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Advice for transitioning from ball to roller hockey goalie


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Surprised there's nothing here on this topic, figured I'd get the ball rolling.  Played ball hockey ~20 years, transitioned to roller hockey & have played it for about 10 years.  Wholly self-taught goalie, so take this with a grain of salt.

This is a surprisingly difficult transition.  Bring plenty of humility.  Good news is that you can do LOTS of grinding by yourself.  Bad news is that there is a learning curve and you are going to concede goals you won't be very happy with.  Nobody gets to be a black belt without first being a white belt, it's just the way of the world.

Biggest difference is going down - you almost seem to stick to the ground!  Even a gym floor lets you slide/shimmy once you are down, but the cement surface I play on does not.  Before taking shots, practice the mechanics of your butterfly, then practice going down into the butterfly and back up to your feet, then practice going into your butterfly while moving side to side, like if you were facing a cross-crease one-timer.  That third one is most difficult, it puts a surprising amount of strain on the inside of your knees and groin, and you may find that it feels unsafe for the first while that you play rollergoalie.  For sure do it gently the first few times you try it!  You really ought to do all these things before taking shots.  It should only take you 5 minutes to get familiar with these motions, although you may play for quite a while before you feel comfortable going into a butterfly while moving cross-crease, which is IMO the most difficult and highest risk-of-injury save selection in rollerhockey.   There's a good reason that the pad stack is not obselete in roller hockey!

Next biggest difference is your skating mechanics - if you don't know these techniques already, learn the C-cut and the T-push, both of which are easy to learn from youtube videos.  You will use the C-cut when changing position and when adjusting depth, you will use the T-push for big angle changes, and you will shuffle for small ones.  Shuffling on rollerblades is more awkward than on feet.  Your first session in net, most of your attention should be on your skating and on safely going down and getting back up.  If anyone comments on your reduced save percentage, tell them it's not a contract season and there will be no refunds or post-game interviews.

Next biggest difference is the trajectory of a ball versus that of a puck.  A ball can bend, swerve and/or curl in all kinds of interesting ways.  I've had balls hit me in the chest that had so much spin on them that they rolled up my chest, over my shoulder and into the net!  The puck can't do anything like that (well, it can flutter on a clumsy release but those are uncommon).  It goes in a straight line from the point of release.  This makes the goalie's job MUCH easier!  Set a puck down in scoring position with a go-pro on the ground directly behind it.  Now get to one of your posts and pretend there is a scrum in the near side corner.  Glance at the puck you have set down, as though you are in a game situation glancing at motion.  Return your gaze to the imaginary corner battle.  Visualize the puck being centered, and move with as much explosiveness and technical skill as you can manage so that you are addressing the puck with the go-pro behind it.  Once you think you are in perfect position to make the save, drop into the most technically perfect butterfly you can manage.  Now skate to the other post and do the whole thing 10 times.  The first five sets focus on perfect technique, the second five sets pick up the pace a little bit.  Now go watch the go-pro - it will tell you if your positioning is accurate.  This is, to a goalie, what practicing with a metronome is to a musician.  Any part of your body that is outside of the net is being wasted!  Any net that the go-pro can see is a place the puck could score on you.  Watch for and reduce "double-coverage" - part of your glove may be covering part of the net that your chest is already covering, for instance.  Experiment with this every so often - no matter how good you become, there is always room for improvement.  Ideally you should be covering 80+% of the net.  You should also know where you are not covering - good shooters will aim there, and being a good shooter is less of an advantage if the goalie knows where you want to shoot before you take the shot.

I've played with and without rollerfly pad extensions (the plastic things with the bearings that give you some of the slide you would get on ice).  If two goalies are still getting used to roller hockey, the goalie with rollerfly has a decisive advantage over the one who does not.  I also felt safer using the butterfly save selection while moving cross-crease, however, I now feel just as safe doing this save selection with or without the rollerfly.  If both goalies are used to roller hockey, it's a much smaller advantage.  They are still useful for extending the life of your pads - a lot of the wear and tear of sliding on the concrete has been absorbed by my rollerflies, which are all chewed up.  I guesstimate they extended the life of my pads by two seasons.

You are probably already doing the frog stretch right before you play.  After the frog stretch, before shifting positions, practice extending and retracting your legs, as though they are pinball flippers and you are alternating them.  This will increase your ability to reposition yourself after going down but without getting back up, which is much more difficult in roller hockey.

Positioning is vital!  Think about your x, y and z axis.  X is left-right along the goal line.  Y is near-far from the goal line.  Z is the rotation of your hips.  You hips should ALWAYS be square to the shot!  When challenging the shooter, I go x->z->y, in that order, as quickly as possible.  When I'm really on my game it feels like one fluid motion.

In ball hockey, the high shots are harder and the low shots are easier.  In roller hockey it's the other way around. I find "just above the pad" to be more difficult than "top cheese," your mileage may vary.

In ball hockey, a shot can be released much more quickly.  Once you are used to that, pucks seem to have a very long release, especially when the puck is being raised.  I find it MUCH easier to read a shot with a puck than with a ball.  This is the biggest advantage that you get from your ball hockey background!

In ball hockey, I find the backhander to be much more formidable, partly because it is so much easier to raise, and partly because it's so much more difficult to read.  The backhander is much less useful with a puck.

Lunging saves and second saves are more difficult in rollerhockey because you have so much friction with the ground.  I'm starting to incorporate a subtle sort of almost-jump-just-as-I-extend-the-pad, which really reduces the friction and increases my potential range of motion.  It's less of a "jump" because I don't leave the ground, but I do sort-of-heave my weight upwards as though I were going to jump to reduce the friction of my leg as it slides along the cement.  Very subtle, takes practice, will probably happen spontaneously as you get more comfortable.  It's certainly not something I intentionally developed, but if I'm already in my butterfly and need to make a diving leg extensions there is now a distinctly... jump-kicky... feel to that motion, if that makes any sense.

If you've been playing ball hockey, you're used to making unconventional saves.  Embrace that!  After you've been at this for a few seasons your game will get more and more technically sound.  For now, do whatever works that feels safe.

As your skating improves, your need to Hasek will diminish.  I still Hasek on average every other night, but I used to Hasek at least three times per night.  I have consistently found that I get a higher save percentage than I feel I deserve when Haseking in rollerhockey.

Take a few Aikido classes, or watch a few videos.  The techniques you want are the front, side and back roll.  I use the side roll rarely, the back roll infrequently, and the front roll never, but I'm happy to have them in my toolkit.  Just last Friday I was tight to my post and there was a quick bang-bang passing play, where the rebound came to a forward who passed behind the net, then another pass to the other side behind the net, then a quick jam play attempt.  I backrolled across my crease and tried to seal my post lying on my back with my pads in the air, and he very kindly put the puck right into my pads, mostly because he didn't think there was any way I could get across in time.

If you end up getting more advanced in Aikido they'll also teach you about fighting while prone, and the body mechanics you'll learn will also help you scramble as a goalie and maintain your awareness of the rink while scrambling.

If a ball finds its way through your gear it might sting a little.  If a puck finds its way through your gear it's gonna hurt like a mofo, and if you're really unlucky, it can break a bone!  If you've never played with a puck before, get a buddy to make sure your gear is fitted.  When breaking in new goalies I'll jab them hard with two fingers in the chestie, especially in the area around the collarbone, to make sure that there is no gap a puck might find.  I've only ever taken one slapshot in the clavicle but I did not enjoy it and don't want to do it again.  Once I'm sure their chestie fits, I'll jab it with the butt end of a stick with some force, so they know just how protected they are.  You CANNOT use the butterfly if you don't trust your chestie and your helmet.  Other area to be extremely sure of is the top of the knee - a slapshot with a ball is no big thing, a slapshot with the puck is gonna suck.

A big strong man winding up for a big slapshot with a puck can be intimidating in a way that a ball just isn't.  You need to want the puck to hit you right in the chest, REALLY HARD!  You need to trust your gear!

In the moment that the puck strikes you, visualize yourself as a sponge, "soaking up" the puck.  It will help your rebound control.

Move into the shot - this will help keep your body centered and will also tend to channel rebounds to the corners instead of the slot.

The puck has more friction against the floor than it does against the ice.  This makes things a little more difficult for forwards.

Get a buddy to take five shots on you low, five shots on you high, alternating between the two, until you can tell from his body language whether he is going to raise the puck or not.  It is MUCH easier to read shots with pucks than balls because the release is slower and raising the puck requires more deliberation.

Post integration is very different - the reverse VH is much less useful because you can't easily move in and out of it like you can on the ice.  The "normal" VH is easier to get in and out of, but I use it very sparingly.  I'm 5"10 and 165 lb so maybe a bigger goalie would have more luck with it.  I don't use the super-old school both-legs-straight-one-leg-against-the-post, but I keep one ankle against the post and lay my outside arm along the post as well, allowing me to have my other leg out, giving me the ability to push off my post while also taking away the near side shot.

Amateurs think about big saves, professionals think about skating!  The better I get at rollergoalie, the more I focus on my skating.  If my feet are set and I see the shot, I'll probably save it.  I need to do a lot of very precise skating to keep myself continually ready for the shot.

Watch yourself for skating errors.  I track my skating errors every night, and am always looking to reduce that number.  Most of my skating errors occur in moments where a shot is not threatened, but for me, it's an excellent way to track my progress.

For me, it's much easier to practice rollergoalie by myself than it is ball hockey goalie.  Like night and day.  That said, skating is a very large part of my game, so this may not be true for everyone.

I can train solo with the above go-pro trick and by skating letters, especially A, W, Y and Z.  Do a down-and-up at the end of each line.  Every once in a while I'll do the alphabet.

As with any other new skill, at the start of your practice you should be doing it at half tempo with emphasis on technique - this is how your body most efficiently builds muscle memory!  As you get better, start your practice at half tempo then bring it up to regular tempo at the end.  When you feel really comfortable, start at half, go up to normal, then pick it up another notch.

Breakaways are much more difficult at first, especially if they deke.  Once your skating improves this will get better.  I face breakaways just like I do in any other type of hockey - cut down the angle aggressively, flow backwards, make him make the first move, move towards whichever post he dekes towards, keep my hands active, try to make it so that at the moment the shot is released my speed and vector perfectly matches his, and try to get my chest behind the shot when possible.  It took me a long time to get good at breakaways.

Slapshots are much easier - the puck travels in a straight line, which is a real treat for anyone used to playing against a ball!   If your anticipation, positioning and skating are good most of them will hit you in the chest.

Keep your hands active!  I extend my glove and blocker ~1.5-2 feet in front of my body while keeping my elbows loosely tucked against my torso.  This really helps me track pucks into my glove/blocker and has increased my save percentage on high shots by a fair amount.

Get actual goalie rollerblades.  The first time you take a big slapshot off your toe you will see why.  You're welcome :) 

I keep a strip of fresh sock tape along the bottom of my goalie stick so that the cement court doesn't chew up the stick.  Have gotten 4 seasons out of my current stick, it should be good for at least 3 more.  It's a composite stick and I love it.

And now, a word from our sponsor.  This post has been brought to you by the practice of paying people for the time they put in, instead of the work they put in.  I finished my job two hours ago, but for some damn reason my employer feels like if I haven't spent 8 hours behind my desk he didn't get his money's worth.  So if I am getting paid to push papers, and the papers are already pushed so instead I write a big post about how to play goal... does that make me a professional goalie coach?  I mean, I got paid while I did it, right?  ...I'm putting it on my resume and hoping no one asks.

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  • 2 months later...

What is the frog stretch? I'm looking for new stretches that can help me goalie better.


I'm a ball hockey goalie learning ice, and I'm curious about what it will take to learn roller. It's interesting that shuffles are more difficult in roller than ball and ice. Maybe roller might help me with ice in some ways, but I'll have to look more into the risks and rewards to see if roller hockey is worth it. 

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Frog stretch - aka Bhekasana.  



Careful with this one!  Do NOT force it, do NOT 'bounce' in it.  Go into this stretch gradually and come out of it gradually.  Do not expect to get your groin anywhere near as close to the ground as the lady in the picture.


Not sure if I would recommend roller as a way to get better at ice, but I would defer to the opinions of goalies who have done both.  One massive change is that with ball hockey or roller hockey, when you are regaining your feet, you lead with the foot on the side you want to move towards.  So if you want to move right, you pick up your right foot first.  On ice, you pick up your *opposite* foot, and then use it to push yourself so that you slide with one pad down on the ice.


The goalie in this pic is moving to his right, our left.  He will use his left skate to push himself to his right, and will slide to the right.  Carey Price is a fricken wizard at this, and Helleybuck's not far behind.  Try to youtube some footage of them warming up, you'll see them slide from side to side as part of the warm up.  This is *way* more difficult than it looks.  You don't *need* to do this to be an ice hockey goalie, but I don't think it's possible right now to be an elite ice hockey goalie without mastering this technique.  That said, I've spent a total of 2 hours playing ice hockey so my opinion on how to be an ice hockey goalie should be taken with every grain of salt regionally available.  

Edited by keeper_13
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  • 6 months later...

Interesting. I've checked YouTube, but I haven't seen any videos about this.

On a different note, I was able to play in a roller pickup yesterday. I played on foot, but it was still eye-opening to see the differences between ball and roller hockey. Way more dekes, faster shots, and better puck control.

I might play roller again, but I definitely enjoy ice more. 

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