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Book Review: On Goaltending by Jacques Plante

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.

About The Author

Tomas Hertz, MD BA

Tomas Hertz has been a contributing author to InGoal Magazine since 2010. He operated  "No Holes, No Goals Goaltending" in Kingston, Ontario for a decade and worked with developing goalies in the G.K.M.H.A. and K.A.M.H.A. He remains active as a timekeeper in the O.M.H.A. - O.W.H.A., the O.J.H.L. (Kingston Voyageurs), and the O.U.A.A. (R.M.C. Palladins). 

15 Comments

  1. Old Swiss

    Thank you for commenting on a forgotten canonical work in goaltending. However, you underestimate it’s importance and impact.

    With the exception of a brief chapter in Lloyd Percival’s _The Hockey Handbook_, teaching on the position. Techniques we take for granted today — like how to hold the stick — were still being seriously debated in the early 1970s. Plante’s book settled the arguments and paved the way for teaching the position systematically.

    Also, a closer reading will show that far from “seemingly random” the Plante text is organized, logical and methodical. Plante lays out an overview on the position followed by specifics on training, equipment, technique, drills and preparedness. He also broke ground in his instruction. It was informal and casual. The voice of a mentor and fellow goaltender as opposed to a didactic coach.

    My quibbles aside, thank you for reviving interest in a dated but classic text.

    • Tomas Hertz,MD,BA

      Thank you for your comment. Maybe I am incorrect since he was before my time. My mind,anyway, deals in a very systematic fashion when it comes to goaltending and I did not find that when I read it. Interesting to hear about the stick since that is still one of the first things a goalie should be taught. I have nothing but respect for the man and how he influenced an entire generation. I read a comment by Mike Richter regarding how the book was a bible to him. I never read it a goaltender in the last 70s and 80s but there were so many things that brought me back to my boyhood. the mere point about how goalies learned most things by watching other goaltenders is something to which I can relate closely. I am an immigrant and learned most of what I new for watching games and practices when I arrived in Canada. When you read books like Sawchuk’s biography and Bower’s autobiography you find out that that was the way most learned. Hence, Plante was a pioneer / trailblazer! I would greatly value any insight you could provide me about the stick argument since I love goaltending history? Please and thank you !

    • Bill

      YEP you are so correct..

  2. Bill

    His book is as relevent today as then. Yes some things may be out but his take on Angles is one of the things emphasized in EVERY goalie school worth going to. Angle first depth second.. Gap coverage last.. the shuffle and T push are just as relevant. Staying Square to the shooter… It is all here in our current game… the only thing new is how we teach them to cover the bottom of the net and focus on post save recovery.. He was even relevant on his use of the stick. Everyone wants to make the position hard when it is very very basic until you want to play at a higher level JUST AS ANY POSITION ON THE ICE. I teach kids how to find the angles, stay square with their stick on the ice and FOCUS…. BAM the fun starts..

    One other thing Tomas, Spell check was called a dictionary and an editor back then… Not Plantes fault.

    Great article but if you weren’t there when the book was written you have no real clue as to how tremendous a book this was and still is in many ways..
    It saved me tons of time in getting up to speed when I started playing because I was much older. read it again and think like you had no knowledge of how to play.. You can watch all you want but his book gave you insight into a position most folks thought was played by idiots… The example of a goalie is, just a defenseman without brains..
    Thanks for at least reviewing it.

  3. Chris

    Tomas, please don’t take my comments as negative criticism. I was just trying to give a sense of perspective to the book.

    As for the stick, here is video of Dave Dryden in the early 70’s (about the time Plante’s book was published) playing for the Buffalo Sabres.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXhFN_5eXaw

    Please note how Dryden holds his stick. A remember seeing a few old timers playing in the early 70’s also using that grip at least part of the time, Marcel Paille, Marv Edwards and Serge Aubry come to mind.

    Here’s some shots of Johnny Bauer using the grip as well.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m14W2928Drw&playnext=1&list=PL6366D9AE5AEC4BA9

  4. Tomas Hertz,MD,BA

    Hey Chris, Thank you so much and great video coverage!!! I did not know that the issue was whether you held the stick but the shoulder with index finger across paddle or just on the shaft as demonstrated by Dryden and Bower. I even have a photo of Howe and Bower like in the film but neve rgave it a second thought. This may make a great article about goalie sticks for the website. The bottom line in goaltending(as you know) is tha tyou use what works for you and if you stop the puck that is all that matters! Dryden must have had success with this technique. I cannot image it being effect for me. It seems to contradict all principles of stick lie, gap, preventing cheap 5-hole goals etc. It does not even (to me anyway) look controlled in a gross motor sense. the film is fantastic thought. Dryden must also have required significant strength/power to wheel the stick around like that since the stick is obviously bottom heavy! I wonder what eventually settled the argument ? Again, this gives me a great idea for an article for sticks in general including the Chirstian curve stick and the handle stick which Orlando Boni (shooting machine inventor ) gave me. Thanks !

    • Chris

      Glad you enjoyed the find.

      Would you be interested in the origins of the curved goalie stick? Interesting story with a lot of great stats to make an interesting case.

  5. Tomas Hertz,MD,BA

    Yes Chris, Absolutely. This will be definitely be a good article with both practical and historical twists.

  6. Chris

    Can you send me an email to do this off line?

  7. Ian W.

    You pretty much caught the essence of what Jacque Plante was trying to say in his book “GOALTENDING.” The revised edition is called “ON GOALTENDING” but his original book did not have the word “ON” in front of “GOALTENDING.” If you are unaware of this, I have an original book sitting in front of me that was actually autographed by Jacques Plante, to me on Oct. 16, 1973. In the early seventies I had a Sporting Goods store in Nepean, Ontario and I carried his book along with his goalie mask made by his company, Fibrosport in Magog, Quebec. For the first two years of my Goalie Camp I ordered a dozen books and had Jacques autograph them for me so I could give them away as rewards for working extra hard at my goalie school.

    I used this book exclusively at my goalie school and for coaching for a little over 10 years and it not only helped me become a better instructor/coach, but it helped a lot of young goalies coming up through the ranks. One such goalie was Darren Pang who ended up with the Chicago Blackhawks.

    I still use his book and I’m glad to see they have made it available to the goalies of today.

  8. Tomas Hertz,MD,BA

    Ian, THanks! I live in Kingston. Fibrosport was a very popular and successful company. I remember Darren Pang well since he was an Ottawa ’67. Pang was well known for having a large book of action photos of himself which he used for visualization training. This is somwthing I have passed on to my students since I think it is a great idea. Fun to hear your story !

  9. Tomas Hertz,MD,BA

    Chris, [email protected] If there are written articles about the argument for holding the stick/ stick curves I would welcome links as well. I will send you a draft of the article when I write it.

  10. Bob Gibson

    Jacques Plante taught Hall of Fame Goalie Bernie Parent His Goaltending Methods BEFORE Bernie Parent won 2 Straight Stanley Cups with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1974-75. Also Bernie Parent was the Stanley Cup Playoff MVP in 1974 and 1975 before He could not Play in 1976 due to an injury. This demonstrates how effective Jacques Plantes Goaltending Techniques are !!!

  11. Michael Como

    I bought this book when it first came out, as I was goaltending ( non-professional ) and several weeks and months after that I approved my goaltending. Plante was a funtimental goaltender, playing angles, always knowing where you were and where the net was. I once read, standup goaltending went out years ago. Well, count how man goals that are scored up high now a days. Goalies are on their knees as soon as the skater crosses the blue line. Goalies today who are 6ft 3, 6ft 6 and if they stood up, the puck would hit hem. If someone came up today and had a conbined Plante and Esposito style, he be hard to beat. This book still would help someone who wants to continue his goaltending.

  12. Ian Salisbury

    My all time favourite goaltender. Back in the seventies it was common for young hockey fans to write letters to there favourite players. I was no different and i wrote Mr Plante a letter asking him about becoming a better goalie. I was eleven and I received a letter on Toronto Maple Leaf stationary personalized to me and signed with 10 tips to better goaltending.This letter is the most important piece of hockey memories I have in my collection. My parents also gave me a fibrosport goalie mask as a christmas present. The GOALTENDING book was read so manny times before practice and games it was like having Plante as my own goalie coach. Angles and how to use your stick was key. I worked more on skating because he said I needed to be one of the best on any team I played for. My passion for the game and the position are because of Jacques Plante, Later on when I was 15 one of the hockey Dads showed us how to make molds and we learned how to make our own masks. We made masks for ourselves right up until Junior hockey in the Ottawa valley. No regulations. The single most influential goalie of all time. Still relivent even today. What a time to grow up being a tender. Ian