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NHL Goalie Coaches Join Canada’s Development Plan

NHL Goalie Coaches Join Canada’s Development Plan
LA Kings goaltending coach Bill Ranford chats with Jonathan Bernier

LA Kings goalie coach Bill Ranford has been added to the group helping Hockey Canada develop a new coach certification program and national goaltending curriculum. (InGoal file photo by David Hutchison).

Hockey Canada has added four NHL goalie coaches to a new advisory group that will oversee the building of the country’s first national goaltending development and goalie coach certification program.

Phoenix Coyotes goaltending coach Sean Burke, who was named to Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence management group in late June, will be joined by Bill Ranford of the Los Angeles Kings, Rick Wamsley of the Ottawa Senators, and Dwayne Roloson, the new goaltending coach of the Anaheim Ducks.

Also involved in the ongoing development of Hockey Canada’s still-evolving goalie programs is former NHL goalie Fred Brathwaite, who is the new goalie coach for Canada’s World Junior team, Matt Cockell, who coaches Canada’s national women’s team, and one representative from each league in the Canadian Hockey League. The Western Hockey League tabbed Brady Robinson, the goalie coach for the Victoria Royals, while the Ontario Hockey League chose Joe Birch, their Senior Director of Hockey Development, and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League will be represented by Cape Breton’s goalie coach Scott Gouthro.

The group was joined by former Calgary Flames goalie coach David Marcoux, who was already leading the development of Hockey Canada’s new goaltending curriculum, when it got together for the first time in late July during the under-18 camp in Toronto to talk puck-stopping development.

“The first step is to recognize that maybe there are some things we could do differently in developing our goalies and throw some ideas around,” Burke said. “There was a lot of experience in the room from all different levels – junior guys, NHL guys, international goalies, guys that played at all different levels – so it was a really good chance to listen to  other views, and hopefully we can figure out what the things we need to do differently are, and what areas we can improve on.”

Much like the successful models in Sweden and Finland, Canada’s impending goalie development plan, which was outlined for the first time by InGoal back in mid-June, will focus on creating more good goaltenders across the country by developing more good coaches through a certification program that will include a three-level guide to learning the position. And just as those much-discussed Scandinavian goaltending models include annual symposiums with the country’s top goalie coaches gathering to share knowledge, keep the curriculum current, and trickle the evolving skills and techniques down to lower levels, Hockey Canada’s extensive new goaltending advisory group is designed to provide an ongoing voice in the process of building out the Canadian model, with Robinson, Gouthro and Birch all reporting back to – and seeking input from other coaches within – their respective leagues in the CHL.

“It was more of a general, 30,000-foot level look at what we are doing to get input from some respected names in the goaltending world and make sure they were on the same page as we are,”  Corey McNabb, who is in charge of the programs as Hockey Canada’s Senior Manager of Coach and Player Development, said of their first meeting. “It was a discussion on where we see trends in goaltending today, some of the strengths and weaknesses from Canada and the international side. What are some of the things they see from their levels, whether it’s bantam draft eligible kid, or drafted goalies coming into NHL, or guys playing in AHL?

“We were trying to affirm what our expert group [led by Marcoux] says or if there are some things we need to focus on more, or even change.”

While they didn’t get down to specifics in terms of breaking down the levels of development in the first meeting, McNabb said there was consensus on two key points: 1. That there needed to be a focus on athleticism and agility before technique when developing young goalies, and 2. There needed to be a consistency and standardization in what young goaltenders in Canada are being taught.

That second point is what building a goalie coaching certification program is all about. How to ensure the first point becomes an effective part of that program is the next step, one that will include opinions and help from the new advisory group.

“Pretty much the entire group thought if you develop the technique first and athleticism later, your ceiling is lower as to your potential,” McNabb said. “It’s much harder as you get older to develop the athleticism. That was the consensus.”

So how do you coach athleticism in goaltending? The answers could involve specific drills and skill progressions, as well as recommendations for off-ice training.

Coyotes goalie coach Sean Burke, who has been known to still put the pads on for practice, is working with Hockey Canada on the new goalie development plan and coach certification program. (InGoal file photo by Kevin Woodley)

Coyotes goalie coach Sean Burke, who has been known to still put the pads on for practice, is working with Hockey Canada on the new goalie development plan and coach certification program. (InGoal file photo by Kevin Woodley)

It’s not lost on McNabb that so many of the European goalies being praised for the athletic components in their games spend several months off the ice each summer, whether its working on position-specific exercises as they get older, or simply playing other sports in the offseason when they are younger.

“As we go forward here it’s going to sort of evolve itself a little bit,” McNabb said. “We still need to get to that point of,  ‘here is level 1 and the fundamental skating, movement and athletic elements that every coach  should be working on with their young goalies, and once they’ve got this down, move to the next level. But at some level it may be about, ‘hey, you want to be a better goalie? Stay off the ice for a couple months in the summer and maybe play baseball.'”

There was also talk about the age kids should start playing goal exclusively, and whether leaving a backup on the bench all game made sense at younger ages.

“A lot of the guys said in Atom if I wasn’t playing goal that day I was a defenseman,” McNabb said.

The next step for McNabb is going back to the group in the next week and sorting out where each member sees themselves fitting into the bigger picture as the program develops. How much time can they commit? Will they simply review material, or would they like to help develop some of the drills and lesson plans? And what age group and level of development do they see as an ideal fit for them?

There are still a lot of other questions to be answered beyond that, including how Canada’s existing – and almost exclusively private – development model fits into the new goalie coaching certification program.

“We’re not saying there’s not good goaltending programs out there. I think there’s a lot, and there are a lot of goaltending programs that have already started incorporating some of these things we are talking about,” McNabb said. “We don’t want to be saying to Bill Ranford, ‘hey if you are working with a 16 year old today, these are the six drills you have to do and these are how you have to do them.’ We want everyone to be on the same page in terms of ‘you know that these are the types of drills we should be doing at this age or that age and here’s a resource, here’s a manual, here’s a video. If you have your own stuff, by all means use it.”

There are questions remaining. Now there is a bigger, more experienced group of goalies and coaches in place to help Hockey Canada answer them.

“We touched on a lot of things,” Burke said of that first meeting. “The idea was to really brainstorm and throw some ideas around from different guys with different experiences. I thought that was a good thing. We initialized some contact with each other and from here on it has an opportunity to build.”

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. Paul Ipolito

    Would someone please forward this to USA Hockey? Hey wait a minute! You guys are Canadian!!!! I guess I’ll have to forward this. No worries- USA Hockey will take at least five years to implement anything. You should be well ahead of us by then.

  2. Paul Ipolito

    Is that the Leafs new starting goalie in the lead photo?

    • Lawa

      Yes it is in fact Jo Bernier in the top picture.

  3. Lawa

    Good thing Marcoux is on that list! Reassuring at least from a technical point of view.

    I’m not bashing on these ex-pro’s, but at the NHL level, the goalie coaches are much more needed as a “support” to the goalie. They talk a lot, look at videos together, etc..

    Working on a development program like they are trying to implement, you need a guy who is really solid and up to date with all the new techniques of the modern day goalie. Marcoux is perfect for that.

    Great idea anyways, definetly something to re-up Canada’s goalies who have been losing ground to the European goalies in the last 10 years, due to guys like Jukka Roponnen doing amazing work in not only Ice sessions, but also in off-ice programs.

    Just my 2 cents!

  4. Ian Wotherspoon

    Excellent article.
    All of this looks very promising but as Lawa said in his comment, having all these ex-pro goalies as part of the committee is fine but; The way I see it, you can be a great NHL goalie but can you teach or better still, coach goalies? I was a goalie from the fifties until the mid seveties and I was 100% “self taught.” I can remember feeling somewhat betrayed because every other member of the teams I played with were being taught how to do different skills but not the goalie. There wasn’t anyone to correct my mistakes so I just kept making them. When the team lost I usually got the blame for the loss. This is something that is still out there today. Everyone must remember: THE TEAM WINS OR LOSES THE GAME – NOT THE GOALIE. Goalies need goalie coaches and with this new goalie coaches program looming off in the distance the goalies of the future are going to have their own coach.

    Those of you who have been coaching goalies for awhile as I have (1969 – 2009) know that this program is something we’ve all been hoping and praying for and to see it coming about is fantastic. I’m so glad that I was still around to see this beginning to become a reality.

    We all must remember one thing through all of this and that is: it’s one thing to run a Goalie Camp in the summer and totally another thing to coach/teach goalies all season long. It’s a very BIG commitment that takes a lot of your personal time and money to do it well. Please don’t say you can do it and quit half way through the season because you will be letting your goalie(s) down.

    This program must work for the sake of every young boy or girl who wants to become a goalie or for those who have already decided to play goalie. They will now have someone who will be at every practice and game to teach and to work with them on how to become the best Goalie that they can become.

    The sooner this program gets set up and running the better every goalie out there will be better for it.

    I have one suggestion and that is to have someone on the committee who has been a goalie coach in the minor hockey system as I’m sure that they can give an insight to how everything works at the different age levels. I’m too old but I would really like to attend the first certification program.

  5. Dave Wells

    I agree with what Ian is saying, especially the suggestion that there needs to be representation from goalie coaches actively working in the minor hockey systems. Let’s face it, the minor hockey demographic will likely be 95% of the goalies who will be using this program.

    I have some doubt as to a top down approach as suggested by the representation to date. I personally don’t know any of the NHL goalie coach’s on the panel, I’m sure they are good guys, but the goalies at the NHL level typically have different needs and resources than goalies at a local hockey organization. Even the CHL teams have resources above and beyond any minor league teams.

    If you have ever worked with pro goalies it is much different than working with young kids who are just learning. Relatively speaking, pros are simple to deal with, there’s usually not much to do aside fom minor corrections and keeping their heads screwed on straight. You also typically have all kinds of resources on hand (video, physiotherapists, equipment trainers, pro shooters etc.) that makes life relatively easy.

    The real test is how you get a 7 year old goalie, new to the game, wearing players skates because mom and dad have no money, to buy into a system? How do you teach and break down, piece by piece (physiologically) the proper way to do a butterfly slide, a backside push etc? You cannot just say “do a backside push Johnny” and hope that he gets it, there needs to be a step by step approach and I hope they get that this stuff is critical at the lower levels where it’s a struggle just to get a goalie coach space on the ice to start with.

    The reality is that 90% of the heavy lifting is done by goalie coach’s in the trench’s day in and day out in minor hockey rinks, at goalie schools and goalie camps. We are the people who will have to implement the program when it gets put in place and there should be more representation from “us”, the little people, the ones who get the goalies good enough to make the jump to the pros in the first place.

    Having said that, perhaps the smartest thing I have read in a long time is the suggestion that kids take time away from the ice to play a complementary sport, like baseball. I have been saying that for years and it’s true, 90% of kids cannot catch a puck to save their lives, they need to develop their hand-eye and athleticism before we will see any significant improvements in Canadian goaltending.

    • Paul Ipolito

      Dave- I hear what you are saying but I hope no one is losing any sleep over teaching 7 year old Janey or Johnny proper butterfly technique. I would also not expect the parents of a 7 year old to shell out for goalie skates until they are sure Janey or Johnny really want to be a goalie. It’s too bad our friends in the goalie pad business don’t make an Atom or Novice-sized pad without the toe ties. A good old-fashioned toe strap would really help out.

  6. Jay Canuck

    Kid just got cut from AAA minor bantam tryouts yesterday in Ottawa. Typical assessment, kid took 33 shots in third, first two goalies took five shots each in periods one and two. Only criteria coach looked at was goals against. He talked a big talk about assessing the goalies, but I am certain it didn’t happen. PS: Not a bitter parent, I don’t even like hockey…

    Good or bad, head coaches at the elite level in Ontario say one thing, “we want fit athletes who can develop as goalies.” and pick another, whichever kid happened to be in the for the period when the tryout team was stronger.

    Assessing athletic abilities, fitness, hand-eye coordination, reflexes, and all the rest is hard, counting goals against is easy. Until CDN elite coaching staffs are trained to assess goalies, we will continue to see more and more Europeans dominating the position in the years and decades to come.

  7. David

    Ian, Dave and Jay had some great comments. The program should be starting at the minor level. It all starts there. If you don’t have coaches that can implement a love of the position and teach the basics then where will the elite goalies come from? As a goalie for 40 years and having a son that is now a midget level goalie, I have seen how bad the minor system is. My son has attended numerous camps and clinics but everything falls apart at the minor level when the politics of evaluations start. Getting evaluators out for the goalies that will admit they don’t have a clue what they are doing is the start of a bad process. Then add to that kids that make a team and have less than five minutes of goalie specific time a practice and ask yourself how you will produce great goalies in the future. Programs like these need to start from the grassroots level and work their way up. Right now it looks like the reverse. Perhaps if they are starting with the development of a generic program of drills and specific goals then that might be a starting point. Just keep in mind that many of the Hockey Canada binders handed out to coaches have many of these drills in place. The need as the guys in the thread have already mentioned is to get more coaches at the grassroots level certified to help young goalies develop. Then the system has to buy in and give practice time to implement what these coaches have learned. Right now, things are really the same as when I played. “Get in the net and take some shots!” Having fought against head coaches for years to give me some time to work on goalie drills, I have just backed right off personally. It is much easier to blame bad goaltending than to try to make them better. These top guys need to realize that the goal is to create goalies that will play as a lifelong activity, and not to create NHL players. That isn’t realistic. Has anyone noticed how many goalies drop out of hockey at around midget and lower level of junior ages? While there are a lot of reasons, I see that the kids just get fed up with poor coaching and move away from the game. It is a pity. As a goalie coach, my goal was to create a love of the game and the position and to get as good as a player could. I felt if in 20 years from now the kid I coached was in a beer league having fun with a group of guys and still active in the sport, that was a success.

  8. Tim C

    If you think Jukka Roponnen is doing a great job with goalie off-ice training, you should check out Larry Grace of Optimal Goalie Performance Training (Eagan, Minnesota). His company specializes in the Off-Ice training and Development of hockey goalies and his ideas and theories on goalie Off-Ice Training are way ahead of there time. And its coaches like him with fresh and new ideas that need be included in these national development programs for goalies.

    • Jason C

      I find it disgraceful that you would use this forum to advertise an unknown off-ice goalie cash grab that is done local to the town listed. And to compare a world renowned goaltending guru to this unknown in order to promote this cash grab is disrespectful.
      Please keep the comments pertinent to the discussion and leave out the marketing.

  9. jimmy spratt

    amen! I wish usa hockey would implement something like this as well. I have just recently retired from playing hockey and am getting into goalie coaching. It amazes me how many of the basic skills kids lack these days. I’m talking 10 year olds playing travel hockey that don’t even know how to hold their stick properly. While I was mostly self taught as a kid, I am thankful for at least learning basics from my dad who played beer league goalie. The longer bad habits or improper technique is used, the harder it is to change. Start the coaching at a young age. Develop a base, skating being most important. Once the skating is strong, then you can get into the more advanced sliding and recovery skills. I have an entire theory on this which I’m sure no one cares to read.

  10. Wes Taylor

    Community hockey is failing our goalies. I did all of the coach courses available to me and there wasn’t a page in there about goaltending. The people often politic-ing their way into coaching and helping goalies are totally unqualified. Most teams don’t pay for a goalie coach to come onto the ice but will pay for team parties to go bowling or do paintball.
    As mentioned above, the goalie evaluations might favour a kid who can move in practice but loses his head in a game. Shots on net in evaluations are so low you can’t get a good read.
    A parent is left to figure out their own goalie development plan like I did and work as sports psychologist with your kid.
    The goalies with potential either get lost in the crowd or have to find their own way onto elite teams

    • Ian Wotherspoon

      You made a statement in your comment that I personally didn’t appreciate. You said “The people often politic-ing their way into coaching and helping goalies are totally unqualified”.
      I would agree with what you said but not totally. There have been some people over the 40 years I was coaching (35 specializing in goalies) who were totally unqualified to teach goaltending to a young and/or older goalie because they didn’t know anything about playing the position. But, if the person is willing to spend the time and learn the position then he or she should be allowed to assist with the teaching of a goalie. Presently, it’s not the same as it was when I first began to work with goalies in the mid sixties because today’s goalie has to learn so much more than the goalies of years gone by and therefore the goalie coach/Instructor must have knowledge of what he or she is teaching and how to apply what they know to the goalies they’re instructing. You have to be a personwho can relate to the goalie, young and/or older. As I’m sure you have learned over time, being a goalie is the most challenging position in hockey and it also has the most pressure. If the team loses a game, the goalie is usually the first one blamed. It’s not as bad as it used to be but it’s still too much. It’s a TEAM game. The team wins or loses the game, NOT the GOALIE.

      Even before the Goalie Coaching Levels are established there are many teams out there who need someone to work with the team goalie(s) and if there is anyone out there who knows anything about playing goalie, possibly you could consider learning more than you do at the moment and then volunteer to help a youngster how to play goalie. There are many books and manuals on how to play goalie and there are a lot of DVDs out there all you have to do is look up on the Internet just like I did. I can tell you of a few of the DVDs I purchased and used all of the time. They are as follows:
      1. Goaltending! Your Game Starts Here! Chris Galton Director.
      2. Gold in the Net The have an excellent set of DVDs covering just about everything you
      have to learn about being a goalie.
      3. ProHybrid Trainning By Zach Sikich Vol. 1, 2, 3. Volume 1 came out in 2008,
      Volume 2 in 2009 and Volume 3 in 2010. Zach, who I’ve talked with over the Internet was
      the first person who put out a video (DVD) with regards to the Hybrid and how to teach it. His 3 videos cover much more than the Hybrid and I highly recommend them to you.
      4. Mitch Korn (Nashville Predators goalie coach) has a 95 page goalie manual that you can
      purchase through his site.
      5. The last site I will tell you about is the GoaliesMind: John Haley
      is the founder of the GoaliesMind. This site is all to do with Mental Training for a goalie. I
      ordered his program and then gave it to my goalies. That was back in 2006 and for the
      three years I made sure that each goalie got a copy of the program (a CD or mp3 download)
      Each goalie I coached and who used his CD (Positive Affirmations all about goaltending) found it to be an excellent program. Over time he’s added a couple of added programs.
      For example: “How to Consistently Play in the Zone.”
      Being prepared MENTALLY is very important.

      If you give me your email I will get in touch with you and possibly I can be of service to you and your son. I’ve helped out more people on the Internet in the past 8 years, too many to keep track of. Btw, for a “self taught” goalie coach I’ve had several of the goalies I coached make it to the NHL or other professional leagues in North America and in Europe.

  11. Rick Besharah

    This is a fantastic initiative & long overdue. However, it is hard to understand why a high profile goaltending coach by the name of Francois Allaire was left off of the list.
    Allaire has coached some of the best goaltenders in the world, is the developer of the butterfly & made it what it is today. He also has the most experience with coaching goaltenders at all ages and levels of hockey.
    If Hockey Canada really wants to put a proper development plan together, Allaire should’ve been the first name on the list. After all, he has approximately 30 years of professional hockey experience with working with some of the world’s best goaltenders, and his list of coaching accomplishments trump any of the other coaches who were selected.

    • Ian Wotherspoon Phoenix

      I would agree with you on this situation as Francois Allaire certainly has the credentials to be a part of this special comittee. There is the possibility he was asked but declined due to other commitments but we might never know the truth.

      Since this became a viable situation I’ve always thought that there should be someone who has been involved in coaching goalies at the minor level because I feel this person would know the ins and outs of the minor system. It’s one thing to have all these very capable coaches set up a system for the first ever Coaching Certification Program but I don’t beleive that any of these coaches has coached at the Minor Hockey Level during the past 5 – 10 years but I could be mistakened. It’s just that coaching a goalie between the age of 6 thru 2nd year Midget is a whole lot different than coaching a JR-A or NHL goalie, if you understand what I’m trying to say. The younger goalies can only handle so much information and as they move up in the system each year they can handle more. If a minor league or competitive goalie coach who has been coaching goalies for a number of years in the system then he could answer question by the rest of the committee. If he realized that something they were discussing would not work in Minor Hockey he would be there to say something before it goes too far.

      I have been trying to get something like this set up for many years and I’m so happy to see that possibly, in the very near future we will have a Goalie Coach Certification Program in place and after that we can hope and pray that all goalies coming into the Minor League System will be coached by qualified coaches who will be teaching a proven method. The one thing they must do is to follow-up to see the coaches are all teaching the same skills but we all know that every coach will coach it in his or her way.

      This is all food for thought. I just want to see it work for the sake of all minor League goalies coming into the system as well as the goalies who are already there.

      One last word. Over the years there have been many goalie coaches who have run summer and winter programs but for the most part none of these goalie coaches ever sign on with a minor league team during their hockey season.