Part Two – Where is my Stick?

Part 2 of 3

Every day I am on the ice training goalies and one message that is consistently reinforced is stick positioning. With 70-90% percent of goals going in low in the NHL, having a strong stick position is crucial for success in the net. During my goalie sessions at Goalie U or in this Blog you will often here me referring to the “Phantom Stick” . This is when a goalie believes there stick is covering the 5 hole but in effect it is out of position leaving the area between the goalies legs wide open for a shooter to score. In part 1 I explained the importance of having the proper stick length. In part two of this three part article I will explain the 3 main causes of the “Phantom Stick” .


The most common mistake leading to a juicy 5 hole is when a goalie moves or is in transition and does not lead with their stick. I am sure you have all heard this expression before but really what does it mean? Well in effect every time a goalie moves, the stick should remain between their legs. Easier said then done! For example, when a goalie leaves their post, to challenge out to a player, their stick should first be to the side of the net. When the goalie begins their explosive push to square up to the puck, the first movement should be with the blocker arm allowing the stick to remain between the legs throughout the movement. If a goalie forgets the initial movement with the arm in order to square up the stick “Phantom Stick” will occur. The stick will drag behind the goalie’s body leaving the 5 hole completely exposed. This is especially common among younger goalies who either forget as they want to get to the puck as fast as possible or are not strong enough to push the stick in front of them while in transition.


Another very common mistake that leads to many 5 hole goals is when a goalie is in their stance and rests their blocker along the outside of their pad. In effect the goalie’s stick is on the ice but is only covering a small portion of the 5 hole. This bad habit leaves a big space between the inside of the trapper pad and the tip of the stick. This problem also creates a difficult blade angle with only the heel of the stick touching the ice. Having this overly relaxed stance creates an even wider 5 hole when the goalie is shuffling to their trapper side. Every time the goalie’s trapper leg moves laterally to shuffle the 5 hole widens. However, the stick is stuck on the side of the pad creating an open hole for the shooter. Simply moving the blocker forward off the pad will allow the stick to remain even between both pads. This way when a goalie shuffles the stick will move with the body as opposed to being delayed as a result of resting on the pad.


Another common cause for the Phantom Stick perception is when a goalie pivots to load their slide and they leave their stick behind them. Even the top NHL goalies can be seen sliding with their sticks trailing behind. This tendency happens most often when a goalie is sliding to their trapper side. The momentum of the pivot brings the body away from the stick and if the goalie does not make an active effort to keep the stick in their 5 hole the stick will drag behind. The best way to avoid this mistake is to make a conscious effort to pivot with the skate and the stick. This means that the stick will rotate simultaneously with the pivot allowing the 5 hole to be covered throughout the slide.

This is less of an issue when sliding on the blocker side as the blocker arm tends to rotate naturally with the momentum of the pivot. The goalie should still focus on keeping the stick between the legs but it is done more naturally on the blocker side.

Keeping your stick in the 5 hole is often overlooked in practice and neglecting this skill can lead to many costly goals. I highly recommend you take the time to eliminate any of the bad habits mentioned in this article and watch your save percentage sky rocket.

Be the Hero, Post the Zero,

Stefan Nichols

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