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Inside Look at Goalie Development in Sweden

Inside Look at Goalie Development in Sweden

Magnus Olsson Swedish GoaliecoachThis guest article is from Swedish Goaltending coach Magnus Olsson, the owner of Blue Crease Goaltending, a Reebok/CCM sponsored goaltending school in Sweden. Olsson is also the goaltending coach for the Malmö Redhawks major junior team for the upcoming season, and continues to do some development camps for the Swedish Ice Hockey Association.


Much as described recently here at InGoal about coaching goaltenders in Switzerland and many other European countries, Swedish youth organizations are affiliated with professional teams. Kids can grow through the different age levels and even continue with the professional teams if they are strong enough.The Swedish Elite League (SEL) also have youth teams who wear the same jerseys and (most often) play in the same rink. This is usually very inspiring for the young players as professional hockey is very close and they get to watch the players practice and play games.

A lot of the well-structured clubs in Sweden provide a goalie coach but far from all of them. In the well-organized clubs there are 1-2 goalie sessions per week. This is a practice with goalies (and shooters) only. The goalies work on the different technical aspects of the game and also some off-ice training is involved.

The Swedish Ice Hockey Federation

The Swedish Ice Hockey Association (SIHA) does a great job of spreading the message of proper goalie-coaching. There are a number of books and DVDs that are constantly updated and new pages are added to the already existing books. The purpose is to reach out to a large number of coaches and make goalie techniques available for as many parents, goalies and coaches as possible. If you want to learn more about goaltending you don’t have to look far.

The Swedish Goaltending Manual

The Swedish Goaltending Manual. Click to go to original documents (in Swedish).

Sweden is a rather small country with about nine million people. We try to use it to our advantage. It´s realtively easy for coaches to meet and learn from each other. New techniques and ideas travel quickly through within the goalie coaching union in Sweden.

The atmosphere between goalie coaches here is very good. Most coaches are willing to share ideas and information. Some coaches compete during the season but also learn from each other. This is a huge part of the development.

SIHA offers a goalie coaching certification as well as goalie coaching clinics.

The certification has six different levels. It includes basics, on and off-ice instructions, mental aspects of the game and also discussions and presentations. There are also coaching clinics. In February of 2012, SIHA arranged a clinic at The Globe Arena in Stockholm and more than 100 coaches attended. There were coaches from all different levels as well as the SEL and the national teams. This was a great forum for coaches to get to know each other, ask questions, and exchange information.

As a follow up to this four local clinics were arranged. Each one of those clinics had roughly 40-60 coaches in the attendance. The purpose of this was to create discussions and get many different views of goaltending from around the country.

Hockey in School

Sweden doesn’t have college hockey or high school hockey like the United States or Canada.

The players represent their hockey club and that´s where they get most of the practice and games. A few years ago some schools started to offer hockey as a part of their curriculum. The players leave school for a few hours in the morning to practice hockey with an assigned coach from a hockey club. After the practice they go back to school and continue their education. This system is called ”The students choice” and students can also choose from other sports, art, languages and much more.

In Sweden grade 10-12 is called “gymnasium,” which might be a bit confusing to Americans and Canadians. Some swedish gymnasiums offer hockey to the students. Usually you practice in the morning and then you go to school. At night you practice with your team. This gives the players quite a lot of ice time. The amount of practice is very different. It depends what school you go to.

Goalie Camps

There are many independent goalie schools in Sweden. In the summertime you have a lot of summer camps to choose from and some also offers clinics during the season. The summer camps are traditional Monday-to-Friday camps and the smaller camps during the season are usually one or two days. Private training with one to three goalies on the ice is still pretty rare. It´s still hard to find free ice time in Sweden due to the small number of rinks. Usually the rinks are occupied by teams or figure skaters until very late.

When should kids be put in goalie training or camps? I say as soon as he/she wants to be a goalie full-time. If you have a goalie coach who really knows what he or she is doing and emphasizes the fun and the passion of the position, the goalies can be exposed to goalie-specific training at a very early age. It´s all about adjusting the training to the age group you are working with.

Personally, I have different curriculums for different age levels. The youngest groups don´t always do the same things as the middle or older groups. In my playbook juniors have one “plan” and older goalies have another. Even within the “plan” it´s possible to adjust to the student you work with. I don’t force certain techniques on my goalies. It has to come from within. I want the goalie to be very aware of his game and come up with solutions that suits him or her.

“To play from within” and communicate with the goalie coach is extremely important for goalie.

Goaltending Styles

swedish style imageI want to say there is no Swedish style of goaltending, although I find we tend to head towards too many blocking saves and lose some of the athleticism. There is already an ongoing discussion on how we get the active hands and athleticism back into the game here.

You almost never see a goalie coach who forces techniques on a goalie. The key word is communication. Like I said before, the preferred techniques and saves have to come from within the goalie. The goalie coach is there to help out with suggestions, correct and give feedback to the goalie.

If the goalie isn’t sure on what to do in a situation this is also the coaches job to come up with ideas.

When you work with young goalies this is different. The youngsters need to try a wide base of save techniques and other tools. The skills we work on with young goalies:

  • Crease movements. Standing up as well as butterfly slides.
  • Different kinds of saves and when to use them.
  • The combination of blocking and reacting. When to use the proper technique?
  • Vision and puck tracking.
  • Stickhandling.

As you get older you are encouraged to find your own style and what works for you.

The goalie has to spend time and figure out what works and what doesn’t.

“Be aware of your game.”

About The Author


  1. Paul Ipolito

    Thank you for the information, but I am starting to think this discussion may be going a little over the top. Goaltending is goaltending is goaltending be it Swedish, Finnish, Canadian, Italian or Martian. The CHL has panicked and now the sky is falling on North American goalies? Rubbish! Everybody needs to get a grip and relax. Stop looking for the magic potion to develop goalies and get back to the basics. Get your young goalies outside playing some soccer or riding bikes. There will be unintended consequences from the panic mode. There always are. We are going to end up making kids hate the idea of being a goalie as we wring out the creativity inherent in the position.

  2. Magnus Olsson

    I hear what you are saying and there is no magic behind it. Just hard work and using methods that work.
    Sweden updated the curriculum a number of years ago and it has really paid of. At the same time we need to make sure as many youngsters get proper training as soon as possible.

    • Paul Ipolito

      Magnus- My reply was a bit shrill and it was certainly not directed at you. The Sweden and Finland model is outstanding and certainly works as it is intended. It is about time that North America wakes up to the fact we are shortchanging our goalies.I cannot speak to the Canadian method, but it is obvious there is room for improvement. The American model promoted by USA Hockey should be the next target. I believe that American goalies become successful in spite of the USA Hockey efforts and not as a result of anything they offer. I have gone through two levels of USAH Certification and the goalie instruction is pathetic. The USAH website section dedicated to goaltending has not been updated in at least three years. The only goalies that get any benefit from the USAH model are the super-elites that get invited to the National Team Development program. The thousands of other goalies at House and Travel levels are pretty much on their own.

      • Pat Gaffney

        Paul, both your comments represent my own feelings very well and my experience has shown that your assessment of USA hockey’s goalie development “model” is bang on.

        It DOES make me chuckle to suddenly learn there is a North American goalie “crisis.”

      • Alba

        I agree with Paul. USA Hockey is just not there with goalie development.

  3. Gary

    Here in Canada, the goalie schools focused too much on the blocking techneque and no work on reactions or reading the play. We have schools that teach the blocking and not much else, because it will give almost immediate success. They give almost no in practice teaching or game teaching is given over the season, which is pivitol to developing young goalies.

    Yes it is a crisis and Hockey Canada has not shown the leadership in helping to move forward until lately. All they did was become more protectionist and bar import goalies from the CHL. There is almost no high end coaching clinics avalible from Hockey Canada or in my province. It would be great to see this kind of coaching clinics simaler to Sweden.

    There is also a very confrontational attitude in some hockey organizations, where good coaches are not given the chance to shine and move up. They are not there to work towards the higher level but only for themselves.


    • Jamie Austin

      Nice to see that my thinking and observations are not unique to myself and the issues I see are not unique to the organization my sons play in.

      Well said Gary, I couldn’t agree more!

    • Jason

      Gary, I somewhat agree with what you are saying. Goalie styles are as different as every goalie out there. The key item that I like about this article is the discussion with the goalie on how they think that they should make the saves. Many goalie schools in NA have a teaching style, and they stick to it, unfortunately. However, the issue that I have is that Goalie parents already have the burden of extreme equipment costs, and currently there is no training for these goalies at the minor hockey level. Parents are forced to pay yet again for private development sessions, since there is no guidance at the association levels. Coaches do not know how to coach goalies, nor do they plan time in their practices to focus on goalie development. Evidence of this is the whistle intervals for shots; goalies don’t have the time to develop good habit for following their rebounds before another shot comes. There needs to be a serious overhaul of this system.

    • Richard St-Onge

      There has always been and still is an issue with politics in hockey. Nothing has changed. I still see of power hungry organizers and directors at the lowest levels trying to back stab others in hopes of gaining grown and authority for themselves. It’s a sad scenario.

      Québec province, since having been dubbed the Butterfly capital of the goaltending world, the thought of developing or even looking outside of this style or concept has been frowned upon. Despite this you’ll have the team coach tell you “yeah, little Johnny spends too much time on his knees”, but the style keeps being sold to the masses.

      Another problem is that a good number of goalie schools are more or so cash crop institutions “the more the better $$$” which is not the way to go. The quality of instruction suffers as does the student’s performance. The 1 on 1 coaches are far and few apart (I’m one of them) and get no support from the provincial or national organizations.

      North America hasn’t fallen off, we just got too comfy in our chair to notice that things were changing and that we needed to upgrade the tool box.

  4. James

    Is there a way to get a copy of the Swedish Goaltending Manual in English? I’ve been spending the last few hours translating, this could save me a few more hours!

    • paul ipolito

      James- I’ll venture a guess that you already know most of what is in the manual. What would be new would be the “gloves out” regimen and the emphasis on being an athlete versus a goalie.

  5. Al

    Most coaches in the United States could give a rat’s *** about goalie development. Most don’t make an effort to learn anything about the postion. They see that the puck went in the net and blame the goalie. In most cases, as a defenseman coach explained to me, there are at least two things that went wrong (not of the goalies doing) before the puck ended up in the back of the net. My son was lucky to have a goalie coach at the youth level. He played one year of Junior Hockey and not one of the teams he was on worked on any goalie development skills during practice.

  6. Jamie Austin

    I can relate to Paul’s comments on June 24. Our centre in Ontario Canada is sorrily lacking in quality goalie coaching. They are some around but most goalie parents I have talked with mostly complain about the difficulty in getting readily available, regular, quality coaching for their kids. I have to drive for almost 1 hour to get regular high quality coaching for my son. Many teams below the AAA level in our centre do not utilize goalie coaches on a regular basis (once or twice a month). They wouldn’t dream of doing that with their offense or defense units. Then the team expects the goalies to bail them out when all else fails!
    It is interesting that Magnus is looking to bring back creativity and athleticism into goal tending. My own son has played for several years now at the AA level and has often been criticized for his athletic style by some Rep. Head Coaches. He has been compared to Tim Thomas and Martin Brodeur! Not a good thing, I guess! They often want size first, even if there is very little ability to move to go with it. I have often watched Coaches of young teams try and teach Atom goalies to play like they are 6′ tall!
    I am just trying to illustrate (not rant about) the often out of date thinking of the non-goalie coach and how it hinders their teams, and the development of young goalies that are hungry for the skills and knowledge to improve. I think more emphasis needs to be put on young goalie development the way it is for their teammates.

  7. Alex Breck

    Could some suggest for me good Swedish goalie coach in US?