New Western University study helps goalie mobility and may stop more pucks too

New musculoskeletal research from Western University, originally intended to improve a hockey goaltender’s life-long mobility, has led to the development of goalie pads that do just what netminders want them to do – stop more pucks.

In collaboration with industry partner Reebok-CCM Hockey, Western Health Sciences PhD candidate Ryan Frayne is studying goalie pad motion and hip kinematics (the branch of body mechanics that deals with pure motion) of goaltenders when they are actively participating in simulated performance exercises.


Frayne, who is supervised by Jim Dickey of Western’s Bone and Joint Institute and the School of Kinesiology, developed and has now verified the accuracy of a game-changing digital tracking system that measures hip, knee and ankle joints when goaltenders are performing butterfly-style movements in goalie pads of varying fit and stiffness.

Butterfly-style goaltending is a technique used broadly in the professional and amateur ranks that requires goalies to drop to their knees while flaring their legs outwards to block pucks.

Conducting his research in Western’s Wolf Orthopaedic Biomechanics Lab, Frayne discovered that goalies wearing specifically-designed pads could increase velocity (a combination of speed and direction of motion) by 6.5 to 7 per cent. Frayne estimates this improvement equates to goalies being able to drop the thickness of an additional puck or even puck-and-a-half closer to the ice surface.

“A goaltender can now have the ice sealed, blocked and protected in a way for pucks to not go between their legs versus somebody else, in a different setup, who is still vulnerable to pucks going through their five hole,” says Frayne, who is also an amateur goaltender. “This 6.5 to 7 per cent, depending on how good you are, may improve your game.”

Frayne says sporting goods companies are always trying to come up with the next ‘best thing’ to improve goalie pads and the industry standard now is to reduce the weight and removing the leather straps in the back that secure the pads in place is an easy answer. But which ones do you remove?

“A lot of companies just removed all of the straps but we wanted to figure out if we could correlate which straps were the most pertinent to performance and in doing so, we found some redundancy in the top straps and the lower strap,” says Frayne. “With that quantified information, we made the educated decision to remove selected straps and keep the ones that were pertinent to performance so that you cut weight but do it in an intelligent manner.”

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