Goalie skates – Cowling vs No Cowling (Explained)

As more and more cowlingless goalie skates hit the market and cowlings start to get phased out at almost all levels of hockey, it’s got me a bit interested in the cowling vs no cowling debate when it comes to my skates.

Chances are if you’re reading this, you are too.

So let’s take a look. First, to enter the cowling vs No cowling debate, we must first know what exactly a cowling on a pair of goalie skates does. If you already know, feel free to skip ahead.

What is a cowling on a goalie skate?

A cowling is the (typically white) plastic around the boot of a goalie skate. They are designed to protect a goaltenders feet when they get hit with a puck.

A traditional cowling make a goalies skate much wider, most notably at the bottom of the boot around your foot.

Cowling vs No Cowling

Up until recently, cowlings were the norm on most all goalies skates.

The thought of playing without a cowling wasn’t even one that would come into your head. But today, as you can see at the professional level with most NHL goalies choosing to go without a cowling, they are being phased out of the game.

This is mainly due to the fact that a cowling will restrict how much a hockey goalie is able to lean into their edges before their blade is lifted off the ice by the plastic cowling hitting the ice.

Using a pair of goalie skates without a cowling will increase your attack angle, which means you can get lower to the ice without dropping into your butterfly.

As a 6’2 goalie with a wide stance, it’s pretty unreal how low I can get without a cowling in the way.

Not only that but moving laterally, I found, is far easier without one. You are able to grab an edge anywhere on your skate, heel to toe, giving you a better sense of control, resulting in some great pushes.

To add to the list of benefits, ditching the cowlings also results in a lighter skate.

It takes a bit of getting used to but once you’re used to no cowling you’ll start to feel more aggressive, reactive and confident in your net. There’s a reason many NHL goalies are starting to move away from the cowling.

But what about protection?

In today’s goalie skates, manufacturers are opting to go without a cowling to increase performance, they can safely do this by reinforcing the toecaps.

Goalie skates without cowling

As the word spreads about how much of a boost using a pair with no cowlings can have on your performance, more and more goalie manufacturers are pumping out cowlingless goalie skates.

Models with no cowling include:

Brand Model
Bauer Supreme Ultrasonic
CCM Super Tacks AS3 Pro
Bauer Supreme 3S Pro
Bauer GSX
CCM Jetspeed FT2

What to expect when making the switch

Making the switch from cowling to no cowling is going to require an adjustment period. You’ll surely feel weird the first couple of times out on the ice.

The biggest thing to expect when making the switch is your skates are going to feel much more responsive, like way more responsive than you are used to. That’s a good thing. Your attack angle will also improve.

You will also likely notice the difference in weight. Which for us goalies, is huge.

You’re going to feel the puck more when it goes off your foot, but that is to be expected when you remove a protective piece of plastic. It won’t hurt necessarily, but it will be more noticeable.

Balance can be an issue for some, you are entering a new world in terms of areas of your edges that you will now have access to, this can throw off your balance for a bit. It’s best to make the switch in the off-season rather in the middle of a season unless you find yourself off for a week or two, so you can get some practice in.

Last thing, which isn’t really that important. You can expect them to look similar to player skates.

Is it worth it?

When it comes down to it, the only one who will really be able to tell you if it’s worth it to make the switch from cowling to no cowling is you.

All I can do is relay information based on my own experiences.

In my experience, it is absolutely worth it to make the switch. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I felt like a new goalie. One who would have an edge over the old goalie I used to be.

There is a reason there is only about 10 goalies left in the NHL who use cowlings. Carey price is one of those goalies, and even price shaves his cowlings down!

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy my sharpened vs unsharpened skates post.