Dropped Goal Stick

I have watched and played hockey for over thirty years and I have seen the goaltender lose his stick during the course of play hundreds of times. Chaos ensues and defensemen furiously try to get the goaltender their stick while the coach on the bench is screaming, “He’s got no stick. Give him your stick!”

Conventional wisdom dictates that the defenseman should sacrifice his stick so the goaltender has something to stop the puck with. I plan on outlining my observations and suggest the reasons why perhaps we need to rethink the conventional wisdom in this case.

I believe the goaltender should not be offered the defenseman’s stick and he shouldn’t accept the offer if it is provided. Here is why.

In the past, goaltenders weren’t as adept at covering the low net. They used their stick and their skates on the majority of low shots. In that era it made sense to give the goalie the stick from the teammate. Now the game has changed and goalies display superb low net coverage using the butterfly. There is a relatively small increase in the danger of a goalie getting scored on low when they lose their stick in today’s game.

When I think back in my experience I fail to recall any time a goalie actually made a save with this loaner stick and in fact I recall many other things occurring as a result of the stick hand off.

First of all we have a defenseman who has now taken his attention off the puck and his defensive zone responsibilities while he flutters around handing off the lumber.

Secondly, we now have a defenseman with no ability to clear the puck out of the zone. His lack of a stick is far more dangerous than the goalie’s lack of a stick in my mind.

Thirdly, we all know what happens when a defenseman takes one hand off his stick in a battle along the boards; a holding penalty. This can’t be anything but a greater penalty risk when he doesn’t have either hand on a stick.

This issue brings up a summarizing issue. Goaltending and the sport in general have evolved over the years because people have gone against conventional wisdom. Former Leafs Roger Neilson and Jacques Plante are two familiar names that changed the game because of their thoughtful approach in spite of conventional wisdom. Approach the game from a logical point of a view with a critical eye. Could things be done better by doing something differently?


Copyright © 2005 Stephen McKichan