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Goaltender Game Delay Tactics

Tim Thomas Goalie Boston

Does Tim need a new Stick? Photo by Scott Slingsby

It’s late in the game and you are up by one goal. Your team is extremely tired as the opponent has been putting a lot of pressure on your guys in an effort to get the tying goal. No ‘time-out’ is available to your coaching staff. This is when the ability of a goaltender to read the situation and do the correct thing for his / her team can be the difference between preserving the win or not.

It can take many years of competitive play before appropriate insight and maturation are developed on the part of a goaltender. Part of this maturation is having the ability to read the situation and mood of the game. This includes knowing when your team is really fatigued (as described above) and when they could use a few extra seconds of rest to get their collective breath back and their composure. There is definitely a role for the goaltender in this situation.

If the goalie feels the need to slow down the pace of the game there are a few tricks of the trade available. First, (#1) is simply freezing the puck for a face-off even though the situation allows for the puck to be moved to a teammate. This may occur with a shot directly on net or when a shot is slightly wide off the net to the goalie’s trapper side. The goaltender merely understands that although the referee may become annoyed with this course of action it is what the team needs. In the first case the referee will most likely come to the goalie and tell him that he/she could have played the puck since the play was not really forced for a face-off by the other team. In the slightly missed shot scenario the goalie merely shuts down the play with a quick trapper grab. This is sweet and simple. The goalie can drop the trapper arm close to the ice and pretend that they will re-enter the puck back into play with a transitional pass. The goalie then quickly pulls it up again and says to the referee he / she just felt that the opponent was too close to risk the play. This happens frequently in minor hockey and the goalie usually gets but a warning from the official.

Another option (#2) has to do with equipment problems. This was the one I used the most frequently. Just prior to the linesman dropping the puck you can call out for things like loose laces under your pad or loose straps from the boot break portion of your pad. Granted this may only provide 10 seconds of additional rest but it is better than nothing in the right circumstances. Just get on your knees and loosen and then tighten the straps again. This can also be done with straps from the head plate portion of your mask. Be careful though since the referee will quickly move in to see what is going on. Also, at the higher levels of the game a goaltender is required to have a back up mask available. This trick may be utilized as well although if the mask is not damaged you may get called for delay of game.

Yet another trick (#3) is merely asking for a new stick. This may mean either the goalie, a teammate or an official will skate to the bench to get the new stick. If your team’s bench is at the far end of the ice surface even more time can be wasted.

For those goalies wearing contact lenses having problems with one (#4) and requiring you to remove the mask for a brief moment is another possibility.

The ultimate trick of deception (#5) is that of a fake injury. However, this realistically requires there to be some type of struggle or contact to occur with the goaltender in or around the crease. BE CAREFUL in crying wolf too often since this can come back to bite you when you really need the support of the official!!! This trick can also be used to draw a penalty and a power play for your squad at a critical point in a game if used properly.

Dwyane Roloson Goalie Islanders

photo by Scott Slingsby

The goalie can play an important role in delaying the game at a critical point when his/her team needs a few additional seconds of rest. The goaltender who can recognize the right time to execute one of the above mentioned tricks (or others) is a very smart goalie. It is however important to recognize that this will not work when tried several times in one game or in every game played. The goalie that does this will develop a reputation and will burn bridges with officials. Just remember to be smart about what you do and limit it to critical situations when you have determined that your teammates need the extra rest !

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. Kris

    #6, sew a simple nylon strap with a plastic quick connect to the forearm of your C/A unit, maybe 3-4 inches long. Leave it unsnapped. When you need a break, tell the ref “Sir I need to fix my strap here, most refs don’t look at gear that much, and with all the different styles they wouldn’t recognize that its not a “real” strap/snap.

    Remove your glove, fiddle with it for a few seconds, click the plastic quick connect together, put on your mask, adjust your glove, and viola you just bought yourself 2 minutes of rest for your team….(3 minutes if you are smooth lol)

  2. goaliegirl30

    I asked for a few seconds to retie one of my dangler strings which had untied. The ref gave me the time but commented that he could have called delay of game.

  3. Tomas Hertz,MD,BA

    Sometimes ,as with the dangler situation, lady luck must be smiling on you if that happens at the right time. I suppose you could also take off your helmet and ask to wipe the dangler clear of fog which happened frequently to me as a boy but I did not do it as a tactical move. The damn thing was constantly fogging up. All good stuff boys !

  4. Rene Madsen

    Another ‘trick is to (when nobody is looking) to move the net off a little bit, that way it requires much less force to kick off while making a save.

  5. Retired

    In the game situation outlined by TH, when the goaler has to move from post to post, move very hard to the post. If you generate enough force, which all of us should be able to do, you knock the post off its mooring.