The Butterfly Goalie Technique

butterfly goalie technique

Known as “Mr. Goalie,” Glenn Hall is also recognized as the NHL’s first butterfly goalie. A remarkable feat considering he played without a mask until the end of his 18-year career.

From the 1950s to the early ’70s Hall, a three-time Vezina Trophy winner, incorporated many elements of what would evolve into the butterfly goalie technique.

At the time, the traditional standup style was favored among the hockey goaltending styles. Hall started a netminder revolution by dropping to his knees, spreading his leg pads out on their sides, and keeping his chest straight and stout.

Throughout the ’90s, butterfly goalies dominated the NHL landscape.

Today, few refer to themselves as pure butterfly goalies, but the concepts have become so ingrained, nearly every netminder utilizes some aspects of the “set and block” philosophy.

Correct Butterfly Technique

Hall started playing the way he did after realizing he could simultaneously cover two of the most important areas of the net, the middle and the corners along the ice. He also realized the new style allowed him the opportunity to place his torso in front of the shot, which further limited net exposure.

While the other goalies of his era made saves while standing, Hall turned away most of his shots from ice level.

The correct butterfly technique requires goalies to stay square and to avoid overplaying the puck. Remaining calm in the crease, effective butterfly goalies don’t waste energy.

Five Butterfly Basics

Here are five butterfly basics young goalies need to master:

  1. In one fluid motion, goalies must get comfortable flopping down, stretching out their leg pads, and covering the five-hole with the stick.
  2. The goalie must instinctually use the pads like a wall.
  3. To square up shooters, the goalie must keep the chest up with the body, and leaning slightly forward.
  4. When off-balance, goalies should learn to fall forward.
  5. To keep the glove hand in the ready position to make a save, the goalie needs to keep the glove from falling too low as the legs drop into the butterfly position.

Hockey Goaltending Styles

Five decades ago, there were two types of goaltenders: those who were beginning to hit the ice and those who didn’t. Advancing Hall’s innovative style, all-stars Roger Crozier and Tony Esposito carried the torch in the 1960s and ’70s before the style petered out for nearly a decade.

With the aid of Canadian coaches Benoit and Francois Allaire, ex-Montreal Canadiens goalie Patrick Roy rekindled the butterfly technique in the mid-’80s by developing the “profly” style. Along with a new line of protective gear, Roy popularized and expanded on the fundamentals by focusing on wider leg stances and improved protection. Better face masks, stiffer leg pads, and better-armored arm/chest pads aided Roy’s hybrid approach, which soon was adopted by the next generations of goalies.

Succeeding in this style of goaltending takes a lot of practice. It starts with mastering the butterfly goalie stance and finishes with fluid movements in executing the butterfly save.

Butterfly Goalie Drills

Of the many available beginner butterfly drills, a favorite is the T-push. It’s widely considered the fastest method for goalies to experience the fundamentals of sliding across the crease area and flopping to the ice.

Starting the T-push drill, goalies stand in the set position and push off with one leg, slide to the side for three to four feet, stop, and flop down into the classic save position, rise, and repeat the form across the ice. Goalies use the other leg for the initial push-off on the way back.

Proper mechanics should be an important focus for youngsters. Executing proper T-pushes will aid in forming good habits like maintaining level motion during the slide and staying low in the stance.

Another good trick is working out without pucks, concentrating purely on the movement of dropping to the ice.

Repetition is the one aspect coaches look for in this drill. As the beginner butterfly goalies show confidence in the mechanics, pucks can be added, with teammates firing low shots from the slot area.

How to Use Butterfly Pads

When describing how to use butterfly pads, coaches often use the image of building a “wall” of pads devoid of holes and options to score on shots along the ice.

To create a bigger and more solid “wall” when they flop to the ice, goalies must slam down the leg pads on their sides, and not face down.

Here are some tips to executing a butterfly save:

  • As your body falls to the ice, the tops of your pads should come together in the middle, behind the stick.
  • Your ankles should be flat on the ice.
  • Your blocker and trapper should be held even with the waist on both sides.
  • Keep your stick blade flat on the ice, covering the five-hole.

Three Questions and Answers About Butterfly Goalie Gear

  1. Q: What is a big difference between hybrid and butterfly goalie pads?
    A: The top part of butterfly pads is a lot stiffer.
  2. Q: What is the best way to make goalie pads slide better?
    A: One of the most popular remedies is purchasing a wax product, which can be used to soften and condition leather leg pads.
  3. Q: What are the best goalie skates for butterfly goalies?
    A: While personal preference plays a big role in determining which brand and style are most comfortable, the Bauer Supreme 2S Pro, the Bauer Supreme 2X Pro, and the CCM JetSpeed FT2 are all good options to consider. Goalie skates certainly play a big role in performance—they’re important for positioning, gliding post-to-post, and quick recoveries from a save.

Work hard on fundamentals and make enough butterfly saves and maybe you, too, could be known as  “Mr. Goalie.”