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Goaltending Personalities: Turtles, Rabbits and Snakes

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For the nearly 30 years I’ve been coaching goalies, I’ve always liked to use analogies to teach the position. I believe that the key to success is the ability to create your own “mental movie” that gives you a vision of what you are trying to accomplish. Many years ago, I served on a goaltending panel at the national college hockey coaches’ convention in Florida. Knowing that there were hundreds of non-goalie coaches there, I wanted to paint a mental image of the different personality types of goalies so they may better understand the habits of their netminders. The following are my three types of goalies: turtles, rabbits and snakes. These species can be found from mites to the National Hockey League. The ideal goalie is the snake and you will see why…..


Turtle goalies are the most common species. These goalies tend to move out on the angle too early and glide back into the safety of their shell (the net) as the play approaches. These goalies often give up goals on the corners and allow passing and deking lanes around the crease and lower slot area that should not be available to the opposing shooters. The turtle’s lack of patience makes a lot of work for themselves since they do not know how much easier it is to make saves when the shooters do not have the time or space to make good decisions. Turtles may be guilty of off-angle and soft goals because their positioning is so passive. If goalies are retreating in a reverse direction too early and often, shooters do not feel any pressure because they have time and space to make a good decision.


Rabbit goalies always feel like they must be “doing something”. They move too early, panic during goalmouth plays and give up real estate on lateral scoring plays way too early. When deking players approach from a side angle, they don’t wait until the puck comes across the midpoint of their body before moving. When goalies move laterally before the puck crosses his or her midpoint, the short side angle opens up. If the approaching shooter is coming straight at the goalie, he or she tends to over-commit to the first fake the shooter makes and winds up way out of the play. The rabbit goalie treats the puck like a carrot and chases it everywhere without understanding the relationship between the goaltender’s positioning and the shooter’s options. These goalies try to force their saves on the shooters instead of reading what is required for the play. They tend to be reactionary and reflex oriented. On a good night, the reflexes may make him or her look like a million bucks. On a bad night, the net gets filled.


The snake is the ideal goalie. Snakes are cool and calculating with a dose of explosiveness. The snake establishes his or her angle, but is patient enough to draw the prey (the shooter) in close enough so they can’t escape the goalie once the attack occurs. Think of this example: the shooter is like a mouse. A 6 foot long rattlesnake will stay coiled in a tight ball so the mouse thinks it is safe to walk by. The snake will have the patience to let the mouse get close enough so when the strike occurs, the mouse cannot get away. Hockey works the same way. The snake goalie takes a confident step to the angle, maintains a coiled, strong stance and explosively attacks when the shooter is drawn within range. The snake goalie also recovers quickly to the next play. The strong stance does not tip off the shooter what type of save attempt is coming.

Sooooo, think about your style of play or better yet, watch some video of yourself in game action. If you were going to pick your crease presence personality, what would it be? If you are a turtle…..practice patience on your angles. If you are a rabbit, learn to let the shooters make the first move. You can’t force a save to work. You have to do what’s right for that particular play. If you’re lucky enough to be a snake, keep up the good work and continue to refine your game to stay controlled and explosive like a cobra or rattlesnake!

This article was contributed by Fred Quistgard of Quistgard Goalie Training.


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