My friend Tomy Ames, the new owner and operator of GoalieCrease, brought a radical idea to life over the weekend.
“What would it be like to play with two catching gloves?”
As you can see from the video above (and his own recap here), it was pretty interesting.
We’ve all seen a goalie play with two gloves before. Dan Blackburn wore two blockers while playing for the New York Rangers organization. And some of you may have heard stories about Montreal’s Bill Durnan, the legendary ambidextrous goalie. He wore two special gloves and was able to swap his stick to either hand during play.
But wearing two catching gloves and getting rid of the stick is quite a different story.
For Tomy, this experiment was all about having fun, trying something new, and seeing how it changed the way he moves, and how he thinks the game. If anything, it was at least an entertaining delve into the fantasy realm to simply see what would happen.
For example, could the NHL actually look at this someday as a way to increasing scoring? Five-holes would be like wide open gates swinging to and fro, and that would certainly change the way we stop pucks. Or would we ever see the day when goalies mastered puck-moving to such a degree that our sticks would no longer be allowed?
We doubt it. But hey, nobody ever expected the trapezoid rule to be implemented, either.
“My first impression was that it’s an incredibly fun and entertaining way to mix up goaltending, which can sometimes get a little arduous or boring,” Ames said. “It was surprising to me that it was actually more feasible than I thought it would be, as it took the other team more than 45 minutes to score their first goal. I think with a few practices with the right glove, I could probably be pretty effective out there.”
From the moment we step into the crease, goalies are taught one (of many) golden rule; keep your stick on the ice. We’re also told to lead with the stick, activate the stick hand, and other similar verbal cues. Over time, these coaching cues create very specific muscle patterns with the blocker hand and arm.
Mostly inactive and often rigid for younger goalies, the blocker hand is held in a manner where the upper forearm muscles are tense and constricted in order to keep the stick blade on the ice. As we develop and become more aware of what our muscles are doing, we learn to know how/when to relax that arm, how to react more naturally, and how to activate the stick at the right times.
Our stick also acts as a counterweight. It affects the way we recover, rotate, and slide while in the butterfly. It influences and alters our balance, and it also plays a vital role in our overall goaltending biomechanics.
When the stick is suddenly ripped out of our hand, and then replaced with another glove, it is very interesting to see how the body and the mind adjusts.
“When it came to using both gloves in the scrimmage, I did feel that I had an immense increase in mobility. I could quickly turn and recover without the heavier, lankier stick sometimes awkwardly moving around,” Ames said. “Conversely, though, I had to be cognizant that almost every shot was going to go to the five-hole, which wasn’t really a problem for me, but might be for some with weaker five-holes. It definitely tests your patience, and your ability to not make the first move. If nothing else it’s good for that!”
So while it seems ridiculous at first, wearing two gloves can actually be a fun way to challenge your mind to activate and mobilize an arm that’s usually very rigid and tense. Most of us are taught to keep our upper arms and elbows tight to our sides, but we’re also taught to keep them loose and active. That’s not always an easy balance to find, and it takes time to truly master that aspect of positioning.
Maybe Tomy’s experiment helped him understand that balance a little better.
Tomy’s video also reinforces the notion that goalies should be doing various off-ice drills that help them catch with both hands. Even if it has no in-game application, being able to catch ambidextrously will improve hand dexterity, eye-hand coordination, and arm/hand balance.
It also improves and strengthens the way your brain interacts with your body. For example, without a stick, how much more did Tomy emphasize shutting down the five hole, bring the knees together when butterflying, and sealing the ice when facing low shots in traffic? How much more did his mind stress this important element of stopping pucks?
Regardless of how much this experiment altered the way Tomy mentally processed the game, at the end of the day, wearing two gloves was all about enjoying the experience.
“First and most importantly, from a mental standpoint, it’s important to have fun out there,” Ames said. “Try something new, mix it up a little bit. It’s a tough game and a tough position, so having a little fun goes a long ways toward keeping your head where it needs to be as a goalie.”
So props to Tomy for trying out this experiment. It may never amount to anything, but when it comes to experimenting, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
And hey, he did make some pretty nice saves out there!