A good stance is one of the fundamental components to improving as a goaltender and becoming more comfortable in the crease. There are a variety of unique play styles and stances, and every goalie should work on finding what is most serviceable and comfortable for them. Each part of a goalie’s body, and their equipment, should be positioned to accomplish a couple of key aims in the crease: maximizing net coverage, maintaining ready availability to move effectively, and keeping a good balance on their feet. Here’s a break-down of every major part of your body and equipment to address when trying to find the right stance for you.
- Feet: The position of a goalie’s feet is among the most important facets of a good stance. A couple of bad tendencies goalies fall victim to with feet positioning is having their feet too narrow and having their feet too wide. Too narrow of a stance limits a goalie’s movement, as well as save selection, as it results in less lower net coverage. Another side effect is a decrease in balance. Too wide of a stance can also limit movement and net coverage, as it usually opens up the top of the net and takes away some leg power for lateral movement. Ideally, you should keep your feet a little more than shoulder’s width apart, slightly bending your ankles inward to put pressure on your inside edges at the balls of your feet.
- Skates: Properly positioning your skates goes hand-in-hand with good feet positioning. You should position your skates parallel to each other, so as to have both of your feet facing straight and your toes pointing forward. Positioning your skates in this fashion allows you to be better balanced, and to more easily perform shuffles and open up into t-pushes.
- Knees: It’s important for goalies to bend their knees just the right amount to maximize comfortability and their ability to move effectively. It’s also important to remember to avoid a couple of bad habits: keeping your knees too straight and bending your knees too much. Keeping your knees too straight decreases balance, and often means you are less ready for passing plays, having to spend more time dropping into a butterfly. Bending your knees too much can limit movement and inhibit upper body positioning. For good knee positioning, goalies should push their knees forward creating just enough bend to apply pressure to the inside edges of the skates, and the balls of the feet.
- Chest: Upper body positioning is just as important as lower body positioning to finding a solid stance. One of the biggest mistakes goalies make is adopting the habit of poor chest positioning– that is, hunching over and not keeping their chest straight. This not only creates poor balance, but also hinders a goalie’s ability in tracking high shots. To properly position their chest, goalies should stay up, revealing the logo of their jersey to the shooter moving in on them. By keeping your chest straight up, you should feel your weight shift forward slightly, which helps create better balance from head to toe. A straight chest also increases net coverage and aids in tracking high shots.
- Shoulders: When playing in practice or in a game, paying attention to shoulder positioning can often be an overlooked area of upper body stance. However, shoulder positioning is a crucial area to address. Ideal shoulder positioning includes keeping your shoulders parallel and level with each other, not letting one of either your glove or blocker arms droop lower than the other. Paying attention to your shoulders in this manner, keeping them parallel and level, helps to maintain proper chest positioning and keep your chest square, as well.
- Hands: A good glove and a good blocker are essential to a good stance, and essential to being able to stop pucks in a game. Each and every goalie has a preferred way of positioning their hands, and at the end of the day, your hands should fit your play style. For goalies looking for an effective way to position their hands, however, there is indeed a standard way to do so. Both your glove and blocker hands should be out in front of you, further strengthening your full-body balance and avoiding double coverage at your sides. Both hands should be placed just outside the width of your chest with your elbows a couple of inches away from your sides, as well. It’s up to the goalie to angle their glove and blocker the way they feel comfortable with– however, it’s typical for goalies to angle them in a way that allows them to both freeze the puck against their body, catch it, or redirect it to the corners.
- Stick: A goalie’s stick position can be the difference between making a save and allowing a goal on any type of shot or play throughout a game. Like some of the other intricacies of goaltending and a good stance, stick position is easy to forget to pay attention to, but can make all the difference if you consciously pay it mind. Goalies should make sure their stick blade is always flat against the ice, making sure they don’t lose the feel for it and let it rest on its heel– this could lead to an increase in five-hole goals allowed. Secondly, the stick should be kept at a good distance from the front of your pads, typically a foot in front, resting on a slight angle so as to ramp shots up into your body when dropping into a butterfly.
The feet, skates, knees, chest, shoulders, hands, and stick are the major parts of the body and equipment to pay attention to when finding a stance that works for you. Forming a proper stance will allow you to have more balance and control in the crease and will lead to more efficient movement and save selection options.
How do I practice finding the right stance for me?
Finding an effective and comfortable stance that works for you is going to take time and practice. The only way to figure out the right fit is by trying to perfect the fundamentals, like feet, skate, and chest positioning, and fine-tuning the unique facets such as glove positioning. Test both the provided standard and different stances in practice, and whatever feels most comfortable for you, go with in a game.
And remember– if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If a certain stance works for you, ask your goalie coach to help make you the best you can be using that stance without overhauling your style. Good luck, goalies!
- Basic goalie stance image from M.E.G.A. Goaltending
- Cam Ward image from Goalie Development Inc.
- Cory Schneider image from Canucks Army
- Kari Lehtonen image from The Goalie Store
- Braden Holtby image from Sports Illustrated
- Carey Price image from Edmonton Journal
- Matt Murray image from NHL.com
- Juuse Saros image from The Hockey Writers