The pros and cons of different goalie styles

Hockey goaltending is not a one-size-fits-all position.

In fact, there are two very different styles of goaltending and they can be used in tandem. Goalies tend to develop their own styles and they become quite adept at that one style. There are significant pros and cons to the different styles. Even though there are different styles, the professionals who use them excel at their selected styles.

Goalies are in a unique position.

Of the hockey positions, they get to wear the most gear, which has been customized to fit their needs and it can be further customized to fit their style of play.

On most hockey teams, goalies get their own coaches and their own positional workouts. They get to learn different skills than the other skaters. But, despite the specificity of the position and the workouts, many people argue which style of play is the best. This is not the case with the other positions on the ice.

Due to the fact that most goalies play the position from a young age, they tend to develop their style of play from early on their careers. They become highly focused and well trained in their style – no matter what they decide to use. These disciplined goalies tend to pick the style that best fits their bodies and athletic abilities. Even though the styles are different, they do all work in their own unique ways.

Stand Up Goaltending

The classic style of goaltending is the “stand-up” version.

This style involves the goalie standing up to ensure that the top of the net is always protected. It also requires the goalie to use their feet to move pucks that come in low.

They have to rely on their ability to use a stick, a glove, and their feet to stop the puck. This type of goaltending is the least popular style right now as most professional goalies have moved away from it.


  • This style is easy on the body
  • Injury risk is low
  • You can see the players, because you are standing up


  • Lower half of the net is open for shots

Butterfly Goaltending

This style earned its name because of the move that the goalie makes to stop the puck.

The goalie lands on the ice in a butterfly shape. The arms are outspread and the knees are open, so the goalie actually looks a bit like a butterfly. It may not sound like it, but the style is actually rather graceful and extremely athletic, because the goalie has to move quickly and with accuracy to block the shot.

Butterfly goaltenders have to move their bodies to stop the puck, so it is a more athletic style than the stand-up style of days gone by. For modern goalies, it is worth practicing, because offensive players will try to sneak a puck low on a goalie who does not drop. But, butterfly goalies need to be able to quickly stand back up to get into position and move around the net and crease.


  • Move coverage for goalies
  • It is easy to learn this style


  • Upper half of net is exposed
  • Recovery can be long
  • Knee and groin injuries are common
  • It is exhausting to do through an entire game with all the gear on

Hybrid Butterfly Goaltending

This type of goaltending was developed in the 1960s, but did not come into popularity until Patrick Roy dominated his opponents using it in the 1980s and 90s.

The idea behind the Hybrid Butterfly style is that goalies need to protect where the majority of shots are taken. Since the players who shoot the puck rarely lift it to make a shot, the goalies need to be low. Most shots are made on the ice, so that is where the goalie and his pads should be. Roy won a handful of Stanley Cups, so his style became THE style to use.

The Hybrid Butterfly style combines the Butterfly and the Stand-Up. Roy combined the idea of standing up to cover the high shots, but dropping to the knees to cover the low ones. This style has become popular because it allows the goalie to cover every shot, no matter where it happens to go. The goalie must be extremely attentive at all times and develop a good sense of timing.


    Goalies are able to cover high and low.
    Goalies are usually in position.


    It is easy to get caught when low or high.
    Lots of wear and tear on the knees.
    Pads wear out faster than goalies who stand.
    Can get scored on when in the wrong position.

Athletic Butterfly

After the Hybrid Butterfly, the Athletic Butterfly was developed.

This one came about as Mike Palmateer decided he wanted to play with more athleticism and finesse than other goalies. The idea behind it relies on catching the puck, rather than just deflecting it or stopping it. A goalie that uses the Athletic Butterfly style will usually end up on highlight reels because the saves are rather amazing. They tend to be acrobatic and they work harder than the other goalie styles. This style can be unpredictable for players because they never quite know what the goalie will do or where the goalie will be.


    Unpredictability of the goalie.
    Stylish play is awe-inspiring.
    Always in position to make a save.


    Can get out of position, especially right after making a deflection.
    Can be tough on the body.
    Reaction time needs to be extremely quick.

Different Ways to Block Shots

Along with the different styles of moving around the net, there are different ways to block the puck.

Some goalies will simply use their pads to block the puck and deflect it, but there are others who will work hard to make a save by catching the puck or moving with more finesse. Learning to block the puck effectively is a vital skill for all goaltenders. It is important to block the puck in front of the body, so it does not get into the net. If the goalie cannot get the stick down to cover the five hole, then the butterfly style becomes rather worthless since there is a handy little space between the knees that offensive players are always aiming to find.

Getting that stick down and blocking with it and the pads on the ice creates very limited space for the puck.

But, there are other styles that work well, too.

Some butterfly goalies will rely on their bodies to deflect pucks, and this works well when they are properly positioned to take away the angle of the shot. Butterfly goalies will play from their knees so their chests and arms are also useful for blocking shots. This is rather different from the athletic butterfly goalies who are flying around the crease using their gloves to catch the pucks rather than block them. There are times when both types of butterfly goalies will slide in a mobile save. These are athletic moves that require a solid sense of timing. Usually, this type of block will send the puck away from the net and hopefully, away from an opposing player.

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