Since the mid-1990s when Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy virtually patented the play style, the butterfly style has dominated goaltending. Once a foreign, unorthodox method of dropping to your knees to make a save instead of staying on your feet to stop the puck, the butterfly play style is now the universally taught method among hockey goalies around the globe. One of the first techniques a goalie is taught is dropping into a butterfly, where they will later learn to maneuver efficiently throughout their crease. The purpose of a butterfly is to eliminate the lower part of the net, while maximizing balance and potential for recovery. Here’s a comprehensive break-down of the butterfly play style, its benefits, and its intricacies.
- Chest: When dropping into a butterfly, it’s important for goalies to make a point of keeping their chest straight, maintaining good posture even when dropping to their knees. Your chest should be up straight so the shooter can see the logo of your jersey. A straight chest improves balance, and serves to better cover the upper area of the net that gets revealed while dropping into butterfly in the first place.
- Shoulders: Good shoulder positioning goes hand-in-hand with good chest positioning. Your shoulders should be kept parallel to and level with each other, so as to maintain proper chest positioning. Both the chest and shoulders should have a slight lean forward, as well; this allows maximum puck vision. It’s important to avoid sinking your chest and shoulders when dropping into a butterfly, as this limits net coverage.
- Pads: Pad position is crucial to a good butterfly. You’ll often hear terms like “narrow” and “wide” used to describe a goalie’s butterfly, and the goal is to have as wide of coverage in the butterfly as possible. Ideally, your pads should be extended to the sides with the inside of the pads against the ice, and your knees together covering the five hole. It’s important that while dropping, you are quickly driving your knees to the ice, not wasting time or giving up space while the shot’s coming at you.
- Butt Up: Keeping your butt up off the ice sounds like a funny tip, but it can make all the difference in net coverage and mobility in the butterfly. A butt up position can help with keeping your chest straight and maintaining balance on your knees, maximizing net coverage, and keeping your knees flat on the ice. It also makes it much easier to perform quick on-ice or full recoveries to follow the play. It’s important to keep your butt up and not let it sink back to the heels of your skates. Sinking your butt back leads to poor recovery and balance, limits net coverage, and separates your knees, which opens your five hole for the puck to squeeze through.
- Gloves: Glove positioning is very important when dropping into a butterfly. Goalies should practice keeping their gloves in the same position from standing up to dropping down, not letting them drop or move drastically and open up holes. A goalie’s gloves should be placed just outside the width of their chest, with the elbows locked in slightly outside the body, not wasting space on double coverage. A goalie can bring their elbows in on tight-space shots, touching them to the side of the body and eliminating any holes by forming a wall. Goalies can extend their arms and angle their hands above the puck on shots from more than a foot away, to create more net coverage and react to where the shot is aimed.
- Stick: Your stick should always stay 8 to 12 inches away from the front of your pads, in front of your skates and resting on a slight angle to create a cushion to ramp shots at your stick up and cover your five hole. It’s important to never hold your stick perpendicular to the ice, or extend it too far out in front of your knees. Holding the stick too far out creates a ramp that doesn’t direct shots into your body, but over your shoulders.
How do I practice perfecting my butterfly?
A proper butterfly allows goaltenders to be balanced and under control, limits excessive, wasted movement, and leads to more efficient movements and recoveries. That being said, the best way to practice perfecting your butterfly is what every goalie dreads: repetition, repetition, repetition.
I know, most goalies don’t want to perform the same movements over and over again – trust me, I was a goalie, too – I get it. But repeatedly dropping to your knees, moving, and dropping to your knees again, all while practicing keeping every part of your body and equipment in place and balanced is the best way to get the best out of your butterfly. So go practice what you’ve read, and try to have the best butterfly you can. Good luck, goalies!