by Darren Hersh Introduction Pre-game warm up gets the blood pumping, helps players break a sweat, and loosens the muscles before stretching to prevent injuries. All these goals of the pre-game warm up are especially important to the goalie. Make sure that you take pre-game warm up seriously and that you truly prepare yourself to meet the challenges of the game! This article covers some key aspects that goalies can use to ensure that they are ready for that first shot. Start Warm up before going onto the ice It's a well known fact that Mike Richter of the New York Rangers jogs around the rink to break a sweat prior to each game. This great habit allows him to focus his mind and prepare his body before hitting the ice. After a jog or some calisthenics, goalies will have warmed their muscles for a stretch before putting on their equipment. This level of preparedness is a must for any serious goalie. So get to the rink early, loosen up with a jog, get a good stretch. And perhaps more importantly, use that time of your routine to think about the game and begin to visualize situations that may occur and how you will respond to them. Develop A Routine Use your jog, stretch, and visualization period as the beginning of your normal routine. Then put the other pieces together to create a regimen that stays the same from week to week and month to month. A routine will ensure that you are properly warmed up for each game and that you are always ready when the puck drops. Loosen Muscles Again on the Ice Before Your Stretch You often see players go to the bench, place their extra stick in the rack and then proceed to stretch the ham strings by lifting the leg over the dasher board. Although it is extremely important to stretch the muscles, it is extremely unwise to stretch the muscles when they are cold. Stretching a cold muscle is like stretching a frozen rubber band. When stretched to a point, the rubber band snaps. Thus, you want to skate around for a few minutes to get the blood flowing and to allow the muscles to loosen a little before you stretch them again. This will help you avoid the injury of pulled muscles. As we previously mentioned, you can take a trick from Mike Richter and stretch before and after putting on your hockey gear. Then warm up again and stretch again on the ice. This way, you are ensured that you are adequately stretched and you will lessen the chance of injury and you will also greatly increase your general flexibility. Make Sure You Get Enough Quality Shots Get a player you trust to shoot pucks on you before the rest of the team takes their warm up shots. This will help you work on the types of shots and the speeds of shots that you need to see before the rest of the squad fires shots at normal speeds. Shots from one player also helps you focus on one puck at a time and helps build the confidence within so you are ready for whatever comes next. Practice All Moves You May Make in The Game At Least Four Times This is a big one. Even if it is to the side of the net or near the bench, make a few stacks, butterfly slides, and poke checks in warm up. This practice will refresh your mind as to the proper technique so you will be better prepared should a situation where you use these saves arise in the game. I rarely see goalies practicing before the game all the saves they may need to make during the contest. Be as ready as you can be and that means practice those not-so-often-used saves as much as your glove, stick, and butterfly saves. Play The Puck Around The Boards Look for differences in the boards, especially when you're on the road. Have a player or two rim the puck around the boards and get out of the net to play it. See if you can notice any uneven areas that may cause the puck to jet out from the boards and possibly in front of your goal. Of course, you won't be able to fix any problems with the boards, but you can alert yourself to the danger and change your strategy when pucks are dumped in your zone. Going out to play the puck can really help your team control the puck and stymie the opposition's fore-check, but when issues with the dasher boards can cause you to misplay pucks that could become goals against, it is better that the goalie not play the puck in those situations. Help Your Coach Develop a Warm Up That Suits Your Needs It may not work with all coaches, but it is certainly worth a shot! There may be nothing worse (or better in some cases) than an angry and upset goalie before the start of a game. Warm ups can set a goalie off if he/she feels that they are not ready for the match. If you have certain drills that you like for warm up, tell the coach and ask if he/she will make them part of the warm up period. The worst they can say is no. It make sense that a goalie faces drills that help him/her prepare and since the goalie is such an important part of a team's success. I believe most coaches will accommodate. Visualize Once again, visualization is a big part of mental preparation for the game and should be done before going out onto the ice and any time your team goes back in the locker room between periods. Visualization helps you prepare for things to come and helps prepare your mind to react the way you want it to. Conclusion We have given you a lot to do as a warm up and most goalies in youth hockey only get 5 minutes to warm up. Thus, it is extremely important that you develop a routine, prepare for the warm up period itself as well as prepare for the game, and warm up before the pre-game, on-ice warm up. If you do all these things, you will be ready for each and every game and that is half the battle! Best of luck.