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There are many joys to be had from being a beer league goalie.  Being able to play hockey with your friends, getting away from the family, oh and the beer.

This goalie from an amateur league in the Czech Republic, definitely enjoys the latter.  However you may want to save downing the team’s beer for after the game is done

Video of him making some Hasek-esque saves

Minor Adjustments to Improve Your Game

As goalies, regardless of age, type of league, or skill level, we’d all like to improve our game.  This even rings true for the beer league goalies out there.  Afterall, you spend thousands of dollars on equipment to get pelted by shots on a Wednesday 11PM game, you want to make it worth while.

Unless you’re pitching shutouts every game, there are probably areas of improvement you can make to make you a better goalie.  But what if you don’t have the luxury of practice sessions or warmups to iron out the kinks or even revamp your game entirely.

The trick is to figure out what you need to work on first, and dedicate your efforts to improving that ONE specific area of your game versus trying to fix everything all at once.  Once you have determined one area you’d like to improve upon, it’s time to make the small adjustments to slowly improve that area of your game.

Here is an example of a small adjustment I made :

Above is a before & after screenshot of my basic stance.  I was getting beat high glove side far too often from various distances of the ice.  It wasn’t until I was able to see myself that I realised one basic fundamental problem with my glove hand.  I had inadvertently created double coverage with my glove hand, leaving the entire glove-side open. 

The solution was relatively simple and quick to correct.  Fighting muscle-memory and poor habits, I kept a mental note to adjust my glove hand slightly to the left and away from my shoulder, sometimes reminding myself during games before face-off’s.  In the BEFORE picture, my fingers were facing up at 12 o'clock.  I made an adjustment by having my thumb at 12 o'clock (index finger at 2 o'clock).  The results were immediate!  I started to catch/block shots glove-side more regularly from all areas of the ice.  Eventually after just a few games, proper habit had started to set in place where I had a better glove-hand naturally.

The Key to making yourself a better goalie is not always revamping everything you know.  It’s to fine-tune your skills and abilities.  Although you may not notice a drastic drop in your GAA right away, by making minor adjustments you’ll start to make that save you traditionally got beat on.  Next thing you know, you’ll start to feel more confident in yourself and then you can move on to another area of your game to make an adjustment too.  You can even do this in front of the mirror with some of your gear on to see what you look like to the shooter.

Here is a breakdown on making adjustments to your game

  1. Determine what ONE specific area you want to improve on (glove hand, five hole, staying square, etc.)
  2. Figure out what you have been doing and how you’ll improve it
  3. Tell yourself before AND during a game, to work on that one area
  4. Keep at it!
  5. After each game(s), see if you noticed any improvements and what you did right!
  6. Once satisfied, move on to the next area you want to improve!

Let me know your thoughts!  Hope you all will find this useful.  

A Beginner's Guide - Gear (Part 2)
Click here for the Beginner’s Guide - Gear Part 1 You’ve read the general tips on getting new gear, now let’s get into the fun stuff with some specifics! Helmets:  Helmets today are generally made up of either fibreglass, kevlar, or both!  Helmets come with varying price points.  Some as low as $150 to as high as $1000.  Picking a helmet is based on what feels comfortable, what’s protective, and of course your budget.  However, this is your head we’re talking here!  Try to not cheap out on what protects your brain by getting a “widowmaker”.  If possible, I would suggest getting at LEAST a mid-range helmet (Hackva 2608, Bauer NME7, etc.).  Make sure the helmet is correctly fitted to your head for optimal protection.  Buying Used?  Note the wear and age of the helmet.  Helmets are designed to withstand a finite amount of impacts before it starts to break down.  Avoid low-end used helmets, and ensure there are no cracks.
  • Dangler/Neck Protector - Danglers protect you from shots that may hit you in the neck or a wandering stick.  I highly recommend these and it can literally save your life.  Neck/throat protectors protect you from possible skate cuts to the neck.  It’s extremely rare but recommended. 

Chest Protector (aka C/A) - These vary greatly between style/manufacturer.  Generally speaking, you are choosing between mobility and protection.  You can buy these used if you want to save some money, just be wary of how much wear the c/a may have as they tend to wear the quickest.  Ensure you get the correct size for your body and arms to optimize movement and protection.  C/A’s can be worn tucked in or out of the goalie pants (personal preference).  You’ll have to play with the strapping of your C/A to find what’s comfortable.  I personally have it slightly loose around the body to create an “air pillow” to absorb shots to the chest. 

Goalie Pants - Size preference differs greatly between goalies here.  This should be coordinated with your C/A as some goalies like to tuck their C/A into the pants and some don’t.  Many goalies go up higher in sizing because it allows for more coverage and more freedom of movement in the pants.  If you go this route you may want to get some suspenders to keep them up.

Knee Pads/Thigh Guards/Thigh Wraps - These aren’t required but highly suggested.  Most goalies drop into a butterfly exposing their knees and thighs that are not covered by the goalie pants and leg pads.  Finding a protective yet comfortable knee pad can be difficult, which is why you should try them on first!  If that’s not possible, read up as many reviews as possible.  Knee pad construction differs greatly between manufacturers so do your research.  They can either be secured simply by its own velcro strapping or can be held up with a garter.

Catcher - Try on as many as possible in stores or your friends!  Pro gloves offer more protection in the palm and do not break down as fast as lower end models, however pro gloves can cost as much as $500!  Catchers come with many straps to fit your fingers, thumb, and wrist.  It is largely up to each goalie, but I found many like to have a decent amount of looseness in the wrist for extra mobility.  There are many options when it comes to catchers.  

Blocker - A blocker is a blocker, who cares!  Kidding.  You should look for one with good mobility in the wrist, but protective on the side wall, finger and thumb.

Goalie Stick - Sticks come in so many different options it’d take an entire article to go over.  You have different paddle lengths, curves, and types.  Here’s a quick overview

  • Composite, wood, foam core - Composites is a newer material that offers greater flex and are much lighter.  Ideal for those goalies who like to play the puck.  Wood sticks are sturdier, heavier (ideal for some), and are less likely to break than composites, although with very little to no flex it can be difficult to shoot with.  Foam core is a mix of the two.  They are wooden with foam injected into the paddle making it moderately light with moderate flex and weight.  The best of both worlds!
  • Paddle length - depends on your height as well as playing preference.  Generally speaking, you should not go too short as it’ll result in your blocker hand being too low and causing your upper body to hunch over more.  Too tall however will cause you to open up holes between your arm and body when in a butterfly, or make it difficult to play the puck.  

Goalie Jock - Yes, goalies have their own specific jock too.  Goalie jocks are a bit bigger than regular jocks as it helps cover the hips more and is generally more protective.  They often have more padding and come in double-cup options.  I wouldn’t suggest skimping on a jock…this is your man-hood we’re talking here!  For the female goalies, a goalie jock is referred to as a goalie-Jill although you can get away with just wearing a goalie jock too.

Goalie Skates - Goalie skates are highly recommended for all goalies. Goalie skates are made with a shorter boot for more mobility in the ankle.  The cowling protects your foot from shots, and the blade is made flatter and thicker than a player skate for better balance.  It is VERY important to get properly sized skates.  Sizing differs between manufacturers, but most often your skate size is 1 to 1.5 sizes SMALLER than your shoe size.  If you are getting mid to pro level, goalie skates can be heat molded so it is better fitted to your foot.  

Leg Pads -  Leg pads come in so many different options, many of which you won’t know what to get until you start to experiment.  Refer back to part 1 for buying tips on what to look out for when it comes to leg pads and the importance of picking the right size.  Like all gear, the right size will give you a better opportunity to stopping the puck then something too big or small.  There is no one pad that is ideal for all beginner goalies.  You’ll simply have to figure out what you like as you go along.  

Strapping your leg pads:  No one can tell you how you should strap your pads.  Not your friends, not a pro, no one.  Your body is unique in how it works with all the different types of pads out there.  Having a pad sit properly along its side so the entire face of the pad faces the shooter will provide the best amount of coverage in net.  Many new goalies strap their pads super tight along the entire pad, often causing “under-rotation” where the pads do not sit flush along its side on the ice while in a butterfly, and instead will be angled downwards (face of pad angled down towards the ice).  Having too loose of a pad may cause over-rotation, causing your pads not to properly “seal” along the ice, creating holes the puck can slip through.  Experiment A LOT at home or before games, as it may take some time to find out your ideal strapping setup.  Once you do, write it down or draw a marking on your straps ready to go for next game.