There are many debates right now about athleticism vs technical strength, Scandinavian vs North American training. Who is doing it right? Where are the best goalies made?

In Finland they currently follow the basis of a 30 year old program that has evolved over three decades to produce what is thought of as the top global goalie development program. I have personally been to Finland multiple times and witnessed their training regime first hand. Each club and individual team from initiation to professional have a specific development model centred on technique, athleticism and quickness. There is continual feedback and training for all goalie coaches in each club. The Fins have a hierarchy of goalie coaches who work within each club. Each goalie coach has an outline from the national program that they personalize to each individual goalie.

Picture taken during the annual Goaliepro camp that is held every June at Espoo, Finland. (Source: www.goalies-only.com/2013/09/not-just-a-camp-place-to-learn-finnish-goaltending-secrets/)

Thomas Magnusson (Sweden Hockey Instistute) works with Linköpings HC goalie Marius Hagberg. (Laura Leyshon for the Globe and Mail, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/the-decline-of-canadas-goalies/article15786050/?paged=2)

In Sweden they are just over 10 years into their own goalie development evolution. Having had the pleasure of talking with the head of Swedish goalie development, I have been advised that they are focused on developing national coaching structure and communication among goalie coaches. Sweden is thought of as the up and coming goalie development nation. The Swedes feel at this point it is most important that every club and team have a goalie coach trained through the national system. The national training system is divided into four tiers. Tier 1 goalie coaches are trained how to develop U12 and younger goalies. Tier 2 goalie coaches are able to train U14 to U16 level goalies as well as youth. Tier 3 goalie coaches act as the head of goalie development with individual clubs and are able to coach at the U18 level and above. Tier 3 coaches are also groomed to coach at the national junior level. At this time there is only one Tier 4 goalie coach in Sweden and he is the person who has initiated and implemented their entire system. The Swedish National Goalie Training Program has developed a foundation for all coaches to follow regarding goalie development but they do not have a firm stand on advanced technique at this time.

In North America we are constantly debating the chicken and egg theory of what makes the best goalie. Is it better to cultivate the athlete first or the goalie? We believe that we have the best goalie minds available but we lack a consistent and unified goalie development program. In North America we have the most goalie coaches per population of goalies but our biggest issue is an oversaturation in major hockey metropolitans, where in more remote markets goalies are left wanting. If we take the best from Sweden and Finland it is that they have a focused, consistent and unified approach to goalie development. They have provided a qualified goalie coach to every hockey team, they also allow for ample development time, especially at the youth level with minimal competition (games) and three to four training sessions per week. Training sessions are either on or off the ice, where the goal is the holistic development of the athlete. Many argue that there are too many coaches in North America to unify, but truly the issue is that there are too many egos.

Canada’s Sidney Crosby scores on U.S.A. goalie Ryan Miller for the game-winning goal in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. (Chris O’Meara for The Associated Press) )

 Hockey Canada has begun to take steps in the right direction with the development of the level 1 goalie development program. The plan is to build a system combining the Finnish and Swedish development models that they have been kind enough to share. Currently Hockey Canada is creating a foundation in development that all goalie coaches are to follow and to help head coaches incorporate goalie training in their season plans. The goal is to create an 80/20 system, where 80% of what young goalies learn is consistent and specific as dictated by Hockey Canada. The 20% is left up to the individual coaches to allow for uniqueness and creativity.

Where do we go from here? Can Hockey Canada or USA Hockey create a program that creates unity among the many coaches? Hockey Canada is having trouble naming provincial development leads, where USA Hockey is struggling to identify goalie resources outside of the traditional hockey markets. There will be many elite coaches who continue to produce significant research regarding “The Best Way to Develop Goalies” but until we are able to create unity among the many coaches and provide a quality goalie coach to the majority of our goalies we will always be behind our friends in Europe.

Matthew Bourgeois

Director of Scouting and Goalie Development
Absolute Goaltending
905 404 6453

 

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