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The Tretiak clinic

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The Tretiak clinic
By James Baxter
Nov 5, 2001, 19:40


Tretiak On What It Takes to be a Goalie

A goalie must be (well) above average in all of these areas:

• Coordination of movement, fluidity


• Thinking, clarity and quickness of thought

• Agility, quick up and down

A goalie must also be thick-skinned, a good listener and learner, a hard worker, and something of a perfectionist. It also helps to have a higher-than-average tolerance for pain.


On the Offseason

Take a rest from hockey, but do not let your reactions slide.

“You should always be working with your gloves,” says Tretiak. “All year long, you should be catching balls and pucks in your glove. That (reflex) goes fast and is hard to get back.”

Bouncing a ball or puck on the deflector is also good practice.


On The Warm-Up

Tretiak could not have survived at the elite level of world hockey for 13 years without knowing a thing or two about conditioning. Like most members of the Soviet Red Army squad, Tretiak was never allowed to get out of shape.

Tretiak’s warm-up consists of a series of long stretches, followed by a series of quick bursts that simulate that motion in game situations. For instance, after a pre-practice stretch in the locker room and then several laps of the ice (so you feel warm), begin with the following drills.

• The standard stuff (gloves and mask off) including; neck rolls, fingers, hands (palms) forearms and shoulders, trunk rotations, hips (left/right/front/back), lower back (drop butt to the heels), hurler’s stretch and, kneeling, lean as far back as possible.

• In a butterfly stance, drop one knee to the ice (pad & toe forward, skate blade toward goal post) and hold for a count of eight. Repeat five times, on both sides. Then begin doing the motion quickly.

• Skating forward in a butterfly stance, drop one knee to the ice with the pad on its side and the toe pointing toward the boards. Hold until nearly at a standstill—the stretch is the focus. Alternating knees, do five times on each. Then, drop one knee, immediately get up, drop the other knee and immediately get back up. Speed now becomes the focus.

• Backward “cha-cha” (as in the dance). The truth is any dance will do, but what the 1-2-3, 1-2-3 motion of the cha-cha allows is the full weight of the player to be transferred from one foot to the other quickly and with some grace. It’s fast, fun and a good way to shake out after the warm-up.


On The Butterfly Stance

Balance is everything in this position. To remain balanced, Tretiak adopted a very compact style that allowed him to explode out to block any puck fired toward the net. Some points:

• Knees bent over 90°, so that the back is curved and butt is low.

• Head is always looking up ice.

• Deflector is angled off the top of the leg pad, slightly in front, not touching.

• Trapper is angled forward, elbow in tight.

• The stick is flat and resting comfortably on the ice with little weight on it. The stick must not be too far forward (creating a “ramp” over the goalie’s shoulder) or too close to his/her feet.


On Drills

A good butterfly goalie must have a sense of the whereabouts of a puck before it is shot. Tretiak insists that good goaltending is the result of using all of one’s senses. To that end, the Red Army developed drills that train goalies to fight through screens, move with the puck and concentrate on eliminating scoring chances before they happen. Here are a few:


Set up two or three shooters in the zone around the tops of the circles. Use one goalie to screen the other. There is little risk of injury (as both goalies are prepared to block shots) and there is a fierce element of competition between goalies and between shooters. The only rules are no screens in the crease, and no contact.


Line up two shooters three feet to the side of each goal post and level with the top of the crease. Starting slowly, the shooters pass back and forth across the crease, and the goaltender slides to keep pace. After three passes, the puck is live and the shooters try to score. To keep the shooters from getting too aggressive, make push-ups or quick skates the punishment when no shot is taken because of bad passing or the shot misses the net.

This drill trains goaltenders to move with the puck and seal the post. It has the added benefit of teaching forwards to be patient with the puck and to score from in close.


Set pucks at three or four points in the defensive zone. From the crease, the goalie must rush toward the puck, pokecheck (not stickhandle or pass) it across the blueline and skate return to the crease—all while keeping his/her eyes up ice (direct eye contact with the coach works well). This drill is to teach goalies to explode toward the puck, maintain their balance, effectively negate a potential scoring threat, and then return to the net without breaking concentration.

Variations on this drill include:

• Adding a shot from the point as the goalie returns to the net.

• Starting a forward from outside the blueline in a race to the puck. If the goalie fails to get the puck first, he/she must get back to the net and seal off the post while always facing the shooter. The shooter gets one shot.

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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