The Butterfly in Goaltending

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The butterfly.

This one word is responsible for everything in goaltending past the early 2000s. And we do mean, everything. From the goalie training methods to goalie gear designs and the game as we know it today.

If you’re completely new to goaltending, we posted the video below on our Instagram (@goaliecoaches). The goalie in this video, former Nashville Predators goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo, is demonstrating the butterfly save technique as well as sliding in the butterfly.



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What is the butterfly in goaltending? 

The butterfly is a term used to describe a position hockey goalies use when they go onto their knees in order to make a save. When a goalie uses the butterfly, his or her pads are tightly sealed along the ice. The term “butterfly” was coined as this position makes the goalie look like a butterfly.

What does the butterfly look like without leg pads on?  

Without leg pads on, the butterfly position simply looks like a person going onto their knees, with their feet flared out to either side. Increasing the flare of your butterfly simply means to increase the length at which your feet go out to each side.

Who invented the butterfly?

The butterfly position was invented by Legendary Chicago Blackhawks goalie Glenn Miller. In the history of goaltending, there has never been one style change or technique that has revolutionized the game as much as the butterfly has. One of the goalies most responsible for making the butterfly as popular as it is today was Patrick Roy, a future Hall of Fame goalie who played for the Montreal Canadiens and the Colorado Avalanche.

Patrick Roy, entering the butterfly position while playing for the Colorado Avalanche

Did you know, that today, 100% of goalies in the NHL use the butterfly? Outside of the few remaining old school / stand up style goalies in your local beer league, the butterfly position has been adopted by nearly 100% of goalies in the entire world. The reason for this is due to the way pads are designed. Today, pads are designed to rotate while on a goalies leg. This ensures that naturally, when the goalie drops to his or her knees to make a save, the pad face will face out and send the puck flying out of harms way.

Patrick Roy, before wearing butterfly style pads

The photo above from The Chronicle.

Prior to the invention of butterfly style goalie pads, goalies would go to their knees to make saves, but the bulk of their pad would be directly under their knee. The butterfly position wasn’t the first time goalies would use their knees to make saves, it was the first time goalie pads rotated to face forward rather than remain directly under the knee.

How To Do The Butterfly

Stand Feet Shoulder Width Apart

Drop Onto Your Knees

Stick On Ice, Hands Forward

How To Get A Better Butterfly

For young goalies, the butterfly style of goaltending is naturally built into their game. So yet again, it’s the old timers who have to learn a new trick. Time and time again, we get the question of, “how do I improve my butterfly?”. Or, how do you learn how to do the butterfly? Like anything in life, practice makes perfect. Of course, there are a few things that will help you improve your butterfly, like off ice stretching, which we’ll cover below.

Stretches That Will Improve Your Butterfly

When stretching to improve your butterfly, we’re looking for stretches that will increase your butterfly “flare”, as it’s called. The photo below shows what we’re talking about when we reference the term flare.

When you think of improving your butterfly, think of the distance between your feet behind you. The further the distance, the more “pad coverage” you can get with your butterfly. The photo below shows the increased pad coverage that comes with more flexibility in a goaltenders hips.

As a general rule of thumb, the more a goalie uses the butterfly position, the better it’s going to get over time. With that being said, there are drills that improve your butterfly, just as there are stretches that improve your butterfly. We’ll get into those now.

Drills That Will Improve Your Butterfly

There are many butterfly drills that will improve your butterfly. Drills that will improve your butterfly involve the use of the butterfly throughout the drill. Typically, when we work on improving our butterfly position, we work on three things.

  1. Improving our entry to the butterfly
  2. Improving our recovery from the butterfly (to a standing position)
  3. How we move side to side on the ice in the butterfly

Below, we’re going to display a few drills that will help you improve your butterfly. If you’re a beer league goalie with limited ice time, implement these drills into your pre-game warmup.

Butterfly Slide and Rotation Drill


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Controlled Butterfly Entry and Exit Drill

In this drill, the goalie uses a butterfly slide and returns to a standing position. The goalie then returns to the center, before completing the exact same movement on the other side.


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Off Ice Exercises For Improved Butterfly