Goalies are weird. I don’t mean just in their mannerisms and pregame routines, either. Goalies have beaten and battered their bodies over years of playing the position so much so that the average person would have a tough time contorting their body into some of the positions we find ourselves doing at high speeds without even thinking about it. When I say this you probably get an image of Dominik Hasek acrobatically sprawling for a loose puck, but in fact it doesn’t have to be that dramatic at all. A simple T-push seems easy to most goalies, but to Average Joe, externally rotating your hip that far to open it (and in a hurry), combined with the added pressure of stopping hard and internally rotating at the same time, all while maintaining your balance and stability on skates is a recipe for disaster.
Due to the specific nature of goaltending, it becomes necessary to train specifically as well, and only perform movements and stretches that are likely to simulate a movement you would do in the crease. In other words, choose movements that transfer to your craft. In the following few pictures, three NHL goalies are seen in rather routine positions; Quick in the reverse VH, Dubnyk making a standard save using his wide butterfly, and Lundqvist making a sliding kick save.
All of these positions may be routine or easy when thought of by most goalies, but the common denominator with all of them is that they are unnatural movements to the human body and in particular, the hip, knee, and ankle joints. Core strength is also of the utmost importance for goalies due to the degree of vulnerability we constantly subject our bodies to. To the average person, being put in the RVH or a wide butterfly, or stretching out the way Hank is would be a very slow and painful process, but we are expected to do it in a flash, and with opposing players barreling in on us. We have to deal with other things such as remaining puck-focused and keeping our balance. The pros can do this with speed and grace, making the movements seem natural. However, their fluid movement is unquestionably the result of years of training and stretching the RIGHT way.
In short, listen to your body and know what your mission is when you go to the gym or do your pregame or pre-practice stretches. If you have trouble contorting yourself into the RVH, you need to improve the range of motion of your hip joint, or maybe it’s internal or external rotation that gives you issues. The question is do you want to just go through the motions, or do you want to get better every time you hit the ice?
To properly train and stretch doesn’t just mean having a routine. Anyone can have a routine; you will need a plan that is tailored to your body and your game. In order to uncover your strengths, you must first expose and exploit your weaknesses, which unfortunately is what many are afraid to do. It is my opinion as a coach and a CIS goaltender that if more goalies took the time to listen to their bodies and worked smarter instead of harder, there would be much less injuries and much more progression.
For more information, check out my previous post on hip, groin and adductor movement as well as online. As a goalie on a budget, trust me when I say it doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor to learn how to prepare properly, all it takes is some research and a willingness to get better.