Ice Hockey Goaltending Basics and Techniques

When it comes to your vision as a hockey goaltender, you must keep on leveling up your skill to see the ice, the puck, and the skaters.

Adequate net coverage is predominant to your success as a goalie. What’s more, your stance, defensive depth, and recovery post save all play a task in your ability to be an elite goaltender.

Goaltender Basics

As a goaltender, you do more than just stand in front of a net. You’re focusing your defense, making saves, and mastering your skill set. Developing your insight, focus, and hand-eye coordination is integral in improving your abilities.


As a goaltender, you want to make your net coverage as big as possible, as well as your ability to maintain balance while moving. Your positioning covers your feet, skates, knees, chest, shoulders, gloves, and stick.

When you have your proper stance, you are under control and able to make save selections efficiently.

The position should support optimal balance, mobility, comfort, and speed of movement.

  • Feet very wide apart to correct balance and lateral mobility.
  • Flex your knees and trunk forward (approximately 40ยบ) with the body’s weight on the front of the skate blades.
  • The trunk should remain flexed forward to stop the puck from rebounding too far ahead.
  • The knees and hips are flexed close to 90 degrees; more knee and hip flexion are useful to provide quicker movement and a greater force for push-off.
  • Your shoulders, knees, and front part of the feet must be arranged and joined by a vertical line.
  • The catching glove should be open and held slightly forward of the knee.
  • The blocker and catching glove must be slightly forward from the knees to enable the goaltender to see both hands via their outer vision.
  • Both gloves should be at the same height. 
  • Maintain the stick on the ice at all times! 
  • The stick blade should be flat on the ice surface (not with the toe pointed up). It should also be about 25- 30 cm in front of the skates to stop long rebounds created by the stick hitting the skate’s toes at impact.
  • The stick should be at an angle to the ice tipped toward the goaltender.
  • The goaltender’s weight should be on the inside edges of their skate blades.
  • Try to move your arms and legs independently. When the legs move to drive the goaltender sideways, the arms should remain in position.
  • The goalie must face the puck as they move across the goalmouth to look larger and cover more space in the net, and cut off the angle of the shot.

Holes one through five

When a goaltender stands in front of the net in a ready position, there are five open spots that the goalie must cover. They are: 

  • Glove side, high: The goaltender’s arm covers this area and catcher on the bottom. The mask is on the inside, and the post and top of the goal on the outside. 
  • Glove side, low: This area is covered by the goaltender’s arm and catcher on the top, ice on the bottom, and the outside post of the goal. During a butterfly style save, this spot is closed off completely. The catcher is typically stacked atop the leg pad as the leg is extended to cover the post. 
  • Stick side, high: this area is covered by the goal post, top of the goal, and the goalie’s arm and blocker. The top half of the goaltender’s stick is held in this area but is not usually used for stopping the puck. 
  • Stick side, low: this area is the lower half of the stick side, marked by the blocker and arm, the ice, and the outer post of the goal. The leg pad also covers this spot with the blocker stacked on top to protect against low shots during a butterfly save. When a goaltender is standing, their stick’s paddle is used to cover this spot and block the puck away from the net. 
  • ‘Five Hole’: the fifth and final spot is between the goalie’s leg pads and skates. Your stick’s blade should protect this spot at all times and is closed up by the upper leg pads when the goalie is in the butterfly position.

Positioning (Depth)

There are four general depths a goaltender should know well while they’re in front of the net:

  • Defensive
  • Conservative
  • Base
  • Aggressive

These positions are essentially dictated by where the puck is located on the ice. For example, a goaltender at defensive depth is an immediate response to the puck being within the net’s shooting proximity or behind the net.

Knowing these depths and how to place yourself is vital to effective angles to save selections.


As a goaltender, you will be running in nearly every direction at a moment’s notice. The T-Push is an essential move that develops your ability to move side-to-side explosively. This is to cover long or medium ranges with a single exertion of effort.

Significant T-Push movements enable goalies to get into better save selection angles.

The T-push (taught to beginner goalies) happens when the goalie rotates their right lower leg outwards to where they are heading. Then your left leg will initiate the push as you revert your ankle into a neutral position to stop.


The shuffle is a side-to-side movement related to a T-Push but meant for short distances. A good shuffle enables you to maximize save selection angles and minimize holes in your stance during the shot.

  • The shuffle steps will enable the goalie to move across the crease to follow the play. However, the goalie must maintain the essential ready position whenever possible.
  • The goalies skate to the right side, then the opposite leg (left) starts the push across the crease.
  • The right leg is stretched in motion, while the left leg extends to push the body across the goalmouth.
  • The head, trunk, and arms should remain in a neutral status facing the puck while the legs propel the goalie across the goalmouth.
  • It should be no up and down movement of the upper body and arms; only the legs extend to move towards the goal.


Goalies must skate forward and backward while staying square to the puck to minimize holes in their stance. A C-Cut permits the goalie to gain momentum and position correctly in the crease for saving the selection.


A goalie must be capable of eliminating the lower portion of the net. At the same time, he needs to maintain balance and maximum shot selection capabilities.

The butterfly leaves the goalie to keep the chest, shoulders, and eyes up, tracking the puck. When appropriately executed, vision, tracking, and movement are maximized.

Goalie Techniques

The goalie can either operate as a stand-up goalie or as a butterfly goalie.

As a stand-up goalie, he will not go down to the ice but continue standing while making saves. As a butterfly goalie, he will go down into the butterfly stance regularly.

Butterfly Stop 

  • The butterfly stop means you need to drop on your knees to save low shots, stretching the pads outward sideways while dropping. 
  • The goalie will enable the skates to shift outward to the side while the knees drop down to the ice straight under the goalie’s midline. This hip movement is identified as medial hip rotation with the knees flexed, which puts the lower legs out to the side. 
  • Keep your knees together and extend your feet sideways. This action involves medial hip rotation, so the thighs are rotated inward while the feet and lower legs are extended out to the sides. 
  • In the lowest position, the knees and the inner edge of the pads should touch the ice. You can also make your lower legs and pads form a long barrier to the puck on either side of the goalie. 
  • The glove is kept up, ready for a potential deflection, and the goaltender should be focused on the incoming shot. 
  • Goaltenders should keep their arms out in front of them, closing the gaps between the goaltender’s arms and body. Doing so makes it easier to direct rebounds with the stick and blocker. 
  • The goalie must keep the glove and blocker up and not let them drop while the goalie is dropping down. 
  • To make this move, the goalie must drive the feet out to the sides to meet the most significant amount of goal width possible. At the same time, he needs to drop his knees directly down under the middle of the body. 
  • An incorrect butterfly is when the knees drop straight down while the legs are extended back toward the net. Doing so decreases the area of the goal protected by the goalie’s legs.
  • This puts the hips into a position of medial hip rotation. The thighs’ front turns to face inward toward the midline while the lower legs and feet (with the pads) lie flat on the ice to prevent low shots. 

Remember that this should be used with low shots, screened shots, or shots from close range. The goalie must also remember to always keep the stick on the ice! The stick should be covering the five-hole (the area between the knees) as much as possible.

Full Recovery

Recovering from a full butterfly or half butterfly is needed to be a prominent goalie. Training your capability to keep your head, eyes, and shoulders up while making a save is integral for your success. A proper full recovery gets you back into your ground to make saves.

After dropping down into the butterfly position to make a stop, the goalie must be able to get up very fast. The best technique is to get up with one leg at a time, generally with the leg furthest from the puck’s direction.

The goalie turns using lateral hip rotation so that the pad and the lower leg are once again upright. As the skate blade touches the ice, the weight is taken over this flexed support leg, extending to move the goalie back to an upright position.

Sideways movement from the butterfly

The goalie will frequently remain down in the butterfly position if there is another shot coming, and there is no time to stand up. After making the butterfly stop, the goalie first turns the body to face the rebound’s direction, so they are always square to the puck. 

When the trunk is square to the puck, the goalie then loads their push leg, which is the leg on the side away from the movement’s direction.

If moving to the right, the left leg becomes the push leg. The left leg is rotated to bring the pad to a vertical or almost-vertical position, and the skate blade can be dug into the ice. 

The skate then pushes on the ice while extending and driving the body to the right. The goalie will slide across the goalmouth to protect the opposite post while keeping the eyes on the puck.

The pads are then extended sideways under the body of the goalie, and the stop is made. The stick remained on the ice and tilted back toward the goalie. 

If the goalie has to reposition to make another save, he will perform the same movements again. This means facing the incoming shot, moving the pad to a vertical position, and driving off from the leg furthest from the direction of motion.

Goalie Splits

When making a save in the net corner, the goalie may regularly have to drop down into the full splits position. This move needs the hips’ full abduction so that the legs are fully extended out to the sides. 

This position demands exceptional flexibility on the part of the goalie. The stick should stay in the standard place covering the five holes.

The space between the legs or the puck could press into the goal through the five holes.

Getting Up from the Ice

  • Lean slightly forward with the upper body.
  • Leave one knee on the ice while flexing the other knee and moving the knee over the foot, and putting the blade’s inside edge on the ice.
  • The support leg should be almost vertical, and the weight is then shifted onto this support leg.
  • Extend this knee and hip to lift the opposite knee off the ice.
  • Turn the other leg into the vertical position and resume weight-bearing equally on both legs.
  • Assume the basic ready position.

Rebound Control

The green spots always note safe rebounds. The more often goalies can put rebounds in these areas, the more it will decrease defensive pressure & limit quality follow up chances.

Drill Tempo

Drills should challenge the goalie but not destroy them. The goalies need to be pushed to recover quickly. Hence, you should practice as you would play.

Being too fast paced does not help the goalie or the player progress. The goalie won’t be able to practice saves properly, and the shooter does not benefit by shooting at someone who is not ready.

The coach needs to be aware of this when setting a drill pace.

Mental Approach

Goaltending can be frustrating. A mistake on one shot leads to a lack of concentration on the next shot.

Mind you; one wrong goal can turn into two. Everyone makes mistakes in hockey and goalies are no different.

The most crucial shot is the next shot. That said, coaches can reinforce the “next shot mentality” to help limit goaltender frustration.


The information covers some essential components of goaltending.

Goalie development is the same as player development. This means that constant reinforcement is needed. These are things that non-goalie coaches can reinforce with their goaltender during practice.

If you want to become an elite goalie, you need to master a very particular set of skills. 

A majority of those abilities need you to keep your eyes, head, and shoulders up and squared to the puck. Your vision in hockey is just as important as saving the selection.

We would argue that vision is more important because if you cannot see the puck, how will you save it?

When training a new goaltender, you should concentrate more on the mechanics of skating and the butterfly technique.

It’s like when teaching a child to swing hist bat or golf club. Hitting the ball is not what matters. It is the swing that is important. The same goes for goaltending.

It isn’t so much about blocking the puck at first. It is more about learning the proper technique in place. 

When the proper technique is taught, making the save will come naturally. That said, coaches and instructors need to understand that there is a time and place to teach mechanics and time to have fun.

Both play an essential role in goaltending.

With all the goaltending basics and techniques listed above, you will need to train your vision, focus, and hand-eye coordination. Don’t let your vision fall behind your other skills and let your competition take advantage of your weaknesses.


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