How To Play Goalie In Hockey (A Beginner’s Guide)

Do you want to learn how to play goalie in hockey?Ice hockey goalie

Think you’re ready for the blistering slap shots?

The pressure of being the last line of defense?

The nerve-racking experience that comes with knowing that the slightest mistake could end in catastrophic consequences for your team.

Terrific!

Let’s get started on how to you become a goalie…

Equipment Basics – Be Safe

Safety is the most important thing to learn.

Facing slap shots, wrist shots, snap shots, and whatever other kind of shots they can throw at you can be dangerous if you don’t have the right gear.

There will be times you may not even be ready and a shot will deflect off of you, but your equipment should always be ready.  Your chest protector, neck guard, and helmet are the 3 most important pieces.  They are going to protect your vital organs and keep you from getting injured.

Your throat protector, although often overlooked, is going provide protection from stray shots, errant sticks, and many collisions.  My recommendation is to find the toughest one on the market.  A throat protector that is lightweight with a polycarbonate construction for extra durability will do the trick.

The chest protector should fit snugly, providing maximum protection, but still give you’re the ability to move. Let’s face it, you’re not there to look good (even if you have the helmet paint job of an NHL goalie).  Being able to quickly move your arm from your hip upward quickly can make the difference between a goal and flashing some leather on someone.

Your helmet is what is going to prevent you from getting any sort of head injury or concussion so don’t cheap out on this piece of equipment.  When searching online be sure to get a helmet that is meant for ice hockey, not street hockey.  There is a BIG difference.  You notice that many street hockey helmets will be under $100 with really cool paint jobs.  Ice hockey helmets are more expensive ranging from several hundred dollars to over $1000.  If you are buying Jr. versus Sr. you’ll notice a price difference too.  There are many products out there that offer superior protection, but again don’t cheap out.  This is not the area to save money on.

Our favorite online store for Goalie gear is Goalie Monkey. Buying online is a great way to save on gear but you need to make sure the store has a solid return policy.

Goalie monkey even has a gear demo program where you get to try out the gear in games too!

Hockey Goalie Basics

Playing goalie in hockey is not easy.

Like any sport, you’ll spend your entire life improving.

But these simple tips can get you started and on the ice in no time.

Skating

A lot of people that have never played ice hockey before think about trying the goalie position because “they don’t have to skate as much.”

This can’t be farther from the truth.

On any good ice hockey team, the goalie has to be one of the best skaters on the ice.  The constant movement that is required to be a goalie, means that you have to balanced.  You have to be comfortable to drop down and get up quickly.  You can be ready to dive, slide, and jump back up into ready stance in a moments notice.

So if you want to be a goalie, get comfortable on those skates.

Goalie Skates are a must.

They are essential to the position because they let you go side to side more readily than regular skates.  Goalie skates also let you move from side to side without catching an edge and stopping you dead in your tracks.

They also have what is called a “cowling” which is the outer shell of the boot which is made to withstand impact.  

Basic Goalie Skating Technique

As a goalie you’ll need to move from side to side quickly.

The basic way to do this is to push off hard with one skate and point the other skate in the the direction you want to move. This is called a T-slide and will let you move across the entire goal.

Other times you will be making short quick shuffles to adjust to the puck moving in front of you. When getting used to your goalie skates practice those movements – moving side to side in various distances and at various speeds. You always want to be under control and balanced, ready to make a quick move in any direction.

Ice Hockey goalie making a save

Positioning as a Goalie

Stance

There are as many different goalie stances as there are players.

If you are just starting to play goalie, get these basics down:

  • Your feet should be a little more than shoulder width apart with a slight bend in your ankles with your skates parallel to one another.
  • Your knees should be bent with your weight distributed on the balls of your feet.
  • Keep your chest up as if you want to show off your teams logo.
  • Your shoulders should also be parallel to one another and square to your shooter.
  • Your glove hand should be off your waist and it should be like you are airing out your armpits and your glove should be slightly out in front of your body.
  • Keep the blocker slightly out in front of your body but in a lower position so you stick would be flat on the ice.
  • The stick should be anywhere from 8-12 inches out in front of your skates.
  • Skate position should provide your with maximum balance as that will provide you with the best and quickest movements.  To narrow and you reduce the amount of net coverage and can lose balance. Too far apart and you can’t move as quick.

Playing the Angles

As a goalie you need to understand some geometry.  Angles are a critical piece to the success of any goalie.

You need to position yourself in the best way possible to cover as much net as possible.

You are going to want to first, square up to the puck, not the shooter.  While this may seem obvious, there are times in the beginning where it is easier to look at the person that is going to be shooting at you then at the puck since the shooter is the bigger object.  Squaring up the shooter will leave holes and gaps and there goes your shut out.

It is also helpful to understand that the closer you are to the shooter, the less you are going to have to move to make a save.  You get “bigger” from the shooter’s perspective when you are out 1o feet from the goal line as opposed to sitting back in the net.

Just don’t get out so far that you can’t adjust when the puck is passed from one player to another.

Tips On Using Your Goalie Stick

The goalie stick isn’t just for blocking. It can be used actively as well, but make sure any move you make doesn’t take you out of position.

Keep paddle flat on the ice

f you are down on the ice and there is a scramble in front of the net, and you lose sight of the puck, a good idea is to hold the paddle (the fat part of your goalie stick) along the ice as if it is a wall.  It will alleviate the puck squirting free and will block your five hole (that means between the legs) for the most part.

The Poke Check

The poke check looks great but can have dire consequences if you miss.

It’s a good tactic if you can catch the skater off guard and execute it correctly.  If a shooter still has not shot the puck and they are less then a stick length away, thrust your stick forward at the puck.

A big butt end on your goalie stick is helpful, so when you throw your stick forward you can easily grab the butt end if you full extend.  Nothing more embarrassing then losing your stick on the poke check and then they score too!  Yikes!

Playing Style For Goalies

What type of goalie are you?

Butterfly? – Stand Up? – the Almightty flopper?

You may be a combination of all 3 – whatever type you are most comfortable with is what you should stick with.  Don’t let someone tell you that one is better than the other.  There are countless goalies who have been successful with all the listed goalie types

If you feel that you are a butterfly style goalie, do not fall straight down on your knees. – Fall on the inside of you knees and fan your legs outward.  This will cover more net surface area.

Goalie Drills

There are so many goalie drills out there that you would exhaust yourself trying to do them all.

So let’s focus on just a couple that can really benefit those just setting started.

As with the any other player on the ice a goalie needs endurance.  Being able to go down into a butterfly and quickly back to his feet to be able to move again is important.  Time yourself to see how many times in 60 seconds you can do down in a butterfly and back to your feet.  It will be exhausting.  You will be out of breath, but the more you do it, the more comfortable you will become at going into a butterfly position for a shot and be in ready to get back up and move if there’s a rebound.

Another drill that I like is the move back and forth across the crease as if there are two imaginary players passing the puck and you don’t know which one of them is going to shoot.  You can start at the left side, move to the top of the crease, and then to the right.  Back and forth and back and forth.  This is will help you with your mobility. For an added element, have two teammates actually pass the puck back and forth varying the timing so that you can practice following the puck rather than just getting in your own rhythm moving back and forth.

ice hockey player with puck skates towards the goalie during a breakaway

Some More Difficult Situations A Goalie Might Face

Here are some of the unique shots and situations you have to be ready for when playing goalie.

Blocking The Wraparound Shot

Wraparound are a tricky shot to stop.  The most effective way that I have found to stop a wraparound is be down on your knees and plant your pads against the post.  Moving from side of the net to the other on your knees more than likely means you are going to be using the post to stop your momentum from your starting position and pushing off.  There will be times the net will pop off because of the force that you hit the net with.  Better to have a whistle due to a net dislodged then be to slow to get to the other side of the net and your down 1.  Try to wedge your pad into the post.  Your upper body will be lagging behind but once it catches up be sure to get on that puck as quickly as possible to avoid a rebound or an unlucky bounce to the opposing team.

Breakaways

Breakaways – what can you do?  – challenge and be aggressive – challenge the skater to make the first move – Watch the persons hips and watch the puck – Skaters have a tendency to be flashy and with deke their heads this way and that, their stick back and forth.  All of that is nonsense.  A skaters hips will tell you the direction he is going.  Depending on where they get the breakaway, from come out as far as you can to be comfortable to get back in your net.  If they are coming in fast your backwards skating should be fast well, vice versa if they are taking their time like with a penalty shot.  You want to match their speed so that you force them to make a move that you want them to.

Getting Screened as a Goalie

People standing in front of you – Obvious yes, but how to deal with it is important.  When the opposing team is taking a shot from the point it is important to be aggressive.  The closer you are to the person who is trying the tip the puck, the more likely you have a shot at saving the puck.  If they are in front of you and standing there while the puck is making its way around the outside of your zone, speak up.  Let your defense know that you have someone in front.  Make sure they are on them.

If they are standing in front of you and you can’t see the puck, yelling “screen” usually gets the point across to have your defenders move the opposing players.  In the same vain, you are going to have some of your defenders who for some odd reason, want to get in front of shots coming from the point.  In reality, it’s nice when it works out, but you can’t stop what you can’t see so if their bodies are in front of the puck which is prohibiting you from seeing the puck, let them know.  Its best to lay down the law before it happens as they are not equipped to stop shots, you are.  Tell them to stay to side so that you can at least view the puck.

Getting Slashed

Be prepared to get hacked.

It is inevitable that at some point you are going to jump on a puck and someone from the other team is going to come in full steam and take a whack at you.  In most cases, your defense is going to come to your rescue and send a message that whacking you is not allowed.  Regardless, you are going to be hacked so expect it.

Retaliating will only end up in a penalty for your team, so do your best to stay under control.

Mental Game for a Goalie

You need to be mentally tough as a goalie.

Whenever the other team scores a goal, you are the center of attention. You will never get to skate the puck up ice and score one yourself. If you let in a goal, you don’t have time to sulk and get down on yourself because you need to be just as ready for the next shot. Some days you might let in 10 goals. You still have to show up for the next game ready to play your best.

People are shooting at you.

You may get hit in the head and your ears will starting ringing.

There’s no way to be ready for the first time that happens other than to know it will happen.  You are not going to look forward to the next time. But the important thing is to not let it affect how you play. If you got yourself a good helmet, then trust it and stay aggressive.

Next Steps…

Get out there and play. Have fun. Playing goalie is challenging, intense, sometimes scary, sometimes mentally exhausting…but most of all it is rewarding. You are the one that get’s credit for the win, you are the one on the ice for the entire game, and you get the coolest helmet.

Good luck getting started!

Leave any questions in the comments below. We are always happy to help new and experienced players with their game.

Let us know what goalie related topics you want to see us cover. We’ll go find an expert in that topic and pass on the knowledge to you!


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