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
“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.”
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.