In the Crease: Maintaining your gear

Perhaps no one position relies more on their equipment than goaltenders. From your skates to your helmet, every piece of gear can be used to make a save and is therefore vital in each and every game. Making sure your equipment is maintained is an important part of playing between the pipes.

While goaltending equipment is anything but fragile, it is important to ensure it is maintained properly. Ensuring to properly dry and store your equipment is an obvious rule of thumb but there are some other actions you can take to ensure your gear will help you perform at an elite level.

- Maintain the shape of your glove’s pocket

Each model of catching gloves have different features and construction methods for the pocket. Some have a hockey lace pocket, some use basic twine. Some have a split-T, some a reinforced-T and others a simple single-T. However, it is vital to make sure your pocket maintains proper integrity at all times.

A simple way to do this is to pop a softball in your glove when you’re storing it. This may not work for those of you who dry their gloves in the open position. But whenever you have the opportunity, toss a regular softball in the pocket.

The size of the softball will keep the T fully shaped and also keep the twine or lace pulled out with the T. This will ensure that the pocket will not collapse or lose its original structure. While it may not seem like much, it will help with popouts when making saves with your glove and sealing on the ice when covering the puck.

- Save your laces

All goal pads come with very generic twine to tie your skates into the pad at the toe bridge. This twine isn’t the best option for you to use when tying your pads into your skates. One of the first things I do when I get a new set of pads (which isn’t often enough) is to pull out the stock twine that the pad is manufactured with and replace it with skate lace.

Skate lace is far more durable than the stock twine and can also be adjusted to any length that you’re comfortable with. Using skate lace will give you a long-lasting product on a portion of your pad that is under constant stress and wear. Skate last will last far longer than the life expectancy of the stock twine.

The skate lace will also allow you to cut it to the exact length you prefer when tying in your pads will all but eliminate the lace from either coming untied or hanging down around the ice during games or practices. Stepping on a loose piece of twine is a terrifying feeling and putting your own skate lace in will make you feel very secure.

Another helpful hint with the lace: don’t buy a brand new set of laces for this. Collect old or ripped laces from around the locker room (or if you replace your laces). You don’t need a full 96” lace for your pads and even an old, ripped lace will be cut and adjusted anyway.

- Make those laces last

Most goal skates have a full plastic cowling these days. The plastic is rounded and smooth which makes the area between the blade and cowling an area far less susceptible to wear. However, older skates and some lower price point models still have exposed steel. Whether you have a full-plastic cowling or exposed steel, it is wise to wrap tape around those areas your pad lacing and straps will rub against. The tape will limit wear and add life to those parts of the pad. Once again, another nice way to prevent the laces that you use to tie into your pads from ending up on the ice.

- Dry your pads upside down

This is only a recommendation you should follow if you really like having a significant s-curve in your pads. If you prefer or use a stiffer pad, don’t try this. By storing your pads upside down, the wettest portion (the bottom) will help to add pressure on the rest of the pad while drying, thus slowly creating a more pronounced s-curve. I used this on my old Vaughn Velocity models and it led to great closure along the ice and at the five hole when I was in the butterfly. I have since stopped since going to a longer pad that has a different construction.

The main drawback is that this will shorten your pads over their lifetime. So if you don’t have a tall enough pad, or don’t want to lose that vertical length, don’t give this a try. However, the s-curve it creates will help when the pads are on the ice.

If I were to go back to a leg pad with a softer construction (Velocity or even Bauer’s new Reactor) I’d consider flipping my pads once again. This is definitely not for everyone, but I loved the way my pads performed when I tried it.

- Treat your gear as well as you want to play

This is more about the mindset associated with playing the game more than anything else. As the saying goes, “look good, play good” (sic). If you’re happy with how your gear feels and performs, you’re likely to respond in a similar manner. If your equipment is soggy, feels awful and is breaking down, you probably won’t play very well.

Make sure you fully air out your equipment, take sweatbands out of your helmet or other removable areas on your gear. You should want your gear to last as long as possible and perform at the maximum level. Hopefully these tips will steer you in the right direction.