5 Keys to a Great Goalie Stance
There is NO such thing as a perfect stance.
Because all goalies have unique skills, size, and playing styles.
And, not only is there no such thing as a perfect stance… there are actually different stances for different situations. For example, you may have a “save” stance where you’re locked in to butterfly, and a “movement” stance where you’re more upright for your skating.
To say that all goalies should have the same stance is misguided. However, there are certainly some characteristics that help give you the best chance of saving pucks.
The job of a goalie is to save pucks. I believe that if you’re in position (on angle at a good depth) with your feet set, and you can see the puck, then you should have a very good chance of saving the puck.
Since the game moves incredibly fast, this is (much) easier said than done.
We’ll cover being “in position” later, so let’s focus on having your feet set and seeing the puck. Setting your feet begins with your movement, which we’ll also get into, but seeing the puck becomes a main cornerstone of your stance.
There’s a lot of words for seeing the puck, such as “tracking” or “head trajectory” – OR Sports – or many more. I’m very fortunate to have worked with Lyle Mast and Dustin Schwartz at their OR Sports camp in Edmonton, Alberta.
Obviously, we need to see the puck to make saves, but the “tracking” affects run much deeper. After working with Dustin and Lyle, I realized that ‘head trajectory’ allows you to execute your movements more effectively and more efficiently. Once you master this concept, your game flows and you actually feel like the play slows down in front of you.
Tracking is that important. And great tracking stems from a great stance.
We must SEE the puck. How do you “see” anything? You look at it. And you generally ‘center’ yourself on it. Again, this is easier said than done, that puck moves fast!
Ideally, our eyes are ‘centered’ and looking down at the puck. If seeing the puck is THAT important, let’s prioritize that. Make sure that your stance allows you to look down and really SEE the puck. Could you read your name on the puck? We want that level of focus!
I truly believe that if you can see it, you can save it!
To get our head into the ideal position to see the puck, we need a pretty sharp chest angle (roughly 45°). If we’re standing straight up, with a flat back, our downward head angle feels very uncomfortable and ineffective. So, we need a ‘forward chest’ to support our head angle to see the puck.
Also, a forward chest is actually “bigger” to pucks than a “tall” chest.
We all know this, but it’s important to remember, pucks come from the ice! We want to be big to the puck. Make sure you’re considering the “pucks perspective” when you’re thinking about your game.
Let’s use your biggest puck stopping surface – your chest (a la Schwartzy) to it’s fullest potential!
Now, in our stance, with a sharp chest angle and our head looking down, we should be able to see our gloves just in front of us and in our peripheral vision.
Think: gloves forward from your body (depth) not out to the side (width).
Exactly where you hold your gloves is up for debate… I suggest having them on the same plane as each other (height) and wherever you’re comfortable.
If your gloves are forward and aggressive, you are cutting off puck angles. This means you’re moving 3 inches to make a save that takes other goalies 10-12 inches. When the puck is going 100 miles an hour, who is more likely to make the save: the goalie who has to move 3 inches, or the goalie who has to move 10 inches?
Again, think puck perspective, I used to hold my hands up high because I looked huge and took away the whole top of the net! Well… to the human eye. When you moved the camera to the puck’s eye, I was covering row 15…
There COULD be an argument for looking big, but I’d rather BE big to the puck.
Since your chest and eyes are over pucks, your gloves, in front of your body, will naturally be in your line of vision, so you can track directly down into the save. Now compare this to goalies who have to turn their heads and make a save to the side of them.
By using this setup, you are making way more saves, way more often.
Balls of Your Feet
Being on the balls of your feet is especially ideal for your “save” stance, but it’s useful in your skating stance as well. And ideal for a blend between the two of them, such as when the puck in the zone and can be shot any time.
The majority of your body weight should be on the “balls of your feet” or on the front half of your skate blades. All athletic movements require balance and power and goaltending is no different. We have the most control and power on the front half of our feet, so that’s the ideal pressure points for our stance.
All of our movement stems from this stance so we want to feel athletic and mobile. Also, a forward weight balance allows us to drop directly down onto our knees when we butterfly.
If our weight isn’t forward when we butterfly, we actually drop back on our butt more. Have you ever felt your weight transfer back when you butterfly? This is usually because our weight is back in our heels when we go to butterfly. Dropping back on our butt creates a whole host of challenges to our goaltending and it’s best avoided at all costs!
So, by having our weight forward, our movements become much more powerful and controlled. Also, we drop as quickly as possible and are strong on the puck compared to being off balance and falling backwards.
Stick and Blocker
We’ve touched on a couple controversial topics, so let’s go one more… your stick.
Your stick is very important for rebound control on low shots. It’s one of the biggest assets that you have as a goalie.
However, it can also be a liability… For bigger goalies, the lower our stick is, the lower our blocker is, and the smaller we become. Or, our blocker becomes uneven with our glove, which can be unbalancing.
Note: if your paddle fits perfectly in your stance, then it may be too high in your butterfly, which creates a dangerous 6th hole. Make sure your paddle fits your game in your butterfly and your stance.
I’d argue, your paddle fitting in your butterfly may be even more important then in your stance. At the higher levels especially, goalies are often better off if they’re more concerned with their stance as a whole than focused on having their stick on the ice. If we can be perfectly set up with our chest, head, and gloves, then we give ourselves the best chance to make the save.
As you can see in the stance above, only the toe of the stick is on the ice. But this gives 4-8 inches of lift on the blocker and body as a whole. I’d rather be big in the net than have my stick completely on the ice. I know you can have more control by using your stick, but goaltending is all about tradeoffs. Just like the more we challenge, the harder it is to recover.
So, to recap, there is no PERFECT stance, there’s only a stance that works for you. And stances are always changing. Even NHL goalies are constantly making little adjustments.
Ideally, we want our feet set, and balanced, with our weight on our toes. We want to be looking down at the puck and we want to be BIG to the puck.
What ideas and information can you implement into your own game?