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Goaltending and the Blocking Technique: Part 1 of 2

Goaltending and the Blocking Technique: Part 1 of 2
Leafs Goalie James Reimer employs the blocking technique under the tutelage of Francois Allaire

Leafs Goalie James Reimer employs the blocking technique frequently under the tutelage of goaltending coachFrancois Allaire. Scott Slingsby photo.

One of the problems I have with modern goaltending is that of the blocking technique and its frequent inappropriate application by both young and more established goaltenders. Let me clarify right now that puck “blocking” and the Blocking butterfly is a technique and NOT a goaltending style. However, we can leave that debate between what is a style of play and what is just an overused technique for another time. This two part-article will discuss the following points of interest as they relate to the blocking technique.

  1. The purpose of the butterfly block
  2. Technical considerations in proper execution of the block
  3. Proper application of the technique
  4. Improper or misguided application of the technique
  5. Common technical errors associated with blocks

The basic purpose of the block is just getting the goalie’s body in front of the puck. The attacking player, and hence the puck, will be in very close proximity to the goaltender. This is what I refer to as a tight goaltender-related gap. With a tight gap there is minimal reaction time for the goalie and as a result we call it a blocking technique as compared to a reactionary type save. Again, the purpose is therefore just to get your body in front of the puck and prevent it from going in. Rebound control, as always, is desirable but of lesser concern.

The technical considerations are also straightforward. There are four elements to put together: (1) the pads (2) the body unit (3) the arms and (4) the stick. I will deal with each of these separately.

The pads are always completely down to “seal the ice” with the knees tightly together to prevent soft 5-hole goals. The pads will also, to a greater or lesser degree, be flared out for optimum horizontal coverage based on the goaltender’s flexibility in the hips, knees and even ankles.

The body should be as upright as possible to establish maximum vertical coverage. With a tight goaltender-related gap the shooter will most often shoot high for what is referred to as the Arial Angle. The goaltender must therefore maintain the thighs upright with buttocks completely off the ice. The torso is also upright or with a slight forward flexion at the waist. This slight flexion is so that quick release shots which cannot be absorbed without rebound, will hopefully drop squarely in front of the goalie so that it can quickly be covered.

The arms should be tight to the body to increase the width of the blocking wall and to make certain there are no holes under either arm (referred to as the 6th and 7th holes).

The stick should be on the ice as much as possible and positioned in front of the 5-hole. It usually has a shallow angle to the ice. If a shot is taken along the ice to the 5-hole the puck should be deflected off the stick blade (like a ramp) into the goalie’s mid-section for cradling purposes. If the puck misses the stick blade the second line of defense is the tight knees along the ice.

Having explained the basic technical considerations, I feel obliged to briefly discuss a variant in this technique.

The only real difference is the position of the hands and hence the resultant change in the position of the stick blade. The hands are held higher which draws the stick in and creates a more perpendicular angle between the blade and ice surface. This will allow for better rebound control to the corners than with the standard technique. I am not here to say which is better but in general I prefer the latter technique for reasons I will reveal when discussing common errors.

This covers the purposes of blocking and basic technical considerations in save execution. See you next week with the conclusion of this very interesting goaltending topic.

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. Retired

    Interesting and accurate distinction between a style and a technique. I share your preference for the variant. Looking forward to Part 2 for your reasons.

  2. Tomas Hertz,MD,BA

    I found it interesting that the editor choose a photo of Reimer to introduce the article. Mr. Reimer played well on a poor team and deserves the contract he has signed. Nevertheless, I saw him let in many poor goals where, in my own personal opinion, the “blocking technique” was the wrong save selection for the situation and more importantly based on the location from which the shots was released! It can not be used as a panacea for goaltending. Whether this is what Mr. Allaire teaches or whether it is incorrect application by Reimer is unknown to me!

  3. CkBn

    certainly prefer the latter method. the stick angle on the explanation of the “regular” method seems too shallow, and if that stick is moving, creates more of a chance for the puck to go up and over, and possibly into the net

  4. Goalie 35

    To many times goalies take the easy way out and for various reasons. When in doubt do what you where taught….. SO blocking from the angles makes sense with tight legs (prevents pucks popping out to the trailing player)and the same save selection in the slot with wider legs to cover the corners.. I am fortunate to be around great coachs and past players to sample their suggestions and various styles/technigues… One size doesn’t fit all. If you choose a save selection and are not technically sound then bad things will happen. A good point was made on how wide your legs would be depending on the physical ability of the goaltender….I have had great success by working on a variety of save selections for my goalies and letting them use the ones that give them the largest precentage or opportunity to stop the puck on every shot. We all know younger kids will copy what they see. Trouble is who ever is coaching them has his preferences just like the pro coaches like Allaire. I even see statments where he is considered “Old” now… lol I have always liked Mitch Korns idea of getting as many tools in the toolbox as possible… To many goalies are so predictable the shooters and their coaches work plays around that. Tim Thomas proved that you can’t beat someone with a play when the do not react the same on every shot…. The one time it worked it was never available to them again…
    The goalie themselves are the ones that make our coaching work. We teach they do.. the best ones never stop learning and as coaches we should do the same… If our goalies do what we teach them they will stop the majority of what they should stop.. Not just sometimes but ALL the time. It is their job to use what they have been taught the same as any other player on the ice… No EXCEPTIONS… If the goalie stays deep in his net all the time then he is wrong and is letting his team down. Just the same as the forward that refuses to back check or a D that pinches all the time even when told not to…
    So, long winded as this is, this is the only forum I use to talk about what I love doing.. I also like the fact that for the most part people treat each other very fair on here.. That is why I send this site to all my goalies and parents.. All of them love it.

    • David Hutchison

      Thanks so much for the comment and for your support of InGoal! It means a lot to hear that people enjoy the site…and that you appreciate how people comment-we really want a positive forum where people feel safe to express their opinions.

  5. The Spoonman

    I did enjoyed the article very much as it covered many points. I also enjoyed what Goalie 35 had to say as well. He seems to be the type of goalie coach I would feel good about. I also agree wiwith his comment about Mitch Korn “now…I have always liked Mitch Korns idea of getting as many tools in the toolbox as possible…”, which is what I have always felt about coaching goalies. The more tools the goalie has the better prepared he/she will be. I have spoken with Mich over the Internet as well as personally and have learned much from him plus I have used many of his ideas and props when coaching. In my opinion Mitch Korn is a very knowledgable man of hockey and is in a league all by himself.

    I too enjoy this site very much and have passed it on to every goalie I am still in contact with along with many others. keep up the great work you are doing, this is an amazing site.