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Evolution in Net

October 25, 2011 General No Comments

Evolution in net
By Mitch Korn
Nov 5, 2001, 20:13


While the phrase “You’ve come a long way, baby” was not coined about goaltenders, it certainly does apply when you look at what’s happened over the last 25 years.

Just look at the equipment.

Since Jacques Plante’s invention of the mask, there have been many great improvements. At my goalie schools, it used to be that three or four goalies would have the modern flush masks (not the old “flat-on-your-face” type) while 30 would have a cage. But now it’s the opposite: the vast majority have the very protective flush mask. These modern masks could stop a freight train!


Suits of armor

The body protection is also now fantastic. What was once a piece of felt covering the chest and some “quilting” protecting the arms has turned into a one-piece set of armor. Far fewer goaltenders are “puck shy” these days simply because the gear is so good.

And how about those gloves? I can remember NHL goalies like Johnny Bower wearing gloves that I wouldn’t put a squirt into today. Now the catch gloves are incredibly light—with big cuffs, plastic in the palms for protection, and huge T-webs. The stick gloves have all kinds of finger protection, and they (like the catch gloves) continue to get larger and larger. Plus, they give the goaltender the chance to make a “fashion statement!”

The epitome of technological advancement are the goalie leg pads. Once made only by Pop Kenesky using leather and deer hair—and weighing a ton!—pads are now produced by nearly 60 manufacturers, utilizing synthetics and foams in a multitude of styles, colors and designs.

Pads used to be purchased 2-4 inches taller than necessary, because they would break down over time. They would get waterlogged, and the leather would “rot.”

Now, pads do not break down. They are very light, they are much more durable, and they don’t absorb water. And in the old days, the maximum width for pads was 10-inches wide. Now they can be up to 12-inches wide.

Is this an advantage? Well, while the equipment has gotten much bigger, the puck has not shrunk—and the net is still 6 feet by 4 feet!


Style changes, too

Has the game ever changed over the years. The goal crease used to be just the painted rectangle because goalies rarely left the crease, or even their feet. They didn’t have to handle the puck much, either.

But eventually the position changed. First Plante, then Ed Giacomin, and now Ron Hextall set new standards for moving and playing the puck.

In the modern game, a goaltender cannot be complete without this skill. Today, with the much improved sticks (made stronger with more fiberglass, curved blades and rounded heels) it’s easier to fire the puck.

It wasn’t that many years ago that there were one or two “butterfly goalies” around the league and the rest played the stand-up style. Well—About Face! Now, almost all goalies use their pads, rather than make skate saves, and most would be classified as a butterfly of one kind or another. I can only think of two or three stand-up goalies in the NHL today. Today, it is not “if” you leave your feet, but “when” (timing) and “how” (the position of arms, legs, stick, etc., and the save selection chosen). Back “then” Roger Crozier and Tony Esposito were radical…today they might be considered conservative!


Specialized coaching

Goalies today are performing at higher levels than in the past. They are more athletic, move better, wear more-protective and lighter equipment and—to go along with all that—they also have specialized coaching.

The revolution began about 20 years ago with the advent of goalie schools and the adoption, in recent years, of team and association goalie coaches. Guys like me, Dave Prior, Joe Bertagna, Jim Park, Steve McKichan, and others, have trained hundreds of young goalies over the years. We have made it more of a science, and the young goalies have grown up with a “system” to their game. The use of personal camcorders and video replay has also greatly enhanced our ability to coach.

So, overall, goalies: stop complaining. Time has been on your side, and you’ve got it better now than ever before!

Mitch Korn is the goaltender coach for the Buffalo Sabres of the NHL. In addition, he is an administrator at Miami University (Ohio) and directs the 8-week Summer Hockey School. Miami has Division I ice hockey in the CCHA.

This first appeared in the 11/1995 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
© Copyright 1991-2001 Hockey Player® and Hockey Player Magazine®

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