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Tips for Tenders
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Tips for Tenders
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Let's suppose that you're facing a two-on-none, and you get faked out of the net on a well-timed pass. The opponent has a wide-open net to shoot at. You now have two options:

Stay where you are, and hope that the forward misses the net. Get up as fast as you can, and dive back into the net with your gloves flying, hoping to get at least a piece of the puck.

goalies - toronto hockey

Well, of course when you put it that way, you're obviously going to choose the second option. The problem is that it's a lot more work to try and get back in the play. Furthermore, the odds of you making a spectacular save aren't that high.

Consider this, though - an average

National Hockey League goaltender

has a goals-against average of 3.00. The best NHL


have a GAA down around 2.00. That's one save per game. It doesn't matter where you get it, it's just one save per game. That's the difference between being just "some


", and being one that teams notice.

Think of the psychological effects - even if you don't make the save, your teammates will see the extra effort you're putting in, and say "Wow, we've got to help our


out!" Conversely, if they see you give up, it's likely that they'll assume that the game is over - what are your odds of winning the game then? Also, you never know who might be watching you - coaches, referees, and parents talk to each other more often than you can even imagine, and word spreads quickly about the "goaltender who never gives up".

Remember that great feeling you get when you make an incredible save, and the opposing forward slams their stick to the ice in frustration? Do you want them thinking about you before the next game? About how they'll have to make a "perfect shot" to beat you? That's how to do it, folks.

You might not make very many extra saves like this at first. But if you put the effort out, every time (and I mean in practices and scrimmages as well as games), your body becomes used to the manoeuvres and you'll find that you're making more and more saves. Your teammmates will appreciate it.

By this, I don't mean that if you only were allowed to wear one piece of equipment onto the ice, I'd bring a stick. To be perfectly honest, if I had to choose only piece of gear to play with, I'd leave the rink with all due speed.

What I mean is that, if used properly, your stick should prevent more goals than any other single piece of equipment you use. On the other hand, if you use your stick poorly, you're going to allow more goals that you otherwise would have stopped easily.

First, the obvious - keep your stick on the ice! In your comfortable stance, your stickblade should be on the ice for its entire length - if that's not the case, you need to adjust the paddle height and the lie of the stick.

A lot of people will tell you that your stickblade should remain perpendicular to the ice surface. I don't necessarily subscribe to this theory - the theory being that, if your stick is at an angle, shots will hit it and deflect up, over you, and into the net. Now, while that could be the case if you're holding the stick at an extremely-sharp angle, I've never seen it happen.

On the ice, your stick should serve the following functions:

Shot-blocker: the stick itself doesn't cover that much area, but most goals are scored along the ice. Especially when you're screened, or there's a lot of traffic in front of your net, the shooters are going to aim low because that's where the greatest amount of space lies. If your stick is positioned properly, a lot of those shots will hit it "by accident". (I won't tell if you won't)

Pass-blocker: When the pass becomes a likely option, particularly when the likelihood of scoring on a direct shot is slim to none (e.g. behind the net), part of your job is to deter pass attempts. This won't show up on the stat sheet as a "save", but if you prevent a shot (especially a quality shot from the slot area) from being taken, that's just as good. If a player is behind the net and makes a pass (that you should have prevented) to a wide-open player in the slot, the resulting goal is as much your fault as it is anyone's

Third defenseman: It used to be that a puckhandling


was a luxury; nowadays, as a


, you're expected to have at least a modicum of talent with your stick and the puck. If you can't go behind the net, stop the puck, and consistenly "get glass" with your clearing attempts, there's only one thing you can do: PRACTICE. You can do this off-ice - all you need are your trapper/blocker, your stick, some pucks, and targets on a wall. Shoot 100 pucks per day.

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More important than puckhandling ability, though, are puckhandling smarts. The best


know their limitations stickhandling, and play a smart, safe game. Work with your defenseman. Learn which side they shoot from, and leave the puck behind the net so that they easily pick the puck up. Talk with them - find out what they expect from you when you have the puck. In turn, tell them what you expect.

Steve Jacobs contacted me and pointed out how essential it is, when stopping the puck behind the net, to leave the puck away from the boards, because if your defenseman tries to pick the puck off the boards, you're asking for trouble. Eventually, you should learn where your defensemen like to have the puck left for them, but a good starting point is to pull the puck about a foot off of the boards.

Screen deterrant: Usually, your defensemen should be able to take care of any forewards that are determined to block your view and tip shots. Sometimes, they need a little help - especially in leagues where checking is not allowed. You can use your stick to make things a bit more difficult - here are two tricks that I use:

Take your stick, and put the end of the blade up against the side of the opponent's skate. Now kick the heel of your stick (towards the opponent); they'll fall over nearly every time because you're lifting their skate up and then pushing, and if you practice, it doesn't look like you did anything.

Take your stick, and wrap it around their body while maintaining your stance. It appears as though you're just trying to get some equipment past the screen/deflection. Then, when they leave the area, leave the stick there; they'll usually trip right over the stick. Act innocent.

If you're creative, you can find any number of "stick tricks" that will discourage opponents from "camping" near your crease. You'll definitely take a few penalty minutes, but in the long run, you'll find it well worth it. Note to Colorado-area referees who are browsing these pages: I don't actually do any of these things; they're for demonstration purposes only. Really.

Communication implement: With everything that goes on in a hockey game, it's often hard for a defenseman to hear your voice. If there's someone in your crease, hit your stick on the net posts! It's loud, and if you arrange it in advance, the defenseman will know to lend a hand. When someone's about to come out of the penalty box, hit your stick on the ice! Generally, your teammates should know these situations, but they need help sometimes.


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