No Red Lights: Hockey: The Most Useful and Most Neglected Tool -- The Poke Check - Goalie News And Instruction By Roxanne Gaudiel

The Most Useful and Most Neglected Tool -- The Poke Check

One of the most under-used "tools" in the goalie "toolbox" is the goalie stick.  Sure, it should always be on the ice and in front of the five hole, but is this really it's only use -- no!  It does serve its main function well (to cover the five hole and to stop pucks that are on the ice), but these functions do not maximize the potential of the stick! The poke check is the one move that allows the goalie to prevent shots. That's huge! It gives power to the goalie by forcing a reaction from the forward, rather than the other way around (typically, goalies are the ones doing the reacting).  First though, let me elaborate on the fundamentals of poke checking.

There are three types of poke checks:
1. The full extension poke check.
    This poke check involves the blocker hand sliding to the end of the stick and extending the whole blocker arm forward. Sometimes goalies do a "sliding poke check" where they dive forward on their stomach to get better extension. These are usually used in certain situations and depending on the goalie's personal preference.

2. The short poke check.
    In this poke check, the blocker hand does not slide down their hand. Only the stick arm is extended in a quick motion. This is used not only for in-tight situations but also to poke check passes made in-tight.

3. The hanging stick.
    The hanging stick is a lost art. It can only be used in certain situations which rarely occur. First, the forward must be approximately below the bottoms of the circle or lower. Secondly, the forward must be on the side of the ice that is closest to the goalie's blocker (i.e. if the goalie holds their stick in their right hand, the shooter must be on the right side of the ice. And lastly, the forward should be looking to make a pass. To hang the stick, slide your blocker hand to the end of the stick. Do not fully extend the stick but rather just let it hang there. The goalie should still be ready to make a move (i.e. to go down in a butterfly, to hug the post or to move laterally). The hanging the stick accomplishes three main objectives:
1. It takes away space - The forward, who might have otherwise cut to the front of the net, may thinking otherwise.
2. It takes away some passing options (this is also related to taking away space).
3. It makes the forward re-think their options. It is an unusual and often unexpected move. Because of this forward may delay, and go behind the net.

As with all moves, for every action there is a consequence -- in this case, making the first move will leave the goalie vulnerable. The five hole will be left open, and the forward can make the next move. If the forward is skilled enough, they can exploit this aggressive move with a heads up play. In order to effectively use the poke check, the goalie must understand its weaknesses, consequences and limitations.

All of these topics will be discussed in the next post (how's that for a cliff-hanger :)

Happy Holidays everyone!