How Goalies Can Become Better at Puck Handling

Puck handling is hard to do for goalies, but it's an easy way to stand out on the ice. 
Here are some of my tips to become an awesome puck handler.
  • Don’t overcomplicate it. You should be making life easier for your teammates. That means getting the puck out of the boards, setting it up nicely for them, making an easy first pass, stopping rims around the boards, etc… zone clearances are nice but you don’t want to be too fancy. That is the job of your defence.


  • Practice all the time. When you have free time in practice, you should be stick handling and shooting. At first, you might not be that good. Especially if you’re young. It’s normal. But get stronger and keep practicing and soon your puck handling will be one of your top skills.


  • Take a look. Lots of mistakes are made outside of your net when you keep your head down. You need to get to the puck quickly, then take a look. See where your D are, see where the opposing team is. Take a second to examine the situation, then make a decision. 


  • Have a back-up plan. In every situation, you should have a back-up plan that saves you from making a mistake that puts the puck in your net. For ex. There is a play you want to make, passing to your defensemen who’s in the corner. But there is an opposing forward who is skating towards you. While you still want to make the pass, your back-up plan should be a place where you can ditch the puck and avoid a dangerous situation. It may not be the most ideal play, but it’s safe enough. Having a back-up plan will greatly reduce the amount of puck-handling errors that lead to goals against. You should never, ever let in a goal playing the puck.


  • Dedicate an off-season to becoming a better puck handler. That means getting a shooting board and finding a wall to shoot 100 pucks a day. Wear your gloves and goalie stick, and shoot every single day. This will add a whole new toolset to your game.


Puck-handling is surprisingly still a rare skill, even at the NHL level. If you can be a solid puck handler, you will stand out every time you’re on the ice, in games or in tryouts. Your teammates will love you.


And remember, sometimes a good puck handler is a goalie that no one notices that they’re a good puck handler. That means they’re efficient, simple, and they make it look easy. Ed Belfour is a great example - he wasn’t as flashy as Martin Brodeur, but he almost always made the right play and made things easier for his team. That should be the goal.

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