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CHL bans European Goalies Starting With 2014 Draft

CHL bans European Goalies Starting With 2014 Draft

The CHL ban on European Goalies won't affect American stoppers like John Gibson because they aren't considered imports. (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images

The CHL ban on European Goalies won’t affect American stoppers like John Gibson because they aren’t considered imports. (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images

The Canadian Hockey League wasted little time following up on the idea of banning European goaltenders, announcing Monday they would no longer be eligible for the import draft starting in 2014.

The news comes just 11 days after the possibility was first raised in a report by The Toronto Star, and at the end of the first of a two-day “Protect The Net” goaltending symposium being hosted by the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).

According to The Star, any goaltender already selected, including in the first round only of the upcoming 2013 Import Draft in early July, will be allowed to play out the remainder of their junior eligibility in the CHL, which is made of three leagues – the Western Hockey League (WHL), Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and the OHL – and includes eight American-based teams. Import goalies will be banned completely starting with the 2014 draft, and the two remaining import roster spots granted to each CHL team will limited to forwards and defensemen.

The debate sparked by the initial news of a possible ban on Europeans was a good one, and it should be pointed out not everyone was against a protectionist policy. Despite a relatively low number of European goalies in the CHL overall – this past season only four of the top-20 minute munching goalies in both the WHL and OHL were from Europe, in the QMJHL it was two of 20 – there are some good goalie coaches that see value in a move that at the end of the day creates more opportunity for more North American goaltenders.

Both sides were argued – and argued well – in both the comments section of the initial InGoal story on the ban, with the 70-plus comments including thoughts from coaches who are actively involved in the goaltending development programs from Finland and Sweden. Add in the 30-plus comments on InGoal’s Facebook page, including some from former WHL goalie coaches, and all sides are well represented in an interesting debate.

A pair of articles on Yahoo’s excellent Buzzing the Net junior hockey blog took a better look at whether or not Canada’s problem at the junior hockey level – both in the CHL and at the World Junior Championships – was being overstated: Cam Charron broke down the actual number of European import goalies in great detail, and Neate Seager took a look at what he saw as an over reaction from a broader editorial perspective.

Meanwhile, here at InGoal the debate evolved beyond the CHL ban on Europeans and into a discussion on the state of goaltending development in North America compared to the models overseas. The focus shifted quickly from what was going on with a select group of 17- to 20-year-old goalies, and the questions became about why more Europeans were better suited for those jobs in the CHL than similar aged North Americans. The discussion shifted to developing goaltenders, and many opined Canada has fallen behind.

InGoal ran articles from a Canadian goaltending coach with experience in Finland that argued the need for a goaltending coaching certification program here. And Swiss Dusan Sidor coach shared portions of the program he ran with HC Lugano for everyone from the pros down to the kids, including video highlights.

InGoal has also talked to coaches working on both sides of the Atlantic, and the differences between the models are clear.

The cover of a Swedish National Development manual, which is between 150 to 200 pages and also includes four supporting DVDs. There is no equivalent in Canada.

The cover of a Swedish National Development manual, which is between 150 to 200 pages and also includes four supporting DVDs. There is not an equivalent in Canada.

The Swedes and Finns both have a comprehensive national goaltending development plans.

Canada has none.

The Swedes and Finns gather annually for a national goaltending conference, sharing and discussing ideas on and off the ice in an effort to constantly improve and evolves those development models. Consensus among top-level coaches is explained and shared with regional coaches, who take those messages back to their hometowns with a mandate to share it with coaches below them, ensuring a consistent message is delivered from the pro team down to the kids starting out in that team’s club-based minor hockey systems.

Hockey Canada will host it’s annual Program of Excellence Goaltending Camp later this week, combining 19 of the country’s top under-20 puck stoppers with a group of eight coaches from across the country. But goaltenders who have attended recent POE goalie camps said afterwards they were sometimes told to do something one way at one station, and then the opposite way by a different coach at another station. Perhaps that will change with ex-Calgary Flames coach David Marcoux running this year’s camp, but even if coaches get time to get together beforehand and agree on a camp curriculum, how does it benefit anyone other than the goalies in attendance?

Without a national development plan, how does the knowledge passed along at those camps ever reach the grassroots level? More often than not it doesn’t.

Documentation from past camps has alway been limited, and most – but in fairness, not all – of the coaches involved will be available to the public almost exclusively through private lessons or summer goalie schools and camps.

Therein lies another key difference. Where much of the development plan in Finland and Sweden is carried out through their equivalent of minor hockey programs, most goaltending development in Canada takes place in a private setting. And while some minor hockey organizations hire these coaches to work with a larger group of goalies during the season, a lot of the position-specific development is limited to camps in the summer, which is ironically when Europeans focus on developing goalies as broader athletes off the ice.

All of which isn’t to say there aren’t great goalie coaches developing a lot of great goalies in North America. Clearly there are, but there are also concerns about whether enough young goalies get enough access, especially in-season, to enough good coaching.

As for the NHL decrease in Canadian goaltenders – both the overall percentage and to a lesser extent at the top end – the reality is the recent influx of Europeans includes more late-bloomers and slightly older, more developed goaltenders, than CHL-developed goalies from Europe, a trend that continued with Viktor Fasth in Anaheim last season and the recent Chicago Blackhawks’ signing of Antti Raanta. Why? Among several reasons is the fact there are more full-time goaltending coaches in the top European leagues than there are in North American minor pro leagues like the ECHL and even the American Hockey League. And those coaches in Sweden and Finland are part of the same top-down national development models that are also producing so many good young goaltenders.

Lastly – but certainly not least – those national models are not just designed to develop better goalies, but also to develop better goaltending coaches right down to the grassroots level. It is about sharing knowledge and ideas to consistently improve and evolve, ideals that are hard to replicate in a Canadian system dominated by private, often insular, goalie schools.

Incidentally, InGoal also had one former WHL goalie coach say that he learned a lot working with a European goalie that came over to the WHL years ago.

It’s a development opportunity that won’t exist in the CHL much longer.

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.


  1. Just a parent

    As a parent to a young goaltender, I read all of these articles with interest. Minor hockey has for me always been an interesting psychology and sociology study. It seems to me that if hockey Canada wants to do a better job of developing goalies it should start with a parent focus group or survey that explains the young goalie experience. My son is in his 5 th year as a goalie and not one bit of position specific coaching has been provided through his minor hockey experience.

    A few things for consideration:

    He was forced to choose between player and goalie at 7 years old, the association did not allow players to play both.The focus here is only on winning, not about development. My son chose goalie but approximately 7 others who were showing some signs of being good goalies, chose player.

    Year to year regular coaches have widely varying beliefs about the position. From the time my son was 7-11, he spent much time in tears trying to figure out why all these adults , coaches whom he likened to gods, told him opposite things about being a goalie, stay up, go down and then recover, keep your skates dull, goalies need really sharp skates. The list is endless, and for a few years was a real challange for him.

    Money – my minor hockey, spring hockey fees are always the same, yet hardly ever is a drill done for the benefit of a goalie. Wouldn’t everyone learn from a mere 10 minutes of practice being dedicated to a goalie specific drill? Couldn’t hockey Canada set this out in coach training? Wouldn’t more families consider the position if cost if equipment was offset in some way?

    I have so much more to say, but I will wait for e focus group..

    • Ian Wotherspoon

      Dear Parent, I for one understand what you are saying and if I can be of any help I would very much like to be given the opportunity to do so. Read my “POST” and you will see that I am all for setting up a school to teach coaches how to teach / coach goalies – that is imperative. I have helped many goalies from Atom age up to adults over the Internet because of the knowledge I have after working with goalies for over 40 years. When I first started coaching I was just a hockey coach but before long I found that I had to learn more about the position of goalie. When i was around 14 I started playing goalie but I pretty much taught myself and the first & last instruction I ever had was in my final year of High School. I know I can help your son no matter what age he is. I can have you check with a couple of people on the Internet who know me so you will know that I am telling you the truth. I can also have a gentleman from England send you an email telling you about me because I first helped his grandson over the Internet a few years ago and he is now playing for (I believe) one of the Elite English team.

      I hope i can be of some help.

      Ian W.

      • Ace

        Dear Parent,
        I really feel for you and you should know you’re not alone… many parents are in the exact same position as you. I have three kids playing hockey in a “USAHockey” accredited program right now that is pushing what they call the “ADM” or “American Development Model”… it’s a great program that focuses on splitting the ice up for the smaller kids to increase puck time and ice time… they really stress skills development which I think is imperative for any developing hockey player… also, I have completed several USAHockey coaching clinics, up to level three, where the ADM was a huge focus… in all this dedication to development I’ve yet to see any realistic, comprehensive move towards goalie training…

        I started playing hockey about thirty years ago… I really wanted to be a goalie and all my childhood heros were goalies… but my dad refused to fork out the cash for the equipment… so, I grew up playing defense. I spent years developing my skating abilities, especially my transitions, cross-overs, and edge-work (extremely important for a defenseman!)… in my late twenties I decided it was time to dive into goaltending… I can say with complete confidence I had a very short transition and short learning curve because of my well developed skating ability…

        I’ve talked to goalie “gurus” about this and most have said kids should get into goalie equipment (including skates) as soon as possible (probably why you were told your 7yo needed to choose one or the other)… this, in my opinion, is DEAD wrong!!! kids need to develop their skating abilities until about the age of 12 or 13 (maybe even later!) BEFORE they dedicate themselves to the goalie position… goalie skates are very different from player skates and it’s just plain difficult to develop some abilities (and confidence) in them. even now, when I feel myself getting frustrated with my play, I’ll don the player skates and spend a few hours doing edge-work drills to help get my game back

        as far as the rest of the stuff is concerned (how sharp the skates are, how the pads are worn, etc.) that should be entirely up to your goalie… let HIM decide for HIMSELF… let him know he needs to be comfortable and the equipment should fit\feel the way HE wants it… NOT how someone else tells him how to do it…

        last point I’d like to make here… I whole-heartedly believe that EVERY kid on a team, up to about 10 or 11 years old should cycle through the goalie position throughout the season… DON’T put the burden on one child and let his team tear him apart when he doesn’t perform!!! EVERY child on the team NEEDS to know just how difficult a position it is and every child should understand what it feels like to fail AND succeed there… I hope my experiences and words have helped here… best of luck in the future

        • Just a parent

          Ace.. thank you. You really get what I was trying to say. My point really is not about my son, but rather the “system” we create in Canada. In 5 years we have navigated through all of this. I just think this experience has a lot to offer, anyone who is truly interested in developing more goalies.

          Ian. Thanks for y our kind offer, at this stage we have found a good goalie coach, but as pointed out, I pay for that out of pocket, above all his fees.

  2. Ian Wotherspoon

    I left a rather lengthy comment yesterday but now that it has been passed that as of the 2014 Draft all Goalies from Europe can no longer be drafted by CHL teams.

    One of my main concerns is that we need to teach our goalie coaches how to properly teach the goalies. Therefore, there must be a mantatory coaches clinic started so that coaches who say they know how to teach goalies honestly know how to teach and coach a goalie. Saying and doing are two completely different things. Teaching / coaching goalies is not easy especially in today’s hockey, it’s a very difficult position to coach because of the many different aspects which include not only because of the many skills that a goalie must know how to do but they must also know that they have to be on top of their game mentally as well as physically. After coaching goalies for over 40 years I do know what it involves but I certainly don’t know everything and I never will. I was constanly on the Internet looking for information that would help me teach goalies better. I have quite an extensive library of DVDs on goaltending from many different Instructors and I know there is lots more out there to help anyone who is interested in learning how to coach, teach and Instruct goalies of all ages. But first, you must be able to give 100% of yourself to first learn how to teach goalies and you do that by learning what to teach them and then learning how to take what you know and apply it. You must have a good relationship with the goalie(s) you are working with if you expect them to improve. It takes both you and the goalie for the goalie to improve.

    We also need to have coaches commit themselves to stay with a team and coach the goalie(s) throughout the whole season. Coming out to one or two practices every couple of months just won’t do. Like any other coaches on a team the Goalie Coach is a part of the team and must be there for every game and every practice. How else are goalies going to know when they are doing something right and/or wrong. If the goalie coach isn’t at a practice who else is going to show the goalie what he/she did wrong and better still, who will be there to show the goalie how to do the skill properly.

    • Paul

      Ian you speak the truth on so many levels. I for one would love to gather any information I can from your many years of coaching. I am a parent of a goalie (peewee), a new coach ( because Im sick of watching my son and his fellow goalies sit on the ice for half a practice, while the players get all the instruction ) and a co-ordinator for my other son’s Novice team. I plan on being on the ice for every practice for my oldest and my youngest to help the goalies. If there is anything you care to share with me please drop me an email @ [email protected]
      Anything thing you can pass on to me would be great

  3. Pär

    Dear All,
    as a Swede, and a father of a 14 year old AAA goalie I can basically only agree with what has been stated above. In Sweden goalies are encouraged to double as players at least until they are 12-13 years old. This gives them deeper understanding of the game as well as better skating skills. And it is more fun, which is basically what it is all about in that age.

    Most clubs have goalie coaches that train the goalies at least once a week. This means that you mix the ages and bonds across the age group boundaries. So instead of having one or two other goalies to talk to about “goalie stuff”, you have 20. That strengthens your identity as a goalie.

    Good team coaches adapt the exercises so that they include a little something for the goalies also. However, they do not always have the knowledge to do this right. In younger ages a parent with a special interest in the goalies is often on the ice drilling the goalies – although simple exercises this means continous training for the goalies. In older ages (12-13 years), a trained ass coach will take this role together with the goalie coach in the club.

    Another thing is that the status of a goalie is quite high in Sweden. The great goalie gets as much appraisal as the great scorer.

    But at the same time, much of the problems are similar in Sweden. It is expensive, especially the gear but also the necessary goalie camps. However, many teams reduce the fee for the goalies.

    Too many team coaches do still not interest themselves enough in the goalie development and in the cooperation goalies – players. In spite of the national development plan, there are still quite big differences between the philosophy of different goalie coaches. Some believes that the plan is not as up to date as it should be. However, having different philosophies is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you base your philosophy on knowledge and experience (as opposed to beliefs). In the nexus between different thougts new development is born. And goalies are different, some play best hybrid style, others butterfly, some prefers big moves, others dont. It is not about right and wrong, it is about finding and perfecting a style that suits you as an individual. And a good goalie coach helps the goalie to do just that.

    So, finally it is sad that Canada closes its borders to European goalies, and I do not think that less of foreign thougts and influences will help improving the national goalies, in any country.

  4. larry sadler

    I wanted to take this moment to apologize to all my Finnish, Swedish & Czech goalie friends for the CHL decision to ban Euro goalies.
    It is all too like applying a small bandage to a large hemorrhaging wound without realizing that the blood wasn’t streaming from there!!!

  5. Inger Andersson

    I am a mother of a European goalie who now is 18 and play in the highest junior league in Sweden. It is with sadness we in Europe read about this decision. We have always taught our kids that the best plays when you get to a certain level. My son has had trained goalie coaches by his side since he was 12; and the last 2-3 years always with the team; in practice, on games etc. The Swedish Hockey association has a training program that requires coaches to have acquired correct level of training. The federation not only have guidelines for ice training; also for mental training, physical training for goalies etc. My goalie spends his summer in physical training to build his body and strength NOT on the ice on lots of private camps and so do most goalies in Sweden and Finland. They might attend one camp for 3-4 days with coaches from the highest league, but after age 16 they really are more focused the be in fantastic shape when season starts in end of July.
    Find it amazing that our little country with no more than 60.000 registered players in total are able to “shake” a nation like Canada in this matter.

  6. John

    Its interesting to get comments from Swedes and Finns and Czechs about how its bad that we are closing access to our junior teams. These countries never allow a Canadian or American to play on their highest junior teams and aren’t opening spots on their teams to our Goalies – the door is shut tight. How about reciprocity – every goalie we take from your country you have to take one from ours. I’m pretty sure we know what the answer to that will be. NO WAY.

  7. Paddy

    When will they start banning US goalies? After the US junior team wins another gold medal???? Shame on you CHL….who cares what others do. When you start playing favorites, you never know where it can lead…and it usually doesn’t go well….I am an English speaking person from Quebec…need I say more.

    • Cam

      Since there are American teams in the CHL, they won’t be doing that. Its junior, and they can play in Men’s leagues before they turn 18, this won’t really effect them at all.

  8. Pär

    Never heard of a swedish ban on north american goalies in the junior leagues. Not seen any hordes of US or Canadian goalies trying to get in, either.

    • John


      Many have tried, the polite Swedes and Finns always say its ok we have a local kid. We are now doing the same just being up front about it.

  9. Pär

    And you are sure the N.A. goalies were better than the local kids? 🙂

  10. Stefan

    It’s only One thing för hockey Canada to do, invite Swedish goalie. Coaches to your training camps.

  11. Stefan

    What will be next step, to stop european goalies in NHL? Think it is embarrassing from Canada and CHL Invite Swedishgoalie coaches to your camps, you have a lot to learn, obviously.

  12. Goalie Guru

    The good news…the great news actually…just a year ago the highest drafted goalie in the NHL, therefore the highest ranked goalie for skilled potential, rated by hundreds of NHL scouts and GM’s was a goalie who didn’t start playing in goal until he was 14 and had little goalie coaching for a couple of years.

    So hockey world, who needs training if becoming the highest ranked goalie takes so little time and training!

    It’s a simple position complicated by these new goalie coaches and scouts that have wild imaginations.

    • Ace

      the reason the kid was so good was because he spent his youth playing as a skater… he had developed his ability to skate THEN learned goalie… I don’t think any elite goalie will say skating isn’t an important part (THE most important part) of the position… the learning curve is much shorter when you can do all the movement drills without trying to learn to skate first!!!

      • Goalie Guru

        I agree! It’s a simple position. All you need to do is be a good skater because the position is a simple one. It’s overrated.

        If it’s just skating like you say and I agre with…then all players at his skating ability would do as well. Hundreds of thousands!!!

  13. Diane

    The key factor in goalie development is lack of coaching in this position. I have a child who just recently retired from the position and one who is approaching Bantam. The first received no formal coaching on his team until his 2nd year in JUNIOR! The next has yet to have a goalie coach. Besides it being the most expensive position for equipment, it requires paying extra for outside coaching from an early age. This eliminates alot of “would be goalies”, as parents simply can’t afford this position, and the ones that can, can very easily incur alot of debt! I say make it mandatory for associations to implement goalie coaching for their teams, NOT paid by the goalie parent, but by the association as a whole.

  14. Joe

    Two things are evident with the system. First there is no structured certification for goalie instruction. Goalie coaches should be made to adhere to at least some formal understanding and direction set out by Hockey Canada. Age and talent specific drills and teaching and a proper evalution format needs to take place to ensure kids are being properly developed. All teams must have at least one coach who has taken this course with level one completion. Second and maybe more important than banning European goalies is have dedicated cards for 16 year old goalies available in the Junior A,B,C ranks to allow these young goalie a place to play and develope.

  15. Daniel D'Amour

    Very well said! The only way Canada (and the US in fact) is influence from abroad! Isolationism NEVER works! I’m Canadian-American and this saddens me…

  16. Fullright

    Putting aside the geopolitical issues and focusing solely on the goaler aspect, where do these goalie coaches come from? Did they ever play the position? The flaw that I perceive in the development of young goalers is that we have supposed “experts” who havent played at an advanced level and the development of young goalers has turned into an assembly line: play from your knees, wear oversized gear, and play the “percentages”. You cant have success on a large scale when the end result is nothing but Pat Roy clones. The skaters have adapted to the butterfly doctrine; they shot and skate with their heads up more than ever and anticipate that goalers will use preplanned blocking techniques like the V-H. Further, very few know how to handle the puck any more. By the way, has anyone noticed the Blackhawks took the Wings down when Crawford began intercepting their dump ins and began passing it up to his wingers?

    Creativity and style have given way to a homogenized doctrine that there is only one way to play and apparently taught to kids by folks who dont know what they’re doing. Check out just about any Youtube video of a young goalie: they can drill very well and look pretty doing it but throw them in a game and they cant adapt. They’re unequipped on what to do because they’re not taught what to do.

  17. Martin Sordo

    I can’t believe that!!! I thought the only idiot in hockey was, is and will be Betman. Now that I read about the European goalies being ban here in Canada. That is being racist and ignorant. I see that hockey is going down everyday. European goalies are better than Canadians is not their problem. They just play the game and are better than the Canadians. Grow up and accept it. Don’t be another Betman!!!