Just Add Ice

Seattle Goaltending Community Uses Synthetic Ice To Build Skills And Connect Puckstoppers Around The State
Taylor Moe

Drastic times call for drastic measures. Seattle goalie families that were not given many options during the pandemic found their own solution by creating what is now known as the Goalie Zone.

During the early stages of the pandemic, ice slots were scarce. Between safety protocols and the demands of local teams there was no ice to spare for goalie-specific instruction. This setback pushed the goalie community to find an alternative method of development for young goalies, producing the idea of synthetic ice training.

With funding from the Seattle hockey community, and permission from the Seattle Junior Hockey Association, the goalie community was able to build a training area in the parking lot of Olympic View Arena, located in Mountlake Terrace, Wash.

The facility is equipped with a layer of wood tiles, which sits under a 30-by-30 foot sheet of synthetic tiles. Over time, the training area, known as the Goalie Zone, began receiving donations from families and associations to improve the quality of the makeshift rink by including various-sized hockey nets, a set of 3-on-3 boards and miscellaneous equipment.

Since opening in January 2021, the synthetic ice has hosted numerous weekend clinics for goalies of all age groups, skill levels and associations, free of charge.

Early on, many parents and goalies were skeptical about the functionality of the synthetic ice, but after several sessions they began to see the benefits it brought to the table.

Although it may not feel exactly like real ice, it didn’t take young goalies long to get used to the difference.

With more friction than real ice, the synthetic surface produces greater resistance that challenges goalies to make stronger pushes to move, which increases leg strength. In addition, due to the texture of the synthetic ice, a goalie’s footwork needs to be more accurate in order to move correctly. This helps fine tune the edgework that helps improve young goalies movements when they step back on real ice.

SJHA Goalie Director Travis Moore explains how synthetic ice helps reveal skills that need fine tuning. 

“You can’t hide on synthetic ice, you need proper technique, proper form,” Moore said. “That’s where we can really see the difference between refined skills versus what we need to work on and what we need to focus on as far as getting our goalies to the next level.”

Another main contributor to goalie development is the unique coaching methods that are used to promote Goalie IQ and individual skills.

Goalie IQ coaching exposes goalies to situations they might encounter in games by creating controlled but randomized situations for them to react to. Instead of using block drills, which repeat the same motions and scenarios, coaches use drills that follow a basic structure of movements, which set up the drill to be similar to a sequence goalies might see in a game.

Unlike a block drill, each rep of these game-like scenarios is unique. This is done by playing any rebounds left by the goalie and by creating more than one option for the puck carrier. This provides goalies with randomized situations, which better prepares them for games and helps develop their goalie IQ.

Seattle Jr. Kraken Goalie Coach Dan Perry likes the mindset goalies develop from these gamse-like scenario drills.

“What I like is the idea of a goalie who doesn’t do anything unless they see the puck moving or players moving to indicate that they should do something,” Perry said. “It’s a bit different having to keep up with the puck and read the play than it is to just move for the sake of moving.”

These drills also provide an opportunity to get goalies used to handling the puck because they are encouraged to retrieve rebounds and pass the puck, which helps them become more comfortable using their stick.

Although goalie IQ is important, it’s even more important to have the basic skills needed to perform in a game. That’s why the Goalie Zone provides skill specific clinics that provide more in-depth coaching and focus on specific skills such as footwork, stick handling and save selection. This gives goalies a chance to fine-tune their skills and get thorough instruction on the skills being taught.

The specific coaching and unique coaching methods provided at Goalie Zone appeals to goalies across the Puget Sound. It has also created a well-connected community of parents, coaches and goalies across the state. Families from numerous associations, who would not have met otherwise, have made connections with one another and become one big goalie community.

Throughout the time Goalie Zone has been active, goalies from different associations, age groups and skill levels have developed relationships with one another, producing a positive learning environment. During sessions at Goalie Zone, all goalies are supportive of one another and they often find ways to help their peers when they might be struggling.

Additionally, the coaching methods and knowledge utilized during clinics has spread to many different associations. Parents, coaches and goalies have started using the information in their own practices to develop the skills of themselves or others.

The Goalie Zone has been a great commodity for the goalie community of Seattle. As the coaches continue to spread their knowledge to eager goalies, the community continues to flourish.

“We make it our own and build the culture of a position in a sport that, in my opinion, is the most difficult mentally and physically that there is out there,” Moore said. “You have a group of great coaches that are there to create a culture that needs to be expanded upon in the Northwest and across America and throughout hockey in general because it’s fun.”


Taylor Moe is a former goalie and a current journalism major at Rochester Institute of Technology.



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