Thursday, November 25, 2010

NHL Saves of the Week 11/23/10

Lundqvist, Khabibulin, Price, Roloson, Bernier, Nittymaki, Rinne, Howard, Lehtonen, and Thomas.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Guitars and NHL Goalies Have Always Gone Hand in Hand

This article is found at InGoal Magazine. Three of my favorite goalies play guitar (Theo, Hank and Miller.) Very interesting connection. The original article is found here.

by Kevin Woodley

Few realize playing guitar can make them a better goalie

The link between NHL goalies and guitars is well established.

From Ryan Miller, Henrik Lundqvist and Jose Theodore playing in their own bands, to NHL goalie turned goaltending coach Sean Burke jamming with Garth Brooks, to Mike Smith and Robert Esche celebrating their love of stringed instruments on their masks, there are plenty of links between goalies and guitars.

Turns out there may be a lot more to it than just another case of jock stars wanting to be rock stars. While these goaltenders may just be avid music lovers – or as Burke once playfully suggested, just want to get girls – their guitar-playing hobby enhances their puck-stopping abilities. It may sound far-fetched, but playing a stringed instrument really can make you a better goaltender.

“I had not heard that,” said new Canucks backup Cory Schneider, who began playing guitar when he first turned pro three years ago to fill winter downtime in Winnipeg with the AHL Manitoba Moose. “But yeah, I suppose it is a lot of wrist flexion and you have to be sturdy with your finger picking and things like that, so I could see how it translates to strong forearm muscles.”

That may also be true, but the real reason the guitar helps goalies has more to do with the brain than the forearms. It all has to do with how our brains work, how we learn skills, and how those skills contribute to and reinforce similar motor functions in a phenomenon called Transfer of Learning.

Ted Monnich, a former minor pro goalie, Assistant Coach for the Columbia Inferno of the ECHL, and musician, began studying the effects in 2003 along with sports psychologist Dr. Eva Monsma of the University of South Carolina. Monnich, who has also coached goalies in Turkey and Slovakia and currently works as a regional assistant manager with GDI goalie schools, started tracking the performance of select senior and minor-pro goaltenders, including himself and his students, after noticing his own increased glove hand agility and performance after practicing the guitar. He set out to determine if this was only coincidence or if there was a cause and effect relationship. It turns out there was.

“Over several seasons the study showed glove response and glove save percentage increased on a game-by-game basis after practicing music – by ear on the guitar – within a few hours prior to playing hockey,” Monnich said, stressing it had to be played by ear and not sight reading sheet music. “Likewise, the agility of musicianship increased after playing hockey. And a more difficult music seemed to produce greater short-term stimulation and enhancement of these functions.”

Monnich introduced the concept to goaltender Todd Ford, a third-round draft pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, when they were together in Columbia. Not only did Ford try it; he later started a band in Charleston. Monnich sent an email asking Ford, now with Hershey in the AHL, if he still played.

“He said ‘every day, it really works,’” Monnich recalled.

So why does it work? It’s about transfer of learning, said Monnich, or the idea a student will learn faster and develop a deeper understanding of one task if they already have some knowledge or similar skills from another task. This cross-task facilitation is based on similarities between processes involved in the two skills and is at the core of sports cross training. A common example in motor skill transfer is how learning to ride a bicycle facilitates learning to skate, ski, or anything that requires having to maintain balance while moving forward.

“Likewise with goaltending, learning to play a stringed instrument enhances motor functions, particularly of the hands and arms,” Monnich added.

So when a puck-stopping musician learns, practices and plays a song by ear on a guitar, they are stimulating the same right hemisphere area of the brain that memorizes the skills used in goaltending. By stimulating the right hemisphere they are stimulating the same neural pathways established to make a glove or blocker save, resulting in quicker, more adept glove or blocker responses.

“This stimulation is not necessarily greater than that received in regular on-ice practice sessions,” said Monnich. “But the variation in the source of stimulation – guitar playing vs. hockey practice – further reinforces the goalie’s skill. Guitar playing is not a substitute for on-ice practice, but an augmentation to reinforce the skills developed in practice and training.”

These skills of efficiently fretting a guitar’s neck and catching a fast-moving puck (with the left hand) stimulate and reinforce related neural patterns in the brain’s right hemisphere. Correspondingly, the right hand automatically selects the correct strings to pluck or strum as determined by the song, reinforcing neural patterns associated with the right hand response, usually the blocker.

“You are just manipulating your fingers in a controlled way that stimulates your brain in the same places that catching pucks or using your blocker stimulates it,” said Monnich “But you are doing it with things you have memorized, just like you have memorized saves. You memorized how to play guitar, you’ve memorized how to play a song by ear and it stimulates the same part of the brain as making a save and practicing it over and over and over just like a song. And then something stimulates it and that part of the brain fires automatically.”

Breaking it down further, Monnich explains that a song is composed of a series of unique patterns of musical notes, timing and rhythm. The musician learns to play a song by ear by practicing these patterns over and over again, and as each is learned and practiced, a new corresponding neural pattern (or pathway or chain) is constructed in the brain. When a musical phrase is “memorized” the musician can, seemingly automatically, play that phrase or line of notes without thought. In the brain each neural pattern is firing. When an entire song is learned and memorized through repetition, the entire series of neural pathways fire, not just individually, but as one entire pattern.

The same principles apply to goaltending, specifically when it comes to learning save selection, reaction, and appropriate post-save responses. All can be taught, learned, and practiced so the goalie responds automatically to the situation, without thought or seemingly any conscious analysis.

“Through repetition the neural pattern is reinforced so that when called upon it fires automatically,” said Monnich. “When each small movement is linked into the complete save the small pathways are joined into a larger neural pattern that fires sequentially. Through correct and regular repetition of the complete movement in practice situations, the entire new neural pattern is further reinforced and fires, not in stages, but instantly, in one large pattern, to a subconscious stimulus, typically the puck leaving the shooter’s stick and the proximity of other players. No thought is required to respond. The save selection and response is seemingly automatic and subconscious.”

Likewise in music, the memorized elements of a song are stimulated and recalled by the preceding elements, patterns or notes. The guitarist’s top hand moves automatically and efficiently along the length and width of the instrument’s neck, fingering the appropriate notes as memorized and recalled by the simultaneously firing neural patterns. Where the musician’s hand and fingers move is determined by repetitive practice of the learned song and its patterns. Likewise, through repetitive practice and drills, the goaltender’s glove responds automatically to the sight of the puck leaving the shooter’s stick and predetermined trajectory of the puck, also learned through practice.

“Guitar playing will not make a bad goalie into a good goalie,” Monnich said, “It won’t impart new or better skills. But it will stimulate, enhance and reinforce existing skills.”

NHL Saves of the Week 11/9/10

Yeah, I'm a little behind on the saves of the week. I was busy trying to get all the masks finished up the past couple weeks.

Johnson, Nittymaki, Pavelec, Price, Rinne, Budaj, Halak, Chris Mason, Raycroft and Khabibulin.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

NHL Saves of the Week 11/16/10

Turco, Giguere, Backstrom, Luongo, Biron, Fleury, Hiller, Ellis, Dubnyk and Price.

(I apologize for the fact that these save videos are so wide they wipe out the links on the right side of the page. I haven't figured out if there's a way to fix that.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Peter Mannino 2010-11 Mask

Peter Mannino of the Atlanta Thrashers (born Feb. 17, 1984 in Farmington Hills, MI.)

Mannino played one game when Pavalec was out after his on-ice collapse early in the season. According to The Goalie Guild, "A big Thrashers head logo set on an Atlanta 'A'; and a 'monster' Thrasher on a bloody background are accented by Mannino’s cute little bearded personal mascot."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Index to 2010-11 NHL Goalie Masks on This Blog

I am a librarian, so I really dig organization. I want things to be as organized as possible. So the fact that there is no real order to the way my goalie mask entries are presented on this site is bothersome. I made an entry for each mask as I found it, so that's the order they are in. But I would like them to be organized by team. So I decided the best I could do after-the-fact would be to make an index listing the goalies by team, then with a link to their entry on my site. That way readers can find their favorite easier and just click on their mask if that's all they want to see. So here we go:

Anaheim Ducks
Jonas Hiller
Dan Ellis
Ray Emery

Atlanta Thrashers
Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason
Peter Mannino

Boston Bruins
Tim Thomas
Tuukka Rask

Buffalo Sabres
Ryan Miller
Patrick Lalime
Jhonas Enroth

Calgary Flames
Miikka Kiprusoff
Henrik Karlsson

Carolina Hurricanes
Cam Ward
Justin Peters

Chicago Blackhawks
Marty Turco
Corey Crawford

Colorado Avalanche
Peter Budaj
Brian Elliott

Columbus Blue Jackets
Mathieu Garon
Steve Mason

Dallas Stars
Kari Lehtonen
Andrew Raycroft
Richard Bachman

Detroit Red Wings
Jimmy Howard
Chris Osgood
Joey MacDonald

Edmonton Oilers
Nikolai Khabibulin
Devan Dubnyk
Martin Gerber

Florida Panthers
Tomas Vokoun
Scott Clemmensen

Los Angeles Kings
Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Quick's Anniversary Mask
Jonathan Bernier
Jonathan Bernier's Anniversary Mask

Minnesota Wild
Niklas Backstrom
José Théodore
Anton Khudobin
Josh Harding

Montreal Canadiens
Carey Price
Carey Price's 2011 Heritage Classic Mask
Alex Auld
Alex Auld's 2011 Mask

Nashville Predators
Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback
Mark Dekanich
Chet Pickard

New Jersey Devils
Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg
Mike McKenna

New York Islanders
Rick Dipietro
Nathan Lawson
Kevin Poulin
Mikko Koskinen
Al Montoya

New York Rangers
Henrik Lundqvist
Martin Biron

Ottawa Senators
Pascal Leclaire
Robin Lehner
Mike Brodeur
Craig Anderson
Curtis McElhinney

Philadelphia Flyers
Sergei Bobrovsky
Brian Boucher
Michael Leighton

Phoenix Coyotes
Ilya Bryzgalov
Jason LaBarbera
Matt Climie

Pittsburgh Penguins
Marc-Andre Fleury
Marc-Andre Fleury's Winter Classic Mask
Brent Johnson
Brent Johnson's Winter Classic Mask

San Jose Sharks
Antero Nittymaki
Antti Niemi
Alex Stalock

St. Louis Blues
Jaroslav Halak
Ty Conklin
Ben Bishop

Tampa Bay Lightning
Dwayne Roloson
Mike Smith
Cedrick Desjardins

Toronto Maple Leafs
Jean-Sebastian Giguere
Jonas Gustavsson
James Reimer

Vancouver Canucks
Roberto Luongo
Cory Schneider

Washington Capitals
Semyon Varlamov
Semyon Varlamov's Winter Classic Mask
Michal Neuvirth
Michal Neuvirth's Winter Classic Mask
Braden Holtby

Brian Elliott 2010-11 Mask

Brian Elliott of the Colorado Avalanche (born April 9, 1985 in Newmarket, ON.)

Edit: Elliott was traded to the Colorado Avalanche in Februrary 2011. I will keep his Sens mask photos down at the bottom of the entry, since he was there over half the season.

This is all I have of the Avs mask so far.

From The Goalie Guild: "Casey Jones is sprawling over the top of the mask, with the main Senator logo on the right side of the mask and the “O” secondary flag logo on the right side of the mask."

Casey Jones is the hockey mask-wearing, stick-swinging vigilante who fought crime alongside the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the cartoons and the first movie.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Brian Boucher 2010-11 Mask

Brian Boucher of the Philadelphia Flyers (born Jan. 2, 1977 in Woonsocket, RI.)

Yoga and Pilates Aid Puck Stoppers in the NHL

I found this article over at InGoal Magazine. Interesting stuff...

by Kevin Woodley

It may not fit the macho hockey stereotype, but touchy-feely exercises can help goaltenders

On the surface Yoga and Pilates hardly seem a good fit for the missing teeth, stitch-it-up and get me back in the game world of professional hockey.

I mean what self-respecting player would be caught dead in Yoga pants?

Would you believe one that once hunted bears with a bow and arrow? Or another was once named to People Magazine’s 100 Most Beautiful People list?

Okay, so that second one, Rangers’ star Henrik Lundqvist, fits the stereotype as a slick-dressing Swede dubbed “The King” by the New York press. But can anyone really picture Boston Bruins’ standout Tim Thomas – a man so square his nickname is Tank – sprawled out in stretchy clothes trying to channel his breathing?

Evidently it shouldn’t be hard to imagine, because not only does Thomas use Yoga to improve his flexibility, he credits it for helping him get through his Vezina Trophy-winning season in 2008-09 with a hip injury that would eventually derail his campaign late last season and require major surgery this summer.

“In hindsight, probably,” Thomas wrote in an email Sunday of whether yoga helped him get through the season. “I came across a 2008 yoga evaluation report this summer that pointed out the lack of mobility of the left hip. I know we worked a lot on that area, but I didn’t think much of it at the time.”

Thomas went on to point out his hip wasn’t as bad then as it got last year, but the point about the value of Yoga remains. Never mind that a Yoga instructor was the first to identify a serious injury, even before that, one of the NHL’s best goaltenders believed sincerely that it helped his flexibility and his game.

“I actually didn’t know how much it was going to help, but it helps balance out your body,” Thomas told InGoal Magazine during that Vezina Trophy-winning season. “They try to find weaknesses in your body and work on them so they catch up with the rest of your body. My hip flexors, for example, were much tighter than I ever thought they were. It had never affected my play that I knew of, but adding that little bit of flexibility, working on flexibility through the hip flexors, who knows how much that has helped me? It’s hard to quantify, hard to put a percentage on how much it’s helped, but it certainly didn’t hurt.
“Your body is more balanced overall in terms of both flexibility and strength,” he continued. “A lot of the techniques have to do with balance. Not that I think my balance was bad, but it certainly is better now.”

Thomas certainly isn’t alone in his belief that Yoga – and for some Pilates – can help goaltenders. Former Ottawa and Philadelphia goaltender Ray Emery is using both in his attempt to get back to the NHL after undergoing a career-threatening procedure to graft bone from his lower leg into the ball of his right hip, which had deteriorated to its core. And Carolina star Cam Ward used Pilates to come back from last year’s back problem without needing surgery, and his playing partner Justin Peters got into hot yoga two years ago, saying it helps with flexibility, realigning the body and leg and core strength.

And just because it’s touchy-feely, with lots of emphasis on breathing, don’t think either Yoga or Pilates is easy, even for professional hockey players.

“It’s pretty hard when you’re not used to it,” Lundqvist once told InGoal. “As a goalie I’m supposed to be a pretty flexible guy but I learned I’m not, so I need it. It helped me relax too, but I have to keep doing it if I want to improve.”

If it improves their ability to stop pucks at the same time, NHL goalies will keep going back, no matter how much ribbing they take from teammates.

Devan Dubnyk 2010-11 Mask

Devan Dubnyk of the Edmonton Oilers (born May 4, 1986 in Regina SK.) 

Edited on 11/16/10: Thanks to Goalie Guild I found out that Dubnyk has two masks this season. His main mask has a pond hockey scene. Here's the video where he talked about his mask.

The backplate has a big giraffe in goalie gear along with a child in pink sitting in the snow, Dubnyk’s niece, and a breast cancer awareness ribbon for his mom.

The next mask is his alternate one for their throwback jerseys.

Thanks to visitor, Kevin, I found out this design is very similar to that of Bill Ranford, goalie for the Oilers during the late 80s and early-mid 90s (2 Stanley Cup years in there.) I'll include a photo of Ranford at the bottom of the post for comparison. I guess this might be meant as a tribute to Ranford then. Thanks, Kevin!

Bill Ranford (Oiler from 1987-88 to 1995-96 seasons.)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

NHL Saves of the Week 11/2/10

Bobrovsky, Quick, Budaj, Elliott, Roloson, Backstrom, Pavelec, Johnson, Neuvirth, and Backstrom. Yup, Backstrom wonder Theo isn't getting any starts. Backstrom is on fire.