As part of our weekly Ask a Pro segment, InGoal Magazine sat down this week to pose a handful of our readers’ questions to new St. Louis standout and former Montreal Canadiens playoff hero Jaroslav Halak.
And while the Blues busy travel schedule – in particular back-to-back road games in Edmonton and Vancouver – meant there was only enough time for three of your questions, Halak’s answers provided some unique insights on his path from Slovakia to the NHL and the roll Rollie Melanson played in it, as well as equipment-related tidbits sure to interest every goalie (like getting a new glove every three weeks!).
Coming soon: Halak Pro Stock Series
When it comes to choosing and improving his equipment, Jaroslav Halak isn’t just hands in and legs in. The Slovakian stopper is also very hands on.
“He is pretty involved in the process,” said Brian’s Pro Service Manager Chris Joswiak, who is based in Detroit and either travels or sees Halak at Red Wings games once a month. “He likes to chat or text about gear every week or so.”
Halak, who eschewed other offers this summer for a multi-year deal as Brian’s premier goaltender, played a big role in designing his current set up, which will soon be released as a Brian’s Pro Stock series retail line.
“His biggest thing he has in mind when designing gear is making himself look big as possible,” Joswiak said, adding the claw design was made specifically for Halak. “That is the reason the logos and graphics on his pads are towards the bottom and he has mostly white on top, which he feels gives an impression he looks bigger in net. Opposing players have been telling him he has a big presence in net and he feels it’s an illusion due to his gear.”
Other traits of Halak’s gear include the stiff gloves he mentioned in this week’s Ask a Pro, which he still replaces after about three weeks.
“Jaro likes his glove VERY stiff and protective,” Joswiak said. “He is adamant about having sufficient palm and wrist protection and eliminate all stingers, and he has a special protective bar that goes over the gap in the cuff.”
InGoal Magazine John Hebert from Quebec asks: “Who did you admire growing up in Slovakia? Was it a local goalie there, or guys playing in the NHL?”
Jaroslav Halak: “When I was younger I used to like all the goalies in the NHL. I remember I used to like Patrick Roy and Cujo (Curtis Joseph) were my favourites at the time. We used to have every Saturday morning a show called Power Week and it was all the highlights from the past week in the NHL and there was always a window from saves of the past week so it was great to see them all the time.
“And when I was watching and then obviously I would want to make the saves like that in practice and games, trying to save the puck I same way that I saw it on TV. Every young guy and kid wants to catch the puck like the guys in the NHL.”
InGoal Magazine Henri Carriere asks: “We’ve heard a lot about the goalie coaching in Finland starting at a young age. When was your first goalie coach growing up in Slovakia?
Jaroslav Halak: “It was different in Slovakia. I had a goalie coach maybe when I was 12 or 13 but he wasn’t there all the time. We had a goalie practice every week once a week and that was it. We worked on everything, but most of the stuff that I use now I learned from (former Montreal Canadiens and current Vancouver Canucks goaltending coach) Rollie Melanson. I worked with him since I was 17 and he was the big key for me. He really helped me a lot to develop my system and I am just trying to maintain the same thing what he teached me.”
InGoal Magazine follow up: How did you start with Melanson, sounds like it must have been before you were drafted by Montreal (in the ninth round in 2003)?
Jaroslav Halak: “It was through my agent, Allan Walsh. They did a camp in Slovakia and they brought some Slovak players and I think my first camp (Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre) Fleury (a fellow Walsh client) was there too. He came to Slovakia and Rollie was working with him. I think Rollie is one of the best coaches in the NHL. I’m not a big guy when you look at me, I’m just 5-foot-11, and he teached me how to play big and how to maximize my 5-foot-11 on the ice and that was a big key.
InGoal Magazine follow up: And yet you’re rarely really out past the edge of the crease?
Jaroslav Halak: “While you don’t want to get too aggressive, or over aggressive beyond the crease because then you will start diving in there and I just want to stay in control.”
InGoal Magazine David Armstrong asks: “What can you tell us about your equipment, the decision to wear Brian’s, and anything that is special about how your gear is set up?”
Jaroslav Halak: “It’s all about being comfortable with the equipment and about service I get, and I’ve got great service with Brian’s. Everything I need I have it in a few days and anything I need to change in the gear they will come down or come see me somewhere and we get it done. The design I came up with and I’m not going to change anytime soon. Right now I just want to keep the same thing from last season and it’s working so far. It’s all about being comfortable and they are really great with me and trying to work with me and trying to do their best for me.
“As for equipment my knee stacks are just one really hard piece so it stays nice and firm so when I go down and stay big and tall. And I don’t have a practice glove and game glove, I only use one glove, so it’s going to wear down soon and after three weeks or so I need a new one. It’s a lot of stuff but you need to feel comfortable out there, you need to stop the pucks, and that’s my job and that’s why I need a new glove all the time. I used to have a different practice glove and a game glove that was really thin, but after a week and a half it was done, so now I wear the same one all the time. I have only practice glove, the thick one.”