GOALIES UNMASKED: EIGHT NHLERS SOUND OFF ON THE POSITION’S HOT TOPICS
Original Source: Matt Larkin
Posted on: Dec 05, 2016
At GoalieTutors.com we absolutely love when goalies get together to chat! Check out the Hockey News article by Matt Larkin where the top goalies and goalie coaches give us their opinion on Goalie Hot Topics....
How has goaltending changed compared to when you first started your career?
CORY SCHNEIDER: I came in the league with some of the guys at the end of the past generation, but I’ve also been around for some of the newer techniques and technologies and younger goalies. Just from what I’ve seen, the technique today is so good. Kids are learning this stuff at six, seven, eight years old, and they’re playing year round, and their technique is almost impeccable. I watch guys come into the league now, and they all seem to play like Carey Price.
ROBERTO LUONGO: If I still played the way I did back in the day, I wouldn’t be in the NHL anymore. You have to evolve with the time and the position and the new techniques that come out every year.
DOMINIK HASEK: I see a big change with the sliding. I wasn’t a sliding goalie. I was a butterfly goalie, but I was more up and down. Quickly down, quickly up. Today it seems the goalies look lazy, but they are not lazy. The style can look like that. They’re on their knees even when the puck is behind they net. They don’t go quickly up. They stay on one knee. My goalie coach told me it started in the ’90s in Finland. Through the sliding you cover the lower part of the net unbelievably, much better than we did as a group as goalies in the ’90s.
MITCH KORN: Everybody shoots the puck hard. Pucks are shot now harder and faster than ever before. Sticks are made of this material, and they tell me there is metal in them now. I can tell you this: it’s not your grandfather’s wooden sticks propelling pucks to the net now.
MARTIN BRODEUR: The last few years I played – and now I watch a lot of hockey and a lot of goalies – I see it’s a lot more demanding physically than it used to be, because of how fast and good everybody’s getting a younger age. Also because they take…I wouldn’t say liberties, because they want to score goals, but there’s not a price to pay to go to the net hard. Back then, with Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko around me, if someone wanted to go to the net really hard, he would’ve paid a hefty price.
SCHNEIDER: When you look back at the older generations, you saw more improvisation. That’s a natural reaction of not being as technical. Guys like Marty Brodeur and Dominik Hasek and Mike Richter just made it up as they went. They read they game so well that they knew exactly what they were doing, but it looked like they had no technique. I’m not saying young guys don’t have that flair, that read of the game. I think they do. But some of that gamesmanship, going out and finding any way to stop the puck, it’s disappeared a little bit.
BRODEUR: The backups are better. They’re more prepared. Kids in the minors are more prepared. Before there was a huge drop from the No. 1 to the No. 2. Now you don’t even see that drop almost, unless you put it on a full-year-scale. You had Mike Condon come in last year out of college, he had to play all these games for Montreal. He got exposed a little bit, but when he was able to play a few games, you couldn’t even tell who was the No. 1 or No. 2 goalie.
JAMIE MCLENNAN: It’s harder to be a pro athlete today, period, because there’s no downtime in the public eye. Before you could be a human and you could hide a little bit, because there wasn’t social media and media outlets tracking your every move. Information has come to the forefront. There are always people trying to dig for deeper information on you as a person and an athlete.
What are the biggest differences between this goalie generation and the last in training and preparation?
COREY HIRSCH: The equipment. Goalies are able to practise harder, longer. Practice used to be survival. You really never got any better unless you were already a good goalie. Think of the stuff Mike Palmateer used to have to use. Think he was standing in front of a Zdeno Chara slapshot in practice with that stuff on? Not a chance. (laughs)
KORN: It’s way harder to be a goalie today. However, the goalies have greater luxuries today, because the equipment’s way better and way more protective, which allows you to actually practise hard. In the old days the equipment was so poor that even though guys didn’t shoot like they do now, you couldn’t work on your game, especially without masks.
HASEK: The equipment is much better than it was in the ’80s. The goalies can practise much harder, because they do not have to be afraid of the puck. Everything is very well covered. I remember in the ’80s, we had to be a little bit careful. You couldn’t catch the puck in your hand or glove. If you got hit on the shoulder or somewhere on the groin or from the side, it could be very painful.
SCHNEIDER: You’re getting incredible athletes in the net now. I’m seeing guys come into camp, and they’re 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4, they weigh 220 pounds, and they have six percent body fat. They look like linebackers or tight ends. It used to be that goalies were just guys who can stop the puck, and they weren’t known for their physique. But now you look at some guys around the league, they’re tall, they’re strong, they’re athletic, and it’s almost not even a fair fight anymore. And that’s great. The goaltending position’s so athletic now that they’re drawing the kind of guys that maybe would’ve played defense or forward or a different sport.
HIRSCH: Goalies are in so much better shape now. That’s part of it. Most of us didn’t work out back in the ’80s. And then Mike Richter and Eddie Belfour ruined it for everybody. Let’s blame Vladislav Tretiak. Did Ken Dryden ever lift a weight? I don’t know. Mike Richter was a machine. You have no idea. Both of my legs put together were one of his. He won the Rangers fitness award every year.
KORN: Every organization has two goalie coaches now, one for the NHL and one for development, and some even have three. These young people are getting good goalie coaching as youths before they even get drafted or turn pro, which gets them way more prepared than they used to be. And the digital age, the ability to share information, the number of games they can watch, nationally, internationally, is amazing. When I grew up, I got to watch one game a week: Hockey Night in Canada, Saturday night. Now, with the Center Ice package, with satellite dishes, the Euro goalies are watching all of North America, which they never could before, and we can watch growing up every game, every goalie, every move they make. YouTube, NHL.com and Twitter provide information we never had before.
BRODEUR: When I started, there were maybe a few goalies who used to skate with a goalie coach in the summer. It never happened. Now there are full-fledged camps. There are eight NHL goalies coming in from eight different teams, practising together for a week in the summer. You’ve never seen that before. You’ve got guys who are outside sources. They’re not even employed by NHL teams, these coaches. There are just gurus out there who have their own players, personally coached, and you see the same thing going with forwards.
SCHNEIDER: At the same time, the days where kids played three sports and learned other skills are disappearing a bit. I played baseball and soccer up until high school, and I loved it. It helped my footwork. It helped my hand-eye co-ordination. So many guys get locked in year-round to hockey at 10, 11, 12 that maybe they’re prone to more injuries, like hip injuries, because they haven’t used their hips in other ways besides goaltending. I’ve heard kids from college and the minors are having double hip labrum surgeries. For the generation ahead of me and my generation, that’s rare. It seems like it’s the Tommy John now of hockey.
GRANT FUHR: There’s more time spent on goalies now, through specialized coaching and that sort of thing. It’s not so much you learn on the fly as you go anymore as you get help right out of the gate. We learned on our own. You figured the position out for yourself. Or you hoped you had a great partner that helped you out with it. Mitch Korn in Buffalo was the first goalie coach I had.
BRODEUR: I kind of laugh when people talk about terms of how they make saves. Different positioning off the post, a post lean or whatever. That was never in the language back then. I’d never heard of that. Puck tracking. These terms are fairly new.
Have goalies become too good?
LUONGO: I don’t think that’s the issue. The issue is just the way the game’s played now, with coaching systems and defensive systems and guys blocking shots. What creates the buzz in a building are great scoring chances, whether it’s a goal or a save. If chances are generated at a high rate, that’s what’s going to make hockey exciting. Hence the 3-on-3. It’s so wide open. There are so many scoring chances. People love that, right?
SCHNEIDER: It could be ebbing and flowing. Kids like Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, Team North America from the World Cup, you saw how much speed they had. The Penguins play with a ton of speed, and the Capitals, and they score goals. As long as the league is heading in that direction, it’s going to be harder for goalies to be less athletic or just sit there and let pucks hit them.
FUHR: Goalies are better athletes, there are more good goalies now, but I don’t think it hurts the game. If anything, the defensive systems hurt the game more than the goalies do. If a goalie has a bad night, you can still score a lot of goals.
Is shrinking equipment the best way to increase scoring?
HASEK: I have to say it’s a good idea. Any time the goalies say that, I know the other goalies will hate me (laughs)! That's normal. But you have to be very careful, because you have to be sure the goalies are protected very well, which they are today.
SCHNEIDER: I don’t think it’s going to be as great as everyone says. We made all the gear smaller after the lockout. We shrunk the pads a couple years ago. I agree with the sentiment that there are guys who look much, much larger than they are in person and that they’re only using the gear for blocking and not for protection. I’m all for protecting the guys and making sure they don’t get hurt, but I also don’t think you should abuse it and take up space in the net. It might have an impact on some guys, but the league’s becoming more athletic. Guys are becoming bigger and can move around like they’re 5-foot-10 when they’re 6-foot-5.
HIRSCH: It will have an impact on scoring, but for me it’s not about the scoring, it’s about having the athletic goalie and the best athletes. You’re putting back some excitement in the game. You’ll have rebounds and you’ll have athletic goaltending where they’ll have to play a little different to make saves.
BRODEUR: I don’t think it’s fair for me to talk about it that much, because I was never a guy who was blamed for cheating and I never wanted to expose anyone either. My thing is, if everybody’s in the same boat, if the playing field is equal for everyone, it shouldn’t matter what kind of equipment you wear.
HASEK: There is a cheater on the catching glove. If you ask any goalie, he loves it. I love it. But if you cut it for everyone, it would make a difference. I don’t know if you can cut one inch of pad. I don’t know. There is not too much room for cutting anymore, as you have to be protected well because of things like one timers.
SCHNEIDER: I would much rather shrink the equipment before I changed the nets. Making bigger nets would be a last resort. I’d even say after the equipment I would change some of the rules in the game. Guys can’t leave their feet to block shots, change the neutral zone rules, something to opening up the game and create more scoring chances – before bigger nets. Maybe I’m just an historian and enjoy the classic part of the game, but it would be like making them bigger in basketball. Part of it just feels wrong. But if goalies keep getting bigger and in 10 years the average goalie is 6-foot-5…they didn’t design the nets for 6-foot-5 goalies. They designed them for guys who are 5-foot-8, 5-foot-9, 5-foot-10, and maybe that’s just evolution.
HIRSCH: I’m wondering what it would be like if you have a zone in front of the net where you’re only allowed there for a few seconds in defensive mode, like the illegal defense rule in basketball.
SCHNEIDER: Would the league like more scoring? Of course. But I also think the style of play is just as important. If you have an up-and-down-the-ice game that’s a 3-2 game, that’s fantastic, as opposed to 20 shots, everything’s getting blocked, there’s no room in the neutral zone. A 3-2 game that way is not nearly as exciting.
FUHR: I’d put the weight back in the equipment. Heavy equipment makes it harder to move. Harder to move, smaller equipment. It shrinks by itself. That’s why we wore it smaller. It was heavy. You didn’t want to wear it big.
KORN: We can manipulate the rules. I’m a big believer that, short of picking the puck up and throwing it in, there are a lot more ways to score goals than are currently allowed. Alex Ovechkin scored a goal in World Cup. He used his glove, he punched it in, it didn’t it his stick like he hoped it would. Why isn’t that a goal? Why isn’t the goal that Andrew Shaw headbutted in a few years ago a goal? Why can’t you kick the puck in the net? Why can’t you hand-pass the puck anywhere on the ice? I think these more than changing goalie equipment will enhance goal scoring that they’re looking for.
What’s the most difficult skill for any goalie to master?
HASEK: You have to have talent, you have to have very good reactions, you have to be a very good skater. Good flexibility is helpful. And you cannot give up. It’s most important. You have to be a leader, because the team is behind you. You’re the last on the team who gives up. The team depends on you.
FUHR: To get to the NHL, once you’re at that level you’ve got all the physical skills. To stay there and be good, it’s the mental side. You know you get to make a difference every day, good or bad. When things aren’t going well, it’s easy to lose your confidence, and it’s hard to get it back. So I think the hardest thing to master is yourself, just in your own mind.
SCHNEIDER: The hardest part is reading the play. It’s tough, because the only way you get better at it is by playing more. But you only play if you’re good enough to play. So it’s important for guys to get the reps, at the minor league level, in college, in junior, ECHL, the AHL.
BRODEUR: I think being consistent. You can do as many reps as you want, but to be able to play at a level and keep that level for 60 minutes a game, some people have a hard time doing that or have a hard time doing it playing three games in four nights.
HIRSCH: It’s probably the art of waiting for the play to develop. You really have no choice but to wait for a shooter to shoot it, because if you move too soon, you expose the net. The best guys have the ability to make the shooter panic first. Carey Price. Marty Brodeur. They don’t move. They wait out the shooter.
LUONGO: The mental side. That’s the most important thing. You need to be sharp as far as being confident and knowing what you need to do on any given night. But as soon as a little bit of doubt creeps in your mind, it’s weird how bad things start to happen. The thing I’ve tried to master my whole career, and it’s practically impossible but you do work on it, is the mental side and being able to go out there and be at the top of your game every night.
KORN: The easiest skill for me as a coach to help the goalie with are physical skills. The efficiencies, the way they contort their body, the way they get tight. Mental skills are harder, like tracking the puck off the stick and recognizing patterns in plays, because you can only really do that after the fact. You need video after the game often to do that.
BRODEUR: When you play a lot, the bad things that happen are just little checkmarks, and you move on. It’s how good you’re able to bounce back. And that’s how you become consistent. That’s the challenge for every single goalie. Your performance matters, but you need to be bigger than your performance. That’s what makes you a goalie who every night people will have the same feeling about your game. It’s not going to be a good game, a bad game, an OK game. You’re just going to be consistent every time you go in. Your reaction to plays will be consistent. And that really helps you in the playoffs. It’s an extra step. Everything is overanalyzed.
KORN: And maybe the hardest skills to possess or manage are the emotional skills, being able to bounce back after a bad game or bad goal, and being able to control your mind, your emotions, your self talk, your highs and lows during a game. Because you’re all by yourself. You’re out there all by yourself. The puck’s at the other end of the ice. And I can’t help them! Unless they tell me what’s going through their minds or what they’re thinking or whether their heart rate goes up or down…I will never know. And I can’t practice 18,000 people in a building in a 2-1 game with 30 seconds left! That’s where body of work comes in. And you have to experience it to experience it. You can’t practice it. You can prepare all you want, but until you’re in that element you can’t replicate it.
Are goalies always the weirdest guy on the team? Or is that a myth?
BRODEUR: It’s true. I’ve played with guys where I was amazed. I’m not one of them – I think anyway – but more and more you see players have these different things you do, and you’re shaking your head. I tried to minimize it. There’s so much going on your hockey career that less is more sometimes. I’ve seen guys and thought, ‘Why are they going through this?” but it becomes natural to them, and they feel more prepared because of it.
KORN: I coached a goalie that had lucky sticks. And when he broke his last lucky stick, it went to hell in a handbasket.
SCHNEIDER: It’s like a baseball pitcher. You have to do whatever you need to to get into a mental state where you’re going to play well. That lends itself to some weird habits and traditions and superstitions. It’s inherent with the position that you have to be a little bit different than everyone else.
LUONGO: One guy I played with, he wouldn’t lift his mask up during the game, so he’d always have to keep it down. And one time, he was eating a power bar during a TV timeout, and he wouldn’t lift his mask up, and he was feeding it through his grill, but he couldn’t reach his mouth because it was too far away (laughs).
BRODEUR: I had backups who would play five games a year, and they wouldn’t talk to anyone the day they played. Like, seriously? Enjoy that day you’re playing at least! (laughs). But I always respected that regardless of who they were on my team. Everybody needs to do their own things to be 100 percent ready when they play.
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