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Practice Better

Practice Better

Coach Brian Daccord of Stop It Goaltending advocates for controlled practice routines to limit wear and tear of goaltenders’ hips.

Goaltenders in practice. It’s a significant issue today for many reasons. In this guest article, Daccord, Board Member of FGRE (Foundation for Goaltending Research and Education) who also serves as a goaltending consultant to the Toronto Maple Leafs and was previously the Boston Bruins Goaltending Coach, advocates for changing practices for the long term health of goaltenders. This article is sure to provoke a lot of discussion amongst the goaltending community. What would the impact of these suggestions be? What changes would you propose? Hit us up in the comments below to share your thoughts.

When I first started coaching goaltenders it was clear that the position was the most neglected in sport. In the late 90’s, when very few coaches were specializing in goalie training, it was easy to identify goalies with training vs the majority that were left on their own. Now, being in my third decade of coaching, virtually every goalie you see has received structured training and attention.  I am proud to see the evolution of the position and how many great young coaches we have teaching the position and sharing drills and resources throughout the internet. The one area of a goalie’s life that has not changed much during this time is their practice routine, but that too is changing.
Techniques to better improve net coverage combined with what seems to be a never-ending hockey calendar has led to a spike in hip injuries, primarily torn labrums and impingements. No one is going to take these techniques away because of their effectiveness and their use at the NHL level but moderating the frequency of their use is under the control of coaches. It is time to establish new norms that limit wear and tear on the hips and implement those norms on a wide scale. It is up the goalie coaching community to advance this agenda in order to maintain the hip health of goaltenders by creating a new normal when it comes to training and practice.

The 10,000 butterflies a year routine starts now from a very young age. The cumulative effect on their hips could be reduced through deliberate practice routines.

In a typical 80-minute practice goalies butterfly an average of 125 times and if you add in goalie work before practice and post-practice drills the number climbs to 200. With an average of four practices a week over eight months, goalies are performing 6,400 butterflies (internal rotations of the hip) a season. In summer goalie training, which typically involves two workouts a week for eight weeks, you can add an average of 100 butterflies per session resulting in 1,600 additional butterflies a year.  This annual total of 8,200 butterflies does not even include performance periods or the load placed on the hips in an RVH or the torque created by stopping a T-Glide (Drop Step). Once you add games, off-season tournaments and tryouts, the number of butterflies well exceeds 10,000 annually. You don’t have to be a mathematician or doctor to figure out why hip health is a hot topic in goalie circles.

Other major sports have created norms that protect the health of athletes that play a position that produces a large amount of stress on a particular part of the body. Pitchers in baseball have pitch counts that limit the total number of pitches that they can throw both in training and while in competition. Major League Baseball teams employ bullpen catchers to reduce the repetitive grind on a catcher’s knees. In football, quarterbacks work diligently on footwork and reads as opposed to launching the pigskin downfield all practice long. Goalie coaches, recognizing the growing epidemic of hip injuries, have tried to adjust training to save on some of this wear and tear but it is only when there is a universally accepted understanding will we be able to protect the hip health of our goalies.

Goalie coaches insist that their students get better on their edges and have more patience. We can take these two focus points and use them as the foundation to keeping goaltenders on their feet more in goalie training and in practice. The following are guidelines that I propose need to be followed in both the training and practice environments:

Goalie Training Protocol

“Goalie Training” is specifically-designed training for goaltenders such as goaltending camps, clinics and private lessons

Pre-Training Drills
  • Goalies should warm-up and stretch prior to getting on the ice and perform hip activation exercises.
  • Goalies should warm-up and stretch on the ice and perform hip activation exercises.
  • Goalies pads should not touch the ice during the warm-up skate leading into a training session.
  • Shuffles should be used at least 75% of the time in movement drills as opposed to T-Glides (Drop Steps).
  • Skating drills that involve external rotations, for example pivots, should be added to the warm-up routine.
  • Traditional edge work, similar to that of players, that require a goalie to be upright and not in their stance should be part of the skating warm-up.
Training Drills
  • Goalies need to be on the ice during training drills in order to develop and master technique but should be encouraged to stay on their feet in drills that emphasize positioning, angles, tracking and reads.
  • In all competitive drills goalies should use the techniques that they would use in a game with no limit on being down or staying up.

Practice Protocol


New Jersey Devils Goaltender Cory Schneider, who trains with the author in the summer, was injured on this play vs. Dallas. Although not his hip in this case, the strain on the body from continuous ballistic movements is apparent.

Practice here refers to team practice and not goalie-specific sessions

Pre-Practice, same protocol as goalie training
  • Goalies should warm-up and stretch prior to getting on the ice and perform hip activation exercises.
  • Goalies should warm-up and stretch on the ice and perform hip activation exercises.
  • Goalies pads should not touch the ice during the warm-up skate leading into a training session.
  • Shuffles should be used at least 75% of the time in movement selection as opposed to T-Glides (Drop Steps).
  • Skating drills that involve external rotations, for example pivots, should be added to the warm-up routine.
  • Traditional edge work, similar to that of players, that require a goalie to be upright and not in their stance should be part of the skating warm-up.
  • In goalie drills prior to practice there should be no limit to butterfly or blocking technique use.
Team Practice
  • In practice a goaltender should not go down on the first 10 shots of a shooting drill. They should be working on their skating, positioning, tracking as well as release reads, center shifting and activating their glove and blocker. If there is a rebound to be played the goalie can go down to make the save.
  • Following the first ten shots of a drill a goaltender then focuses on making saves as in a game situation.
  • If a drill exceeds 20 shots a goaltender should return to staying on their feet. Combining the first 10 and second 10 shots of a drill creates what’s known as the 10-20 Rule.
  • During drills that mimic game situations a goaltender should practice as if it is a game with no limit on going down or staying on their feet.
  • In all competitive drills goalies should use the techniques that they would use in a game with no limit on being down or staying up.
Post Practice
  • If drills following practice are specifically designed for goalies then there should be no restrictions on goaltenders going down or staying on their feet.
  • If drills after practice are not goalie specific, then the 10-20 rule should be implemented as in practice.
  • Goalies that are not considered starters on their team are traditionally overworked during post practice periods. The amount of stress in their hips then compound and therefore a predetermined number of post-practice minutes on the ice should be determined in order to maintain the hip health of the back-up goaltender.
  • Shooters should be encourage to shoot to score in the drills but excessive shots to the 5 hole should be discouraged by the coaching staff.

The biggest obstacle in implementing protocol to protect the hip health of our goaltenders comes in the area of coaching education. Coaches need to understand that a goaltender does not need to go down on every shot in order to be working on their game and getting better. There is tremendous value to goaltenders on taking shots while on their feet. Patience improves release and play reads as well as skating and glove and blocker use. Working smart by utilizing the 10-20 rule and general training and practice protocols is better for goaltenders in the long run and will keep goalies on the ice longer and performing better.

Brian Daccord
Stop It Goaltending


  1. Paul Ipolito

    Best of luck getting 1 out of 100 coaches buying into this.

    • Cam doomany

      1 out of 100 coaches would save 2 goalie’s hips, better than saving none at all. I have more confidence that coaches understand the epidemic of hip injuries that has been plaguing goalies over the past several years.

  2. Jeff

    I love this idea. It’s unfortunately amazing how many teenagers and 20-22 year old goalies are needing hip surgery. Something needs to be done and I think making coaches aware of this idea would be a huge step towards helping the goalies of the future avoid the same fate.

    A side-effect of the stand-up saves would also be beneficial as the goalies would focus on reading releases and learning just how many saves can be made without using a butterfly, making them more patient and efficient with their movements.

  3. John carraru

    99 out of 100 coaches are concerned about the health and long term development of their goaltender. Other sports are ahead of hockey in this regard, baseball has a pitch count, football has no pad practices. It is important for us as coaches to be at the forefront of progressive thinking and education to promote the sport and goaltending.

    • paul Ipolito

      John- I believe you and your goaltending coaching peers have a task to ensure these plans get down to the most basic levels at Hockey Canada and USA Hockey. Folks at your level spend too much time at elite levels of the sport. I lived the “Goalie Dad” life for over ten years and experienced first-hand the incredibly poor coaching at the youth level. I also did not sit around and complain. I got involved with USA Hockey to learn about coaching goalies. The training was pathetic circa 2007. It was usually 15 minutes tacked on at the end of a day long seminar. I hope that has changed, but I would never bet on it. I watched my son and his fellow goaltenders act as “shooter tutors” and “targets” through his high school career. Coaches that should have known better had no clue how to use goalies in a practice or even warm them up correctly. I have heard a lot of talk and read a lot of articles over the course of my association with hockey. I will be willing to bet I can walk into any rink in Canada or the US five years from now and I will see goalies subjected to high, hard shots and showboat “dangles” for the entire time I’m there. If I am really lucky, I might even see the coach spend two minutes talking with the goalies. Unfortunately, the conversation will probably be about how the coach just sniped the goalie.

      • Joe Goalie Dad

        Make the term goalie abuse more prevalent and there will be changes. No one wants that tag.

        It’s no different than youth and high school football where some coaches hit, hit, hit their kids far too often thinking it’s good for them. People that do that do so because they aren’t competent and have run out of things to teach.

        Now some leagues have rules limiting hitting in practice because the adults couldn’t figure it out themselves. USA hockey needs the same for goalies who many times are no more than targets to embarrass.

  4. David Schultz

    Awesome article! A lot of great points

  5. Todd Bengert

    Nice job, Brian.

    I recently spent a lot of time discussing some of these ideas to a couple of coaches. I likened it using “pitch counts” for off-season training for young and elite pitchers in baseball.

    I like the emphasis on “controlled practice” during team practice sessions. High level and elite goaltenders, likely don’t have to do work, during the season, to improve their technical skill, and should only be worried about positioning, decision making, and tracking. Carey Price doing 150 butterflies in practice, mid-season, is not going to make him improve in the slightest, and only enhances the chance to set off a career shortening injury.

    For younger goalies, we don’t do enough to actually “measure” technical skill. I think once a young goaltender reaches the upper-quartile in his/her technical response, they reign in the amount of butterflies, slides, backside edge pushes, and t-pushes they do during a training session. Lot’s of other things to work on that use other muscle groups and kinetic chains.

  6. Tim

    This is an interesting read. I have coached high school strength and conditioning. Several of my lifters last year were rehabbing overuse injuries from their respective sports, mostly baseball and soccer. One suggestion I’d like to add is to make sure young athletes (high school and younger) don’t play hockey year round to limit repetitive stress on their bodies and should ideally take at least 2, preferably 3 months off each year from organized sports to just be kids. This will allow time for their bodies to heal and prevent burnout. That is a hard sell for many people in this hypercompetitive world of youth sports, but it’s important to consider long term health of the athletes.

  7. Joe goalie dad

    The first step is to highlight how wrong the statement is that having practice where the goalie sees a ton of rubber is a great thing. That tells you that as much as a coach may truly not want to damage the goalies body for the rest of their lives, the goalie is a target in practice.

  8. Colin Lewis

    I believe this count system will be a good start in helping to alleviate the problems now being encountered in the goalie community with hip impingement, labral tears, and other hip, knee, and ankle injuries. As a certified athletic trainer who also plays adult rec hockey as goalie I could see the value of using a pitch count type system for the butterfly. However, research has found that while pitch counts work in baseball the problems with shoulder injuries still persist in kids that are on multiple teams throughout the year/ season/ etc. since each teams uses a separate pitch count. So a pitcher may throw 100 pitches during a week (with one team) but actually throw double or three times that amount due to the other teams also using their own internal counts. Additionally, research has also shown tears and impingements can occur early on but remain asymptomatic (I.e. pain free) for a long time. In some cases the injuries developing in middle school and then not presenting with symptoms or pain until late high school/ early college.
    I still believe that this idea of using a count system would a be good first step in reducing injuries within the goalie community. However, I believe there should be a heavy emphasis placed on educating coaches at the lower levels about these issues, and the goalies themselves about the value of taking care of themselves through stretching, mobility, and foam rolling (myofascial release). As others have mentioned many coaches at the lower levels have no, or at best, cursory instruction on how to incorporate goalies into practice, or even the players themselves (both adolescent and adult) who view goalies as “shooter tutors”. I also believe goalie coaches need to adapt different ways of teaching the same technique based on the goalie’s individual biomechanics. This is just a fancy term for how their (the goalie) body moves. Take RVH for example, which places an incredible amount of torque on the knee in certain positions such as the blade against the post with a post lean. While technical fundamentals are required to play the position I feel goalies and their coaches should be very conscious of how the movement or position feels to the player. If a goalie prefers a particular method because it feels better and/or less painful than another teach using their preferred method and how they can adapt it to suit their game, or use a alternative type of save selection which places less torque and force on the goalie’s joints
    Overall I feel that while butterfly counts are a good start to helping to reduce the wear and tear on goalies, there is more that could be done which would help save their joints .

  9. David Polombo

    This is another reason, of many, why I have my son training at Stop It Goaltending. Brian and his coaching staff are absolutely “in tune” with today’s goalies. This article just reinforces my thinking. As mentioned above, it’s just shameful that many coaches still use their goaltenders more for shooting drills than for actual goalie development.

    • Joe goalie dad

      The issue though is not goalie coaches. They shoot, talk, instruct, illustrate movements, etc. The issue is the practices with no goalie coaches where in a practice a goalie could easily see a few hundred shots each practice a few times a week.

      We’re talking about hips here but concussions and other head trauma is an issue too. Some players think it’s a joke to take a shot at a goalies head purposely and that’s because coaches don’t warn players of very severe consequences if they do that purposely.

  10. JEN t.

    Really appreciate these ideas being shared. This is definitely a good start to a conversation to help keep kids healthy. I think there is a lot that can be done in terms of technique, training, preventive health care, and equipment innovation/sizing to help prevent injuries.