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Ask a Pro: Marty Turco on moving pucks and families

Ask a Pro: Marty Turco on moving pucks and families
Chicago Blackhawks goalie Marty Turco

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Marty Turco (photo by Scott Slingsby)

This wasn’t how Marty Turco planned to spend the playoffs.

When he signed a bargain $1.3-million, one-year-deal late in the summer with Chicago, after the defending champions had parted ways with Stanley Cup-winning rookie Antti Niemi, it wasn’t to sit on the bench cheering on another first-year goaltender. But that’s exactly what happened with the emergence of Corey Crawford as both a Rookie of the Year candidate and the Blackhawks unquestioned No.1 heading into the 2011 postseason.

That would have surprised a lot of people after Turco signed, but what won’t surprise anyone who knows the 35-year-old, 10-year NHL veteran is how well he has handled the change in plans and roles.

Turco has yet to complain, leaving it for others to point out that the bulk of his starts came when the Blackhawks were suffering the worst of their championship hangover, before the team defense that defined that title run became a priority again. Rather than pointing out he is a rhythm goaltender – and surely Chicago must have known that before signing him – that never got another chance to really get on any kind of run the second half of the season, Turco has just supported his teammates, whether it was by staying out late in practice or publicly backing Crawford.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise then that when InGoal approached Turco in the middle of the first round of those playoffs, the goalie who revolutionized the way his peers played the puck, was gracious with his time, spending as much of it as the post-season locker room access rules allowed to answer our readers questions.

Before we start, however, a reminder to check out how Turco changed the puckhandling game – and the surprising role a letter from Ron Hextall played in that – by creating the “Turco Grip” while fooling around in college.

Given that, it’s not surprising our first two questions involve playing the puck:

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Marty Turco

Few goalies fire the puck as hard or as accurately as Chicago's Marty Turco (InGoal file photo)

~InGoal subscriber Alex Musick writes: I am excited to get to ask my favorite goaler a question. Marty, I have been a fan of yours for years and adopted your style of puck handling with great success, my question is what is your thought process/strategy when you are looking down the ice for an outlet pass and how long did it take to perfect your shot/pass?

Marty Turco:

“It’s instinct and confidence, certainly, but the biggest thing to do is to decide, or at least have an inkling, what you are going to do before you get the puck. Your head has got to be up and take a look.

“If you got to get on your horse and race for a puck because they are making a change and your winger is staying on the ice, you want to get there if that’s your plan. You still got to get there and coral the darn thing and then see if it’s still a viable option. But mostly overall it’s just the general awareness of the play, who is coming at you and where the puck is, where your teammates are, and I would say 90 per cent of it is decided before I even get the puck.

“But always you’ve also got to leave yourself an out, whether you have to dump it behind the net or have the ability to change angles and give it off to your defensemen or put it in a position for them. It’s something you have to do quick so it’s better to have your plan beforehand.”

~InGoal reader Jasmine Johnson asks: I play as a goalie for the rolling Meadows girls hockey team. How do you get out of the net so much to get the puck? The other goalie on my team tried, but she got scored on. We are going into the spring season, so I would like to improve my skills before the fall and winter season.

Marty Turco:

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Marty Turco

Chicago goalie Marty Turco is always shooting pucks, whether in practice or before a game (Scott Slingsby photo)

“Practices aren’t often set up for goalies. They want us to stop the puck but they don’t always give us the proper environment to do that for the games, but that aside really it comes down to the individual and the time and effort that they want to put in there. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen during practice. It can be playing on the road and shooting pucks with your gloves on, and developing the strength to get better.

“I know at that age I had a hard time. The sticks you have are heavy or re-taped, or even if they are the best, at a young age it’s all about firing the puck and it comes with added strength and practice. If you see me out here even now I’ve always got a puck on my stick and I’m passing it or shooting it. You’re never going to be perfect so just continue to practice. You can play mental games with yourself, whether you are in the basement or in practice, you go out early or you stay out late. Like most things, good things come to those who put in the time and the effort.

“I’ve also been fortunate to have coaches that weren’t on your case too much about screwing up or not making great passes and that helped have the confidence to go out there and do it and try it and make mistakes and pick yourself up and go out and do it again the next shift.”

~InGoal reader Thomas from Floral Park, New York asks: Was it a big adjustment from Dallas to Chicago?

Marty Turco:

“The biggest adjustment probably had nothing to do with being on the ice, it was just moving. First time. Family. Three kids. That was an adjustment. My anxiousness or worries was more about my kids and their well-being and adjustment in school and picking them up from the only life they’d ever known, so that was the only hardship. But I found out my kids made it easier on me then maybe we did on them.

“They were great throughout the process, and we just fell in love with the city of Chicago instantly, which most people do. We came along at a great time, obviously, when the team was on top, but whether they won or not, the city, and (President) John McDonough and (General Manager) Stan Bowman and what (coach Joel Quenneville) has got this team doing and the players they got here, it’s pretty easy moving in.”

~InGoal subscriber Joe Drennan asks: As a Hawks fan, I’d like to know about his relationship with Corey Crawford and how, as a veteran goaltender, has he handled this transition to a No.2 and being a mentor? I’d also like to know what he thinks about playing in Chicago (see just above for that one Joe)

Marty Turco:

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford

Marty Turco credits Corey Crawford (pictured) for earning his success this season. (Photo by Scott Slingsby)

“The relationship with Corey has been great, and it just stems from him being a good kid and wanting to learn, and I’m sure the situation would be maybe a little bit different if he just wasn’t a good teammate, you know, and he is. He wants to be good and he wants to get better and he wants to do his part no matter what.

“And the same goes for me. I’ve been pretty steadfast in how I have approached the game and my teammates, and how I want to win, and that doesn’t change just because all of a sudden you are not playing, at least in my eyes. I’ve got to look myself in the mirror every day, there are things I expect out of myself and being a good person and teammate is high up on that list.

“He’s had a great year and I’m not taking it personally in any regard. I’d put his season, right from training camp, through every practice, right until today, up against any other goaltender in this league. He’s had that kind of consistent year that is pretty tough to find, and he’s worked for it, he’s put a lot of time in, so it’s been fun getting to know him and seeing him grow this year. And he’s got some ways to go and that’s a good thing because he’s a good kid and a good goalie.”

~InGoal reader Nick Czaplewski asks: Why have you chosen to wear Reebok Revoke Pads, and catcher and blocker? And why have you chosen to not use the one-piece catch glove, and have stuck with the traditional two piece? (Editor’s Note: Turco got the chance to work with Reebok legend Michel Lefevre one-on-one while developing Reebok’s “Turco break” pad, with the double breaks on the outer knee roll).

Marty Turco:

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Marty Turco

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Marty Turco prefers the feel of the older, two-piece cuff glove, especially when handling pucks (Scott Slingsby photo)

“I’m not a gear junkie like some guys probably, but it was pretty cool to go meet the guru of our world and you hear all the players talk about the masks and the pads and wanting to be a goalie because of it. But having him work to make a change for me, I probably didn’t respect it enough at the time, but you know the way goalies are, it was just something I thought I needed in my gear that they weren’t making any more, old-school type Reebok pads, and I wanted to wear Reebok because his craftsmanship is pretty unparalleled, so it was a pretty cool experience.

“As for the glove, I tried the one piece cuff and it’s just a personal preference. Because the cuff sticks out so far, which is great for angles, I just find it’s not as good for puck playing, the flexibility isn’t the same, and I just like the way this one fits on my hand. Call me old-school or whatever, but it’s all personal preference.”

About The Author

Kevin Woodley

Kevin Woodley is a rec-league target and former contributing editor of the Goalie News magazine. He has written about the Vancouver Canucks and NHL for The Associated Press, USA Today, Sports Illustrated and The Hockey News for the last decade, and covered the 2010 Olympics for The AP.