Goalie Dojo

Goalie Development => Goalie Development => : Sensei Apr 11, 2013, 11:52 AM

: "Athleticism" - The buzz word in goaltending
: Sensei Apr 11, 2013, 11:52 AM
"Athleticism" - The buzz word in goaltending

How many times do you hear someone use the word "athletic" or "athleticism" when talking about goalies?

"He is an athletic goalie."
"Athletic goalies are better than butterfly goalies."
"I like your kid's athleticism."
"At XYZ Goalie School we stress athleticism."

What does "athletic" or "athleticism" really mean?

According to the dictionary:

1. Of or befitting athletics or athletes.
2. Characterized by or involving physical activity or exertion; active: an athletic lifestyle; an athletic child.
3. Physically strong and well-developed; muscular: an actor with an athletic build. See Synonyms for muscular.

1. an active interest in sports.
2. an obsessive participation in physical activity.

According to today's hockey world it appears that the terms are used to describe a "good" goalie and in most cases, a style opposite to the butterfly style - though goalies today should not be thought of as having a particular "style". Of course every goalie looks, moves and reacts differently in situations but there is no real defining style of making saves, just the choices of save types and the way they are executed. All modern goalies learn a variety of save types including the butterfly and its variations as well as types where you do not go down.

I have never heard the word "athletic" used by goalies themselves. But I have heard it used by the media, general public and goalie school instructors (and school marketers) while talking to parents who are a little naive when it comes to goaltending.

All goalies nowadays know that the butterfly is not a style but a save type that is used in specific situations. The general public sees a goalie that is good at the butterfly and think it is his or her style. The fact that every goalie today must do the butterfly means that every goalie is a "butterfly" goalie - but some are better than others and some choose to use it more often than others.

It was the 90's when Patrick Roy made people think that the "butterfly" was a style and due to his success we moved away from the old-fashioned "stand-up" style to one where the butterfly save and its variations are used more often.

In the 2000's, goalies were taught to play percentages and use a blocking save, which meant to do the butterfly (and cover more of the bottom of the net) as a higher percentage of shots are low. Even today's high-level goalies use a "go down, play high" approach - maybe that is why the trend is towards very tall goalies who can still cover the top of the net while down. (Youth goalies that barely reach the crossbar may have difficulty if emulating their NHL heroes.)

In recent years there has been a backlash against goalies that use blocking or percentage save types (i.e. butterfly) too often, especially when there is enough time for the goalie to wait and react rather than go down in the butterfly before the shot is even taken.

This "wait and react" approach may still mean a butterfly save type but it may also mean a stand-up save type (or being in a position to react again even if the puck is shot wide, blocked or passed). I believe that today people use the term "athletic" to mean a goalie who takes a more reactive approach compared to a more blocking approach.

I've also heard some people say "you can't teach athleticism". I always find it hard to understand what they mean by that. I think what they want to say is that a person's reflexes, mental quickness to read a situation and decide a save type, and eye-brain-body connection and coordination may all be genetic. So in their view, an "athletic goalie" means a goalie who is "naturally quick to react to a particular situation in an effective way". I guess "athletic" is easier to say.

So if someone uses the word "athletic" or "athleticism" when it comes to goalies, think about what they really mean. In any case, if they are talking about you or your kid, then it is a compliment.

How come they don't use the word "athletic" with forwards or defense?

I think that this goes back to old-school thinking where a long time ago parents would put their kids in net if he/she was a bad skater, fat or generally not good at sports. In other words, not "athletic" in the dictionary sense. So goalies were not thought of as "athletes" unlike forwards and defense. Also, with 50 pounds of equipment goalies lumbered on the ice like sumo wrestlers so the image really didn't help people's thinking.

Today, goalies have to be great skaters, flexible, quick, and in good shape. They are great athletes just like forwards and defense. So an "athletic goalie" is somewhat of an oxymoron.