InGoal Magazine July 2012 Edition : Page 64
McKenna on Puc T HE OLD ADAGE about being a goaltender is still true: stop the puck. But to be successful in today’s climate of highly trained technical netminders, one also has to be proficient outside the crease. by Mike McKenna, St. Louis Blues Reality is there is often a glut of adequate goaltenders available for coaches to choose from at the amateur level of hockey. So how do you distinguish yourself? How do you prove that you have put in the time and effort to become a goaltender worthy of playing at higher levels? The obvious answer is off-ice training and preparation. There’s no doubt coaches look for athletes in peak condition with a sharp mind. But beneath the surface of physical appearance and mental maturity lies a skill often over-looked by young goalies, but very much in demand: puckhandling. Looking back at the history of goaltending, the progression of puckhandling has occurred in an organic manner, from Jacques Plante venturing outside the crease to control dump-ins, to Ron Hextall being the first to physically score a goal (Billy Smith was credited, but did not actually shoot the puck). As time progressed, sticks improved, becoming thinner and lighter. Goalies started to experiment with different curves, lies, and blade shapes to improve their shooting ability. Before long, straight sticks went the way of helmetless players – disappearing for good when Bill Ranford retired in 2000. 64 InGoal Magazine June 2012 But everything changed in the mid-nineties when a young goalie out of Quebec named Brodeur first made his presence known in the National Hockey League. Marty could do more than stop the puck and occasionally clear the zone: his intelligence and awareness allowed him to make plays. Passes, chips, clears, bumps, delays; Marty could do it all. And most importantly, his team took immediate notice and allowed him room to do so. Before long, Brodeur truly was the Devils third defenseman on the ice, working seamlessly with teammates to initiate the breakout. And so, before the 2004-05 lockout, Brodeur (and other talented puckhandlers like Marty Turco, Rick DiPietro and Chris Osgood) enjoyed free reign in the defensive zone. Teams learned how to best utilize their goalie’s ability, often fanning defenseman out in order to provide safe passing options. But for every goalie that was a capable puckhandler, another existed who struggled with the puck outside the crease. For them, stopping dump-ins and making the occasional short pass was good enough. But in today’s game, especially with the trapezoid, the ability to make smart plays with the puck is crucial. Just as several players forever changed the way we tend goal – think Patrick Roy and the butterfly era he is credited with ushering in – the same holds true for handling the puck. The aforementioned Hextall revolutionized the position with his ability to shoot great distances at a high altitude: never before had a goalie cleared the zone by physically shooting the puck over the heads of oncoming forecheckers.