How Your Cage Could Be Hindering Your Vision
For Canadian goaltenders, or those simply wishing for a safer cage option, CSA-approved masks are commonplace around the game of hockey these days. The cat-eye cage doesn’t become available for a lot of goalies until they reach a certain age – or at all in Canada until you reach the professional ranks.
Cat-eye cages offer superior visibility, but are not allowed to be sold in Canada due to the fact that the blade of a stick can fit through the eye holes. “Junior” cages, as they are often referred to, have extra bars to increase safety. There are also a CSA-approved cat eye cages, and a non-CSA approved “cheater” cage, but those are much less common.
One thing that a lot of goaltenders don’t realize is the fact that a properly-fitting mask is exceptionally important if you are wearing a junior cage. If you are wearing a mask that isn’t right for your head, your vision could be greatly hindered.
With the increased attention being paid to puck-tracking and vision training these days – a large number of goalies are doing themselves a great disservice the second they put on their mask.
The mask needs to be pulled down far enough to the point that the field of vision is not being blocked by the middle bar of the cage. Sometimes that bar can sit right in front of the eyes, which causes problems – including a trickle-down effect.
When a goalie is wearing an improperly-fitting mask with the middle bars in the way, they instinctively try to look underneath – which, in turn, forces the head to also tilt upwards. Goalies are taught to track down on the puck, and that becomes increasingly more difficult with the head tilted upward, instead of down towards the puck on the ice.
John Gibson was one of the worst offenders of [wearing an improperly-fitting mask] in his junior days.
Another issue with the middle cage bars being in the way is the fact that a lot of goalies will actually push the mask up their face in order to see below the bars. This is very unsafe, as it opens up space in the neck (and in some extreme cases, the mouth) area. John Gibson was one of the worst offenders of this in his junior days. He doesn’t have the same vision issue with the cat-eye cage in the NHL, but old habits die hard as he still likes to wear his mask pushed up.
Finding a proper-fitting mask can be a challenge for some people, but it is such a crucial piece of equipment that can affect many different areas of your game. A lot of stores, and sometimes even goalie coaches, don’t know what a proper-fitting mask looks like – which adds to the problem.
The next time you purchase a mask, make sure that the bars of the cage line up so that you are looking through the top two holes – NOT underneath the middle bar. Every brand has different fits and different designs that are specifically for people with different shapes of heads. Don’t just pick up the first mask that you see and go with it. Try on different styles and experiment with the strapping.
Your future success may be riding on it!