The Evolution Of Playing In Net

While the phrase "You’ve come a long way baby"... was not coined about goaltenders, it certainly does apply over the last 25 years.
Just look at the equipment.

Since Jacques Plante’s invention of the mask, there have been great improvements. At my goalie schools, it used to be three or four goalies would have the flush masks and 30 would have a cage... but now 30 have the very protective flush mask.

These masks could stop a freight train!

How would you like to play without one like Glenn Hall did?

The body protection is now fantastic. What was once a piece of felt covering the chest, and some "quilting" protecting the arms, has turned into a one piece set of armor. Far fewer goaltenders are "puck shy" because the gear is so good.

How about those gloves?

I can remember NHL goalies like Cesare Maniago wearing gloves that I wouldn’t put a squirt into today. Now, the catch gloves are so light, with big cuffs, plastic in the palms for protection, and huge T-webs. The stick gloves have all kinds of finger protection with the chance for the goaltender to make a "fashion statement" plus they both continue to get larger and larger.

The epitome of technological advancement are the goaliepads.

Once only made by Pop Kenesky with leather and deer hair and weighing a ton, pads are now produced by nearly 60 manufactures utilizing synthetics and foams in a multitude of styles, colors and designs. Pads used to be purchased 2-4 inches taller, because they would break down. The maximum width was 10 inches wide each. They would get water logged and the leather would "rot."

Now, pads do not break down. They are very light, they don’t absorb water, they are much more durable, and can be as wide as 12 inches each. Equipment has gotten much bigger... and so have the goalies…but the puck has not shrunk, and the net is still six feet by four feet!

How about the style of play?

Has the game ever changed! The goal crease used to be just a rectangle because goalies rarely left the crease, or their feet. You didn’t have to handle the puck much, either.

First Plante, then Ed Giacomin, then Ron Hextall and now Brodeur have set the standards for moving and playing the puck. A goaltender cannot be complete without this skill.

Today, with the much improved sticks (made stronger with more fiberglass, curved blades, and rounded heels) it’s easier to fire the puck.

It’s not that many years ago that there were only one or two "butterfly goalies" and the rest were stand-up. About Face. Now, almost all use their pads, skate saves are dead, and most would be classified as a "butterfly" of one kind or another. Today, I can only think of two or three "standups."

Back "then" Roger Crozier and Tony Esposito were radical... today they might be conservative!

There is much better coaching

Goalies today are performing at higher levels than in the past. They are more athletic, move better, wear more protective and lighter equipment and they have specialized coaching.

The revolution began about 25 years ago with the advent of goalie schools and the adoption, in recent years, of team and association goalie coaches. Guys like me, Dave Prior, Frank and Benoit Allaire, Joe Bertagna, Jim Park, Chris Economou, Steve McKichan, Ian Clark...etc, have trained hundreds of young goalies over the years.

We have made it more of a science... and the young goalies have grown up with a "system to their game." The use of personal camcorders and video replay has enhanced our ability to coach.

So, overall, goalies... stop complaining. You’ve got it better now than ever before. 


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