Goaltending has changed an awful lot in the last number of years. If you watch a game from the 80's, or even the 90's, it's shocking what kind of shots go in. I remember watching some of those games live and thinking how good the goalies were. Oh well, everybody gets to live in modern times and laugh at the past. We'll probably get the same treatment. How is that possible, you say? Well, goaltending has changed a lot and it still is - onward to perfection. One change that seems to be in the works is the position of the trapper in the stance. Like progress itself, and the intelligence level of babies, it has been creeping up and up until it doesn't seem it can go any higher. Let's have a look.



After the glove hand was freed from the stick, trapper position seemed to have been quite low. Maybe this was the smart move since shooters didn't go high like they do now, and there were no curves until the 60's.



Then, starting in the 60's, shots got harder and went higher. On went the masks, upper body equipment had to be beefed up, and the trapper began its upward climb.



What we have had lately is that goalies are parking the glove against the pad, trying to keep it as open as possible.



Now, and I think this is thanks to the Finnish contingent that has invaded the game, some goalies are flipping their glove up to totally cover the top of the net. I have been using this style for a while and I like it a lot.


I'm going to look at various aspects of both current styles. They cover different parts of the net, the movement requirements are different, and they have their pros and cons.



Before I start, I think it is important to say something about trappers themselves. Frankly, I think a lot of trappers out there are awful. I would love to design my own, because there are acres of room for improvement in fit, flexibility, and protection. I spend enough time in hockey stores to see everything that comes out, and I really don't know how goalies can wear some of the stuff out there. And if you catch with your right hand, you'll get the bottom of the barrel, because the people who make the gloves aren't as used to full right trappers. Most trappers manage to be incredibly stiff, and yet the crucial crease is weak in protection. By the time the glove breaks in, the crease is even weaker, and if you get a shot on it, it will hurt like h-ll; the area of death being just below the index finger (pic, right).
If you get enough of those, you might as well forget about having any trapper speed, because even if you want to stop the puck, you brain will tense up and tell you 'No, the hand isn't going out there'.

I think I can speak authoritatively on this subject, because I have never, ever been satisfied with my trappers, and from a young age began tearing them apart and rebuilding them my way. As I got older, I needed better protection, and that was easy to fix, but fit and flexibility were much more difficult, though they are absolutely crucial to the effectiveness of your trapper. Your trapper has to feel like an extension of your hand; it has to snap out without hesitation - you need total control. If you don't have this in your trapper, it will affect the rest of your game in horrible ways. There is a goalie for Toronto now whose trapper is weak. The word has gotten out, shooters go there when they can, he knows it, and it bleeds into the rest of his game. As I write this, the bloodthirsty Toronto press and the hopelessly desperate fans are itching to run him out of town - it will make them all feel better. You cannot have a weak trapper. It has to be the strongest part of your game - people have to know you have a great trapper, and shooters have to know not to go there. When they do go there, they have to get shot down, and if they score, it had better be a lucky shot. An effective trapper has a lot to do with the fit and flex of the glove. I don't like the Toronto goalie's trapper - it's stiff, it doesn't look like it closes well. It is very hard to get those stiff trappers moving cleanly. The problem that pros have is the quality and quantity of the shots they face. I've tried on a lot of pro trappers and am continually amazed at how stiff and clunky they are, but the goalies need the protection. A standard, off the shelf trapper would likely be the end of their hand in about a week. I've played against a lot of ex-pros, and in the summer against current ones, so I have some idea of the problem, and I'll show you my solution.

I was very happy with my Brian's equipment, mainly because of the trapper. Although it wasn't perfect, it had the elements I thought were essential: not too big, a nice glove-like fit, and a good crease. The crease was really important because it had two breaks. I've done the one-break thing with other gloves and it caused a ton of closing problems. I would have to open the glove up, trim the plastic, close it up, find out more needed to come off, do it again. The problem is that the hand doesn't fold in one place - it cups, or rolls closed, and having one crease creates binding on certain spots. The Brian's glove had two creases, so when it closed, it felt natural. However, two creases doubles the protection problems of one crease - it likely more than doubles it. The palm area now has soft spots along two creases and in between them as well.

Sure enough, about ten warm-up shots into my new trapper, someone let go a weak-ish wristshot that hit just the right spot, and I felt it big time. I spent the rest of the scrimmage worrying about someone unloading a slapshot right into my palm, my hand swelling up, going to the hospital, the doctor misdiagnosing and removing my spleen, etc. I got home safely, my hand intact, and here's what I did.


On my last few trappers, I have added a strong plastic piece across the crease. It's connected at three points. The two green points are fixed and don't move. The red point has an adjustable lace. When the glove closes, the plastic piece slides up towards the thumb. I should back it with a thin layer of HD foam, but I haven't. With this piece, I get really good protection. On the hardest shots, I get a sting, but no pain. And I get all the flexibility that I need. The glove snaps closed.

To the right is a close-up side view with the glove partially closed, so the plastic piece is sliding up the thumb a bit, and you can see how it floats above the crease. Less of a curve on the piece would create a stronger bridge, but hurt your stickhandling, one of the drawbacks to this piece. Also, if you put a thin HD foam on the front as well, you'll cut down on rebounds.

I'm mentioning all of this because I think it's important. A glove that feels like a lobster claw will move like one. When you see the drills, I want you to know exactly what I'm doing. The flex of my trapper is a big part of its movement -and proper protection is essential for flex.

The thing about equipment is that at any joint, you need to layer your protection to ensure mobility and coverage. Witness the elbows and shoulders on your c/a. Look at other parts of your equipment. Layering works. It keeps things flexible while adding protection. We all know what a puck can do - how much protection the impact of a puck can penetrate. My blocker was almost two inches thick, and I was feeling some shots through it and had to boost the padding. There is no way you can get anything like two inches of protection on the palm of your hand. You're lucky if you get a half inch - and that is for a part of the body that is very sensitive.

The hand has a lot of bones in there and not much fat or flesh, so whatever hits it, you will feel - a lot. Note how many bones are in the base of the hand - it looks like a pile of rocks, but it works.

Also, the hands are loaded with nerve endings. Believe it or not, the little guy to the right is a human - sort of. The picture is a representation of our sensory receptors - more receptors, bigger size, and the hands win, hands down.

Another problem is that some trappers, especially new ones, don't open up enough. You won't get full coverage from the glove, and pucks will hit the other side, near your fingernails, and it will be very hard to catch pucks in the mesh, which is where you want to catch them.

Above, the trapper is opened up, so you'll get the full coverage of the glove, and pucks will be able to hit the red part and the mesh.(pic, below left)

With a trapper that doesn't open right up, the tips of the fingers are exposed on the other side of the glove (red), and most pucks coming into the glove will hit the green area, so you'll have a lot of rebounds. (pic, below right)

With this situation, you run into the same two problems: flex and protection. You need more flex in the glove to open it up, but once you have it, you'll feel the puck more. Taking a puck on the hand with the glove opened flat can be painful. Again, I'm happy with my solution.

The goalie on the far left has his glove really opened up. Some people feel that this new style of holding the glove creates duplicate coverage on the shoulder, but I don't think so. I'm really happy with it.



Now, we're going to compare the two different styles of holding the trapper, looking at their coverage and movement.




Left are the two styles layered on top of each other. First of all, I don't think your total area of coverage changes. With the old style, you have the forearm area above the cuff extending out, and on the new style, you have forearm coverage below the cuff (green area, right). Note that this area is not well protected - I've picked up a few bruise under my forearm with this style. Again, the new style does not cover the shoulder area, so total area covered is likely the same.

Each style covers a different part of the net, so let's look at the quality of that coverage. Both styles have problems you should be aware of if you're going to get the most out of them.




The shot to the left is a 'puck view' and shows one problem with the new style. It covers up top really nicely, but when you come out to cut the angle, you need to lower your glove. With the glove up, it's hard to get beat above it, but you will get beat with shots going under it. In the shot of the Dominator, above, the glove should come down. The pic above shows where the goalie to the left is, and the red dot is the camera. Note also that the goalie is not in a very deep crouch.



Here is the same goalie, same pose, same camera, but he is deep in his crease. Now, the glove is covering net. If you're going to use this style, you'll have to experiment a bit with lowering your glove as you come out of the net.

Also, these four shots can give you some idea of how much net is covered when you cut an angle. (Again, all the units are correct)


Below are three clips of me showing the problem with the new style of shots getting underneath your glove.








The two shots above are exactly the same as the other two shots except for the glove position, which is in the traditional style. The coverage isn't bad, especially when you come out, but the problem I have always had with this style is that the glove drops from this position almost automatically as soon as the shot is released. It is a very, very hard habit to break, and if you combine this with the almost incurable habit of going down, then a lot of room up top will open up.

The top of the net opens up when you take a deeper stance, and when your glove slides lower down the pad.

Below are some video clips showing the glove doing this.











To get an idea of glove height and angles, left are two Flash pieces comparing glove positions. The scale is very close to correct.



(Standing, old style)

(Standing, new style)


As well as the glove dropping, the old style also has a problem with the forearm. In the pics above, the forearm is extended forward, as are the fingers, like when you shake hands. It can be very hard to train your glove to point to the side instead of forward, mainly because it is more natural to point it forward - you have to fight nature.





So there's a look at the two hand positions. Below are some clips of me and some notes on the newer style.








Before we look at the glove moves, below is the standard preamble to practicing any move.



No move can get fast if it is rough, but when you learn a motion, that is what it starts out as, rough and awkward. Rough movement must be smoothed out before it can be speeded up. Also, rough points in a move are injury points, so begin by practicing the move slowly - be deliberate and methodical, get rid of the hitches and smooth things out first. Your first efforts should be modest, so that the proper muscle memory is implanted. Then you can speed things up.

Do not overdo it at the beginning, because when the muscles are learning a new motion, they get tired and stiffen easily. Goaltending moves are all very odd - they are not exactly what the body was designed for, so injuries are common. For example: the widening out that goalies do all the time stress the groin muscles, which are supporting muscles, not load bearing ones. Stressing these muscles is like pounding on a weak link in a chain. If, when practicing your moves, you feel a twinge, stop immediately and work on something else - there's always a lot of other things to work on. The risk of repetitive stress is very great because these are standard moves you'll be working on, so any injury here will become chronic. Witness the constant groin and knee problems pro goalies have without Overdrive.

Your moves are never in stasis - they are always either getting better or worse. They will degrade if you are inactive, and even games can break them down, so you must practice them to keep them. That will never change. At 20, you'll be smoothing your moves, and at 40 you'll be doing the same thing. If you want top level moves, you'll have to work them a ton, and they will degrade quicker if you don't keep that intensity. It's like a superfine edge of a knife; a small nick is all it takes to break off the edge, and you will be left with an edge that is below average. I work my moves a lot, and when I play a lot, I play well, but if I'm off for a week because of work, I come back and really notice it, while other goalies who play intermittently don't seem to suffer as much from a layoff. So, keeping a move is difficult and improving it is even harder, but either way, it's kind of like your stomach - you will always have to be feeding it.



For the last number of summers, I have played against current pros, and one big problem is the change in speed of the shots. To avoid embarrassing myself, I have to get up to speed right away, and this is what I have done to improve my trapper. I can guarantee without hesitation that practicing this move will speed up your trapper. To the right is the basic hand motion.



Here is the same move with the trapper. Of course, just like the blocker, you can practice this move at home, and it's a good idea to do a number of them when you first get on the ice, so that the hands get moving properly.



And here is a drill, again like with the blocker, where the glove moves in a semi-circle from top to bottom. I have always had a good glove, and the only reason is because I have always practiced the move. It may feel awkward and slow at the beginning, but just stick with it, and in time you will find that the glove will really snap. Ever since I switched styles, I don't practice this move as much anymore, but I always found that when it got good, I had a real sense that the hand was leading the motion, and the movement of the arms wasn't as noticeable. I don't think that will make much sense now, but it's true - you'll reach a point where the hand feels quite in dependant and mobile.




The new style isn't really about moving your glove. The important thing is just to keep it up in the proper place. However, as we saw, there is often room under the glove, so you'll have to practice this dropping move.


Here is the same move with the glove on. There's nothing very mysterious about it, you just rotate your hand down as quickly as you can. This move is simple and it works, but it feels a little slow, there's no definite end to the move, and there's an uncomfortable tugging on the wrist at the end - something that could add up to a stress injury. I'm always experimenting with my moves, and the next clip shows what I have been trying with this move.


I wanted to add some snap to the move so that I could get things moving faster. This move on this clip is not really how the glove would move on the ice, because it closes early, but it is a way of speeding up the general motion, and that has translated onto the ice for me. It feels easier to practice because it's a little more controlled with a snap at the end, and there isn't that tugging on the wrist. This is just an experiment, but I think it has some merit.


On the blocker and the trapper pages, I've mentioned the value of an end to the move, or a snap. As an experiment, try dropping your hand as quickly as you can using this motion above. End the motion in two different ways - one, snapping your fingers, and two, with no snapping, nothing. The snapping fingers version feels a lot more controlled - snapping the fingers ends the move, and the hand feels like it can go into it the motion faster.


Practicing your moves always pays off, so if you are consistent, and are careful of proper form, you will surprise yourself at how quickly the improvement shows up in your game. One day, you'll make a save, and then realize that you used the move you had been working on - it will just show up, like an unexpected guest - one you want to stay for a while. So, to this end, find a regimen that suits you, say 4 or 5 sets of 15-20 reps. Try to be consistent, and always remember that if you have nothing to do on the ice, use your time well and get to work.


The danger area when practicing your trapper is the same as when you work on your blocker. Pain in the areas shown to the right should be treated seriously because of the long-term consequences. As people get into their 50's and 60's, this area can become immobilized and destroy their posture. Without your proper spinal curvature, damage to the discs can result, weakening the arms or causing a lot of pain. This isn't so much a goaltending thing, as a 'humans getting old' thing. Also, there are quite a few lymph nodes in this area - they are used to drain waste from the surrounding area, and this area needs to be mobile to do it. So, my recommendation is to think ahead; be moderate in your practice, stretch the area, and if it gets sore, massage it - you can easily reach around to massage your shoulders and neck. As a goaltender, you should be interested in this info because the position is very damaging to your body, but you want to play for as long as you can. I'll have more info on all of this, but I'm not a professional, so I suggest some cursory reading on the web, and a talk with your doctor and massage therapist, or any one else in the field. It's a very interesting subject and well worth studying.



Below are a number of video clips on the trapper.

Don't forget that there are a lot of other videos on this site, and many of them are worth watching for the trapper form. And don't forget to look at what the shooter is doing, as some of these plays have already been covered.