Guess what? Like everything else with the position, goaltenders have specialized skates that differ from every other player on the ice. Although they might seem like one of the simplest aspects of the tenders equipment, their evolution in design and usage has vastly impacted the play of the position. Hit the jump to find out more!
Below is a comparison between common goal skates and player skates, in order to note their differences.
The first and most notable difference is the presence of a large plastic cowling, that surrounds the goaltenders skates, particularly around the toe area, and the inner part of the foot (see here for the inner foot on a goalies skate):
The purpose of this cowling is clear, protection against puck shots against the toe and inner foot on kick saves and toe saves. Without it you are liable to come off the ice with broken toes/feet. The players skate also has rising ankle support, whereas the goal skate allows for more generous ankle movement for the more complicated skating movements a goaltender must make. HA, you must think. Goalie skating more complicated? I always thought they had the fat kid who COULDN'T skate in net. Think again, kimosabe.
In the goalie skate, we notice that the cowling also serves as the holder for the runner. The runner is the metal that actually makes contact with the ice, and the holder connects that with the boot. In the case of the players holder, it is much taller than on the goalies skate. Goaltenders require stability, more than skating power, so the lower profile aids in this. Also, notice that the player skate is heavily rockered, which basically means their blade comes up to a much higher rounded angle at the toe and heel vs. the goalie skate. This is due to the different type of skating a player is required to do. Players need more powerful acceleration in order to generate speed down the ice, with a fair amount of that generated on the toes. See big vic below generating acceleration and notice how he has a lot of emphasis on the toe of the skate blade with the follow through at the end of the stride having alot of importance for this:
Now whats all this about goalie skating being complicated? There is an old adage about skating we can use here. A forward needs to know how to skate forwards. A defenseman must know how to skate forwards and backwards. A goalie needs to know how to skate forwards, backwards AND sideways. This is one of the major differences between skaters and goalies; the side shuffle:
The shuffle is used for slight angle adjustments while keeping squareness to the puck (something players don't need to worry about so much). Goalies also must have explosive starting movement, with immediate, hard, controlled stops. The flatter blade helps with this. Here is an example of fast t-push acceleration with hard stops:
This movement outlines the importance of the strong push followed by a sharp controlled stop. The better a goaltender is with these movements, the more quickly they can be set up and in position for a shot.
Seems like we've checked off all of the noticeable differences. Now for the less noticeable ones. Goalies get a different blade hollow from players. What is this hollow you ask? For those of you that have never laced up a pair of skates, blades have two edges: an inside and an outside edge. The space between the edges is known as the hollow. See the figure below:
Look at the difference between the 1" and 3/8". The 1" hollow is flatter and shallower than the 3/8". the deeper the hollow, the more the skate will grip and bite into the ice. Players typically prefer deeper hollows to aid with tight turns using cuts of 1/2" or smaller. Traditionally, goalies have preferred a shallower hollow of 1" radius or larger. This shallower hollow gives less bite and allows for an easier glide from side to side in the shuffle. Some old school goalies could even be seen clawing their edges against the goal posts or the plastic guard under the rink doors back in the day to dull their blades in order to have an effortless shuffle.
This trend has since begun to fade. modern goaltenders have begun to favor sharper blades to compliment their heavily aggressive play. Take a look at some stances and notice their evolution:
Now, take a look at some of the aggressive stances in the league today:
You can instantly notice the heavily acute angle the pads take. That is because pro goalies have begun to shift to sharper, deeper hollows that give them more bite which allows them to take on such a stance. Looking at the old school stances, Tony O has a very aggressive stance for his time, but even he would have been taken aback with how low and wide a goalies stance has gotten. Whats the big deal about these stances, you ask?
First and foremost, a wide stance makes you appear larger:
Also, the lower your stance, the quicker you can close the five hole when driving down into the butterfly. And as we all know, this has taken on much more importance for today's goaltenders.
The final impact these sharper blades have had on goaltenders is to allow new down movement. Before the days of a systematic approach to the butterfly, if a tender was down, his options were limited. If he could recover to his feet, he would try to do it as soon as possible and try to get back into position. If he couldn't, chances are, he was going to flop. If this was your initial save selection and you give up a rebound, let me know how you are going to recover to correct your angle and make another save with any kind of squareness:
Suffice it to say, it would not be easy.
Many a highlight save was born during the rolls, flops and dives goalies would make, but until down movement was perfected, you were most likely chasing space without much chance to regain "squareness" to the puck. In comes the backside push:
This move allows you to recover, adjust angle, maintain squareness and keep your hands and feet available to make saves. I cannot stress enough how difficult it would be to try doing this with dull skates, or skates lacking sufficient bite. This kid does some down movement damn near unthinkable to the goalies of yesteryear:
And while this may seem like a simple move to execute, it is not, especially when you have to use it during play with minimal time to get into the correct position for an incoming shot. And herein comes a cruel twist of fate regarding goalie skates...
Remember that cowling that was meant to keep your toes from being crushed by a puck? Here is a close up of a skate blade at an extreme angle:
If your skate blade is dull, or your cowling happens to interfere with the inside edge gripping the ice, guess what happens? Your skate shoots out from under you like this:
You have a "boot out" and because of all the potential energy you have stored in your legs you have just bought a ticket to groin pull land. This wasn't as much of an issue back in the day, but with the aggressive stances of today and the down movement in the butterfly, it is a much more important issue for modern goaltenders. During the period of adjustment when the butterfly came into heavy usage, boot outs hampered more than a few careers. But there is a downside with the sharper blades. Shuffling is more difficult and taxing on the hips as well as there being a greater danger of catching a rut in the ice and taking a tumble. Thats why you see goalies calling over refs to repair gashes in the ice around the crease.
Well, i hope you enjoyed goalie skate knowledge. Until next time...when i go over some illegal equipment!