Lessons From Sweden’s Head of Goalie Development
Thomas Magnusson may not be a household name in North America’s goaltending community, but anyone who knows him undoubtedly agrees that his reach and influence is both prolific and profound.
Sweden’s head of goaltending development came from simple beginnings. His passion for hockey flourished at a young age, further nurtured by a few coaches that allowed him to discover his true calling. As he continued to gain a deep understanding of the position, he would eventually become one of the first goalie coaches in the entire country. Some have even called him the ‘godfather’ of goalie development in Europe.
Meeting Magnusson was not part of my original plan for the Between Two Worlds book project. When I first set out on my expedition, my sole focus was to write an extensive comparative analysis between Finland and North America. But when I learned Magnusson would be attending the final leg of my trip, the Elite Goalies Pro Camp run by Dallas Stars goalie coach Mike Valley in Madison, WI, everything changed.
Gifted with an opportunity to learn from one of the most influential goaltending minds in the world, I quickly made plans to incorporate Sweden and Magnusson’s goalie development bible ‘Malvaktsparmen’ into the book.
Magnusson was not only kind enough to explain how he spearheaded significant change in a country that was desperate for a goaltending revolution, but he also dropped some unbelievable knowledge regarding the way Sweden teaches certain save selections and modes of playing.
I’m beyond grateful for the opportunity to share this exclusive podcast right here on InGoal Magazine.
As I reflected on this experience that culminated my surreal summer, I realized that the most beautiful elements of goaltending are the simple ones. A flick of the wrist on a glove save. The glide of a steel blade during a T-Push. The consistent pattern of a freshly taped stick.
Similarly, Magnusson’s teachings are some of the most beautifully simple strategies I’ve ever witnessed. In both the way he explains it off the ice and the way he coaches it on the ice, when you’re exposed to something so elegantly simple, you can’t help but experience a renaissance in your own way of thinking.
Since returning from Madison, Magnusson’s influence has naturally simplified the way I play, scout, evaluate, and mentor younger goalies and elite prospects through my role with USA Hockey.
So as you take some time to listen to this podcast, if you’re a goalie, consider the simplicity of the save process. If you’re a coach, consider how simplifying the language makes it easier for students to process what you’re trying to teach.
In our haste and desire to create and implement new techniques – to advance the way we execute certain positional strategies – I fear it has become too easy to over-complicate all of the simple things that make our position so effortless and smooth.
And as I learned while watching Magnusson work with eight NHL goalies in Madison, the higher the level, the simpler the teachings.
Major Points of Discussion:
~ Magnusson spends the first part of the podcast giving his background, but leads into how he became Sweden’s first goalie coach. Was he among first anywhere? Francois Allaire started in 1984, and Magnusson discusses being with Djurgarden in the mid-1980’s, then with Sweden’s U-20 team in 1987.
~ Magnusson explains Sweden’s goalie coaching certification program, including the six-step process and the importance of how they established a network of coaches at the grassroots levels.
~ Magnusson discusses the big 2001-02 Swedish makeover. Everyone got together to figure out what to do about their lack of success and structure in the goaltending department. It’s something I’m trying to push for here in the USA.
~ Magnusson’s philosophy behind not using drills in the traditional way we’re accustomed to in North America. He explains how he doesn’t create lesson plans, but naturally interacts with his goalies to determine what technique or situation needs to be further developed or refined.
~ Magnusson’s breakdown and teaching evolution of the block vs. react dynamic. He explains how it’s not a two-dimensional decision, but a three-dimensional one.
~ The ultimate question I posed in the Between Two Worlds project was, “What is the difference between a Finn, a Swede, a Canadian and an American goalie? Magnusson provides me with the answer I sought with a one-sentence summary, proving the simplicity that makes his philosophy and teaching so poignant.