This is s guest post by KenDiOrio of Stoppers Goaltending – www.stoppersgoaltending.com.
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When most of us started playing goal, we tried to emulate those goalies we admired. Sometimes, however, most goalies we watched do things due to their own evolution of their personal goaltending style. This translates into possible bad habits for amateur goaltenders. This article will talk a little about our basic stance, and what I feel will help a lot of goaltenders avoid basic mistakes and help with the most use of their body.
The basic elements of an effective stance all include the same foundations as with most “ready stances” in athletics. Most important of all, the knee bend. The knee bend creates the power for everything we need to do: balance, movement, save execution, etc. These are all started with a proper knee bend. In addition to the knee bend your upper body plays a big role in an effective stance. I see a lot of goaltenders who bend quite a bit at the waist taking away a lot of coverage from the top corner. Sometimes, bending at the waist may seem more logical to get low to the puck; however, this is counter productive. With the bend at the waist we lose power from the knee for pushes to get to different angles we need covered.
Some people will ask how far apart you should keep your feet. One school of thought is that in today’s game of butterfly saves and butterfly slides, it is harder to execute these saves with your feet closer together in a stance similar to Nabokov. I am not here to tell you whether to keep you feet closer together or further apart like Khabibulin. I know what works for me and I suggest trying different foot stances to find what is most comfortable for you. I use a foot stance quite similar to Nikolai Khabibulin. I find it keeps my feet just outside of shoulder width apart and it still allows me to keep my chest up and I am still able to keep movement strong and crisp.
Gloves are another thing I see a huge variation in from goaltender to goaltender. We see goaltenders like Roberto Luongo using a Quebec influenced glove position, and Kipper with the Finnish style of glove positioning.
photo by David Hutchison
photo by Scott Slingsby
Whatever glove positioning you have, you should ask yourself some questions before deciding on your final stance. We’ll start with the catcher. Do you find it easier to bring your glove up for those shots to the top corners? If you prefer only knowing that you would ultimately bring your glove up to make those saves, then a Luongo-esque catch glove positioning would work for you. You can also start out with your catcher in the “fingers up” positioning like Kipper. With this style you already have the top corner covered. This also helps you to use your reaction to bring the glove down to make saves. Personally, I’d rather bring my glove down instead of up due to the simple factor of gravity. It’s a lot easier to bring the glove down than up, based on physics.
Now let’s look at the blocker hand. There are some variances to the positioning of the blocker hand, but not nearly as much as the catcher. There is one major reason for that. The goalie stick. We need to keep that stick on the ice so we ultimately will be handcuffed to the paddle height for stick positioning. I will use Roberto Luongo as another example, who keeps both hands in tight to his body in an effort to keep all holes closed, yet he is still able to keep that stick on the ice. One thing I try to coach my goalies is to keep their hands in front of their bodies. Obviously this has been taught to goaltenders for ages. One thing I don’t think goaltenders understand is that it also affects the aerial angle of the net available that the puck sees vs. what the shooter sees. See illustration for further explanation.
Green: Saves made behind the body
Gray: Actual body positioning
Blue: Saves made in front of the body.
As you can see here, from my terrible Microsoft Paint illustration… while keeping your hands in front of the body, you are able to make a save more efficiently, and if a rebound pops out your able to track it a lot easier off the body.
Some things that we always have to consider when working with our stance are:
- Comfort. How comfortable are you in your stance? Now we can’t be standing there in the nets like we’re leaning against a wall. We need to have a comfortable knee bend. Our backs shouldn’t be hunched over, this may seem like it is comfortable to some but over time it will most definitely cause back pain/problems.
- Net coverage. Some people like to keep their hands in different areas to fill the net as presented above. This, however, is only filling up net in the shooter’s eye and we really cannot worry about him. We have to worry about the puck’s eye. What open net does the puck see? Keeping your hands out to the side fills up net the shooter sees but also leaves your vulnerable to “squeekers” going between the arms and body. Another element of proper net coverage includes the chest and upper body. As mentioned before, keeping that chest tall with a good knee bend allows for powerful pushes from the legs, while also covering those high angles.
- Last but certainly not least… knee bend. No matter how deep your crouch, or how wide or how narrow you keep your legs in a stance, the angle at which you keep your knees in your stance, plays a crucial role in the aerial angles that you cover. This can also play an important part in the time it takes to get your knees to hit the ice in a butterfly. Bigger knee bend = quicker time getting your knees down.
In closing, one of the most important tools for finding a good stance is to use one of the oldest tools for goaltenders… we’ve all seen the goalie coach have a string attached to the post and the blade of the stick. Have the string measure out to about the high slot, attach the 2 ends of the string to the high corners of the post. This will give you a good idea of what is covered in the most dangerous shooting spots on the ice, and thus help make your already difficult and highly stressfull job, even easier.