page and Twitter feed for more on their coaching philosophies and experiences in Finland this summer.