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The Shooters Illusion- Principles and Practical Application for Goaltenders

What is the Shooter’s illusion? Simply put the shooter’s illusion is the difference between what amount of room the shooter believes is available from what his eyes see (i.e., the potential illusion) and the actual amount of scoring area available from the puck’s perspective.

Although the difference between illusion and reality can occur with a shot from anywhere inside the offensive zone it is best illustrated with a player coming down either the right or left wing for a scoring opportunity. The theory behind this very important consideration in goaltending will be discussed. Thereafter, how this is practically important for a goal-scorer coming down the right or left wing and whether the shooter is a left-handed or right-handed shot will be discussed. The article will conclude with how the goaltender must make decisions based on the aforementioned factors and other key considerations.

Figure 1 demonstrates the theory of the shooter’s illusion for a right -handed player coming down the left wing (ie, his “off wing”). The figure has been exaggerated for this purpose. The different shaded areas illustrate the difference between what the shooter believes he sees and what scoring area is actually available. Remember that it is the area available from the puck’s perspective that determines how much room the goalie is giving the shooter and not the area from the shooter’s eyes. Therefore, in this example the shooter believes that there is a lot of open area to the short side of the net. This is an illusion. The shaded area from the puck to the goal posts clearly reveals that although the shooter’s eyes sees open net on the short side this area is in fact not available for the puck’s trajectory from post-to-post and from ice surface to top shelf.

Understanding this principle leads to four basic senarios that the goaltender must understand and recognize. These include the following:

I) a right-handed shooter coming down the right wing

II)a right-handed shooter coming down the left wing (see figure 1)

III)a left-handed shooter coming down the left wing

IV)a left-handed shooter coming down the right wing

The following chart shows what the goaltender must understand about each of the senarios.

Likely Illusion Actual Scoring Area Available

Senario #1 more area available on far side more area available on the short side

Senario #2 more area available on the short side more area available on the far side

Senario #3 more area available on the far side more area available on the short side

Senario #4 more area available on the short side more area available on the far side

This chart clearly reveals how simple this concept is to learn. There are however other considerations in the decision making process. For example,

I) Is the goaltender giving the shooter any room at all on either short or far side ? if the goalie is properly positioned,

square to the shooter, standing up and challenging on the correct angle both the puck and shooter may in fact see


II) what are the shooting tendencies of the attacker and does the goaltender know them ? If the goalie is familar with

the strengths, weaknesses and tendencies of the shooter he/she may want to cheat a little more to one side or the


III) What are the goaltender’s strengths and weaknesses ? Is the goalie better on the trapper or blocker side and high or

low. The goalie may invite the shooter to try a top shelf shot to the trapper on the short side. If the shooter does not

know the goalie he may salivate at the open net only to be surprized by a quick reaction type save.

The are many other factors such as defenseman positioning, is their a trailor , the angle of attack and more. The important thing to remember is that the goaltender must initially study and understand this principle. He or she must recognize the correct senario and process all aforementioned considerations within a second. This can clearly only be done with a lot of game (and practice) experience. Therefore, The Shooter’s Illusion is not something you teach to young goaltender. At which age a goalie can grasp this concept is probably an individual decision. However, a AAA bantam or midget goalie should certainly you be able to apply these considerations into his/her game. It should also be mentioned that understanding this concept is greatly aided by the use of angle ropes.

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. Russ

    I love your site, but cannot view a lot of the content on my ipad. Can you possibly be more accommodating for those of us without flash and the like? I am viewing through the application Pulse, and cannot see the shading nor the Charts.

  2. Besh

    Sorry, but where is the figure you’re referring to?? Is it a refernce from an earlier article?


  3. Tomas Hertz,MD,BA

    I will have to send the Chief editor a new reference diagram and have him put up and addendum on the website. Please be patient. Thanks!

  4. Robert Palumbo

    Any chance the reference diagrams will be available soon? I would really like to see the relationships as noted in the article. Thank you!

  5. Matt

    Would love to see the diagrams – this site is fantastic!!

  6. Matt

    Will it be obvious when the diagrams are posted – meaning should I come back to this specific page or will they be located in a new article?


  7. Chris

    I am doing a project on shooters illusion for science class and it would be extremely helpful if you could publish the figures mentioned in the article.

    Thank you.

  8. Mike Mitchell

    I was just reading the article “The Shooters Illusion- Principles and Practical Application for Goaltenders” and was looking for the diagram that was mentioned in the article. was it ever made available? And if so, where can I find it. Great article for reference, and teaching goaltenders. Thanks.