Before a hockey game starts have you ever noticed how the goalie comes and warms up for the game? The first thing the will do is start to scrap and markup the ice in front of their net. Why are they doing this? Don’t players like playing on a fresh sheet of ice and not a snowy one?
Why do hockey goalies scrap the ice in hockey? A goalie scraps the ice to make it harder for the puck to slide, to even out the surface so pucks will not bounce, to take away the slipperiness of the ice for more controlled sliding, and as mental preparation and warm up before the start of the game/period.
Before we look at all of those reasons a little more in-depth I have a video for you to watch if you are not quite sure what we are talking about.
The video is of Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings from 2011 as he scraps the ice and does his warm up on the ice before the start of the game.
All of these answers have to do within the context that the ice has just been cleaned by the zamboni and it will be at it’s maximum slipperiness. Now, as a forward or a defensemen their is nothing better than a fresh sheet of ice – it is so great to skate and play on. However this is not true for the goalie – they want to slow the ice down.
Scrap the ice to slow down the puck
When your goal is to prevent pucks from going into the net you want to do anything possible to try and stop this.
A clean sheet of ice will make the puck move at maximum speed. Not every goal is a laser that is scored in the top corner of the net. There are many goals that go in along the ice, and some of those will just trickle in.
There are many goals each year that are millimeters over the goal line.
Now, if you can scrap some ice that will slow the puck down just a little bit to prevent a goal from barely crossing the line, wouldn’t you? Of course, you would! So NHL goals like to scrap the ice to build up some snow so the puck will not travel as fast through the crease and to the back of the net.
This will naturally happen as the game is played, but why wait until then when you can start the process before the puck even drops?
Even if you help prevent only one or two goals per year by doing this it is worth it. The NHL is so competitive and the margin between winning and losing is so thin that players are looking at ways to help them even a little bit.
And the goalie scraping the ice to build some snow up to prevent the puck from going as fast is just that – a little thing they can do that may prevent a goal sometime over the course of the year by slowing it down just enough.
Scraping the ice to make it less slippery
The goalie does not like it when the ice is too slippery because it takes away the consistency of their slide when they are pushing from side-to-side.
As you watch a goalie they will be constantly be going up-and-down and side-to-side from post to post as the plays move in front of them. When the ice is really slippery it makes it more difficult for the goalie to control his slide from one side of the post to the next.
What they are worried about is overshooting and sliding too far to one side or the other. This may not sound like that big of a deal, but NHL shooters are so good that inches matter. A goalie’s play is all about positioning, and if they are out of position even a little bit NHL forwards will take advantage of that and score a lot of goals on you.
To prevent this overshooting because of the slipperiness of the ice the goal will scrap the ice to roughen it up and to give them a more controlled surface to play on. Being a little bit slower makes it easier to control their position as they move from side to side.Embed from Getty Images
Scrap the ice as part of the warm up routine
In sports and life mental preperation is a large part of success. The scrapping routine is part of the goalie’s preperation for what they are about to face.
I think if I was going to be facing in 100 mile per hour slapshots at my head within in minutes I would need some time to mentally prepare myself as well 🙂
When the game starts, players do not send the goalie a few easy shots to warm up, but they come out full blast.
Scrapping and working on the crease in front of the net gives the goalie a quick chance to warm up their legs and body, get a feel for the edges of their skates, and to help focus on the task that is coming ahead of them. It is a good routine that allows them into the right state of focus.
Scrap ice to smooth out any rough spots
The part of the ice that gets the most beat up during the course of a period is the piece of ice that is right in front of the net. It is simply used more than any other part of the ice.
Since it gets used so much a lot of damage can get done to it. When the zamboni, the machine that cleans the ice, goes over that spot it does not always result in a smooth and even surface like the rest of the ice.
There can potentially be some slight bumps left on the ice, and scraping the ice will even these out. The last thing the goalie will want is the puck to hit a bump and causing it to change direction or be inconsistent coming towards him. Again, even little things like a bump are enough to cause the puck to move to be able to squeeze through a little crack in the goalie’s positioning.
This applies to all rinks from recreation to the NHL. Some arenes are better at making ice than others. There will be local arenas that have better ice than the professional rinks.Embed from Getty Images
Bonus Reason: Use scraped snow to put on posts to prevent wraparounds
As I said before, hockey players will use any little trick to give them an advantage. So as the snow piles up in their crease goalies will shuffle that snow to the sides of the post to help prevent players from wrapping the puck into the net from behind.
Now, the NHL does not simply let goaltenders pile mounds of snow next to their goalposts. When you are at the game you will notice that during the tv timeouts there will be a crew of staff who come and help with the maintenance of the ice. The main job of this staff is to remove excess snow that has built up on the ice by shovelling it off. They always shovel around the net to pick up the snow build up at the posts.
But, this doesn’t prevent the goalies from trying to build up more!