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Tips for Tenders
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Tips for Tenders
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I watch a lot of


, both young and old, and one common flaw that I notice is that many of them keep their trapper/blocker to their side, parallel with their chest protector and breezers. Watch nearly any

National Hockey League goaltender

, though, and you'll find that their hands are out in front of them, closer to the action.

Throw a puck to a


, and they'll usually reach out and catch it, bringing their catch-hand closer to the puck. Shoot that same puck at the goalie, and many of them will try to "intercept" the puck, moving their glove vertically, but not towards the puck.

Goaltenders that play

this way will undoubtedly make several "spectacular" glove saves, but will allow many more goals overall.

One of the

rules of goaltending

is that, the bigger you are, the more likely you are to stop something. Well, that holds true here as well. The

goaltender that "attacks"

the puck with their glove is more likely to block the puck away from the net.

Also working here is another

rule of goaltending:

follow the puck all the way into your equipment. If your gloves are in front of you, where you can see them, it's a lot easier to follow the puck into them. With your gloves at your side, you'll find that - too frequently - you're craning your neck, shoulders and torso to follow a puck. When that happens, you'll not only stop fewer shots, but you'll be out of position for any rebounds that result.

It's ironic that, as a goaltender, you can see absolutely everything on the ice except your own net - the thing you're supposed to be guarding.

Most goaltenders don't

take advantage of this situation as much as they should. Let's consider an example - your right defenseman is coming out from behind your net to your left. At this point, they have several options - carry the puck themselves, pass to any number of locations on the ice, or turn back behind your net.


the goalie

, you can be an enormous asset to your teammate in this situation. While they're under considerable pressure, both physical and mental, you're in a relative state of calm and can see the developing play clearly. A simple shout of (pass to the) "Left Wing!", or "Skate With It!", or "Reverse!" (turn back), for example, takes much of the burden from your defenseman and allows them to make a smoother breakout.

In the long run, of course, this benefits you - if your team breaks out easier, with fewer turnovers, that results in your having fewer "difficult" saves and, in the end, you'll win more often.

What to yell? Here are some starters:

"One On!" (or "Two On!", etc.): There are currently one (two, etc.) opposing players in close proximity to your player's location and, whatever your player decides to do, s/he had better do it quickly.

"Time!": The opposite of the previous remark; you're telling your player that they have plenty of time to make a decision and/or survey the territory. Occassionally, I'll add a "Take a Look", or "Set It Up", in the hopes that we can set up an actual breakout play.

"Left Wing!" (etc.): This tells your player that they have an open teammate at the indicated location on the ice - you can shorten this to just

"Left!"; I usually add the "Wing" to emphasize that the open teammate is ahead of the puckcarrier.

Note that your teammate should not blindly play the puck up the ice in the direction indicated by you. I usually call out a location to tell my teammate to look there, and then make their decision based on that. Depending on how skilled my teammate is (or how much they usually pay attention to me), I'll intentionally misdirect them - causing the defense to overreact to that location, and my teammate will then do the opposite. Make sure that you know your teammates very well before attempting this.

"Reverse!" (or "Ring It!"): Tells your teammate that their best available outlet is not only on the other side of the ice, but that the best way of getting the puck there is to put it behind the net, around the boards. I usually leave it up to my teammate whether to skate a bit in that direction first, or to just fire the puck - usually, it's reasonably obvious.

"Skate! Skate! Skate!": (repeated until teammate gets the idea). Tells your teammate that there's plenty of room for them to carry the puck, and they should just go and press the play forward. You don't usually need to include directions (although it won't hurt); your teammate should put their head up and go to where they see open ice.

"Dump!": Your opponent has probably been in your end for a bit, and your teammates need a five-player line change. Here, you're directing your puckcarrier to get to the redline, dump the puck in, and change. It's been my experience that this command never works, and your teammate will selfishly skate until they lose the puck, causing your team to skate around in your zone for another minute or two. But hey, you're a team player.

"ICE!": This one's a little more desperate - at this point, your team has not only been trapped in their zone for a considerable amount of time, but there's also extra circumstances - someone's without their stick, someone's injured, or your team has shown beyond all previously-demonstrated levels that they don't know what they are doing. In any case, a good scoring chance is not only likely, it's imminent. At this point, your puckcarrier should hit the puck as hard as they can down the ice with all due speed. (Note: this usually results in the same problems as "Dump!", but your mileage may vary)

Keep talking, even if your teammates haven't shown a predilection towards listening to your advice. Why? It keeps you focused on the game at hand - I'll even yell directions when my team's in the offensive zone, even though they probably can't hear me, simply to keep my attention on the action.

If your teammates do listen to you, your team's transition game will markedly improve, especially if you know what you're talking about. If you don't know what you're talking about, then practice your vocal leadership skills - it's a great way to learn the game and, once you've learned the game, you'll find yourself "guessing right" in more situations and making more saves as a result. The old saying that "a goaltender can't score goals" is wrong - a good transition game is what leads to goals, and a smart (and loud) goaltender can direct a smooth transition game.

Note that, in this "rule", I've concentrated on directing the

breakout as a vocal goaltender

and have not mentioned commands ("Slot!", "Screen!", for example) that goaltenders need to use defensively. I don't mean to underrate these communication skills, because they're very important - at least as important as the points I've listed above. However, they're usually mentioned in any

good goaltending course

, whereas you're probably not as familiar with these.


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