For the past several years the game of hockey has required
goaltenders to handle the pucks as effectively as the forwards and
defensemen. Unfortunately, most goalies are spending
time on trendy things like showing off how far or hard they can
shoot the puck. Many young netminders seek to emulate Ron Hextall
and try to score goals. When it comes to puckhandling
accuracy, not velocity, is what counts.
Coaches in the professional, junior or college ranks expect a high
level of puckhandling ability from their goaltenders. Coaches
could care less whether the goalie can shoot the puck all the way
down the ice because they are more concerned about simple break-out
passes. Let's examine several situations and what the goalie needs
SETTING THE PUCK
This is a very important skill that is rarely practiced. Anytime a
goalie makes a save or chases down a loose puck, the exchange with
the defenseman must be flawless or the opposing team regains control
of the puck. Most goalies take the setting of the puck
for granted. After the save, the goalie tends to smack the
puck to the corner or puts it in a location that is not convenient
for the defenseman to get control of it for a quick break-out.
If the goalie has a loose puck at his or her feet, communication
both verbal and non-verbal must be initiated. The goalie must
yell to the defenseman, "Here it is, take it", while pointing
with the catching glove to the side the teammate will skate to.
Too many goalies wait until the defenseman skates right on top of
him before doing anything. If the goalie has the puck at the
top of the crease, he must talk to the defenseman before the D
skates below the hashmarks. This allows the D time to read the
goalie as the puck is set to the side of the net.
Obviously if the goalie doesn't communicate, the defensemen will
skate right into him and the opposing team may steal the puck.
When setting the puck, cup it under the blade of the goalie stick,
steer the puck to one side fo the crease and firmly apply pressure
with the stick-arm wrist to stop the puck. If the defenseman is not
pressured by the forecheckers, the goalie may leave the puck above
the goal line for a quick break-out. If there is pressure, set
it behind the goal line about a stick length from the post.
This is done to allow the D to quickly swing the net and use the
goal as a screen for a closely following forechecker and also to
allow the goalie to pull back the puck to freeze it.
PASSING & CLEARING
Passing the puck with the goalie stick requires the same form as
that of a regular stick. The wrist snap is important because the
puck must get to its intended target quickly so the teammate doesn't
get croaked by a crashing defenseman or forechecker. The whole body
must move into the pass and the stick has to follow through to the
target. Most goalies swat at the puck using only the arms to
make the pass. These passes are weak and erratic. The goalie
must lead the player with the puck so no time is lost waiting for
the pass to arrive.
Decision making is another crucial aspect of passing. If the rear
wing is wide open, don't try to force a pass straight up the middle
of the ice. Make the simplest pass possible and read the situation
early so the other team doesn't have time to pick off the pass.
Communicate to the player you are passing to so he knows you are
passing him the puck. You can throw head and shoulder fakes at
opposing forecheckers to get them to commit to you. Once the
forechecker skates towards you, other teammates are open.
Observe whether the forechecker is a right or left shot so you don't
pass or clear into his forehand.
When clearing the puck, the goalie must snap the wrists while
rolling the puck from the heel of the stick towards the toe of the
blade. The follow through must be high in order to lift
the puck with any velocity. Again the KISS method (Keep It Simple
Stupid) of clearing is in effect. Clear the puck the simplest
and safest way possible. Always stop the puck with the body squarely
backing up the stick before attempting a clear. If you are
away from the crease and can't tie up the puck, shoot it safely into
the corner and hustle back to the net.
Whether passing or clearing the puck, do it for the right reason.
The goalie is the first line of offense. The break-out is very
important when making the transition from defense to offense. Don't
do more than the situation requires. If your defenseman is
waiting next to you for the puck, don't try to force a cross-ice
pass through traffic to try to send the far wing on a break-way.
Be smart, simple, and decisive anytime you handle the puck. Keep
your eyes open to read the forecheck and put the puck in the safest
place possible whether your are setting, passing, or clearing it. A
smart puckhandling goalie is an asset to any team.
This article was contributed by
Fred Quistgard of Quistgard Goalie Trainin