Be A Shotblocker
Why don’t all hockey players attempt properly to block shots when the situation arises? I am aware that one answer applicable to this question is because various coaches do not stress the use of this valuable skill and/or are not proficient in teaching about it.
The use of full facial masks and throat guards would certainly seem to create a better feeling about and an increased willingness for shotblocking on everyone’s part, but why isn’t this skill even more greatly used when such equipment is worn? In my opinion, proper shotblocking is not used far more extensively, even under optimum circumstances in any league, especially because players (and coaches on their behalf) believe that it causes a much greater risk of injury than other aspects of the game. IT DOES NOT! However, there is such an innate fear and misunderstanding of shotblocking that the perception of inevitable injury overcomes any logic promoting the benefits of this skill and the fact that it carries only probably the same possibility of physical harm as body checking, being hit by errant shots, or any other occurrence in the game.
I know one particular player who has employed proper shotblocking (not simply standing in front of a shot or twisting and bending one’s body while turning the head away) consistently for many years and who would corroborate my comments. Game after game, he has blocked many shots and has not missed ice time any more than anyone else who does not block shots. His teammates and other players throughout the league would also verify my assertions.
Despite the relatively limited possibility of injury, even though it might appear otherwise, a very common reason why many hockey players do not attempt to block shots encompasses the same thinking that prevents some people from handling a small, harmless garter snake or being above a certain height from the ground. Some unexplainable fear has entered their mind, and they are frozen by their particular internal makeup.
The big question is: How does someone lose or receive assistance in losing the phobia against shotblocking? Depending upon the depth of one's mindset against this valuable skill, it might never be conquered. No plan is guaranteed to convert a reluctant shotblocker, but I offer one approach. It would seem to begin with knowledgeable, understanding, and determined coaching. I would begin by lecturing to players about the importance and techniques of shotblocking, followed by repeated videos of athletes using the proper style without incurring injury, and then using ice time firstly to simulate the correct movements until practicing against shooters using tennis balls or someone simply throwing them. Finally, the players should block pucks from soft shots to increasingly harder ones. Every player cannot be a good skater, shooter, stick handler, passer, and body checker, but everyone can and should block shots.
I wish that an analytical, scientific study could be undertaken to determine the percentage of all injuries that emanate from shotblocking and to learn the time that such occurrences cause a player to be inactive compared to other accidents. People who "know" that proper shotblocking is too dangerous of an element would be surprised!