hockey goalie stances

A Goaltender’s stance is the most foundational part of playing the position. This article will help distinguish the different styles of stances and the unique save selection styles that go along with it. There are many contributing equipment factors that go into a goalkeeper's unique stance. The type of goalie skates they wear, the length of their goalie stick, size of their leg pads and even the size of their goalie chest protector contributes to the overall stance.

In this article, we’ll cover:

Hockey Goalie Stances

The reason why we focus so much on a goaltender’s stance is because this foundation helps generate power in movement, puts us in the best scenario to make a save and can make the position easier. When we stand correctly in our stance with our weight balanced, our feet can create explosive and crisp movements and those movements can give us the best opportunity to make the correct save selection.

Butterfly Technique

Over the last three decades, the butterfly technique has been utilized more and more as it has become widely accepted as the best method to not only make saves, but control rebounds. Now, the butterfly technique is taught to all young goalies to help match the growing skill of the players in the game. There are certain aspects of stand-up goaltending that can be used in certain save selections, but the butterfly technique is now the proven and taught method of goaltending.

Butterfly Technique Pros

  • This technique helps you gain the advantage in taking away the majority of the open space between the puck and the net.
  • Butterfly technique creates a tight seal on the ice so pucks do not squeak under the pads.
  • When the bottom of the ice is sealed, you can concentrate on effectively using your hands to effectively catch and control pucks.

Butterfly Technique Cons

  • Requires a high emphasis on good footwork and trust in your edges.
  • The butterfly technique is hard on the knees, hips and ankle joints.
  • An overall difficult technique to master.


Stand-up goaltending was the main technique used by goaltender’s since the inception of the NHL all the way until the mid 1980’s! At a time, goaltender’s could be penalized for going down to their knees, so the stand-up style was the only technique to use. Some aspects of stand-up goaltending can even still be seen in today’s game.

Stand-up Technique Pros

  • Saves the impact on your knees, hips and ankle joints.
  • Always ready to make an explosive move while on your feet.
  • The stand-up technique keeps the goalies head level so they are always focused on the puck.

Stand-up Technique Cons

  • There is no confident seal on the ice as there are a lot of gaps along the ice and below the hands.
  • Harder to control pucks to the corners.
  • Stand-up goaltending is harder to use in today’s game.


Between the transition of stand-up and the butterfly style, goalies were adopting the pros and cons of each technique to create a hybrid style between the two. At this point in the late 1980’s to early 2000’s, goaltender’s realized that dropping down into the butterfly would help create a solid seal on the ice to take that portion of the net away from the shooter.  

Hybrid Technique Pros

  • Perfectly blends the stand-up and butterfly technique together.
  • Gives the goalie a good seal on the ice, while also keeping focus on their hands and footwork.
  • Eliminates some knee, hip and ankle pain while down on the ice.

Hybrid Technique Cons

  • Provides a heavy emphasis on blocking the puck, versus controlling the puck.
  • Some save selections are big and loud and have the potential for the goalie to get out of position quickly.
  • Gear was evolving during this period and sometimes the protection wasn’t providing enough coverage to make certain saves.

How to Determine Your Playing Style

In today’s game, most goaltender coaches are all teaching how to play the butterfly technique so they can enhance their save selections. While certain goalies still prefer a stand-up or hybrid technique, there is no goalie coach network to provide any teaching as those techniques have become outdated. 

Characteristics of a Butterfly Goalie

  • Butterfly goalies drop down to their knees on the majority of shots, regardless of where the shot comes from on the ice.
  • Goalies who tend to wear stiffer and flatter pads to help keep rebounds more predictable.
  • Goalies who focus heavily on technique and save selection

Characteristics of a Stand-up Goalie

  • Stand-up goalies prefer to keep their feet planted when shots are coming towards them
  • Goalies who tend to be older and prefer a different generation of goaltending.
  • Goalies who rely on quick reflexes to track the puck.

Characteristics of a Hybrid Goalie

  • Hybrid goalies make different save selections when the puck is shot from different areas on the ice.
  • Goalies who stay patient when players shoot on the net and make the decision to stand or drop down.
  • Goalies who use their reflexes and athleticism to their advantage.

Hockey Goalie Stance FAQs

What are the 3 types of goalies in ice hockey?

The 3 types of goaltenders in ice hockey are Butterfly goalies, hybrid goalies and stand-up goalies.  As the game continues to grow, the butterfly style is staying dominant and taught at a younger age.

What is the best goalie stance?

The best goalie stance is one that has the goaltender’s feet a little wider than the hips, has the hands and shoulders angled forward towards the trajectory of the puck and has their full weight on the balls of their feet ready to make an explosive movement.  If the feet are too wide, or if the balance is off, the goalie will find it harder to make effective saves.

What is the hardest shot for a goalie to stop?

The hardest shot for a goalie to stop is one that they cannot see.  A goaltender’s vision is the biggest key to the success so they have the best chance at getting a piece of the puck, or better yet controlling the rebounds.

Why do goalies slap their stick on the ice?

Throughout gameplay, crease management is a big part of a goaltender’s game.  Not only do they sometimes hit the ice with their stick, but they often hit the end of the shaft on the post or even use their glove to touch the post to remind themselves of their position in the net.

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