The Warren Strelow National Goaltending Mentor Camp
This season’s pinnacle goaltending event for USA Hockey and the USA Hockey National Team Development Program (NTDP) was the seventh-annual Warren Strelow National Goaltending Mentor Program.
This camp was held May 9-12 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube and featured 36 of the top American-born goaltenders from 1996, 1997, and 1998 birth years.
Each goaltender was evaluated and selected over the course of the 2013-14 season by a network of goalie coaches and scouts managed by USA Hockey’s National Goaltending Coach, Kevin Reiter. Aiding Reiter this season were three NTDP regional goalie scouts and mentors.
Jared Waimon covered the East region, Adam Berkhoel covered the Central region, and I covered the West region. Other coaches that participated in the Strelow program were located throughout the country to constantly monitor the widest range of athletes possible.
The Warren Strelow National Goaltending Mentor Program is designed to recruit, develop, and produce elite goaltenders in the United States. The mission of the Strelow Program is to develop the best goaltending talent in the United States while providing greater depth to the talent pool from which U.S. national and Olympic teams are selected. By bringing the top goalies together once a year, USA Hockey continues to build upon the future success of these athletes by making them multi-dimensional and fundamentally sound.
Each year, the Strelow camp emphasizes the core physical principles of goaltending as well as developing the mental skills necessary to handle the demanding pressures of the position. In turn, this helps produce elite goalies that rank among the best in the world for their specific age group. By increasing the depth of quality American born goaltenders, USA Hockey has more talent to choose from when selecting National and Olympic teams.
Past participants of the Strelow Camp include Jack Campbell, John Gibson, Jon Gillies, Thatcher Demko, Alex Nedeljkovic, Evan Cowley, Ian Jenkins, and many more. To see a complete list of goalies that participated in this year’s camp, click here.
WHO WAS WARREN STRELOW?
Throughout the halls of USA Hockey’s corporate office in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the NTDP offices in Ann Arbor, Strelow is immortalized as a true hockey legend.
Born in 1934 in St. Paul, Minnesota, Strelow grew up playing hockey with his lifelong friend, Herb Brooks. After graduating from Johnson High School in 1951, Strelow’s friendship with Brooks led both men to coach for the University of Minnesota and then later for the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” U.S. Men’s Olympic Ice Hockey Team.
In 1983, the Washington Capitals made Strelow the first full-time goalie coach in the history of the NHL. He would then go on to coach for the New Jersey Devils and the San Jose Sharks before passing away in 2007 at the age of 73.
Strelow had a positive and everlasting influence on every goalie he worked with, including his most prized pupils Martin Brodeur, Evgeni Nabokov, Miikka Kiprusoff, and Johan Hedberg.
Strelow’s vision, work ethic, dedication, and unyielding perseverance were traits that proved iconic for all American-born goaltenders, as they are consistently reinforced and passed down to young goaltenders through the Strelow staff. Not only was he a passionate coach, but also a true mentor that nurtured and guided athletes throughout their careers.
This rare video of Strelow being interviewed during the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs is a great find, and a wonderful homage to his vision and lasting impact on goalie nation:
THE CAMP LAYOUT
Two aspects that make the Strelow camp so unique are the top-flight shooters and bringing in the best American-born goalie coaches in the country.
Camp shooters were comprised of NTDP players from both the U.S. National Under-17 and Under-18 Teams, including future NHL stars Jack Eichel and Sonny Milano. These players alone made the camp extremely competitive for the goalies, especially those from the younger birth years.
Beyond Reiter and his three regional scouts, the coaching staff boasted elite American coaches and Strelow loyalists, including the original creator of the Strelow program, Joe Exter. Exter, the current assistant coach for Ohio State University, began the program during his time spent as USA Hockey’s National Goaltending Coach.
The staff also included former New York Rangers and Florida Panthers goaltender John Vanbeisbrouck, Dartmouth assistant coach David Lassonde, Boston College assistant coach Mike Ayers, Rochester Americans (AHL) assistant coach Bob Janosz, and many more. For the women’s group, the coaching staff included Olympians Jessie Vetter and Brianne McLaughlin. To see a complete list of the coaching staff, click here.
To make the most of this four-day camp, Reiter developed a comprehensive skill progression grid that emphasized the main principles taught within USA Hockey’s goaltending curriculum. Each of the six on-ice sessions focused on a different principle, including angles and positioning, puck retention, and recoveries.
Reiter also emphasized off-ice lessons, teaching the athletes to become students of the position.
For example, prior to the on-ice post integration practice session, Reiter held a classroom session with all 36 goalies breaking down methods used regularly by NHL goaltenders. Utilizing a video package he created, Reiter showcased different ways a goalie can successfully seal his or her posts while also retaining the range of motion to challenge shots when necessary.
Once the goalies got on the ice for that session, he reinforced what he discussed in the classroom.
Using this year’s NTDP goalies, Reiter went through each technical step with them in the crease, using them as examples for both the skate-on-post method, as well as the scoop-in method. Both have advantages and disadvantages and were exhibited for teaching purposes to help the goaltender’s find their own personal style of netminding.
Check back later in the week for Part 2 and more details on how the different drill progressions were structured, as well as a brief breakdown of the first of two drills used during camp. IN the meantime, there’s more information about the Warren Strelow Camp in the video below: