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Cross Crease Passes and an Active Stick!

Cross Crease Passes and an Active Stick!
James Reimer Toronto Maple Leafs Goalie

Toronto's James Remier is prepared to use his stick to prevent a pass out from an opposition player. Scott Slingsby photo, all rights reserved.

With the exception of the goaltender’s mask and cup, the most important piece of equipment is inarguably the goal stick since it can be used in so many ways. It can cover the puck. It can be used to stop dump-ins, to make passes and to shoot the puck off the glass. It is an effective tool in rebound control and in team communication. It is even a crease deterrent if need be (just ask Billy Smith or Ron Hextall)! It has evolved over the course of goaltending history and is unique in its configuration.

Cross-crease passes are commonplace in today’s game since there is as much tactical play in the East – West direction as there is up and down the ice surface. Today’s players are also great at saucer passing through seemingly non-existing passing lanes. Turn on your television any evening and you will likely see highlights with passes going across the front of the crease or through the blue paint. Sometimes great goals are scored or great saves made; however, unnecessary goals are also scored due to what I define as an “inactive stick.” Basically, an inactive stick is a goal stick that is not being utilized effectively when the opportunity to use it presents itself.

So how do you determine whether the puck is within the goaltender’s reach? What degree of reach is safe or dangerous? Where in relation to the blue paint is the pass occurring? Where is the goaltender positioned? There are no set rules and as mentioned in previous articles you have to do only that with which you feel confident.

I would define a comfortable reach as one to the full extension of the arm in front of the body. I believe this to be safe and does not require the torso to bend too far forward, or the blocker drop to low if the goaltender is on his/her knees. I think it is dangerous to perform full length poke checks to get pucks within reach. This approach may occasionally be called for but today’s topic is reserved for pucks crossing just above, or through, the blue paint. Whether the goalie is located at the top of the crease or deep in the blue paint does make a difference. If the keeper is at the top of the arc and misses the puck, the mistake is likely fatal. The goalie really has no business trying to deflect passes on lateral feeds above the blue paint! With the feed through the blue paint, and goaltender positioned deeper in the crease, the active stick deflection can quickly deflate a dangerous situation. Furthermore, with deeper positioning, a missed deflection may still allow the goalie to stick out a pad or glove and make a save. Do not get me wrong, I get it. The passes are precise and sent with speed. They may be saucer passes slightly off the ice. The visual reads are not easy and net front traffic makes things worse. A successful deflection may still end up in the net. It may be sent out on an undesired angle to an opponent who puts it in the open net. It may be deflected against another body in the crease and bounce past an exasperated goaltender. As Mike Liut once said, “Goaltending is the quintessential bad-luck position.” Nevertheless, sometimes lady luck is with you and by deflecting the pass away, it may go to a teammate who creates quick transition and your team scores a goal shortly thereafter.

Today’s goaltender is great at the down game. They can slide side to side from either a standing position or from their knees. When cross-crease passes occur they often seem content to let the passes occur through the blue paint, trying to make either a blocking or reactionary type save. These saves are very impressive to watch and frequently reveal both great technique and athleticism . I also find when practicing tactical drills with lateral feeds across the crease many goalie coaches emphasize more the sequence of movements that will propel the goalie across the crease and maintaining a compact form to prevent soft goals. This is all very important to the goalie’s “Tool Box.” However, there is a role for having an active stick and intercepting some of these cross-crease passes and hence eliminating some of these goals and difficult saves. In practice, try to keep your stick active since it is a great goaltending asset.


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). 


  1. Joel Gauthier

    Good Article. I like that the emphasis is on keeping the poke check, or pass interception, within the goaltender’s comfortable reach. I also like that the article talks more about cross-crease pass than pass-outs, because as mentioned above, even if an attempted pass intercept of a cross-crease pass is missed, the goaltender still has a chance to push across and get a limb on the puck.

  2. Ray c

    I believe that to have an active stick, an aggressive stance such as in the pic above (more specifically with how the stick is positioned) is required, especially when deflecting those through the crease passes. But I feel the stance in the pic contradicts what you wrote in the post- stick integration article.

    Experience and situations will dictate what a goalie chooses to do, but I definitely feel that young goalies should be taught to start reading the play and react accordingly as soon as they are read to move beyond the basics. To me, this includes deflecting passes.

  3. Tomas Hertz,MD, BA

    The photo was chosen by the chief editor. It was not chosen by me and has nothing to do with the content of my article !!

  4. Ray c

    My son had his second practice in goalie gear yesterday (he plays Novice and the gear rotates among the players – I’m the goalie coach for whoever happens to be in nets.) We were doing a drill where a coach shoots the puck into the corner and a forwad and D go for the puck. Another forward goes to the slot. Object os for the fwds to make the pass to the slot and score while the D is trying to clear the puck out.

    Anyways, low and behold the goalie (my kid) starts trying to deflect the passes with his stick. At times reaching too far and thus rotating his body to far away from the guy in the slot rendering him unable to get in posn for those passes that make it through.

    This article and the ‘looking of the puck’ article (which I had also re-read last week) came in pretty handy for making some quick explanations between shots for the goalie. Made my job easier and my kid cuaght on pretty quick. Thanks Tomas and In-Goal Mag! (This was by no means the first time I used your explanations to help me instruct the goalies and to change up my own game – so thanks for that too!)

  5. Tomas Hertz,MD, BA

    It feels good to know the articles are helping at the grassroots level. Without solid grassroots coaches/ instruction our goaltenders will never reach the elite level coaches. We are very vital to the overall production of solid prospects. Thanks so much !

  6. David

    I don’t play ice, but I am a ball hockey goal, but active stick is what ALWAYS angers my opponents, as you cannot really slide side to side on plastic, so 95% of cross-crease passes are goals, and since I utilize my stick well, I intercept these all the time. Goalies, use your sticks and POKE CHECK, they never expect it 😉


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