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  • Kevin Carr

The Importance of Stick Handling and Puck Playing as a Goalie

Updated: Mar 15, 2023

Marty Turco, Martin Broduer and Mike smith are some of the names in the game that can be attached to the title of great "Puck handlers". Their ability to relieve pressure, make it difficult for the opposing team to get any lengthy offensive zone time and help their defensemen out from not getting smashed into the boards every shift was a highly effective and reliable skill. A skill that forced apposing teams to change their game plans. They knew that rimming the puck around the boards behind the net was not an ideal option to gain zone access, unless it was hard and up on the glass. If it was a soft rim, they knew they would be defending again back in their own end. Teams that can break out of their own zone quickly and start to attack offensively generally have more success than not. I took a deeper dive into what it means to be a good puck mover, here is what I found.

“Strong puck-handling goalies can nullify the ability to forecheck, create turnovers and generate offense by the opposition"

In an 2018 article written by David Marcoux ( a former NHL goalie coach) for, collaborated with three other NHL goalie coaches, Jim Corsi, Paul MacClean and Joe Mullen brought to light some great insight on the topic. Here are some quotes from the article.

"Strong puck-handling goalies can nullify the ability to forecheck, create turnovers and generate offense by the opposition. By stopping rimmed pucks, reading the play and, most importantly, creating deception in their passing plays, goalies can contribute to puck possession and decreased defensive-zone play. However, poor puck-handling goalies can turn passing plays into an adventure and sometimes cost the team goals".

Mike Smith - Edmonton Oilers (image from

"Ask Calgary defensemen Mark Giordano or T.J. Brodie if they appreciate Smith's passing abilities. Without a doubt, they will tell you that Smith allows them to spend less time going back for pucks and keeps them safer from body checks while they retrieve pucks deep in the zone."

A Few Tips to Becoming an Elite Puck Handler and Passer:

1) Practice receiving rims on your forehand and backhand in practice with purpose at game speed. Have your teammates be open options for you to pass to.

2) Shoulder Check before going behind your net for threats and options. Defensemen do this every time they pick pucks up with their backs turned to the play, goaltenders are no different.

3) Communicate with your defensmen. Choose commands that work best for you ie: rim, up, over or back.

4) Get comfortable stick handling pucks around cones or around your while skating or being stationary. This is a skill that can be worked on daily and can also be used as a good warmup before practice.

5) Less is more when it comes to passing and rimming pucks. Make the simple play and get back to your net.

Want more playing time? The more skills goaltenders provide their teams, the more playing time they will likely get. Along with helping your deference out, coaches notice the little things and they will definitely notice the way their goalies move the puck with confidence. Another tool in the tool bag as they say...

Good luck!

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