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Posted by on in Alexander

Recently I spent a bit of time with my son who works with the Blues in St. Louis. And, fortunately I was able to take in a couple of NHL games plus spend some time around the rink.

It’s been a few years since I saw a live game and it didn’t disappoint.
  Not surprisingly, today’s game is incredibly fast.  Speed of puck movement, shot speed & accuracy are all at the highest level.  However, what impressed me most was how quickly players & goaltenders make decisions and choose between the available options. 
 
I’m sure some of what I saw is a product of the player’s individual experiences moving up through the hockey system, but you must believe that the majority of what we see is a direct result of an incredible amount of time spent practicing their skills, off season training, hard work and time management.
  And, this applies not only to reaching the NHL but also to staying there.  
 
On the trip back home, I mused about what I had seen and wondered what the impact would be if every goaltender could see what goes into a “day at the office” for a professional goaltender.
  How many would commit, and dedicate the time & resources necessary to become the best they could given any physical limitations.
 
Understand, hockey must and should always be fun and up to the point of a goaltender’s teen age years. Throughout those times, it’s all about developing the basic physical and mental skill requirements of the position. But, at some point after, things need to change (the fun still needs to remain though) for anyone who aspires to play at the highest level they can.
  
 
However, after all my years of working with goaltenders, it totally amazes me the numbers that appear to have absolutely no idea what it takes to be an elite athlete, and, more importantly, who don’t take the initiative to research & understand how to become one. 
 
When you consider we live in the information age, it’s really no ones’ fault but theirs.
  Perhaps they are just among the “want to; would like to; wish I could” group.  Or perhaps they just “follow the crowd” thinking that, if everybody else is doing it, it must be right.  Still, it disturbs me to see the talent wasted needlessly.  

I say, take responsibility for your development! Carve your own path! Lead the way!

 
At about this time I can hear people saying how much you will need to “sacrifice”.  And I remember using that word in my last e-mail.  But on reflection, I now believe this word is totally overused when it comes to explaining what is necessary to become an elite or above average athlete.
  “You need to sacrifice to be the best” is absurd.  It is only a “sacrifice” if you are giving up something and are not completely committed to the task.  There isn’t any “sacrifice” involved if you make a choice about what you want to do and ‘go for it”.
 
At the end of the day, our choices define us and ultimately will determine the level to which we will rise.
  MAKE GOOD CHOICES! 

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Posted by on in Alexander

As we enter the first couple of weeks of hockey season, and now reflecting back on the tryout period prior to the season, it has probably been a stressful time for a lot goalies (and parents too)

And, I am sure, some of you didn't make the team you tried out for.  Believe me I've have personally experienced being cut and, recalling those days, it wasn't the most pleasant of times.  So, I thought I would pass on a little advice which I hope will help out a bit.

I know the first question that comes to mind, when it happens, is WHY?  Truth is, sometimes, it doesn't make a lot of sense, even when you get the answer.  Maybe it was just that the competition was really tough (a lot of exceptionally good goalies in your age group) or you didn't perform up to the expectation of the coaches or your skills were lacking.  Or maybe, "politics" came into play.  Maybe it was your demeanour, how you presented yourself in the net, your size or the coach just felt more comfortable (confident) with other guy (or girl)  Whatever the reason, you have to move on.  You can't hang on to the thought that the coach didn't like you or they didn't see you at your best or because you allowed fewer goals than the other goalie(s) you should have been selected.

Understand, that, unless we do fail from time to time, we will never become the best we can be.  Most top end athletes (goaltenders) will tell you that fear of failing is what has driven them to become successful.  And, they learned from the failing experience because they were able to "move on", understand their deficiencies, and vowed to work diligently on those to make the necessary corrections and improve.  And so, failing is a necessary part to improving your game.

So, what are YOU going to do about it.  The first thing you need to do is take an honest look at your game and identify the parts that need to be improved .  If you feel the need for outside help to do this, enlist a trusted coach to sit with you to make the review.  Just remember, if he/she are being  honest, you may hear things you don't want to hear.  However, if you REALLY want to get better, then the need for honesty.  During the review, identify 3 or 4 areas for improvement, put those into writing plus what you want to accomplish for each and how you plan to do it.  Again I highly recommend you enlist the help of a coach or your parents in the plan.  But remember it's YOUR plan and not the responsibility of Mom or Dad or a coach to lead you along.  They can help set you off in the right direction, but the ball (puck) is in your court when it comes to providing the motivation, dedication & hard work.  

If you truly WANT (not wish, like to, would be nice) to be a top end, above average or elite goaltender then it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to put in the work, provide the motivation and MAKE THE SACRIFICES necessary  No one else can do it for you!

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Posted by on in Alexander

Within the next couple of days or maybe, even already, you will be heading off to one of the most stressful times of the hockey season. ..........try-outs.  But, it need not be, (with the exception of the usual "butterflies") if you invest some time developing your own personal strategy.

First, you need to prepare for each ice session in the same fashion you would for any game.  Go through the same pre-game prep routine you always did during season.  (If you don't have one, contact me & I'll send you a sample)  As humans we all like things we are familiar with, so, by following the same pre-game routine & structure you always do, you will automatically feel more comfortable, at ease, & relaxed.

Secondly, in the heat of try-outs things are apt to go wrong (a puck hits your glove & trickles in; pucks goes in off defensman's skate; you lose your angle & goal is scored)  What you need do is NOT dwell on these, especially your mistakes.  If you do, it will only magnify the problem and hurt your confidence.  The more you dwell on an error or mistake, the more you will play trying to avoid making more mistakes.
You will play your best, if you continue to play through with the understanding that mistakes do happen.  It is human and all part of the game.  Focus on the positives of your performance and don't be afraid to take risks.

Here are a few other thoughts for you to consider:

- show you are motivated to make the team through hard work
- be enthusiastic & upbeat...a tryout is no place for negative talk or reactions
- don't be intimidated by others.  They may look relaxed & care free, but, on the inside, they are
just as nervous as you
- project a confident image...head up, shoulders square
- battle to stop every puck & never give up on a shot
- watch the body language...throwing your hands up on a goal, snapping your stick against the post, shrugging your shoulders or glaring at your defensman will NOT earn you "brownie" points
- DO NOT shoot pucks or go into some elaborate skating drill while waiting for your turn to receive shots.  Simply, grab a knee or move into a butterfly position & work on adjusting you upper body posture or hand positioning until your turn comes up - relax
- listen more than you talk 
- BE ON TIME - ALWAYS

A couple more pointers:
 

-        Be intense but under control

-        DO NOT attempt to change your game from how you did things all season just because you're in a try-out

-        Maintain puck focus when the puck is on your side of the centre red line even when you team mates have possession anywhere in your zone including behind the net

-        Never give up on a shot even in your “goaltending only” ice sessions

-        Give your best effort every game and practice

-        The number of goals you give up is not as important as HOW THE PUCK WENT IN

-        Stop all pucks you should; stop a few you should not

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Some time ago I happened upon an interview with the “mental skills coach” of the New Zealand “All Blacks” famous rugby team.

The article begins with the headline “Make Mental Strength Your Strongest Skill”.  In the article, he attributes the team’s phenomenal success, for the most part, to each individual’s “mental toughness”.   Understand that the “All Blacks” are a premier professional team (and so not unusual to find a “mental skills coach” as part of their staff).  But, when you think of the disproportionate amount of the time & effort we, as coaches, put into physical skill & technical development versus the time, on average, a goalie spends developing his/her mental skills it is easy it is to understand why many a goaltender can go through extended periods of time playing well below their capabilities if these skills are not developed.  I am not saying that better mental skill training and mental toughness is the answer to every goaltender’s performance issues, but, when you think of the number of above average skilled goaltenders who have never developed to their full potential because of lack of mental skills it is easy to understand how important these skills are for success.

The position of goaltender, has some unique pressures which very few, if any, who have not played the position fully understand or appreciate.  It is really the weight of expectations.  And is it a very, very heavy load.  But, fortunately, one that most goaltenders enjoy having the opportunity to play such an important role in the success of their team.

So, what really is “mental toughness”.  Mental toughness is described in the following as the capacity of an individual to deal effectively with stressors, pressures and challenges, and
perform to the best of their ability, irrespective of the circumstances in which they find themselves. 

Mental toughness is not something that everyone is born with.  It is developed over time and through experiences.  It is understanding that one must “stay the course”.  Giving in is not an option.
It is understanding what the reality of the situation is and exactly what your job is.  It is maintaining focus and dealing with one moment one after another & not getting ahead of yourself spending precious time & energy thinking of consequences.

In the “heat of battle” here are some quick things we can do when our “Mental Toughness” is challenged

  1. Let go of the miscue/distraction and stay in the present (park it!)
  2. Take a deep breath, relax your body part by part (I'm not one much for the "water bottle squirt" bit) and reset by recapping in your mind what happened and how you might have prevented it from happening (or not)
  3. Eliminate any negative thoughts & focus on the present

So how do we develop “Mental Toughness”

Well the first thing we need to do when we are faced with adversity is understand that by facing and accepting the challenge head on, we are strengthening our coping habit & developing mental toughness and our ability to deal with future adversity and, at the same time, develop our resiliency

Secondly, we need to just “get over it” and focus on the next challenge

And, thirdly, understand what we need to do in a physical sense & mental sense to meet those future challenges

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Posted by on in Alexander

Unfortunately, as you move up the hockey chain, it does matter.  Even, sometimes at the Minor Hockey level.  And, many of us are not as physically gifted as some of our counterparts.  However, don't despair.  There is plenty room at a lot of playing levels for the smaller goaltender beyond Minor Hockey or High School.  Generally there is still a place in Major Junior for smaller goaltender and most certainly the smaller goaltender can flourish at the Junior A or Junior B level. (our Director of Goaltending Development, David fashioned a successful Junior A career despite being just 5' 8")
 
Beyond that, CIS, NCAA, ECHL, AHL and European teams are options open to those who do not reach the "supposedly ideal" 6' 2" height for an NHL goaltender.  Understand, reaching the NHL is no easy task.  At any given time there are only 60 goaltenders playing there (62 next year when Las Vegas ice their team) and, literally, these come from every part of the world.  So, in reality your competition is not the kid on the next block or in the next town, but the kid playing minor hockey in Switzerland, or Germany or Russia.

So, here are some things you need to be to maximize your ability to compete at any level, no matter what your size:

- athletic (incredible agility, balance & coordination)
- an incredible skater (master at using inside edges to position, or reposition on skates or in lateral slide in and around the crease area)
- a student of the game (watches games observing player tendencies and play patterns and how shots are generated and from which locations in the defensive zone they originate)
- be excellent at reading the shot release (studies player shooting tendencies and able to determine height, velocity and shot location immediately as the puck is leaving the stick using complete puck focus)
- a master at staying up and on skates (is patient and confidently remains on skates and does not go down until the puck has left the stick)
- near perfect at positioning (must, must always have proper angle and depth on every shot and must arrive "on time" every time so feet are set and/or in proper position "BEFORE" the shot is released)

Hope this helps. 
Never give up. Work hard. Be the best you can possibly be every time you step on the ice and enjoy the game.

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Posted by on in Alexander

I am often asked; “What does it take to become a successful, top performing goaltender?”  Usually my first response is TIME, LOTS OF HARD WORK, PROFESSIONAL COACHING & LUCK followed by “the list is quite long, where would you like me to start?”  Sometimes the conversation ends there but not always.  Unfortunately, parents and goalies today expect immediate success & results.  It just doesn’t happen.

Here are SOME of the physical & intangible elements that go into a top performing goaltender from my perspective.

Physical Elements

Speed & Agility -  ability to start & stop, change direction & shift momentum all while maintaining good
balance
Leg & Lower Body Strength & Power -  explosive starts, sharp stops, hard slides & pushes.  Allows for smooth transition and body control from skates to pads & pads to skates and from side to slide in a lateral movements
Core Strength - well developed abdominals, oblique & back muscles for smooth, quick, efficient
movement in & around the net.  (Core muscles are the first to be activated when we initiate goaltending movements)
Quick Feet - speed of foot movement in and around the crease for single or multiple directional changes or save sequences
Flexibility - the ability to initiate movement outside the normal range of motion;  especially useful
in scramble situations or when caught out of position
High Fitness (Cardio) Level – above average anaerobic capacity and all round conditioning
Hand/Eye Coordination & great vision - ability to track pucks, read the shot release and co-ordinate limb & body movements to intercept the path of the puck effectively on every shot

Intangible Elements

Passion - a burning desire to be best  you can be and have fun doing it
Competitiveness - a willingness to compete hard to stop every shot every time you step on the ice
Mental toughness - able to handle the pressure of the position and the game, the ups and downs of sport, fatigue and injury
Work Ethic - willing to work hard at practice, and in games as well as in the off season to further develop skills and improve strength and conditioning
Character - a positive attitude on and off the ice; a team player;  accepts responsibility without placing blame; uncompromising integrity
Student of the Game - observes, asks questions and constantly strives to understand the elements of the position and the game
Ability to Adjust - able to make modifications to their game when necessary; a simple adjustment during a game or a long term commitment to change style or adapt to a new method in goaltending
Concentration - able to focus on what needs to be done and going out and doing it
Focus - able to "zone in" on the puck and find it through traffic under all types of circumstances; able to read plays and the puck off the stick
Preparation - understanding that good game preparation cannot be substituted; develops a pre-game routine that enables them to maintain a  high level of confidence and game focus
Resiliency – that “bounce back” ability after a bad game or goal
Habits – personal home & off ice habits that contribute positively to all these intangibles 

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Posted by on in Alexander

Just found this article in my "e-news" this morning & thought it would bear repeating.  I am not sure if I wrote this.  Unfortunately, if not, I have been unable to find the author.  So, for the moment, let's go with "Author Unknown" and if he/she turns up, proper credit will be given.

I have to say, after over 20 year of watching, coaching and involved the the sport of hockey, I am convinced that this article is "bang on".   For the most part goaltenders on Spring Teams are left to their own devices relative to any type of goaltending specific coaching during the "Spring Hockey Season" (which could consist of anywhere from 6 - 8 weeks of practices & tournaments).   I don't have any first hand experience of this, but I am told that goalies pay the same as any other player while sharing tournament games with a partner.   And lastly, let's not make any mistake here, the goal is "WINNING".  So, if one goaltender has even marginally better skills than his partner, who do you think will play the majority of important games in tournament play?

 

"As hockey has become a year round sport there has been much speculation that we are not developing well-rounded athletes and sport specific training and competition needs to be balanced. The theory is that a better athlete will make a better goalie down the road. Goalies sometimes have a large number of off-season tournaments to participate in that are exposure driven and goalies as well as parents feel compelled to participate because of the potential to be "seen".  But, on the other hand, the number of tournaments has grown dramatically lately and many feel the cost of participating and the time involved is not a positive trend.

There is a clear distinction between training and competition. Training programs offer goalies the tools to become better while exposure tournaments only give them the forum to demonstrate their skill.  Unfortunately, there is a distinct trend toward the latter and it is not only cutting into participation in other sporting activities but also the opportunity to develop better skills and all round athleticism. 
  
Many top end coaches from the professional ranks are recommending that all Minor Hockey players compete in other sports and are urging them to put the skates away to play lacrosse, tennis and soccer instead of going on the spring and summer “tournament circuit”. Of course the risk of following this advice is the multi-sport athlete who ends up underexposed and slipping through the cracks.

But, at the end of the day, with so many scouts & recruiters looking for talent, if you are deserved, they will find you."

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Posted by on in Alexander

This is the time of the year (mid-season) when most goaltenders look back (or should) at what they have accomplished to date; whether they have met our development goals, and, at the same time, begin to set goals and training objectives for the second half season. Although the following has been taken from a business model, we think it can easily be applied to goaltending. Keep these in mind as you move forward into the New Year. 

Here are a some keys to success:

1. Don't blame others for your problems. Rather, accept personal responsibility and move forward correcting the things that are within your control and accepting those that are not 

2. Don't engage in endless self-analysis and always questioning your abilities and self-worth. No one every enjoyed success dwelling on negatives

3. Have written goals with deadlines and a plan of action to accomplish them. There is something magic about writing things down

4. Manage your time effectively. You only have so many hours each day to accomplish what is important to you. Don't waste time

5. Don't keep repeating the same behaviour and expecting different results 

6. Take some time every day to celebrate you achievements (privately or otherwise)

7. Take the steps necessary to maintain a high level of energy - both physical and mental. Nutritious food, lots of rest, regular goaltending specific work outs & hydration

8. Don't give up to soon. Some of the world's most successful people are those who are the most persistent 

The key to positive results is to know yourself. The better you know yourself; your strengths, your weaknesses, your goals, what you are learning from your experiences, the more positive your development will become.

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Posted by on in Alexander

"10 Goalie New Year's Resolutions"

1. I will work hard to develop my "goaltending skating" so I can move quickly & easily into position in time to stop every shot
2. I will give my best in every game and never leave any game wishing I had worked harder
3. I will build my mental toughness so I do not get discourages by bad goals
4. I will improve my practice habits. My play in games will mirror how I practice and I will develop my best game habits in practice
5. I will accept responsibility for my play - good or bad
6. I will not lay blame with my team mates for goals that are scored even if they made the mistake
7. I will be a student of the game and always look to improve & work hard to develop my goaltending skills
8. I will be disciplined both on & off the ice and maintain emotional control at all times
9. I will practice good pre-game preparation so when I step on the ice, I am ready to compete
10. I will compete for every puck and never give up on a shot, no matter how impossible it might seem to stop it

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Posted by on in Alexander

In our last blog we talked brought up the topic of "net presence" and the impressions goaltenders give by their on ice demeanour. And we offered up a couple to tips as to how you might check on your own "net presence".

Today we are going to take a quick look at how to differentiate yourself from other goaltenders in your league/division and stand out from the crowd. Here it is worth repeating the comment often heard from recruiters and scouts...."at some point in time, they all look the same". So, here are just a couple of things that can help you not "look the same".

Become a better all round athlete - most pro goaltenders today are excellent athletes and some such as MA Fleury, Jake Allen, Jonathan Quick & Pekka Renne are exceptional. Being a better athlete will also improve your overall technical skills

Become better at puck handling - a goaltender who can handle wide rims and dump-in shots efficiently are worth their weight in gold and are a coach's dream.

Battle harder - put 100% effort into covering every loose puck; make the impossible save at least once per game

Calm & focused - remain calm and focused when confronted with adversity or when things become chaotic. No emotional ups & downs

Consistency - keep your play consistent throughout the entire game and from game to game

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Posted by on in Alexander

A couple of months ago I was at an evaluation camp as an interested observer. Because of the large number of goalies participating, there was a wide range of skills evident among them. Aside from the skill level, this one thing really stayed with me at the end of the day. It was the difference in "net presence" of each goalie and the perception it left with me.

A few goaltenders appeared nervous and "rattled" at times (and rightly so) while others over played shots and seemed to be continuously scrambling (perhaps in a little over their head) to maintain position. I saw goaltenders who continuously appeared "flat footed" and falling over backwards. At the same time others were calm and focused...and some, believe it or not, appeared disengaged or disinterested.

While I don't pretend to know what was going on in each goalie's head, I do know that each left me with a distinct perception based upon their appearance & (or lack of action). Interestingly enough, from experience I have seen a lot of goaltenders go through these phases from time to time. However, it is something we all should be aware of and really keep a constant check on ourselves so we are conscious of just what our body language reveals.

So, what should we take away from this? Well we need to understand just what image we project when we play. Do we appear confident, ready and capable, or the opposite? You might do well to view a self video and see how you stack up against other goaltenders in that regard. Or, elicit the help of an unbiased, reputable coach to give you an honest opinion of just how you project yourself in the net. Remember, perception is reality - to the observer. No matter whereor when you are playing, there is always someone watching. And, whether you are being evaluated, scouted or recruited, never underestimate the importance of your "presentation".

 

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Posted by on in Alexander

Frustrated when goals go in or you don't play up to your own expectations?

Here are a couple of things you might want to think about:

a. No one ever improved by "beating up themselves" internally. Negative thoughts DO NOT produce positive results. And, you are the only one who can control that "tiny, negative voice" inside your head. Every time a negative thought comes into your mind, REBOOT THE COMPUTER, and move on to something positive.

b. You will never play a "perfect" game. Your aim should be to play the best you can and help your team win, That is the bottom line. So, shift your focus away from the "you" and just do your job..stop as many pucks as you can, and continue to work to improve

c. Forget about statistics. Any coach, recruiter or scout worth his/her salt will tell you that statistics (especially goaltending statistics) never really tell the true story even at the Pro level because of the circumstances under which the goals were scored. (Quite frankly, who is going to remember that your save percentage was .914 during your last year in Bantam, High School etc. & secondly, who really cares)

d. One period, one game, one season does not define you as a goaltender. Your Hockey goaltending identity is made up of all the years you have played as you move up in age and playing level. You will not be cut from any team tryout because you had a couple of, so called, "bad games" in Pee Wee

e. Focus on the process of developing into a well rounded goaltender who has ABOVE AVERAGE TECHNICAL SKILLS, PLAYS WITH CONSISTENCY, IS MENTALLY TOUGH, BATTLES TO STOP EVERY PUCK NOT MATTER WHAT, WORKS HARD ON & OFF ICE AND HAS A POSITIVE ATTITUDE. Developing as a goaltender is a journey. It has many ups & downs. Mostly how you deal with those ups & downs will determine how far you travel

f. At the end of the day, don't be upset by the results you didn't get for the work you didn't do. IF YOU DON'T PUT IN THE TIME, DON'T EXPECT TO BE REWARDED

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Posted by on in Alexander

Beyond a certain level in hockey, all teams employ "systems". They are comprised of various defensive, attack & containment strategies designed to give one team an advantage over the other and subsequently produce a winning result. And again similar to "game plans" which we touched on last time, goaltenders have very little, if any, involvement in a team's "system".

So, does that mean that you, as a goaltender, should not have your own "system". Absolutely not.

Besides the obvious need for continuing technical and tactical skill development and improvement in areas where you have shortcomings, you really should have a systematic approach to your game outside the ice surface. Here is what we think a typical "system" might look like:

1. Stretch 6 days per week including before and after games and practices
2. Use a proven pre-game preparation prior to each game
3. Follow an in season off-ice training program – as prescribed by the team or a trainer/coach
4. Perform relaxation techniques (deep breathing) – 10 to 15 minutes every day
5. Practice mental imagery – before each game and at least two to three other time per week
6. Set a goal(s) – for each game & practice
7. Record practice notes (what went well, what didn't) after each practice
8. Record game notes (what went well, what didn't) after each game
9. Set medium and long range performance goals for your personal development

Perhaps there are some other things that could be added but these should be the very least if you are truly interested in path that leads you to play at the highest level based on your particular skill set.

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Posted by on in Alexander

For many years I have been involved with coaching and hockey teams, sometimes performing minor bench coach duties in addition to goaltending coach.

Inevitably, before each game or sometimes each period, head coach would present the "game plan". At levels beyond minor hockey, this would be done after the morning skate or at a pre game team meeting. Among the things covered in the "game plan" would be items such as forecheck, defensive zone coverage etc. Most times, if ever, were goaltenders part of the "plan". Obviously, being a unique individual position in a team sport, doesn't afford much opportunity to participate in the "team" play of the game.

But, now that I think back, it is perfectly logical for the goaltender to have his or her "game plan". Something defined which establishes what is a "rule of thumb" for dealing with different game scenarios or situations. Written and available to review by the goaltender prior to games or periods providing a "refresher" so to speak prior to the contest. Obviously, a great deal of a hockey game including the goaltending part is reacting to a particular set of circumstances. But, if you have a low risk "game plan" executed based on a set of circumstances, and which you have practised, your odds of success are far greater than if one just goes out and "wing it."

So, what would such a plan look like? Here is an example of some things such a "game plan" could cover off:

  1. back door plays
  2. deflections/tipped shots
  3. drop passes
  4. face off positioning
  5. retrieving & moving pucks
  6. odd man rushes
  7. one on one siutations
  8. breakaways
  9. penalty kill
  10. screen shots
  11. opposition traffic
  12. goal line attacks

This is not an all encompassing list but it does provide a great starting point. Besides the obvious benefits, making this a part of pre-game preparation (mental imagery) may also lead to improved anticipation skills.

 

 

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Posted by on in Alexander

Now that a new hockey season has begun and most goaltenders are in place with their respective teams it is not uncommon that many will have a different goaltending coach than at the summer camp you attended (if they did), and more than likely different from the previous season.

Sometimes he/she will want the goaltender to do some things differently than what they already do or have been taught to do. This is not uncommon. It is simply because each goalie coach his/her own preference of what is the correct way to perform a skill or correct way to deal with a particular game situation.

From our (Alexander Goaltending) perspective with respect to the technical parts of the game, there might be a couple of ways to achieve the same results. It doesn't necessarily mean one is right & one is wrong. Everyone has a different physical make up & capabilities. It is up to the coach to make the best use of those attributes the goaltender already has. We, as professional coaches, are entrusted to teach the technical skills of the position. However, at the same time it is our job to help our students understand why we suggest a particular method. At the end of the day we simply show an option for the goaltender's "toolbox". Which option they use and how they use it is always their choice. Hopefully, they choose what suits them best and that enables them to perform at the highest and most efficient level given their particular technical, physical and mental skills.

If a goaltender finds him/herself in a situation where they are being asked to do something goaltending related that they feel uncomfortable doing, they need to open a dialogue with the coach to try and understand where the issue is. Hopefully he/she is not looking to make changes just for the sake of change. The role of the goalie coach is really all about developing and improving skills, analyzing performance and solving performance problems. If a change to how a goaltender is doing something is being recommended, the question here should be "WHY"?. Why change? Is what I am doing holding back my development? Is my action (or non action) causing goals? How will it improve my performance? I am sure the competent coach will be able to show the goaltender how this change will/could work to their advantage and help them move forward to improve.

At the same time, however, we do feel it is incumbent upon the goaltender to, at the very least, give something new a try. Not to do so might be depriving him/her of an opportunity to improve and develop his/her game beyond where it is presently.

A good coach should always be able to answer the "WHY" question with a positive reply and back up their answer with examples or results.

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By USA Hockey
Mike Cavanaugh, the University of Connecticut men’s hockey head coach and one of the game’s top recruiters, believes that all college hockey coaches initially look for the same things in a recruit: “Skating ability, the ability to make plays and a high-grade hockey IQ.

Cavanaugh knows firsthand how to evaluate a college hockey prospect. Prior to taking the reins at Connecticut, Cavanaugh spent 18 years as an assistant coach and associate head coach at Boston College, during which time the Eagles won four national titles. In all, Cavanaugh helped groom 22 All-America selections and more than 30 NHL players. A large part of Boston College’s winning foundation was built on Cavanaugh’s ability to not only recruit premiere talent but also find premiere talent that fit his program’s culture both on and off the ice.

Cavanaugh will be the first one to tell you that college hockey recruiters don’t merely evaluate players’ on-ice skill set. To get a full evaluation of their true ability, potential and character, Cavanaugh considers a host of other factors, too.

We also look at little things like how good of a teammate the player is,” said Cavanaugh. “How well a player handles adversary and criticism and coaching is also very important.

Cavanaugh offers the following advice on what college coaches seek in prospective recruits:
Style of Play

I think it’s important that coaches recruit to the style of hockey that they want to play,” said Cavanaugh. There are 59 Division I hockey teams and all of them have varying degrees of team identity and playing style. “Union won the NCAA championship with fast and mobile defensemen like Mat Bodie and Shayne Gostisbehere,” said Cavanaugh. “The coach decides what style he wants to play and then recruits according to that model.

The Whole Game
When Cavanaugh watches a prospect, he judges the player’s entire game, not just the highlights. The player’s actions and reactions to negative and positive situations between whistles and on the bench are included in his evaluation, too. This is important for 14U/16U players to remember, because emotions can often run high and then swing low if they’re not in control.

I watch the player throughout the whole game,” said Cavanaugh. “We watch his body language on the bench. Does he try to lift up his teammates? How does he handle the coach’s criticism during the game? These are the things you can’t see on video.

Work Hard on the Ice and in the Classroom
At Boston College, renowned Eagles head hockey coach Jerry York has two basic principles for the foundation of the hockey program: Compete for championships and graduate players. Cavanaugh has carried this tradition with him to UConn.

When I recruit a player, I tell him that if they don’t want to go to class, they should go play major junior hockey,” said Cavanaugh. “If you’re going to come to UConn, I’m going to push you as hard in school as I do on the ice.

Cavanaugh truly believes that there’s a direct correlation between kids that do well in school and kids that succeed on the ice.

I know that the teams I coached at B.C. that won championships were always led by a senior class that had guys flirting with 3.0 GPAs or better,” he added. “I think as a hockey player, if you’re going to put the time and effort into school, hockey will be the fun part.

The Importance (and Unimportance) of Size
Cavanaugh also wants 14U/16U players to know that they shouldn’t be discouraged if they are smaller in stature.

If you’re good enough, you’re big enough,” said Cavanaugh.
He points to outstanding Boston College alums and current NHL players Nathan Gerbe (5-foot-5), Johnny Gaudreau (5-foot-9), and Brian Gionta (5-foot-7) as examples of players who were often overlooked because of their size but achieved great things through hard work and heart.

Parents’ Role
“The college decision is four years that will shape the next 40,” said Cavanaugh. “That should be the student-athlete’s decision. That being said, it’s important that the parents provide their child with a strong sounding board and guidance. They can express their opinion and present the facts. At some point in their life though, the child has to make decisions on their own.”

Cavanaugh illustrates this point by telling a story about the time he recruited a player for Boston College.

The player’s dad went to a rival alma mater and I assumed the dad would guide the kid to that school,” said Cavanaugh. “I was pleasantly surprised when the kid committed to B.C. Later on, the dad told me that the one phone call he never wanted to get was from his son asking him why he sent him to that school and not the one he really wanted to go to. That really shaped my views.

The One Constant
A true college hockey prospect is comprised of many desirable traits, but there is always one constant.

Work ethic is a given,” said Cavanaugh. “Everybody that plays for me works hard. I would think all 59 Division I coaches would say the same thing.

The Big Radar
Cavanaugh believes that there are many different paths that can lead to Division I opportunities for a 14U/16U player.

As long as players are dedicated and routinely practice their basic skills, play hard and act as good teammates, good things can happen for any player in any city. After all, college coaches have huge radars and they’re always looking for talented players.

I flew to Minnesota to watch a certain player,” said Cavanaugh. “But during the game, I noticed two outstanding players on the opposite team. I inquired with the coach of the two opposing players. We took another look at these two kids and really liked them. We recruited them and brought them out for a visit. We couldn’t figure out why these two kids weren’t being heavily recruited. Now, both Johnny Austin and Spencer Naas are on our UConn roster. It all worked out.

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The hockey year is generally broken down into 4 distinct seasons & normally described as:
In - season – regular season & playoffs
Post - season – recuperation time
Off - season – between post & pre - season
Pre - season - training camps, tryouts etc.

We, however, take the view that Off-season really should be renamed "The Most Important Season" Why? Because it can't be time "off" in the literal sense, if you are an advanced level goaltender. You will have practically 5 full months during "The Most Important Season" to retool, refine and develop your physical tools, mental skills plus make corrections to your on ice game at a goalie camp.

Those who succeed, will never pass up this opportunity. Depending upon your age, you may or may not need to train like a Pro, but, at the very least, you do need to engage in a proper fitness program that helps you become a better athlete & goaltender. Here is a short list of some of the basic elements you'll need to key in on during "The Most Important Season".

Speed & Agility: Allows you to start & stop, change direction & shift momentum all while maintaining good balance

Leg / Lower body strength & power: Gives you explosive starts, sharp stops, hard slides & pushes. Allows for smooth transition from skates to pads & pads to skates and from side to side laterally

Core Strength: Gives you well developed abdominal, oblique & back muscles for smooth, quick, efficient movement in & around the net. (Core muscles are first to contract when we initiate goaltending movements)

Quick Feet: Allows for speed of foot movement in & around the crease for single or multiple directional changes or save sequences

Flexibility: Gives you the ability to initiate movement outside the normal range of motion; especially useful in scramble situations or when caught out of position

High Fitness Level: Gives you great anaerobic capacity and all round conditioning

Hand / Eye Coordination: Gives you the ability to co-ordinate limb movement to intercept the path of the puck effectively on every shot

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Alexander Goaltending will reach another milestone in 2014 as it celebrates 20 years offering training to goaltenders from Atlantic Canada and beyond. With a philosophy of making each point of contact with the student a personal one & attempting to assist them in the pursuit of their passion, Alexander Goaltending has become a Goaltending School of Choice.

Their success is much accredited to the belief that the position their students have chosen to play is very individualized and, so, developing his/her own unique style within a structured base will produce optimum results.

For those of you who may not have yet heard about Alexander Goaltending, they offer summer day camps in Moncton & Fredericton plus holiday clinics, power skating programs & pre-season camps. In addition, they operate their "Net Results" training center, the only synthetic ice, goalie specific, training facility in Moncton. There, they offer weekly Training Sessions in a Semi-private setting during hockey season, and, Private, one to one training from September to June.

Each year well over 175 goalies train with Alexander Goaltending at their various camps & activities.

Company president, John Alexander states "at all of our activities we attempt to go beyond the participant's expectations by offering structured, well organized, professionally delivered programs that are reasonably priced. Our teaching staff come from the best young coaches available & our Director of Goaltending Development, David Alexander (Goaltending Coach Syracuse Crunch, AHL) oversees all of our curriculum. With almost all referrals coming from word of mouth, we are very aware of the importance of continuing to deliver the same top notch programs into the future as we have over the last 20 years"

Some recent Alexander Goaltending success stories:

Jake Allen - named to NHL all rookie team; signs 2 year contract with St. Louis Blues; named to AHL all-star team

Travis Fullerton – CIS National Champion; signs contract with Las Vegas Wranglers, ECHL

Fred Foulem – drafted into the QMJHL by the Bathurst Titan; named to Team Atlantic MU17; makes verbal commitment to attend Harvard

Ryan Hale - named to Fredericton Canadiens MMAAA; named to HNB U16 team

Tanner Somers - named to Miramichi Rivermen MMAAA ; named to HNB U16 team

Carly Jackson - named to Team Atlantic FU18 Hockey Canada National Championship; makes verbal commitment to attend University of Maine

As Alexander Goaltending celebrates their 20th year of working with goaltenders, they have planned many exciting events at their summer camps including prizes & giveaways. And, for everyone who signs on for the Total Goaltending Training Camps, an opportunity to win a prize that is every goaltender's dream.

2014 will prove to be an eventful year for Alexander Goaltending with more of the same plus a special guest or two at their Advanced Training Camps.

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The mental skill of maintaining focus or keeping you head in the game is probably as important as any physical skill a goaltender can possess. Lack of focus or losing focus during a game usually ends in negative results.Still, it is amazing how little time coaches and athletes spend on this important part of the athlete's tool box. I think most of us know of at least one goaltender who had incredible technical skills or who always performs exceptionally well in practice but, who seems unable to achieve the level of success you would expect based on their skill set. They just can't "zone in" when it counts or are easily thrown off their game with the slightest distraction.

Because the mental aspect of hockey occupies such a small, if any, portion of training and development, hockey athletes, in general, think, losing focus is something they can simply deal with spontaneously as the situation arises even if it is in the midst of a competition. But, very few, if any, athletes can do this on a consistent basis. For most, it will require a great deal of repetitive preparation and an understanding that, this, like any other goaltending skill or technique, must be learned and practiced. And, the earlier in an athlete's career he/she understands this, the better their chances of playing up to their full potential along the way.

Understand that maintaining focus during competition starts long before game time. A good, solid pre-game prep, which may include relaxation techniques, visualization or positive affirmations is a great place to start. This, along with a physical pre-game preparation such as a Dynamic Warmup will set the tone and provides a grounding base for every game.

Since we are creatures of habit, a positive pre-game preparation gives a goaltender a familiar starting point game in and game out. If they follow that up with a consistent routine of a few confined space skating drills immediately as he/she steps on the ice, he will now own a consistent and familiar, game approach that will help him start every game in a relaxed, positive state.

So how can he/she stay relaxed, positive and focused during the game? The best advice I can give here is, they have to learn to play, and be, in the moment. Because, if they spend any amount of time, during competition, thinking about incidents that have gone past or which, they anticipate, may happen in the future, they are just wasting valuable energy and opening themselves up to become distracted. Make no mistake, many thoughts will flow through a goaltender's mind during a game.

The idea for them here is to learn to only focus on things they can control....for example (reactions, performance). Things they think and feel. If you can't control it, why think about it. Whether it is a bad call by the ref, team mate error, or even a goal scored (good or bad). Whatever transpires, they cannot allow themselves to dwell on these or other distractions or they run the risk of become completely sidetracked, perhaps even anxious, upset or even angry and lose their composure.

So what can he/she do if they lose focus. One quick way to refocus is to develop a bit of a ritual much like a pre-game prep that will bring them back to a "comfort zone". They can pause and reflect on the thought or incident for a moment, do a quick mental review of the event and release it from their mind as they takes a quick skate to the corner, a drink from the water bottle or flip up their mask. (Watch most pro goaltenders and what they do to refocus after a goal is scored to see what I mean) Some goaltenders will simply pause, take a deep breath and use key words or phrases under their breath to refocus. Some such phrase used over time can become an excellent trigger to clear the mind of unproductive thoughts and refocus.

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  1. I will work hard to develop my "goaltending skating" so I can move quickly & easily into position to stop every shot
  2. I will give my best in every game and never leave any game wishing I had worked harder
  3. I will build my mental toughness so I do not get discourages by bad goals
  4. I will improve my practice habits. My play in games will mirror how I practice and I will develop my best game habits in practice
  5. I will accept responsibility for my play - good or bad
  6. I will not lay blame with my team mates for goals that are scored even if they made the mistake
  7. I will be a student of the game and always look to improve & work hard to develop my goaltending skills
  8. I will be disciplined both on & off the ice and maintain emotional control at all times
  9. I will practice good pre-game preparation so when I step on the ice, I am ready to compete
  10. I will compete for every puck and never give up on a shot, no matter how impossible it might seem to stop it
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