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Jeff Glass: Russian Evolution of Canadian World Junior Hero

Jeff Glass: Russian Evolution of Canadian World Junior Hero

Playing overseas in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League for the last seven seasons, former Team Canada World Junior champion Jeff Glass has seen the evolution of goaltending on a more global level than most goaltenders.

Glass sees how the position has grown from year to year when he’s introduced to new goaltending coaches with his KHL clubs. A Finnish coach showed him how to transition his game from a block-heavy, reaction-based style to one more reliant on active hands and conscious saves, encouraging Glass to use his hands and stop pucks rather than waiting for the puck to come to him.

That was a huge help as the Canadian-born goaltender adapted to the much larger ice surface.

“Since the ice is wider, you can stop the play or control the play a lot more,” Glass said.

Jeff Glass plays in the KHL now but uses the Detroit summer camps with Eli Wilson to get ready for his season, while also helping other campers by sharing what he learned overseas.

Glass plays in the KHL now but uses the Detroit summer camps with Eli Wilson to get ready for his season, while also helping other campers by sharing what he learned overseas.

Glass, who helped Canada end an eight-year gold medal drought at the World Junior Championships in 2005, has also brought plenty back over to Europe. The 30-year-old goalie has made an annual trip to Detroit to work at an Eli Wilson Goaltending-affiliated summer camp for the last decade, where he’s learned all the new techniques from North America to bring back to the KHL.

For example, Glass said Wilson, who instructs at the Detroit camp along with host Chris Piku and Boston Bruins goaltending coach Bob Essensa, has helped incorporate a new level of tracking technique over the last few years, and the camps have helped him learn more about the integration of post work that has become so popular in North American goaltending.

The ice surface in Europe makes it harder for a goaltender to rely as much on post integration, rather than coming out to challenge the shooter. Glass believes some of the coaches overseas are still hesitant to integrate techniques like Reverse-VH and adjustments on the post into the games of their students for that very reason. To those coaches, it takes away more of the net coverage that they expect to have with a more aggressive depth to their game.

Still, having the information to bring back overseas each year gives Glass what he considers to be one of a goaltender’s most valuable tools: options.

“There are so many different technique options out there,” Glass told InGoal. “It’s learning how to read those options. [Goaltenders should] learn why people preach things a certain way. Not every technique is for you, but it’s important to know why a technique is being introduced and how it can be used.”

Glass uses his week at the Detroit camps to act like a sponge for knowledge.

The soft focus and tracking into the glove that Wilson teaches? To Glass, that’s a necessary fundamental. If a goaltender can’t can’t track the puck, they’re two steps behind.

Piku helps him keep up-to-date on different techniques and new equipment being introduced.

Then there’s the presence of Essensa. To Glass, having a pro who has coached a Stanley Cup-winning team – and who played the game for so long – provides an underrated level of value.

“It used to be a good chance to meet up with an old goalie coach and touch base,” Glass said. “Now, I value the week way more – I work hard on not just my footwork, but on learning the techniques so I understand as much as I can.”

Making the Transition

Glass first made the jump to the KHL in 2009, moving from the American Hockey League’s Binghamton Senators to Barys Astana in his first year overseas, and while there was a difference in techniques in both North America and Europe, the move is about more than just that.

Listen to InGoal's Interview with Bruins Goalie Coach Bob Essensa

It’s about a shift in the style of the game.

The first move was from facing AHL shooters to facing KHL talent.

“They’ve grown up on the big ice,” said Glass. “They know how to manipulate and manage the quiet zones on the ice. I had to catch up to that, and figure out where the players like to hide, where they like to play the puck in the quiet areas and behind the net.”

Once he’d made the transition from one group of players to another group, then he had to get used to the larger ice surface.

There’s always talk when a goaltender makes a move from Europe to North America about how much he has to transition parts of his game. The amount of time he has to decide how to play the puck behind the net before the play catches up to him, his angles on shooters coming up the wings or setting up for a shot in the zone; a goaltender has to re-think all of this when the rink he plays on shifts size in a noticeable fashion.

Glass suggests that isn’t the biggest change, though. Or at least it’s not the only one a goalie has to actively adapt to. He has to get used to the way shooters think, as well.

Jeff Glass on post

Glass had to make style adjustments playing in the KHL.

“Guys will be in a high-percentage scoring area with the puck, and I’ll be wondering, why isn’t this guy taking a shot? But they’re looking for a second passing option,” he said. “Overseas, shooters can look for the passing angle rather than just ripping one from the hashmarks.”

This transition works both ways, with goaltenders coming to North America having to adapt to fewer passing situations and goaltenders heading overseas needing to work on reading the different options a play can shape into. A goaltender heading to North America may not be ready for some of the angles and the speed, but a goaltender heading to Europe may end up overcommitting to the wrong shooter.

That transition takes place both in a goaltender’s mental process and in how they decide which techniques in their arsenal will be the most valuable to them.

As mentioned above, the hesitancy of some European coaches to quickly integrate post coverage – or at least, the most modern techniques being adopted using the posts – comes from that need to challenge more and stay open to preventing a shot across the net from an unexpected pass. It’s a completely different game at times, and a goaltender needs to be able to adapt to that well.

“It’s a chance to be around smart-minded people two weeks before training camp in the KHL each year,” he said. “I owe them for the help they’ve given me, and I just hope I can bring something from the international ice to teach everyone else there.”

Jeff Glass

Even with the difference in style, though, Glass is able to take what he knows from his training in North America and bring it into his game on the bigger surface.

“The game is constantly evolving,” he said. “It’s funny; I’ve learned that everyone wanted to copy Canadian style goaltending, then Finns were trendy and that was the thing to do. But it’s not so much about being trendy as it is wanting to get better. You have to stay on top of what’s being taught, and decide what works best for you.”

This year, Glass posted a .910 save percentage with Dinamo Minsk, earning the KHL’s Goaltender of the Week distinction in late January and taking home the Spengler Cup with Team Canada.

Save for a less-than-ideal season last year with Lada Togliatti, the Calgary native has posted strong numbers during his seven seasons in the KHL, managing to evolve with the game as it has changed, both in part due to what he’s learned in Europe and what he brings from North America each season.

To him? That’s the best part of heading to Michigan for camps each summer.

“It’s a chance to be around smart-minded people two weeks before training camp in the KHL each year,” he said. “I owe them for the help they’ve given me, and I just hope I can bring something from the international ice to teach everyone else there.”

Glass (bottom right), who helped Canada end an eight-season gold medal drought at the World Junior Championships in 2005, helped Canada win another gold medal at this year's Spengler Cup.

Glass (bottom right), who helped Canada end an eight-season gold medal drought at the World Junior Championships in 2005, helped Canada win another gold medal at this year’s Spengler Cup.

Learn more about attending the same camp Glass, Bruins goalie coach Bob Essensa will be at

TO REGISTER AND GET MORE INFORMATION

Call or e-mail Chris Piku  (313-610-7700,   [email protected] )
Web site:   www.eliwilsongoaltending.com

About The Author

Cat Silverman

Catherine is the first American in a long line of Canadians, making her the black sheep before she even decided she wasn't going to be a Leafs fan. Writer for Today's Slapshot, InGoal Magazine, and Coyotes.NHL.com, coach in the Arizona Coyotes Department of Hockey Development. Goalies are not voodoo.