The next time you go to a hockey game, pay close attention to what the players do right before they start. You’ll probably notice the hockey goalie do something a little weird. Usually, they’ll come out and spend quite a bit of time scraping the ice around the goal. Some, like Canadian goalie Braden Holtby, even scrape the ice to the rhythm of the music playing.
But why do they do that? Well, there are a few reasons for this. They scrape the ice to make it less slippery, to slow down the puck, to smooth out any rough spots on the ice, to prevent wraparounds, and last of all, to warm-up and get some good luck.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the reasons why hockey goalies scrape the ice.
5 Reasons Why Do Hockey Goalies Scrape The Ice
1. To Make The Ice Less Slippery
Ice is slippery, that’s obvious. But for a hockey goalie, that slippery surface can really undermine their performance in the game.
Pay close attention to the goalies the next time you go to a game. Watch the patterns that they move in. Typically, they’ll move up and down and side to side to protect the goal. Their movements are short and quick.
A slippery surface will make it difficult for goalies to make those short and quick movements in a controlled manner. They might overshoot and end up sliding too far away from their goal, leaving it exposed.
So, hockey goalies like to rough up the ice by scraping it to make it a little rough and give their skates more friction. In doing so, their movements are slightly slower but definitely much more controlled. They’ll be able to and from any side of their goal with more precision!
2. To Slow Down The Puck
Scraping the ice also has another benefit: it helps to slow down the puck travelling towards the goal. Forget what you see in the movies: a goal-scoring slapshot doesn’t always send the puck flying in the air into the goal. Most of the time, the puck is still flat on the ice, sliding all the way through the crease.
So, like in the last point mentioned above, scraping the ice makes it a little rougher. It adds more friction to anything that’s sliding on top of it. A puck will travel slower than usual towards the goalie.
To the naked eye, a slightly-slower puck may not seem like such a big deal. But that might give the goalie a few milliseconds more time to react and block the puck. Ask any competitive ice hockey player, and they’ll tell you that a millisecond can often mean the difference between winning and losing a game.
3. To Smooth Out Rough Spots
Before a game, the ice in the arena will be smooth and perfect. After all, a Zamboni is often used before and between games to keep the ice in good shape. Professional leagues will also have staff members cleaning up the ice manually, so it’s in perfect condition for competitive ice hockey.
Still, the fact remains that the ice does go through a lot of abuse as players skate over it. Nowhere does a rink get damaged more than the area around a goal. As mentioned during the beginning of this article, goalies will repeatedly move in all sorts of directions on that small area of ice. That patch of ice will receive more damage than any others.
So, goalies tend to scrape the ice during a game to smoothen out any rough spots. If you watch them closely, you’ll see that they scrape the entire crease systematically, from one side to the other. That way, they never miss a spot!
4. To Prevent Wraparounds
Sometimes, players will try to score a goal by coming from behind the net. That’s called a ‘wraparound’. To prevent this, goalies like to take the ice that they’ve scraped up and then pile it around the crease. That makes it just a little more challenging for the opposing team to do any wraparounds into the goal.
5. To Warm-Up And For Good Luck
Imagine being an ice hockey goalie. You’re the last line of defence against an entire team of opposing players. They’re going to be hitting pucks in your direction as hard as possible, and your job is to stop them from getting into the goal.
That scenario puts a lot of pressure on a goalie. So, it’s understandable that they’ll want to prepare mentally before the game begins. Scraping the ice is just a way for them to get their heads ‘in the zone’.
For some goalies, there might be an even deeper meaning to it. You see, in competitive sports, a lot of players tend to believe in luck and superstition. Some hockey goalies have a belief that scraping the ice is kind of like rubbing a magic lamp for good luck.
Hockey Goalies Aren’t The Only Ones Working The Ice!
The ice around the goal isn’t the only place getting attention. While the goalie might scrape the ice in the crease, the ice on the rink also needs to be resurfaced several times.
According to NHL rules, ice throughout the arena needs to be resurfaced between periods. That means that before the game, after warm-ups, during playoffs, and even after the entire game is over, two machines will be sent out to resurface the ice.
Typically, those machines are known as ‘Zambonis’. That name comes from the first ice resurfacing machine that was invented by a man named Frank Zamboni. Today, people still call them Zambonis whether or not they’re made by Zamboni Company USA, Inc.
In regular games, though, you may just see a few people with shovels going about resurfacing the ice manually. Or, they may use simplified versions of the Zamboni that may or may not be mechanical.
In any case, the process is done for the same reason. It’s to clean and smoothen the surface of the ice which goes through a lot of abuse as more and more people skate over it.
What is Other Hockey Goalie Habits That You Might Notice?
As you pay close attention to the goalie, you’ll start to notice that scraping the ice isn’t the only unusual habit they have. As a matter of fact, here are three other things you might notice them doing:
1. Leading the team onto the ice
During any game, the goalie is the leader of the ice hockey team.
As the players first come out onto the ice, you’ll notice that the goalie is always at the front of the line. This is a very subtle tradition. It’s not flashy or dramatic, but you’ll notice it if you pay attention.
2. Getting their pads tapped by other players
Another goalie-centred tradition is one where the players skate around and tap the goalie’s pads. In a way, it’s like everyone on the team is signalling to the goalie that they’re ready to play. As mentioned before, some players may regard it as a matter of superstition. So, they tap on the goalie’s gloves for good luck before the game begins.
3. Tapping on the goal
From time to time, you’ll also see ice hockey goalies tapping on their goalposts, either with their sticks or with their pads. The reason is simple: they’re making sure they know their position in relation to the goal.
You see, a goalie is always keeping their eye on the puck, wherever it may be on the ice. During that time, they may lose track of where they are in the crease and unknowingly leave a part of it exposed.
So, by tapping on the sides of the goal, they’re mentally confirming where they’re standing. If they’re too far out to one side, they’ll know to readjust their position so that they have the entire goal covered.
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So, let’s do a quick recap. Ice hockey goalies have a habit of scraping the ice. They do this for five reasons: to rough up the ice and make it less slippery, to slow down the puck as it heads to the goal, to smooth out any rough spots on the ice, and to prevent sneaky wraparounds by the other team. Those are the four practical reasons they do it. Still, there’s an additional reason that’s more psychological: as part of their warm-up routine to get their head in the game and for superstitious reasons like getting some good luck.
Aside from scraping the ice, ice hockey games also have a few other traditions that revolve around their goalies. Typically, they are traditions that signify the goalie as the leader of the team.
Still, no matter what these traditions are or the reasons behind them, it’s important to remember that none of them breaks the rules. In any competitive sport, players will have all sorts of little traditions and habits that they may engage in. As long as none of those habits gives them an unfair advantage over their competitors, rule-makers typically don’t interfere with them.
At the end of the day, everyone just wants to play a good, clean game.