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Two goalies with the National Hockey League's Florida Panthers.

Sean Murray and the Saturday Morning Goaltending Philosophy

11/03/2014, 6:00am PST
By Kelvin Cech

Learn how Sean Murray trains goaltenders.

 

Every Saturday morning, an excited crew of minor hockey goalies hit the ice at the North Shore Winter Club for an hour of development with goaltending instructor Sean Murray and his staff of 3 employees and 2 goalie mentors. 

There are 2 sessions:

  • 7:10am - 8:10am Initiation/Female/Atom 

  • 8:10am - 9:10am Peewee and above

The Basics

One of the trends Sean has seen in the goaltending industry is a tendency to rush young goaltenders into advanced techniques before perfecting the basics.  

“With the first class, we really focus on a lot of skating movements,” says Murray. “It’s important to work on the basics like rebound control, butterfly technique and specific goaltender movements to build a base of movement and knowledge.”

According to Murray, there’s no point in doing complicated combination drills if a goaltender can’t move around their crease properly first. 

“We do a lot of hand placement with the younger kids as well, just simple progressions so they can feel the puck in their glove. Kids don’t play enough baseball these days, so we run through catching the puck in different scenarios.”

Glove Hand Technique

  • progression 1: start on the knees and catch the puck

  • progression 2: standing and catching the puck

  • progression 3: starting on the feet, sliding into the butterfly and catching the puck

  • progression 4: single push, setting and making the glove save before recovering back to the net

  • progression 5: single push, then slide and catching the puck in motion

Building Game Awareness

The second class of peewee and older goaltenders combines more advanced skills. The class separates into 3 stations: skating, basic technique and game situations. 

“With the third station we do back door plays, reading the play in front of the goaltender and combination saves like save, recovery, out, push, set, shot. Game situations are all in motion, goalie flow drills I call ‘em

“This class is great because it combines their skills, puts their basics into action. How they move and react is so crucial in a game, so we eliminate as much of the guess work as possible. This is also the age where the kids will start to learn how to react in a game.”

The Structure

For Sean and his staff, it’s important to get a good sweat going, but it’s also crucial to enjoy the experience as well. 

“At the end of all practices we like to do a goalie game where they work on stickhandling and controlling the puck. It’s that fun element, the goalies are having fun but they’re working on a skill at the same time, in this case they’re passing to their players and handling the puck a little bit. We use two pucks so there’s a lot more puck movement.

“The kids have an absolute blast on those Saturday mornings, and so do I. That’s why I got not this business, to have fun and hopefully make a difference for the new young goalies coming up as well as the professional, junior and midget goalies I work with.”

As with the glove hand progression, Murray explains that it works the same way with most of the skills being taught. Murray believes in Introducing skills naturally and building the different elements of the position. 

The Philosophy

“Whether you train a 6 year-old goalie or you train them at 16, the basic concepts are the same, it’s just the speed that’s different,” says Murray. 

“You teach them the core basics and then add to it. One thing I learned from coaching goalies in the National Hockey League, they like the simple drills. Push, push, shot. That’s what happens in a game. They do things slow at first to make sure they get it right and then they speed up.” 

The mental side of the game is one of the aspects of his work where Sean Murray excels. He has no problem challenging a player on his weaknesses but is always quick to celebrate and improve on strengths. 

“You really need to know your goalie and how they see things, both literally and figuratively. I like to get down and perform the movements I’m asking the goalies to perform. I slide and show my students what to do to make sure they’re getting it right before we move on. This way I can also get a clearer picture of what that specific player needs to work on.

The Best Hockey for all Goalies

Sean says that he doesn’t care what level a goaltender plays at. 

“I treat every student the same, it’s my responsibility to get the most out of them I possibly can. Hockey development is about getting players on the ice and enjoying the position. Providing that experience for everybody is important to me.” 

“It’s simple, really. Treat everyone the same and we’re going to have a lot of happy goalies in the future.” 

And for Sean Murray, the future of goaltending is bright.

photo credit: clydeorama via photopin cc

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