How this “out of whack” goalie avoided season ending surgery

I could tell he was scared and that scared me when I got his (can’t tell you his name, so we will call him Tim) message.  Tim was a goalie I had the opportunity to work with this summer at one of the elite camps where I ran the off-ice goalie training.  I hadn’t talked with him since that camp in July, but his message got right to the point, “my right hip is screwed, do you have time to talk?”.

Never a good message to get and I especially hate to get this from a guy who is so close to establishing himself at the pro goalie ranks.  I was probably thinking the same things Tim was… “if he needs surgery and has to miss at least 4 weeks (at most the rest of the season), what will that mean for his future?”.

I can conjure catastrophes with the best of them 🙂

We scheduled a time to hop on the phone for a chat and here the essence of what he said:

I was doing my off-ice goalie stretches the other day and noticed that my hips are all out of whack.  When I try to do my side splits with my left foot forward, I get way farther than my right.  And then when I was on the ice I noticed that I could kick out way better with my left pad – – I think my right side is screwed – probably FAI or something, but I really don’t want surgery!

What’s really going on?

So I asked some questions:

Do you have pain in your right hip?


Is this a recent change in mobility?

ANSWER: I don’t think so, I think I just noticed it – I think that hip has been screwed for a long time.

What do you currently do for your mobility training?

ANSWER:  I don’t remember all the exercises he was doing, but he did have a definite routine, he could tell me exactly what he did every day.  He had a plan that included work with the LAX ball and static stretching – mostly stuff he had cobbled together from my videos.

Looking UP

Now things were looking up.

There was no pain.

This wasn’t a dramatic change all of a sudden.

He was doing mobility, but he was missing some of the key ingredients.  His mobility training was basically some SMR and stretching, but maximizing your mobility on the ice takes a lot more than just stretching, even if you think you are doing goalie stretches.

That is one ingredient, but not nearly enough.

The Cause

What Tim described was a naturally occurring asymmetry that most of us (almost all) have.  It is a bit of a complicated explanation, but I walked you through it in this video…EVERY GOALIE SHOULD WATCH THIS VIDEO 

I don’t think anything actually changed other than his awareness of how his body was working.  This highlights the importance of being consciously aware of how your body feels and moves when you are doing all of your off-ice goalie training, including your mobility work. 

We aren’t symmetrical, so you should make yourself aware of your specific idiosyncrasies so you are better able to pick up changes over time.

Based on my time with Tim in the summer, I knew he was really good at following instructions and doing drills with proper form, so I gave him this exercise to try and see if it made much of a difference. 

If you want to start using this technique, you should start with the two exercises I showed you in this video 

This was a test, so we only changed one variable to see if it made a difference.  If we had stepped in and changed a whole bunch of things in a shotgun approach we could be making things better (or worse) and we would have no idea which exercises were contributing to the positive or negative change.  When you add something to your training you should always know what outcome you are trying to achieve so you have a basis for evaluation.

So, he worked on that drill and guess what?  His mobility improved.  He was a little stuck in that right rotation of his pelvis relative to his femurs.  We had to do some motor retraining and muscle activation to open up his hips.

We were both super relieved that it wasn’t anything serious, it was just that he was missing key ingredients in his mobility training that he needed for pro goalie flexibility on the ice.  He was doing a lot of things right – he was consistent, he was doing self-myofascial release and even using some ‘goalie specific’ stretches that worked on lengthening chains of muscles. 

But there were big gaps and the higher level you get as a goalie, the more those gaps expose you.  I worked that drill into his specific pre-skate warm up (that is a topic for another day) and even though he had been feeling good on the ice, he said that he actually felt a lot looser on the ice since he started using the warm up too.

So, there you go – you can be doing a lot of things right, but if you’re missing some of the key elements you will never maximize your performance.  Sometimes those changes are so simple and they have such a huge impact on how you feel out on the ice you will think “why didn’t I think of that?”

If you are like Tim and feel that your mobility isn’t where it needs to be or if you ever feel like you knew where you needed to be, you just couldn’t get there with your butterfly flare or kicking that pad out on a quick shot from a rebound, you should look at the Strategic Mobility For Goalies program that leads you through a 3-phase approach to proper goalie specific mobility training.   You can check it out  and see if it is exactly what you need to stop more pucks.


PS – this is also a good illustration that you cannot continue to grow and develop as a goalie by doing the exact same training year in and year out.  What works for you at this level, will not work at the next level up.  Not that you need to re-invent the wheel, but you will need to continue to look for those incremental gains.