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Ask a Pro: Q & A with Mike McKenna

This is the first in a series of Question and Answer sessions with AHL goaltender Mike McKenna. If you want to ask Mike a question fire it our way in the comments below or via email.

Q: How long does it take to break in a new set of gear before you use it in a game? – Hutch

A: It depends. Pads usually take me about a week – four or five ice sessions.  As I stated in my previous column, I don’t like flexible pads so it’s just a matter of getting them molded to my legs.  Glove and blocker only take one or two practices: they come broken in and it’s just a matter of getting used to the feel of them.  Arm & chest protector I can use the same day I get it.  Pants and skates take about a week to break in.

Q: What happens to his gear when he’s done with it? Tell him to please feel free to mail his pads to me, I’ll even pay for shipping!  – Rob Levin

A: If I finish wearing something during the year, the team usually takes it and does whatever they please.  At the end of the season, I take home my newest set and use it during the summer.  Sorry!

Q: About 2 years ago, after 25 years of playing out (Mostly D), I switched to goal in our beer league at the ripe old age of 31(Yes, I’m insane). I’ve been to some adult camps since things were a little harder than just putting the gear on and saying… ta-da… I’m a goalie now. I’m getting better with my angles, my skating is there, but I’m a full right goalie and it just seems like I have the hardest time trying to lift the puck and/or make crisp passes. Any tips since you’re a lefty as well????  – Mat Laskowski

A: I’m going to have to assume that you shoot left-handed when playing out and that’s why you’re having trouble shooting right-handed as a goalie.  I can’t really help you much: I’m right-handed in everything I do.  I shoot right as a forward and as a goalie, golf right, write with my right hand.  I throw right and catch left in baseball.  It’s very difficult to learn to shoot the other way, especially at 31.  If you were 10 years old it’d be a different story but it’s going to be a long, hard process unless you start shooting pucks regularly.  Or get a new set of gloves and start catching the opposite way.

Q: 1) What does your off-season training regiment consist of? 2) What does your in-season training regiment consist of? 3) What sort of maintenance do you perform on your equipment from game to game? I realize that you are supplied with equipment rather frequently, but for us rec league players who have to make our equipment last for a while, what can we be doing to extend the life of our pads, gloves, pants, chest protectors, etc? – Eric Coulson

A: In the summer I lift weights four to five days a week.  Most of the exercises are low-rep and explosive in nature.  It makes little sense for a goalie to do slow repetitions since our movements are so dynamic.  I also do cardio work on a regular basis, rotating between running sprints and extended bike rides.  This summer I plan on including swimming.  Every day I’m at the gym I make sure to do a few agility drills and take time to stretch after the workout, especially on leg days.

In season training varies greatly, especially in the minors.  Given our busy schedule (3 games in 3 nights, anyone?), it’s tough to maintain a strict regimen. Usually I end up lifting once a week but my main focus is staying flexible: I stretch daily.  Truthfully, I feel awful in goal when my muscles are tight from lifting, so I leave most of the heavy-duty work for summer.  We’re on the ice so much that cardio is pretty self-explanatory, but when there’s an extended period without games I’ll hop on the bike for a little extra.

As far as equipment maintenance, the biggest thing is getting the stuff dry as quickly as possible.  If you are semi-handy and have the available space, I would recommend building a locker as it organizes and confines everything to a smaller area.  Go to the local hardware store and buy an industrial fan.  If you have problems with moisture, get a small de-humidifier.  It seems basic but you’d be amazed how many people just get home, open the bag and let it sit.  You need moving air and open space.

Q: What’s the most important thing to focus on for my 6 yr old, besides having fun. – Kim Light

A: First off, I’m glad that you understand the most important part: having fun.  Please make sure to reinforce this, no matter what level your child is playing.  More specifically, six years old is a very young age to commit 100% to being a goaltender.  Not that it’s a problem, but it does present challenges.  First and foremost, your child’s skating ability will inherently be stunted unless he/she has the opportunity to skate out.  At that young of an age, it’s important to learn the basic fundamentals, be it edge control, stride, stopping, etc.  Standing in the crease won’t do that.  I would encourage you to give your child plenty of opportunities to skate without goalie gear on.

Q: How does an NHL goalie go about finding a painter for his masks? Gerry Lafreniere

A: Most goalies find out about a mask artist through word of mouth, although some equipment companies do push guys to use their “official” artist.  I found out about DaveArt through his ad in Goalies World Magazine.

Q: 1-have you had a pair of pads made that will conform to the new rules next yr? Do you think it will be difficult for you to loose some of that +4 thigh rise? will this change your style of play? etc. – Patrick

2-Im assuming you have met and talked to brodeur. So with that said what are some of his equipment mods, or needs? obviously he has very modified equipment (pads,glove, c/a). Also i have heard he uses a new stick every game? would like to know if this is true and if you know any other pros who do the same.(i cant remember which goalie but I heard he uses a new stick ever period) and i have also heard some goalies get there skates sharpened every period? does this have any truth to it?

3- I am also a formula 1 fan and was wondering if you have ever been to a race? also whos your favorite driver? thanks mike, good luck with the rest of your career! – Patrick

A: First off, there seems to be some misinformation out there right now.  As it stands, no new rules have been enacted for next season.  From what I’ve heard, any equipment reform would have to first pass the NHLPA and no one knows whether it would go through. In fact, the new rules were supposed to be in place for this year but it never happened. So no, I have not had any new pads made.

I met Marty while with Tampa last year but in passing.  Unfortunately I’ve never had the chance to skate with him much less have an extensive conversation. Sorry, but even if I knew all the dirt on Marty’s gear I wouldn’t share it.  They’re his tools and it’s not my place to speak for him.  I’ve never seen – or heard – of any goalie getting their skates sharpened every period.  There’s simply no need unless you’ve lost an edge.  Guys do use a fair amount of sticks; lots of goalies like to use a new one for every game.

I saw Michael Schumacher destroy the field in the 2006 US Grand Prix, but I don’t have a favorite driver.  In general I like to root for underdogs.  I’d much rather see a good race with plenty of overtaking than my ‘favorite’ driver win by 15 seconds.

Q: What about equipment colors? For example, why are the bars of your mask black, as opposed to white or silver (look or comfort)? Also, why do you choose dark colored pads? – DJ Abisalih

A: Well hello, DJ.  I have a black cage simply because it matches the overall look of my helmet and gear setup.  I like dark colors because they look good with both home and away uniforms.  Some goalies believe that wearing white makes them look bigger in the net.  I could argue that it’s harder for the opposition to find the puck in my dark gear.  The bottom line is that I don’t think equipment color makes much of a difference when it comes to stopping the puck.

Q: Isn’t the 1/4” – 3/8” hollow in the skates pretty aggressive for a goalie? I thought most goalies used at least 1/2? hollow to make it easier to glide side-to-side? – Steve

A: Not really.  Almost every pro goalie is around 1/2” or under.  By gliding side-to-side I presume you mean shuffling.  Today’s goalies never shuffle more than a foot or two at a time and it’s very controlled. T-pushes and power-pushes (movements while down in the butterfly) require sharp edges if you want to have any kind of explosiveness.  I’ve been sharpening my skates like this for nearly eight years, so it’s not that new of a concept.  Unfortunately many pro shops don’t understand the needs of modern goaltenders and their ‘goalie cut’ (or standardized goalie hollow) is often 1” or higher. Scary.

Q: I have some questions about jerseys. Do players often buy one of their own to have a keepsake or does the team give you one? Do you have one for community service type events? How many game jerseys do you go through?  – Nick Hein

A: It seems to depend on the organization.  One team that I played for let each player keep a jersey, which was greatly appreciated.  I also received one when I played in the ECHL All-Star game a few years ago.  I have purchased one of my jerseys in the past and I’ll be honest: there wasn’t much of a discount. Unfortunately I do not have any of my NHL jerseys from Tampa and wasn’t offered the opportunity to purchase one, which was a huge bummer. We use our game jerseys for community events.  I’m pretty sure we go through two sets of home and away jerseys in the AHL.  Not sure about the NHL.

Q: Since you have a great relationship with Bauer, do you get trial sets in the off season to get a feel for which set would work best? And what do you look for in a new line of gear… – James Weise

A: If Bauer is coming out with a new line of gear, I usually have the option to sample a set during the off-season.  From there I can request any alterations necessary.  I can’t really pinpoint what I look for in a new line because, more often than not, it’s simply an evolution of what I am currently using.  Like this year, the One100 pads and blocker are pretty similar to the One95’s.  However, I will say that the One100 glove is completely different than my old One95 and I like it way better.  It’s truly a great piece of gear.

Q: What on ice crease drills do you think are the most important to maintain technique and game performance?  – John Werber

A: I’m a firm believer that you have to be a strong skater to excel in today’s game.  I do crease movements regularly and try to focus on starting and stopping explosively.  You don’t need shots to improve and streamline your game.   I like to focus on staying at the top of my crease, doing various goalie-specific movements as though the puck was being moved around the defensive zone.  It’s important to be good at all types of movements, regardless of how little you may use some of them.  Doing shuffles all the way across the top of the crease might be a good workout, but it’s not realistic.  This is why I try to incorporate a lot of transitions: T-push into a butterfly slide, power-push to the middle, etc etc.  You can never be too good with your edges.

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1 Comment

  1. Jennifer Fagan

    Hey there, I’m a fan from your ECHL Las Vegas Wranglers days. Some of us just wanted to say we mis you and your talent and want to see you in the NHL again! Since your in the AHL now, would you look for the opportunity to play for Gulutzan, now a coach in the AHL, again?