Tryouts: Work Smarter

Hey Guys,

It’s starting to get a bit warmer outside, and for most minor hockey teams, the season is winding down. Hopefully you all created some great memories and had lots of fun this season. I know some of my goalies had greats seasons, and I’m very proud of all their hard work this year. It won’t be long now before the focus will shift to tryouts. It’s amazing how quickly it seems to come once the season finishes. Invariably, every  year I get the same question: “what are coaches looking for when I try out?” The answer is, hopefully several things. Having been on both sides of this question, let me break down how I look at goalies during tryouts.

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  1. Skating – I cannot emphasise enough how important skating is to a goalie’s game. I look for the obvious things like balance and speed, but I also look for the subtle things like precision. Does the goalie hit their spot every time, square and with good depth, in their stance? Are they leading with their head, eyes, and stick blade as they move? Can they stay in a position to react throughout their movements, or does it take them some time to get set? If you focus on developing your skating, your whole game will improve.
  2. Puck Control – If you’re trying out to play on a rep level team, I assume you’re already skilled enough to stop the puck. Most average goalies can get some body part in the way of a shot. What sets elite level goaltenders apart is that they control the game by controlling where the puck goes after they save it. Goalies who are putting rebounds out into scoring areas give coaches fits. Work on deflecting low shots into corners and holding onto anything in the top 2/3 of the net.
  3. Stop the Puck – At the end of the day, just like any other job, results matter. You can be the best looking goalie on the ice, but if you can’t keep the puck out of the net, it’s going to be tough to make a case to keep you. Just focus on being solid. Make the saves you’re supposed to make, and don’t worry about being flashy. Nothing is more frustrating than a goalie who makes the big windmill glove save, only to let in the next easy shot along the ice.

Those are the biggest elements I look for when evaluating goalies. Obviously there are other skills such as puckhandling that are certainly nice to have, but it’s the goalies who are great at the basics who really excel.

With that in mind, make use of all the ice time you have leading up to tryouts to get better at the foundational skills of the game. Be hard on yourself in drills. Don’t let any of the details slide.

When the tryout comes around, be confident and trust your preparation. Only worry about what you can control, and trust that the coaches will see your attention to detail.

Good luck! See you at the rink.

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Schedule Page

Hey Guys,

In my last post I mentioned I would be publishing a schedule so you could check my availability and keep on top of any clinics or camps we’re doing. That page is now live and can be found here or at the top of the home page.

That’s all for today. I hope everyone had a good weekend. Let’s start the week off with a bang! Whether you planned to or not, get a good workout in today and set the tone for the week. Your body will thank you.

Talk soon,

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Update: The Last Few Months

Hey Guys,

I didn’t realize how long it had been since my last update! When I started this site, I made a commitment to myself that I would not post fluff content just for the sake of posting on a schedule. That being said, I should have given some more attention to this side of things.

Over the last few months a lot has changed for me, both personally and professionally. My wife and I moved into a new house in a new neighbourhood, which we are enjoying immensely. I’ve completed additional education on the subject of nutrition to allow me to help my clients to make positive changes in that aspect of their life as well. You can try to build a body that’s a “Ferarri” but if you don’t have the necessary fuel in the tank, you won’t be going anywhere. I’ve also revised the system and methodology I use to track and progress my athletes. Our athletes are taking huge strides in their games this season as a result of their hard work towards the end of the summer and into the year.

I’m happy to say that I’m involved in a number of minor hockey organizations around Windsor and Essex County once again this year. In the coming days I’ll be putting up a calendar of events on this site to keep you updated on where I am and what clinics will be available to everybody.

On that note, we’re currently halfway through our In-Season Development Clinic at PowerTech. I’m really excited about the success this group of goalies is having. We’ve got some beginners who are laying the best possible foundation to grow their game, and are becoming solid young goaltenders. We’ve also got some more advanced goalies who are sharpening their basic tools, and learning some more advanced skills in order to take their game to the next level and separate themselves from the competition.

I’ll be making a post to let everyone know before the next round of clinics gets started so that you can be in the next group of goalies to make this year your best season yet!

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Take Some Time Away

Hi Guys,

It feels like summer is flying by. Our first round of summer camps at Powertech just wrapped up last week, and the second set is set to start next week. For me personally, I’ve been coaching almost nonstop since the beginning of last season. You know that feeling when the days start to blend together and you’re not really sure where one week ends and the next begins?

I know some of you guys are in a similar situation. You played a long season; maybe you made it deep into the playoffs. Then once you finished you may have played spring hockey in a league or tournament team. After that, summer camps were about ready to begin. See where I’m going with this?

I got to the point where I knew if I didn’t take some time for myself, to get away from the rink and the gym, the quality of my work would suffer. I wouldn’t be able to maintain that same level of passion and focus.

So I took off. I certainly could have had a full coaching and training schedule if I had stayed, but it wouldn’t have been the best thing for me or for the people who entrust me with their health and wellness or their development. Now I know that when I get back, I’ll be recharged and ready to give my best again.

I would encourage you guys to think about your game this way as well. More is not always better. Even the best players in the world take some time at the end of their seasons to rest and recover from the grind of the year. It’s essential for your mental and physical wellbeing. You don’t have to take a vacation to the other side of the world, but ensure you have time away from the game. Hockey shouldn’t feel like a chore.

As for me, I’m enjoying my time down here in South Carolina, right on the coast. I’m enjoying waking up with the sun and having nothing on the agenda. It’s about 100 degrees outside but the breeze off the ocean feels great.

Back at it soon.

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How They Got Here

Hey everyone,

The NHL Playoffs are in full swing at this point! At the time I’m writing this post, the Eastern and Western Conference Finals have both been incredible series’.With this in mind, I wanted to take the opportunity to have a look at the four starting goaltenders left in these Playoffs, and have a look at the unique paths they took to get to where they are now. Here they are, in no particular order.

Brian Elliot- St. Louis Blues

NHL: FEB 16 Stars at Blues
16 FEB 2016: St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) as seen during the NHL game between the St. Louis Blues and the Dallas Stars at the Scottrade Center. (Photo by Jimmy Simmons/Icon Sportswire)

Brian Elliot went undrafted in the OHL and instead played Junior A hockey in Ajax. After a solid season, Elliot was drafted 291st overall in 2003 by the Ottawa Senators. He was the 2nd last pick of the entire draft, taken in a round that no longer even exists. He chose to go to university, and served as the backup for his first two seasons before winning the starting position, and having two standout seasons for the University of Wisconsin. He was offered an AHL contract by the Binghamton Senators, and earned AHL All-Star honours. He eventually earned a shot with Ottawa, and made the most of his opportunity, earning a full time NHL job. He was traded to Colorado in 2011, where he struggled, and was not offered a contract. The following summer, he was signed by the St. Louis Blues. He hasn’t looked back, earning two NHL All-Star appearances and holding onto the starting position despite runs at the job from two solid goalies in Jaroslav Halak and Jake Allen.

Martin Jones – San Jose Sharks

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Jones also went undrafted in the NHL after two seasons as a backup goalie for the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL. He went to the Los Angeles Kings rookie camp as a free agent, and made the most of his opportunity, with the Kings signing Jones to a 3 year contract before sending him back to the Hitmen. Following his junior career, Jones spent most of his first 3 seasons in the AHL where he put up excellent numbers, finally earning a backup role before being traded to the Bruins and then, later that same day, to the Sharks. This season, he has led the Sharks to the Conference Finals, defeating his former team, the Kings, and a formidable Nashville Predators team along the way.

Ben Bishop- Tampa Bay Lightning

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Chicago Blackhawks
Oct 5, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop (30) tends net against the Chicago Blackhawks during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Despite being drafted in the 3rd round by the St. Louis Blues and being considered a top prospect, Ben Bishop struggled to develop in the first several years of his career. He ultimately earned the backup job in 2012 but was traded later that year to the Ottawa Senators. He was not in Ottawa for long, being traded to Tampa Bay at the deadline of that season. Since coming to the Bolts, Bishop has solidified himself as a premier goalie, leading the Lightning to the Stanley Cup Finals last year.

Matt Murray – Pittsburgh Penguins

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Murray was taken in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft. He quickly became one of the top goaltending prospects in the league, setting an AHL rookie record for shutouts (10) and a league record shutout streak of 304 minutes and 11 seconds. Since then he has excelled at the NHL level whenever he has had the opportunity. Starting the final 9 games of the season in place of an injured Marc-Andre Fleury, Murray has been a rock for the Penguins in the post season with a playoff GAA of 1.74 and a save percentage of .939. Fleury is now healthy, but the run Murray is on has given the Penguins no reason to make the switch in goal just yet.

The common theme amongst all of these goaltenders is that they’ve all gone through periods of adversity. Whether it was having periods of poor play, getting passed on by a team, or having someone with more experience ahead of them on the depth chart. The other thing that they have in common is perseverance. It would have been very easy to give up on their goals during these tough times, but instead of giving up, they chose to work harder. As a result, when the opportunity came to show what they could do, they were ready for it.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a roadblock is the end of the road. There will always be a way around it, or through it. Take adversity as a challenge and use it to inspire you to work harder than you ever have.

As you enjoy watching some awesome playoff hockey over the next few weeks, keep in mind that, just a few years ago, some of these goalies did not even have a team to play on. Now they’re each 8 wins away from winning the Stanley Cup.

What can you do TODAY that will put you one step closer to your goal? What bit of adversity can you draw inspiration from to bring out the best in yourself? The season is only a few short months away. Take that inspiration, and make the next season the best you’ve ever had!

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What’s Next?

Hey guys,

Spring is officially here! I don’t know about you guys, but this is my favourite time of year. Minor hockey season is wrapping up, just in time to be home in the evenings to watch the NHL playoff push. It’s starting to get warmer, which means fun outdoor things like baseball or golf or soccer (I guess, if you like that sort of thing).

Spring also means one more important thing is coming along. Tryouts. As if the grind of the season wasn’t enough, now you’ve got to hit the ice again in hopes of either moving up a level or keeping your job from last year.

Remember, there are no guaranteed spots. There’s always somebody after your position. What you decided to do (or not do) in the month or so between the season ending and tryouts could very well make the difference between making a team or having to listen to that “better luck next year” talk. In an earlier post, we talked about having a plan to take care of our body over the course of the long off season, but what about our on-ice, goalie specific skills that we’ve worked so hard to fine tune over the course of the year?

I’ve done many tryout evaluations in the past, and I can say for sure it was pretty easy to pick out the goalies who hadn’t been on the ice since their seasons had ended. Their footwork was sloppy and their reactions were slow. I’ve seen some very good goalies be released in favour of goalies who may have been less talented, but had invested in getting better leading up to tryouts. They were rewarded for their effort.

So what should you do? Some goalies choose to play in spring tournaments or 3 on 3 spring leagues, and those are fine to have some fun and make new friends, but if you’re looking to improve your game and get better as a goaltender, you’ll want to be in a more controlled environment with a qualified coach who can objectively assess your game, and work on the areas you need the most improvement.

The weather is getting warmer and tryouts will be here before you know it. Don’t wait until it’s too late to decide you want to be the goalie that gets noticed during tryouts. Make the investment today in yourself and your game, so you can walk into tryouts confident, knowing you’re the most prepared goalie in the room.

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P.S. If you’re in the Windsor-Essex region and you want to go into next season with no holes in your game, contact me and we will put together a bulletproof development plan for you!

Shrinking Goalies…Again

Hey guys,

Last week, former NHL goalie and current Sportsnet analyst Corey Hirsch did a segment on goalie equipment worn today, and outlined ways he thinks it should change in order to increase the number of goals scored in a game. The argument is that goalies wear more equipment than they need to, in order to increase the amount of area they take up in the net. While it may be true that goaltenders in the past have looked for ways to get the extra advantage when it comes to their gear (look at some old pictures of Garth Snow), every piece of goal equipment now is held to a league-wide standard.

Following the last lockout, goalies made concessions on the size of their gear. The pads and gloves were made smaller, as well as a few other changes to how the pads could be worn etc. As a result, goalies took up less room in the net, as the league wanted, and you would think this would have led to an increase in scoring. Except it didn’t. Goalies were now lighter and faster than they had been in years, and scoring continued to decrease. That’s what has sparked the recent debates about making the net bigger.

I don’t believe the NHL is going to change the size of the net. It is too fundamental a part of the game. However I do believe more changes are coming, inevitably, to the size of the goalie gear. If you watch the segment by Hirsch, some of the changes he outlines would leave goalies exposed in areas that I believe are a safety concern, such as the shoulders with the removal of the shoulder flap, and the knee with his proposed shortening (even more) the height of the thigh rise. There are some points that are worth exploring though. I think the size of the goal pants is something that can be addressed without risking injury to the goalie. I also think the size of the shoulder floaters has gotten a bit ridiculous. Speaking from personal experience, a lot of the most recent incarnations of chest and arm gear that I have tried on have had the “shoulder” protection go all the way down to the stomach. It felt next to impossible to move around in. With the advancement of the materials available today, I think we can remove some of the bulk with the chest and arm and still be adequately protected.

Watch the video for yourself, and let me know in the comments what you think. What do you agree with? What would you do differently?