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Career Goalie Decisions? Always Consider Source

Career Goalie Decisions? Always Consider Source

This guest post was written by Tyler Bilton of Pro Crease Goaltending.

A procrease instructor works with a young goaltender.

A procrease instructor works with a young goaltender.

Being a goaltender in hockey is one of the most unique positions in sports.

It can be very rewarding, but it can also be very challenging and frustrating.

So when it comes to making important decisions about your career it is important to seek advice from someone with not only knowledge about the different levels of hockey, but knowledge and experience about goaltending.

So the one thing I always tell families and goalies when they are seeking advice: always consider the source.

I bring this up because this time of year I start getting asked a lot of questions from parents and goaltenders about where to play in terms of different leagues and goalie coaching. I have heard many different stories of goalies getting poor advice that leads to a lost year in development, bad experience, financial loss, and even quitting hockey all together.

Here is an example of a goalie in eastern Canada getting poor advice: a friend of mine through hockey had asked for some help because he feared one of his goalies was getting some bad advice from a goaltending consultant. This teenaged goalie and mother were thinking of leaving the province so he could play in the western part of the USA instead of playing for a select team in the province because he felt he wouldn’t get enough exposure to the next level clubs where he was at.

The advice the family was getting seemed suspicious since eastern Canada has a plethora of scouts watching games and this goalie was just at the beginning of his junior playing days. After some digging, it turned out this “expert” was located in western USA, had never coached hockey, and had never strapped on a pair of goalie pads competitively. I notified my friend, he notified his goalie and we ended up discussing his options more in-depth after I explained how the various junior hockey leagues in North America work.

Sadly, this is just a small sample of many people pretending to be experts and offering bad advice. Of course, there are also many people out there with good advice and knowledge about goaltending because they have played at those levels and have had to make those tough decisions. The key is making sure you find one for your goalie to talk to.

I sure wish I had known someone like that I could have reached out to when I was a teenager because those decisions are tough to make.

Case in point, I had just attended a Hockey Canada selection camp, was on a major junior team’s protected player list, had my first NCAA Division 1 contact, and had an invite from every Jr.A and Jr.B team in the province to attend their main camp.

I didn’t have a family advisor or someone to trust that task to, my mom was not familiar with the different hockey levels, and at this time the internet was just starting to become popular. I decided to go with my local junior club, much to the dismay of my major junior team, and did not fully know the coach or the goalie situation. I played some exhibition games and was then notified that team had signed two goalies in the off-season and that no matter how well I played I was going to be assigned to the clubs Jr.B team.

I also didn’t know that the Jr.B team I was to be assigned to already had three goalies, making me the fourth, and the team wasn’t on the best terms with the Jr.A team – not the best situation for a young goalie. With most teams just finalizing their rosters and not willing to take on a new goalie at the time, I had to fight my away around the junior circuit to find my opportunity to play, taking away valuable development time.

Nowadays, this situation can be easily avoided with thorough research on the internet. However, there are so many different leagues and teams appearing and disappearing, it is hard to keep track of it all.

Finding the right team for a goalie requires lots of research and asking the right questions.

Whenever I speak to a family about a team that is pursuing them, I always make sure they get information on the coaching staff.

The coaches are the ones that dictate who plays, controls practices, runs systems, and will be the one teams from higher levels call for a reference about the goalie. Probably the most important question for goalies is: Does the team have a goalie coach?

Some teams will claim they have a goalie coach, but the “coach” appears as frequently as a full moon. Sometimes the “goalie coach” has less experience than the goalie he is coaching. Other times his philosophies are so outdated the goalie begins to believe wearing a mask is optional.

Finding a team that has a goalie coach around at least once week, attends games and has input on goaltending decisions is usually a good start.

When making important decisions it is crucial for the parents and goalie to examine all options closely.

This may take some time and effort, but it will be worth it in the end. If seeking advice from an outside source, trust the advice from someone who not only has experience and knowledge of the different levels and teams, but someone who has actually played the position and can relate to how tough these decisions can be. Always consider the source.

InGoal guest author Tyler Bilton is an instructor at Pro Crease Goaltending, and a BCHL and KIJHL scout. He has a Master of Arts degree from the University of Maine and wrote his thesis examining hockey’s identity. For questions please contact Tyler at tyler [AT] or visit

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