How to Stay Sharp When You're Not Playing

November 17, 2015


With more and more teams having two skilled goalies capable of performing at a high level, the days of 

clearly distinguished roles as 'starter' and 'backup' are nearly gone. And as the skills gap between two 

goalies becomes smaller, goalies can't really afford to take a night off when they have, well, a night off. 

Long gone are the days of goalies on the bench becoming Professional Door Openers or Master Water 

Bottler Filler Uppers or Bench Warming Specialist. 


Here are a few tips to help you stay sharp when you’re not playing:


1) See the puck. Be the puck

No matter how many articles or blogs on the subject you read, one of the most important things you can 

do is visualize what's happening in the game. Literally, go through the movements, situations, and 

patterns as soon as the play becomes threatening. Think about what YOU would do in the net. 


2) Talk it up!

Over the course of a season, backup goalies save the lives of their teammates by yelling "HEADS UP!" 

when danger is approaching. It could be an opposing player bearing down for a hit, a forechecker 

coming in with lots of speed, the referee getting in the way (hey, it happens!). Anything you can think of 

that requires some communication, do it. 


This will keep you engaged in the game and aware of what's happening in real time. Also, don't for one 

second underestimate your ability to positively influence the mood of your teammates. Remember: 

You're all in this together. No matter what role anyone has, you're in it together. If you start to sense the 

team's mood is heading south, say some encouraging words. 


3) That’s my goalie partner. That’s my teammate.

How often do you see NHL goalies talking to each other? It happens all the time. Your unique vantage 

point on the bench gives you the perfect view to see things other can’t. 

For example, if you spot something that the other team is trying to do, let your goalie partner know 

during intermission. It doesn’t end there. Let your teammates know, too. The more prepared everyone 

is, the more successful the team will be.


4) I spy…

The next game you play might be against the team that you just finished watching. What are some of 

their players' tendencies? How do they run their power play? 


Some goalies keep a note book and write down some tendencies other players have. This is valuable 

information, but it's not an approach everyone takes. 


For some, it's information overload.


For others, it's all part of the preparation. 


Find out what works for you and stick to it.


5) Get some assists!

Okay, I don't mean literally. Nobody can breakdown another goalie's game like another goalie. Watch 

the other team's goalie and provide tips to your teammates. If someone on your coaching staff, likely 

the goalie coach, gives a pre-game scouting report, reiterate some of those points throughout the game. 


Does this goalie have a weak glove? Do they have trouble tracking the puck? Whatever it is, make sure 

your teammates know about it. They'll thank you for it later.


Attitude is everything

Of course, having a good attitude, staying positive, and treating each practice situation like a game are 

all critical to ensuring you are ready when given the chance to play. That’s all part of the process. 


But, what’s most important is having the ability to perform well during a game when given the 

opportunity. It’s about conditioning yourself mentally to be prepared and confident for games.


That's exactly what the team needs – confidence in the ability of their goaltending tandem.

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