By Corey Hirsch So you want to be a pro hockey player? Here are five tips professional goalies do that amateurs should include in their training. Repetition and consistency are the keys.
1. SKATING SKILLS The foundation of goaltending is based on balance and edges. The better skater you are, the better goaltender you will be. Before every practice and every game, your warmup should consist of simple skating drills: T-pushes, shuffles and slides. You use a T-push for long crease movements. Push with one leg, turn and point your toe to where you want to go with the other. Push then glide on that blade to the area you want to be. Shuffles are for small positional adjustments moving side to side. It’s similar to a small side step. None of them needs to take long. It can be one set of 10 reps each and can take anywhere from two to 10 minutes. My NHL goalie routine consisted of the same skating drills every day. The letter drills are the most effective. Use them, do them and become a better goalie.
2. HAND SKILLS With the advancement of the butterfly save in the early to mid-1990s, goaltenders started perfecting their on-ice coverage, and the use of their hands was a bit forgotten. Catching a puck means possession for your team, and rebounds off your blocker are steered to the corner. In warmup, do a simple drill of catching pucks and blocking shots to the corner. Drop 30 pucks in the slot, and, while in your butterfly, have someone shoot at your hands. The Finnish goalies, especially Kari Lehtonen in Dallas, do this every day as part of their warmup.
3. MENTAL PREPARATION The game of goaltending is 80 percent mental. Prepare your mind before you hit the ice. Take five to 10 minutes and find a quiet spot where you can be alone to focus. Visualizing plays and seeing yourself make the right play will help you immensely. It may mean the difference between making a mistake and making the right decision at the right time.
4. WORK ETHIC AND FITNESS You need to be the hardest worker and most fit player on your team. New York Rangers goalie Mike Richter won the fitness award every year. Hall of Famer Ed Belfour used to run triathlons. St. Louis’ Brian Elliott is the hardest-working goalie I’ve ever coached. Your teammates look to you as their rock. Never let them have any doubts. By being fit and working hard, you let them know you have their back.
5. BOUNCE-BACK MENTALITY The best goalies know they’re going to have bad goals and more bad games. In an 82-game season, it’s impossible not to. They can shrug it off and not let it get to them. Positive self-talk and a positive attitude are the keys to this. Goalies get scored on, but there is no point in letting it bother you. Martin Brodeur has been scored on nearly 3,000 times in his career, and it doesn’t bother him. So why should it bother you?
DRILLS: SKATE TO BE GREAT Strong footwork is vital to any goaltender's success. Try these warmup drills to achieve peak performance on game day:
1. T-push to the top of your crease. 2. Square up to face a shot from the slot, then T-push back to your far post.
1. T-push to the top of your crease. 2. Shuffle across crease to the far corner. 3. Recover back to the near post of your net.
1. T-push to the top of your crease. 2. Shuffle across crease to the far corner. 3. Recover back to the far post of your net.
Corey Hirsch won a silver medal at the ’94 Olympics and played seven years in the NHL. He’s coached goalies for eight years with Hockey Canada, Toronto and St. Louis.
This feature appeared in the Feb. 16 Rookie Issue of The Hockey News magazine. Get in-depth features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.