Defenceman Gatineau Olympiques Winger (ice hockey)
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In ice hockey, the goaltender or goalie is the player responsible for preventing the hockey puck from entering their team's net, thus preventing the opposing team from scoring. The goaltender usually plays in or near the area in front of the net called the goal crease (often referred to simply as the crease or the net). Goaltenders tend to stay at or beyond the top of the crease to cut down on the angle of shots. In today's age of goaltending there are two common styles, butterfly and hybrid (hybrid is a mix of the traditional stand-up style and butterfly technique). Because of the power of shots, the goaltender wears special equipment designed to protect the body from direct impact. The goalie is one of the most valuable players on the ice, as their performance can greatly change the outcome or score of the game. One-on-one situations, such as breakaways and shootouts, have the tendency to highlight a goaltender's pure skill, or lack thereof. No more than one goaltender is allowed to be on the ice for each team at any given time. Teams are not required to use a goaltender and may instead opt to play with an additional skater, but the defensive disadvantage this poses generally means that the strategy is only used as a desperation maneuver when trailing late in a game or can be used if the opposing team has a delayed penalty (if the team receiving the penalty touches the puck the play will stop).

The goaltender is also known as the goalie,[1] goaler,[2] goalkeeper,[2] net minder, and tender by those involved in the hockey community. In the early days of the sport, the term was spelled with a hyphen as goal-tender.[2] The art of playing the position is called goaltending and there are coaches, usually called the goalie coach who specialize exclusively in working with goaltenders.[2] The variation goalie is typically used for items associated with the position, such as goalie stick and goalie pads.

Goaltenders in ice hockey


Goaltending is a specialized position in ice hockey; at higher levels in the game, no goaltenders play other positions and no other players play goaltender. At minor levels and recreational games, goaltenders do occasionally switch with others players that have been taught goaltending; however, most recreational hockey rules are now forbidding position swapping due to an increase in injuries.

A typical ice hockey team may have two or three goaltenders on its roster. Most teams typically have a starting goaltender who plays the majority of the regular season games and all of the playoffs, with the backup goaltender only stepping in if the starter is pulled or injured, or in cases where the schedule is too heavy for one goaltender to play every game.

The NHL requires each team have a list of "emergency" goaltenders. The list provides goaltender options for both the home and visiting teams. These goaltenders are to be called to a game if a team does not have two goaltenders to start the game. An "emergency" goaltender may also be called if both roster goaltenders are injured in the same game.[3]

Goalie tandem

Some teams have used a goaltender tandem where two goaltenders split the regular season playing duties, though often one of them is considered the number one goaltender who gets the start in the playoffs. An example is the 1982-83 New York Islanders with Billy Smith and Roland Melanson; Melanson was named to the NHL Second All-Star Team for his regular season play while Smith won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP and both players shared the William M. Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed. Another instance is the Edmonton Oilers' Andy Moog and Grant Fuhr; both of them earned All-Star Game appearances for the regular season play, with Moog being the starter in the 1983 playoffs and Fuhr for the 1984 playoffs (although Moog started Game 4 and 5 of the 1984 Stanley Cup Finals due to Fuhr's injury) and subsequent postseasons.

The Toronto Maple Leafs had Terry Sawchuk and Johnny Bower share goaltending duties in the regular season and playoffs, winning the 1964–65 Vezina Trophy (shared) and the 1967 Stanley Cup. The 1996-97 Philadelphia Flyers' Ron Hextall and Garth Snow alternated in the playoffs;[4] Snow started nine of the ten games during the first two rounds,[5] but Hextall took over in game two of Conference Finals and remained the starting goaltender for the remainder of the playoffs, though Snow started for game two of the Stanley Cup Finals.


The goaltender has special privileges and training that other players do not. He wears special goaltending equipment that is different from that worn by other players and is subject to specific regulations. Goaltenders may use any part of their bodies to block shots. The goaltender may legally hold (or freeze) the puck with his hands to cause a stoppage of play. If a player from the other team hits the goaltender without making an attempt to get out of his way, the offending player may be penalized. In some leagues (including the NHL), if a goaltender's stick breaks, he can continue playing with a broken stick until the play is stopped, unlike other players who must drop any broken sticks immediately.

Additionally, if a goaltender acts in such a way that would cause a normal player to be given a penalty, such as slashing or tripping another player, the goaltender cannot be sent to the penalty box. Instead, one of the goaltender's teammates who was on the ice at the time of the infraction is sent to the penalty box in his place. However, the goaltender does receive the penalty minutes on the scoresheet. If the goaltender receives a Game Misconduct or Match penalty, he is removed from the ice and a replacement goaltender is played.

Normally, the goaltender plays in or near the goal crease the entire game, unlike the other positions where players are on ice for shifts and make line changes. However, goaltenders are often pulled if they have allowed several goals in a short period of time, whether they were at fault for the surrendered goals or not, and usually a substituted goaltender does not return for the rest of the game. In 1995, Patrick Roy was famously kept in net by the head coach as "humiliation" despite allowing nine goals on 26 shots.[6][7]

Eleven goaltenders have scored a total of fourteen goals in National Hockey League (NHL) games. A goalkeeper can score by either shooting the puck into the net, or being awarded the goal as the last player on his team to touch the puck when an opponent scored an own goal. A goal scored by shooting the puck is particularly challenging as the goaltender has to aim for a six-foot-wide net that is close to 180 feet away, while avoiding opposing defencemen; in the case of own goals, the combined circumstance of the own goal itself in addition to the goaltender being the last player to touch the puck makes it a very rare occurrence. Of the fourteen goals, seven were scored by shooting the puck and seven were the result of own goals.[8][9]

A team is not required to use a goaltender. At any time in a game, a team may remove its goaltender from the ice in favor of an extra attacker. Using an extra attacker is usually intended to overwhelm the opposing team's defense, and unlike during a power play, the defense cannot legally ice the puck, (if they are not already shorthanded due to a penalty. If the team on defense is serving a penalty, then the usual icing rules prevail.) putting the team without a goaltender at a significant advantage on offense. The vulnerability that comes with leaving the net untended means that, if the opposing team does manage to advance the puck out of their own defensive zone, a far easier empty net goal can be scored. NHL rules strongly encourage that teams use goaltenders in overtime; if a team opts for the extra attacker in overtime and an empty-net goal is scored, the game is credited as a regulation loss instead of an overtime loss. (An overtime loss earns one standings point, as opposed to two for a win of any sort and none for a regulation loss or overtime loss incurred under an empty net.) Teams thus typically forgo using a goaltender only in situations where they are trailing by one or two goals with only a short time (typically less than four minutes) left in the game and have possession of the puck in their opponent's defensive zone.

The rules of the IIHF, NHL and Hockey Canada do not permit goaltenders to be designated as on-ice captains,[10][11] because of the logistical challenge of having the goaltender relay rules discussions between referees and coaches and then return to the crease. (The Vancouver Canucks named goaltender Roberto Luongo as their captain during the 2008–09 and 2009–10 seasons, but due to NHL rules, he did not serve as the official on-ice captain.)[12] In the NCAA, there is no position-based restriction on the team captain.[13]

Out of the five positions on the rink, goaltenders are frequently candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, as they have won this honor in four of the last ten playoffs. Patrick Roy has won a record three times, and four goaltenders have won the Conn Smythe as part of the losing team in the Finals.[14][15]


When a goaltender blocks or stops a shot from going into his goal net, that action is called a save. Goaltenders often use a particular style, but in general they make saves any way they can: catching the puck with their glove hand, deflecting the shot with their stick, blocking it with their leg pads or blocker or another part of their body, or collapsing to butterfly position to block any low shot coming, especially in close proximity. After making a save, the goaltender attempts to control the rebound to avoid a goal scored by an opposing player when the goaltender is out of position ('scoring on a rebound'), or to allow the goaltender's own team to get control of the puck. Goaltenders may catch or hold a puck shot at the net to better control how it re-enters play. If there is immediate pressure from the opposing team, a goaltender may choose to hold on to the puck (for a second or more, with judgment from the referee) to stop play for a face-off. If a goaltender holds on to the puck for too long without any pressure they may be subject to a 2-minute delay of game penalty. Recently, in the NHL and AHL, goaltenders have been restricted as to where they can play the puck behind the net.

Glossary and techniques

The holes on the goal.
  1. Glove side, high: this area is defined by the goaltender's arm and catcher on the bottom, mask on the inside, and the post and top of the goal on the outside.
  2. Glove side, low: this area is defined by the goaltender's arm and catcher on the top, the ice on the bottom, and the outside post of the goal. During a butterfly-style save, this area is closed off completely and the catcher is typically stacked on top of the leg pad as the leg is extended to cover the post.
  3. Stick side, high: this area is defined by the goal post, top of the goal, and the goalie's arm and blocker. The top half of the goaltender's stick is held in this area, but is not commonly used for stopping the puck.
  4. Stick side, low: this area is the lower half of the stick side, defined by the blocker and arm, the ice, and the outer post of the goal. During a butterfly save this area is also covered by the leg pad with the blocker stacked on top to protect against low shots. When a goaltender is standing, the paddle of their stick is used to cover this area and to deflect the puck away from the net.
  5. 'Five Hole': the fifth and final area is between the goalie's leg pads and skates. This area is protected by the blade of the stick at all times, and is closed up by the upper leg pads when the goalie is in the butterfly position.
  6. 'Six and Seven Hole': the six and seven holes are relatively new terms to identify the areas under either armpit of the goalie. Goaltenders who hold their trapper high or blocker further out to the side of their body are said to have six and seven holes.
  7. 'Six Hole (slang)': The "six hole" is also used as a slang term used when a save is made, but the puck goes into the net, resulting in a goal. The term is used when the goalie is unsure how the puck made it past him or her.

Common variations/nicknames in ice hockey

Goaltenders are called by several different names such as: tender, tendy, goalie, sieve, netminder, keeps, keeper.

Playing styles

Stand-up style

The oldest playing style is the stand-up style. In this style, goaltenders are to stop the puck from a standing position, not going down. The goaltenders may bend over to stop the puck with their upper body or may kick the puck. Such saves made by kicking are known as kick saves or skate saves. They may also simply use their stick to stop it, known as a stick save. This was the style seen in the early NHL and was most commonly used up until the early 60s. One of the more notable goaltenders who was last seen using stand up was Bill Ranford, but most of the goaltenders from earlier decades such as Jacques Plante were considered pure stand up goaltenders.

As the name suggests, the stand-up style refers to a style of goaltending in which the goaltender makes the majority of the saves standing up. This style is not as popular in the modern era, with the majority of contemporary goaltenders switching to the butterfly style and the hybrid style. The stand-up style is in contrast to the butterfly style, where goaltenders protect the net against incoming shots by dropping to their knees and shifting their legs out.

The advantage of the stand-up style is in the continued mobility of the goaltender mid save. While standing, a stand-up goaltender can remain square to the puck and adjust his positioning to ensure that he is covering as much of the net as possible at all times. The goaltender is also in a better position to stop pucks that are headed towards the upper part of the net.

The main disadvantage of the stand-up style, however, is a susceptibility to shots travelling along the bottom half of the net. A larger percentage of shots occur in the bottom portion of the net, and a goaltender utilizing the butterfly will cover a larger portion of that area. If there is a screen, however, a stand-up goaltender is generally in a better position to see the slapshot.

Butterfly style

Another style is the "Butterfly", where goaltenders go down on both pads with their toes pointing outwards and the tops of their pads meeting in the middle, thus closing up the five hole. This results in a "wall" of padding without any holes, lowering the chances of low angle shots getting in. These goaltenders rely on timing and position. Early innovators of this style were goaltending greats Glenn Hall and Tony Esposito who played during the 50s-60s and 70s-80s, respectively. Hall is credited to be among the very first to use this style, and both he and Esposito had tremendous success with it. The most successful goaltender to adopt this style was Patrick Roy, who has 550 career wins in the NHL. This is the most widely used style in the NHL today. "Butterfly" goaltenders have developed methods of sliding in the "Butterfly" position in order to move around fast in one-timer situations. As pad size increased, it became a more notable style of goaltending and is still evolving.

Hybrid style

This style of goaltending is a combination of both stand-up and butterfly style, where the goaltender primarily relies on reaction, save selection, and positioning to make saves. Hybrid goaltenders will usually control rebounds well, deflect low shots with their sticks, will utilize the butterfly, and are generally not as predictable as goaltenders who rely heavily on the butterfly as a save selection. Most players are not pure stand-up or butterfly, but simply tend to prefer stand-up or butterfly over the other. If a player does not have any preferences, he is considered a hybrid goaltender. All modern NHL goaltenders generally use some form of this style. Some goaltenders who do this effectively are Ryan Miller, Jaroslav Halák, Jimmy Howard, Tuukka Rask, Carey Price and formerly Evgeni Nabokov and Martin Brodeur.

Empty net situations

A delayed penalty call situation, in which the referee (top-left) indicates a coming penalty by raising his arm, and prepares to blow the whistle when a player from the team to be penalized (in white) touches the puck. Goaltender Jere Myllyniemi can be seen (right) rushing to the bench to send on an extra attacker.

Normally, the goaltender plays in or near the goal crease the entire game. However, teams may legally pull the goalie by substituting in a normal skater and taking the goaltender off the ice. A team temporarily playing with no goaltender is said to be playing with an empty net. This gives the team an extra attacker, but at significant risk—if the opposing team gains control of the puck, they may easily score a goal. However, shooters that attempt to score on an empty net from the opposite side of the red line face getting called for icing the puck if they miss the net. There are two common situations where a goaltender is generally pulled, as well as two less common situations:

1. The opposing team has a delayed penalty coming against them
The offended team, if in control of the puck, will pull their goaltender for an extra man. This is safe since as soon as a player on the team to be penalized touches the puck, the whistle is called, so they cannot score on the empty net. This effectively increases the one-man disadvantage beyond the standard penalty time. It is possible, however, for a team to accidentally score on their own empty net.
2. A team needs a goal in order to avoid losing (such as trailing in the remaining minute or two of a game)
The 6 on 5 play advantage is very risky, as it is fairly certain that if the opposing team gets control of the puck they will be able to score on the empty net. Sometimes if a team is trailing in the last minutes of regulation, and has a power play advantage, they may pull the goaltender for a 6 on 4 or even 6 on 3 advantage.
3. In the last few seconds of a period with a faceoff in the attacking zone
Because the defending team would likely not have enough time to start an attack even if they win the faceoff, the attacking team may pull the goalie to have a short man advantage.
4. In a tournament that takes goal differential into account, a team may pull the goalie with a significant amount of time left in an effort to create a more advantageous goal differential.
If the team could be eliminated even if they win but could still advance with a loss based on goal differential, the team may decide it has nothing to lose by trying to score with a man advantage, similar to the second situation.

A goal scored in an empty net situation is not recorded as a shot faced or goal against on the personal stats of the goaltender who has left the ice.

Back-up goaltender

In professional ice hockey, the back-up goaltender fills an important team role. Although the back-up will spend most games sitting on the bench, the back-up must be prepared to play every game. A back-up may be forced into duty at any time to relieve the starting goaltender in the event of an injury or poor game performance. The back-up will also be called upon to start some games to give the starter the opportunity to rest from game-play during the season.[19]

Most professional leagues require each home team to maintain a list of local non-professional goaltenders, available to either team, who can be used in the exceptional case that one or both of a team's normal goaltenders are injured or unavailable (such as a player acquired in a trade or minor league call-up arriving late on short notice); such a goaltender who fulfills that role is known as an emergency back–up goaltender (or EBUG).[20][21] Similar rules are in place for the NHL's minor leagues, where emergency goaltenders are used much more frequently.[21] Those on a team's emergency list are given free attendance to home games they are assigned and may also help out as a practice goalie.[21] Emergency goalies are often called from nearby college teams, adult semi-pro/amateur leagues, or the home team's own coaching/facilities staff.[20][22] If activated for a game, most emergency goaltenders only dress to sit on the bench, as a team's normal back-up takes over; only three emergency goalies (David Ayres, Scott Foster, and Jorge Alves) have ever seen recorded playing time in an NHL game. Emergency goalies who are activated sign either an amateur or professional tryout contract.[23][24]

NHL goaltender awards

Goaltenders credited with goals

A goaltender scoring a goal in an NHL game is a very rare feat, having occurred only fifteen times in the history of the NHL, the first time occurring in 1979 after the league had been in existence for six decades. NHL rules forbid goaltenders from participating in play past the center line, so a goal by a goaltender is possible only under unusual circumstances.

Eight of those fifteen goals resulted from the goaltender shooting into an empty net. The remaining seven goals were not actually shot into the net by the goaltender; rather the goaltender was awarded the goal because he was the last player on his team to touch the puck before the opposition scored on themselves. Martin Brodeur is the only NHL goaltender to be credited with three career goals (two in the regular season and one in the playoffs), Ron Hextall is the only goaltender who has scored two goals by shooting the puck into an empty net (once in the regular season and once in the playoffs). Damian Rhodes and José Théodore are the only goaltenders in NHL history to score a goal in which they also had a shutout game. Evgeni Nabokov of the San Jose Sharks was the first goaltender to score a power play goal. If a goaltender crosses the center line and shoots the puck from that location or any other location past the center line, the goal does not count.



A chronological list of goals scored in the AHL by goaltenders:[25]


A chronological list of goals scored in the ECHL by goaltenders:




The first recorded instance of a professional goaltender scoring a goal occurred on February 21, 1971, in the CHL. In a game between the Oklahoma City Blazers and the Kansas City Blues, the Oklahoma City Blazers were trailing 2-1 and decided to pull their goaltender. Michel Plasse, the goaltender for the Kansas City Blues then scored on an open net.[30]

Subsequently, four goaltenders have scored empty-net goals in the CHL: Phil Groeneveld of the Fort Worth Fire scored against the Thunder in Wichita, Kansas, on November 20, 1995; Bryan McMullen scored for the Austin Ice Bats on February 17, 2002; and Mike Wall of the Arizona Sundogs scored a goal against Corpus Christi on March 16, 2007.[31] Danny Battochio is the most recent vs the Tulsa Oilers on December 31, 2011.[32]



Swedish Hockey League



AL-Bank Ligaen (Denmark)


Erste Bank Eishockey Liga (Austria)

Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL)

Junior hockey

See also

Positions on the hockey rink
Forwards: Hockey Rink.svg Left wing | Centre | Right wing
Defencemen: Left defenceman | Right defenceman
Goaltender: Goaltender
Power forward | Enforcer | Grinder | Pest | Two-way forward | Stay-at-home defenceman | Rover | Captain | Head coach | Referees and linesmen




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