TORONTO– At Tuesday’s Marlies practice, goalie coach Francois Allaire worked with prospects Ben Scrivens and Jussi Rynnas for over an hour on the fundamentals of butterfly goaltending. Later in the morning, he was at Leafs practice teaching the same techniques to James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson.
It’s what Allaire does; he teaches the butterfly movement he mastered.
“Butterfly is a movement not a style,” said Allaire. “It’s a movement we use about seven out of ten plays. It’s not the only movement we use but it’s the principal.”
And how does it work?
“It’s being square with the shooter. You need to be a really good skater to be at the right place at the right time. In pro hockey now there’s so much traffic around the goalie so there is a lot of low shots, possible deflections and screens. We try to use our biggest piece of the equipment; which is our pads. They allow you to really seal the whole bottom of the net and after that we have the upper body for more coverage.”
And while all members of the Leafs goalie chart speak highly of Allaire’s approach and what it’s done to enhance their careers, Allaire himself believes if it wasn’t for his time with four time Stanley Cup winner Patrick Roy, the butterfly may never have became the successful method it is today.
“I was lucky to work with the same guy for 12 years,” said Allaire when reflecting back at his time with Roy. “I was with Patrick from his first day as a pro to his trade to Colorado. It allowed me to have different ideas and try them. Instead of changing goalies every year, with Patrick I got the chance to work with the same guy for a long period of time.”
Leading into the 1980’s goalies were known to have more of a stand up style of play. So when Allaire first started experimenting with new ways to stop a puck, it was a young Roy who he tested his methods on.
“We gave each other an understanding of the game and a style,” said Allaire. “We tried a lot of things and at that time we were trying different movements and ideas. He was an open minded guy who was ready to try anything he could to get better. He was a great athlete to work with because every time you came to him with a new drill or new way to stop the puck he was open to do it because he wanted to get better.”
With that being said, the butterfly was no overnight success. Together, Allaire and Roy implemented and practiced new ways to improve goaltending right up through the nineties however sometimes the ideas weren’t solid enough to ever be seen in a game.
“A lot of times my ideas were rejected. And that was okay, because it forced me to find something else. Patrick is a really intelligent athlete so it helped both of us to get better in our field.”
Since Roy’s retirement in 2003, Allaire has guided the likes of J.S. Giguere to a Stanley Cup, taught goalie schools all around the world and is part of the reason all NHL teams now supply their own goalie coach.
Allaire and his “movements” are also the reason Scrivens, Rynnas and Gustavsson even signed to play in Toronto.
But even with his resume padded with achievements, it’s Roy he says that deserves the credit for changing how goalies play the game of hockey; not himself.
“Patrick is a guy that has been a huge influence in the game. When you watch hockey now every goalie have a little piece of Patrick in their system and their game.
“It’s amazing when you see what Patrick was doing in the eighties; everyone’s doing it now in 2011.”