Book Review: On Goaltending by Jacques Plante
On Goaltending by Jacques Plante, is a good read in my opinion. It was re-released in 1997.
The book contains many bits of information that one would take for granted today, but which most certainly would have been of great value and insight many years ago when initially published. The book contains chapters on equipment sizing and maintenance, off-ice strength and conditioning and flexibility exercises. Plante discusses many different technical considerations such as the stance, the importance of balance, and glove positioning. He also discusses numerous tactical situations such a 2-on-1s , 3-on-2s, screens, breakaways and the great importance of angular play. The illustrations are fun to look at and not ambiguous in any way. Plante also, not having been a butterfly goaltender, discusses this popular technique with future Hall of Fame goaltender Tony Esposito. This shows great insight on Plante’s part about something with which he is not greatly familiar ( Plante was a stand-up goalie who relied on angular play). It proves he always wanted to improve his own knowledge of goaltending and make young goalies aware that there is something new (at the time) to which to pay attention.
One of the interesting bits of information to which I made reference would be taping one’s fingers (for stingers) but leaving the joints open and using a baseball to soften in the trapper glove. Any one of us old enough would read this and laugh. We all had a ball or several pucks we left in the meshing of our glove to work it in. We would put tape or an extra skate lace round it to shape the pocket. I also enjoyed reading about using ice markings to learn angular play. This is what we ,in modern terms, refer to as “Ice Topography”.
I appreciated the repeated comment on Plante’s part about the difference a “fraction of a second” can make between making a save and letting in a goal. This showed that even in a era when, by today’s standard, the speed of the game was slower, the game was still fast and required a goaltender to get in position as fast as possible. It tells us that a goalie has to be efficient in all things undertaken which I choose to define as ‘Economy of Movement’. I define this as not wasting time with unnecessary and/or inefficient movements. This gets back to the most fundamental skill required for goaltender success which is good skating ability. Plante basically states that you need to skate well to get set as soon as possible and if set early, you should have more control when executing save techniques. If you look at Hockey Canada’s developmental pyramid for goaltenders, it is built on the same philosophical principles.
The most enjoyable chapter for me was the final chapter on choosing a goaltender. Plante asks numerous important questions which any head coach, past present or future, should ask themselves and others when selecting a goaltender. I have seen my evaluation forms from different associations to select goalies including one from Hockey Canada. Some are quite detailed . However, what I like about Plante’s is the fact that you must investigate the goaltender’s personality and character as a citizen which will tell you a lot about what you might be getting in the long run.
What did I not like? I would say it is only the seemingly random nature with which his thought flow and the manner with which he presents his thoughts on paper. There is no logical progression and they jump from one idea to the next. There are also several grammatical and spelling errors. Nevertheless, there is a tremendous amount of information which helped a generation of budding goaltenders.
In conclusion, Jacques Plante was both an excellent goaltender and an intelligent individual. Most importantly, he was an individual. He thought his own way and did what he wanted to do. if you do not have this book then add it to your goaltending library. It is not a modern compendium of goaltending technique. On Goaltending by Jacques Plante is a historical document in goaltending instruction and proof of how progressive and professional Plante was in his approach to goaltending. He was a man well ahead of his time with respect to both innovation and preparation.