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Tapping into a natural resource

Tapping into a natural resource

Quebec using its strong goalie heritage to prepare the next generation.

Author Michel Godbout is the Chief Anchor at TVA Sports in Montreal

Hockey Québec Logo“Congratulations! You’ve been promoted from stick boy to goalie coach!”.
It wasn’t a promotion handed out lightly to some guy who was doing a smashing job lining up sticks, laying out tape and keeping the water bottles topped up.
It was a promotion deemed necessary because of need and a loop in the rule book.

In Quebec, before 2008, goalie coaches were just like they are in the rest of Canada. People with various levels of goaltending knowledge willing to help out the kid, more often than not, left alone to become target practice.
Things became much more complicated when the goalie coach wanted to be behind the bench to give his protege tips during the game.
In a word, he couldn’t. Solely because a goalie coach wasn’t a certified coach, therefor no access behind the bench.
To circumvent this rule, goalie coaches became glorified stick boys because THEY were allowed behind the bench duties.

And that, in a nutshell, is how Quebec’s goalie coach certification program took off.

Jacques Blouin of Hockey Quebec puts it this way.
“The goalie coaches wanted more and more to be behind the bench and giving them “stick boy” titles just became ridiculous. To give them access we knew we had to certify them so we said, OK, if we’re going to certify goalie coaches let’s give them a solid base and real tools to teach the trade”.

Blouin went strait to work putting together a goalie task force of sorts, inviting everyone involved with goaltending from Midget AAA, Major Junior and the NHL.
“It wasn’t hard, we had resources at every corner. It’s kind of like smoked meat”, I stopped him here becoming confused and hungry “Smoked meat Jacques?”
“Yeah” he says, “Quebec invented smoked meat so you can find it everywhere, a lot more than in Winnipeg for example. For goalies it’s very similar. Quebec has a huge goalie heritage, we’ve produced a lot of them, great ones, so finding people with knowledge and willingness to help wasn’t hard”.
It wasn’t long before Blouin sat down with a dozen of them from former pro Frederick Chabot, to Major junior goalie coach Pascal Lizotte, goalie guru François Allaire even gave his input.

The brainstorming sessions began. They all centered around 2 core issues: “how can Quebec goalies improve and how can we get more of them to sign up.”

Goalie Jose Theodore in Minnesota

Quebec saw a drop-off in goalie registrations as soon as former MVP José Théodore left Montreal in a trade deadline deal to Colorado

Blouin says Hockey Quebec had started to see a drop in goalie registrations. “We saw a correlation as soon as José Théodore left the Montreal Canadiens, less players wanted to become goalies. Having a quebecois goalie playing for the Habs had a huge impact on kids, they idolized them even more”.

After nearly 2 years of meetings and hashing out ideas, the group put together a Goalie Guide.
They then took Hockey Canada’s standard coaching certification program, gutted it’s tactical guide and replaced it with a goalie specific program. It’s made up of 120 goalie drills (available online on Hockey Quebec’s website) all taught within a 12 hour session.
Quebec had just created the first goalie certification program in the country and Hockey Canada gave it its stamp of approval.

By 2010 the program was ready to roll. “We knew it would take off” says Blouin. “We had 50 to 60 goalie coaches for over 1000 teams in the province of Quebec, from atom to midget”. To get into the certification program, the coaches needed to get a recommendation from their teams. “We also wanted to weed out the self proclaimed “goalie gurus”).

To date, more than 110 goalie coaches have been certified by Hockey Quebec’s program. They work with competition teams (AA, BB and CC). “The certification isn’t like a Level 1 for regular coaching. It’s specific to the level the goalie coach is working at.” For 2014 a “recreation” level will be added for goalie coaches who work with non competition teams.

But that’s pretty much where Hockey Canada’s involvement with the program stops. As first reported by InGoal, they’re looking into a national goalie certification program inspired by what’s been done at Hockey Quebec but nothing seems set in stone.

It took 20 years before Hockey Canada followed Hockey Quebec’s decision to rule out body checking at the Pee-Wee level.
Hopefully goalie coaches seeking certification elsewhere in Canada won’t have to wait as long.

About The Author


  1. Karen Green

    Hockey Quebec program looks good, thanks for the link but it might be a bit of a challenge for people who do not speak French to understand.

    • David Hutchison

      Of course…but we thought some might appreciate it – and it’s not ours to translate anyway (you’re not suggesting we should, are you?) as it is copyright material.

  2. paul szabo

    I don’t get the math. 50 goalie coaches for over 1000 teams. That means every goalie coach is working with 20 teams?? If so, that is a problem in my mind…

    Second point: if I understand correctly, one must be nominated by a minor hockey association to go. But not all goalie coaches work with or for a minor hockey association. Some “gurus” may be marginal in their skills and knowledge, but there are a fair number out there who are not certified by anyone but who know their stuff.

    Still, this formation program will be a way to create a baseline for goalie coaches, but from what I saw at the first one several years ago in Trois Rivières, it seems perhaps more intended for coaches without goalie experience who are seeking ideas of how to work with their goalies

    • Richard St-Onge

      Merci Paul! Those are my thoughts and sentiments as well. Just cause an athlete didn’t turn pro, that doesn’t mean he/she doesn’t know what they are doing or how to share and communicate these skills. Same goes for coaching. Some of us are working hard to get up there and make a name for ourselves. This is one of the reasons I couldn’t look into the Québec’s certification program.

      I hope they review this per-requisite clause. They could easily put together a written exam (as Keeks has done and that I’ve passed) to help screen out the less experienced and take it from there. This is how our government works, why not use it?

  3. Paul Ipolito

    We have gone from 0 to 100 mph (or kph) in about a month. I hope this flurry of recent activity and information reaches and maintains a critical mass.

  4. Cj

    It would be nice to view the materials that are made avilable per the link from the article, if only they were available in English. I am suggesting that the material be availble in english so all can enjoy. Not only view but also add comments that will help / aid in the development of the material. That is what it is all about correct? Helpping others??? Perhaps that is why there hasn’t been a certification program for goalies before now, too many people only thinking about themselves.

    • David Hutchison

      Well, I appreciate your concern to see them translated but I’m not sure it’s on the authors of a resource to translate it. And we think we’re helping by pointing out the respurces to everyone – but certainly lack both the expertise and the resources to do the translation. For what it’s worth I’ve spent the morning using Google Chrome looking through a number of things in other languages – it’s far from perfect but the automagic translation is a huge help.