Goalie Style: Which One is Right for You?

goalie style

Goalie Style: Which One is Right for You? There is no “one-size-fits-all” style.

By Warren Tabachnick

Most would agree that in hockey, goaltender is the hardest position to play. Skaters usually play about a minute before they come off the ice for a line change. This allows them a few minutes to rest before being called back into action. Unless they are having a “bad” game however, a goalie must remain on the ice for the duration of the game.

Arguably more than any other hockey player on the ice, to be an effective goalie you must have lightning reflexes and be in good physical shape. Goaltending demands extremely sharp focus, dexterity, and the ability to rebound quickly from shots, notwithstanding hits from opposing players—even an inadvertent hit from your own defense player trying to clear the crease.

Much has been said about the mental aspect of a goalie’s skill set. In a game, having a clear head and the ability to mentally recover from a “soft” goal are essential. Even the best goalies have their bad games. But sometimes allowing one too many goals can get inside their head and the game is over even before the final buzzer.

Making that key save can be the ultimate in the highlight reel of every goalie’s mind. But to be an effective goaltender, you must possess the ability to handle the stress this position places on you, both physically and mentally.

When it comes to goalie style, there are a number in use. It should be noted that there is no “one-size-fits-all” style. Rather, goaltending styles can be combined to suit the needs of each net minder.

Here are some of the types of goalie styles and an overview of each:

  • Butterfly
  • Vertical Horizontal (VH)
  • Reverse Vertical Horizontal (RVH)
  • Blocking 
  • Challenging the Shooter

Butterfly Style

Probably the most ubiquitous goalie position is the Butterfly, which acquired its name because the goaltender spreads their arms and legs wide, much like the wings of a butterfly.

The Butterfly places a great demand on the body, specifically the thighs, knees, and groin. Goalies employing this technique must be in good shape since it requires them to quickly drop down to the ice. They also need to possess speed and all-around agility to quickly achieve that, or to use their upper body to prevent a goal.

Vertical Horizontal (VH) Style

The Vertical Horizontal (VH) style has the goalie place their leg pad in a vertical position against the post, with the pad and shoulders facing toward the corner. It creates a seal against the post and can be effective in preventing wraparound goals, or plays in which the opposing player attempts to jam the puck into the net.

Reverse Vertical Horizontal (RVH) Style

The Reverse Vertical Horizontal style is a very common goalie stance, frequently used to cover the post to prevent easy “soft” goals from being scored. In contrast with the VH style, the goalie’s leg pad held against the post is horizontal on the ice while the back leg is kept vertical.

Aside from the potential for damage to the hips which can lead to injury, the RVH poses some risks to the goaltender looking to keep pucks out of the net. As former NHL goalie and current TV analyst Kevin Weekes once said, “Short side is the new five hole.” That’s because shots coming from a sharp angle can be very difficult to stop.

And because this method requires the goalie to drop to their knees, shooters can take advantage of that by anticipating just what the goalie will do to try to make the save.

Blocking Position

Larger-size or less-agile goaltenders may benefit from this goalie style. The center of the body is used to block shots, and the trapper (catching glove) is rarely used.

Challenging the Shooter

In this instance, the goalie leaves the crease, with the aim of cutting the angle and reducing the puck shooter’s perception of the net area. It’s a gutsy move that requires intense focus in trying to anticipate the shooter’s next move. Being fleet of foot is a big plus in this instance.

The Bottom Line: There is no one-size-fits-all goalie style. Goaltending techniques can be combined to suit the needs of every goaltender. Each of these goalie styles come with some risks, in either preventing goals or possible injury from overuse.

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