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Ask a Pro: Part 2 with Nashville coaching great Mitch Korn

Ask a Pro: Part 2 with Nashville coaching great Mitch Korn

From pre-teens to aspiring pros to old-timers, one of NHL’s best coaches for the last 20 years has great advice for all goalies

Nashville Predators Goalie Coach Mitch Korn with Pekka Rinne and Anders Lindback

Nashville goalie coach Mitch Korn peeks out from behind massive Predators stoppers Pekka Rinne (right) and Anders Lindback

Mitch Korn’s resume speaks for itself: 20 years as an NHL goaltending coach that includes working with six-time Vezina Trophy winner Dominik Hasek in Buffalo, to producing a steady stream of top puck stoppers over the last 13 seasons with the Nashville Predators. And since InGoal Magazine already detailed Korn’s 30 year history perfecting the position in Part 1 of our exclusive Ask a Pro segment with the legendary goalie guru, we’re not going to waste too much time reviewing it here in Part 2.

So without further adieu (except to remind you to visit Korn’s camp website), here it is:

~ An InGoal “Goalie Dad” from Oakville asks: “My 9 year old is playing Goal for this first time this year. He has been recognized by many as someone who appears to be a natural and has progressed at a fairly rapid pace. He is currently in House league and has asked if I can have him tryout for Rep teams or a higher level for next year. What is your advice to a young goal with respect to level of play vs. quantity of shots? For example, should he be concerned with playing at the highest level (in Canada Triple AAA) where most goalies between 9 and 12 barely see 5 or more shots a game OR is it best to put him on team regardless of level where he gets lots of rubber and continues to develop and win games on his own? Thanks Mitch”

Mitch Korn: “First off, no nine-year-old is a natural. I have seen many talented, athletic kids at all ages, especially younger ones, burn out, disappear, and get caught as they age. This is a process and it’s nice that he has been able to take to this position and seem to absorb some of the initial components of it to have success. There are hundreds of stories of guys who played travel hockey, that were better than everybody, that by the time they were 16 were burned out and could no longer, or no longer chose to play. And there are stories of those who at 16 became stars and continue to climb the ladder. There are stories of guys that are late bloomers that never played on travel teams, that didn’t make it until they were older, that were 16, 17, 18 and came out of nowhere and were successful. So there’s no right or wrong answer.

“The answer is family related. So do we have the resources to do this? Do we have the time to do this? Is he good enough in school where he can do this travel and extra requirements to allow him to excel. There are many more decisions than just the hockey at age nine.

“Talking about seeing five shots a game, they must be an unbelievable team. I don’t think that a goalie should play on the best team, and I don’t think a goalie should play on the worst team. I think the best scenario, if you had a choice, is to play on a team where the goalie has an opportunity to make a positive difference every time they played. Where they had an impact on the success or failure of that team on any given day and they are just not a statue and a function of the team, but they can have an impact on the result. That’s why we play: We want to make a positive difference every time we play. So playing on the best teams it’s hard to do that. Playing on the worst teams, you get bad habits and bad attitudes because you can’t win no matter what you do.”

Nashville Goalie Coach Mitch Korn and Tomas Vokoun

Nashville coach Mitch Korn works with former Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun.

“You need some room for error because it’s really hard when you know ‘if I give it up two we’re not going to get points tonight,’ which my guys have to go through on some occasions. So there’s lots that goes into this decision, and we’re talking about a nine-year-old. And if you want to know something else, personally I don’t believe a nine-year-old should be a full-time goalie. I don’t believe anybody should be a full-time goalie in the States until they reach the pee wee level, which is 11 years old. I think a squirt, which here is 9 and 10 year olds, there should be two goalies on the team and when you are not playing goalie you are skating out because that’s how you develop skill, that’s how you learn the game, that’s how you learn to skate.

“I believe that at what we call the mite or atom level here – if they are six, seven, eight years old – everybody should have a shot at goalie, like `this is your week, you get the gear, you get to practice Wednesday and play the game on Saturday.’ And then it’s somebody else’s turn. And then you find out whether you like it or don’t like it, they all get to experience it. That’s what this is about and then two kids kind of settle into it at the next level and then a full time goalie at age 11. People used to ask about goalie skates and you know what, the old goalie skate, the way we used to play, it mattered more. I don’t think it matters that much now. You don’t need to get an eight year old into a goalie skate.”

~ We’re also going to combine these last two questions, which seem to focus more on older, recreational-league goaltenders (because we’re assuming no 12 year olds are being taught stand up style to start with, but apologies if this assumption was presumptuous). Francisco Lomas asks: “Can you give us useful tips for goalies who are passing from a stand up style to a modern butterfly style?” And Rob says: “I already have purchased and studied Mitch’s goalie manual, I love it! For a beer leaguer who doesn’t have the cash to spend on goalie camps, what are some good methods/products I can use to improve my technique?”

Mitch Korn: “The governor becomes your body, and I would believe the majority of beer league guys can’t do what they are trying to do with their hips and their groins. They don’t play enough, they don’t practice enough, they don’t train enough. And I think as much as they watch it and would like to do it, realistically I don’t know if their bodies will allow them to do it.

“I know they want improve and they want to get better and they want to succeed but let’s face it, what beer league do you know that practices? Most of these guys I think they should do what they do best and what they know. They are weekend warriors and they can learn as much as they want to learn but I don’t know how many of them can convert that to their body doing what they need it to do.

“I know in our goalie camps a few years ago we started to take adults and I’ll take an adult but they are on their own program. Like the kids can’t take a drill off or ‘I gotta sit down,’ none of that. We push. But the adults we take it’s their call what they can and can’t do from the physical standpoint to a cardiovascular standpoint. I’ve got a bunch of adults now and very few have the flexibility required to play a modern style.”

~ This story was originally released to subscribers to InGoal Magazine’s FREE weekly newsletter more than a week before being made public. For your chance to ask questions of the games’s top goalies and coaches, and read other weekly features before anyone else, be sure to sign up.

About The Author

Kevin Woodley

Kevin Woodley is a rec-league target and former contributing editor of the Goalie News magazine. He has written about the Vancouver Canucks and NHL for The Associated Press, USA Today, Sports Illustrated and The Hockey News for the last decade, and covered the 2010 Olympics for The AP.

3 Comments

  1. Bill

    I got my first taste of coaching at Mitch’s first (and last to date)goalie camp in the Dallas/Ft Worth area… I have since been around other coaches and styles but none teach a total concept like Mitch. He demands serious work effort not just show up and pay. Those that didn’t like his camp (there were 2 out of the whole group) complained about him being to tough… I was really surprised at the time. Now 11 years later that is the norm not the exception. I only take select kids and work with them now. Get them ready to play at a higher level or help them enjoy their position more. I stopped working with almost all the high school players on a practice level because they won’t work.
    I only work with adults to teach them angles and things to make them have more fun.. They are usually the most appreciative…
    I have sent kids to Mitch’s camps over the years and ALL came back raving about how much fun they had…
    My next step will be to go to the camp my self and learn even more to pass on…

    Reply
  2. Matt in Montreal

    RE: Beer Leaguer’s…

    I’ve started playing goal again after 15 years. I’m 35 now, and once-upon-a-time played AAA Juvenile before being injured.

    Getting back into shape – and flexibility – I first built up my stamina through running. Then I watched Maria Mountain’s YouTube videos. Then printed a stretching routine from the Goaliestore.com and stretch now for 45 minutes… an hour before hitting the ice.

    When the zambonie is off the ice, I skate hard to get the blood flowing. What we want to do here is create a dynamic workout, raising the temperature before getting into our pre-game stretches to prevent injury.

    Get between the pipes and stay-up, stop some pucks, and when your heated, go off to the side to stretch some more. Then back to the crease and make stops in the butterfly.

    When working on your ‘new’ skills, I recommend choosing only ONE to focus on… play high in the crease and manage your blue ice… keep your glove hand high… butterfly push off your far leg, then when all these become second-nature, move on to the details: plant, look, load, lift the lead leg and push.

    I’m starting to see success and so should you.

    But I can’t stress how important it is to work on only one aspect during games – otherwise your head gets too busy and you’ll play bad, discouraging you from changing your ‘old’ game.

    Best,

    Matt

    Reply
  3. JR

    Beer leaguers goalies that want to get better, try and get some pick up games in between your games. Use those as practice and when you play regular games you can then use your new techniques.

    Reply

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