Jared Waimon is the goaltending coach for the Quinnipiac University Bobcats, 2016 ECAC champions and NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey finalists. He serves USA Hockey as both the East Region Strelow Mentor for the National Team Development Program and as USA Hockey’s goaltending development coordinator in Connecticut. Here are his thoughts on using blue pucks in youth hockey:
- For goaltenders age 14 and older, the hardest direct shots to stop are high shots. With a lighter puck, the goaltenders become accustomed to seeing high shots at a younger age and are better prepared long-term.
- The old adage is true; make the goalie move to score. So if we are using lighter pucks at the younger ages, lateral plays happen quicker. Therefore, the goaltender is being forced to learn how to skate laterally, and do so quickly and efficiently.
- Loose pucks and rebounds are high-percentage scoring opportunities. With black pucks, the velocity of younger players’ shots isn’t hard enough to produce the rebounds goalies will see when they are older. With the lighter (blue) pucks, younger players can shoot with greater velocity, which produces more rebounds. This makes for a more accurate look to the game.
- Embrace the bounce! Yes, the blue pucks bounce a bit and we love that. Predictable plays are easy. Let’s teach our athletes how to deal with the goaltending position when the play breaks down and gets unpredictable. The lighter pucks provide more unpredictability, which can be beneficial as a training tool.
- Creativity increases when players can control the puck. Younger players have more control of stickhandling, passing, receiving and shooting with a blue puck, therefore, the goalies will have to deal with tougher situations.
- It’s never too early for goalies to begin learning how to handle the puck. What’s good for young skaters is also good for young goalies. The lighter puck builds confidence and an increased willingness to make puck-handling decisions.