This guest article is from Swedish Goaltending coach Magnus Olsson, the owner of Blue Crease Goaltending, a Reebok/CCM sponsored goaltending school in Sweden. Olsson is also the goaltending coach for the Malmö Redhawks major junior team for the upcoming season, and continues to do some development camps for the Swedish Ice Hockey Association.
Much as described recently here at InGoal about coaching goaltenders in Switzerland and many other European countries, Swedish youth organizations are affiliated with professional teams. Kids can grow through the different age levels and even continue with the professional teams if they are strong enough.The Swedish Elite League (SEL) also have youth teams who wear the same jerseys and (most often) play in the same rink. This is usually very inspiring for the young players as professional hockey is very close and they get to watch the players practice and play games.
A lot of the well-structured clubs in Sweden provide a goalie coach but far from all of them. In the well-organized clubs there are 1-2 goalie sessions per week. This is a practice with goalies (and shooters) only. The goalies work on the different technical aspects of the game and also some off-ice training is involved.
The Swedish Ice Hockey Federation
The Swedish Ice Hockey Association (SIHA) does a great job of spreading the message of proper goalie-coaching. There are a number of books and DVDs that are constantly updated and new pages are added to the already existing books. The purpose is to reach out to a large number of coaches and make goalie techniques available for as many parents, goalies and coaches as possible. If you want to learn more about goaltending you don’t have to look far.
Sweden is a rather small country with about nine million people. We try to use it to our advantage. It´s realtively easy for coaches to meet and learn from each other. New techniques and ideas travel quickly through within the goalie coaching union in Sweden.
The atmosphere between goalie coaches here is very good. Most coaches are willing to share ideas and information. Some coaches compete during the season but also learn from each other. This is a huge part of the development.
SIHA offers a goalie coaching certification as well as goalie coaching clinics.
The certification has six different levels. It includes basics, on and off-ice instructions, mental aspects of the game and also discussions and presentations. There are also coaching clinics. In February of 2012, SIHA arranged a clinic at The Globe Arena in Stockholm and more than 100 coaches attended. There were coaches from all different levels as well as the SEL and the national teams. This was a great forum for coaches to get to know each other, ask questions, and exchange information.
As a follow up to this four local clinics were arranged. Each one of those clinics had roughly 40-60 coaches in the attendance. The purpose of this was to create discussions and get many different views of goaltending from around the country.
Hockey in School
Sweden doesn’t have college hockey or high school hockey like the United States or Canada.
The players represent their hockey club and that´s where they get most of the practice and games. A few years ago some schools started to offer hockey as a part of their curriculum. The players leave school for a few hours in the morning to practice hockey with an assigned coach from a hockey club. After the practice they go back to school and continue their education. This system is called ”The students choice” and students can also choose from other sports, art, languages and much more.
In Sweden grade 10-12 is called “gymnasium,” which might be a bit confusing to Americans and Canadians. Some swedish gymnasiums offer hockey to the students. Usually you practice in the morning and then you go to school. At night you practice with your team. This gives the players quite a lot of ice time. The amount of practice is very different. It depends what school you go to.
There are many independent goalie schools in Sweden. In the summertime you have a lot of summer camps to choose from and some also offers clinics during the season. The summer camps are traditional Monday-to-Friday camps and the smaller camps during the season are usually one or two days. Private training with one to three goalies on the ice is still pretty rare. It´s still hard to find free ice time in Sweden due to the small number of rinks. Usually the rinks are occupied by teams or figure skaters until very late.
When should kids be put in goalie training or camps? I say as soon as he/she wants to be a goalie full-time. If you have a goalie coach who really knows what he or she is doing and emphasizes the fun and the passion of the position, the goalies can be exposed to goalie-specific training at a very early age. It´s all about adjusting the training to the age group you are working with.
Personally, I have different curriculums for different age levels. The youngest groups don´t always do the same things as the middle or older groups. In my playbook juniors have one “plan” and older goalies have another. Even within the “plan” it´s possible to adjust to the student you work with. I don’t force certain techniques on my goalies. It has to come from within. I want the goalie to be very aware of his game and come up with solutions that suits him or her.
“To play from within” and communicate with the goalie coach is extremely important for goalie.
I want to say there is no Swedish style of goaltending, although I find we tend to head towards too many blocking saves and lose some of the athleticism. There is already an ongoing discussion on how we get the active hands and athleticism back into the game here.
You almost never see a goalie coach who forces techniques on a goalie. The key word is communication. Like I said before, the preferred techniques and saves have to come from within the goalie. The goalie coach is there to help out with suggestions, correct and give feedback to the goalie.
If the goalie isn’t sure on what to do in a situation this is also the coaches job to come up with ideas.
When you work with young goalies this is different. The youngsters need to try a wide base of save techniques and other tools. The skills we work on with young goalies:
- Crease movements. Standing up as well as butterfly slides.
- Different kinds of saves and when to use them.
- The combination of blocking and reacting. When to use the proper technique?
- Vision and puck tracking.
As you get older you are encouraged to find your own style and what works for you.
The goalie has to spend time and figure out what works and what doesn’t.
“Be aware of your game.”