One of the most important positions on the ice is, unfortunately, often the most overlooked regarding physical, technical and mental preparation. A goaltender’s performance can have more influence on the outcome of a game than any other player on the ice. We have all seen it: poor play by a team can be made up for by a stellar goaltending performance, and conversely, unfortunately, a very good team can be reduced to average when their goaltender cannot make a save.
On the ice, a goaltender is very different than a forward or defenseman when it comes to physical demands of the game. A goaltender plays the entire game (hopefully!) and although he does get intermittent rest when play is on the opposite end of the rink, he must be in a constant state of readiness for anything to happen. The goaltender might not skate long distances, usually staying with 10 feet of his crease area, but the demands to stay in a loaded squat position and move from side to side for long periods of time is incredibly demanding. Even the skating motion of a goaltender is very different from that of a skater, with different skates and enormous leg pads restricting various motions.
It is unfortunate that many times, goaltenders get thrown into off-ice workouts in the same groups as skaters, doing the same exercises and regimens. Off the ice, goaltender workouts should be as different as their position on the ice, from strength and agility development to energy system demands.
Strength and agility training should be based on maintaining a deep, loaded position for prolonged periods of time, being able to explosively move in any direction (usually for only a stride or two). A strong and stable torso is critical to the ability of the player to safely maintain such a position and possibly perform amazing movements while off the feet. When possible, hand-eye coordination movement should be incorporated into drills. Tennis balls are an excellent tool to keep in a training bag; they can be used to test the goaltender’s ability to catch (with either hand!) while maintaining a loaded, ready position or while doing agility drills that required multi-directional, explosive movement, reacting to the movement of the ball.
The energy demands of goaltenders are also distinctly different than that of a skater. Although there are intermittent rest periods, they vary radically from a skaters in that those rest periods are spent in a standing position (with constant attention to what is going on down the ice), and the rest periods can be random in duration. A goaltender may get 20 seconds of rest or they may get a minute or two. The work demand of a goaltender can also be just as varied; a skater usually skates hard for a minute or less, whereas a goaltender may be forced to work hard for up to two minutes or more.
Preparing like you play is more than a motivational phrase, it means that players – including goaltenders- need to prepare physically for the demands on their game.