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Goaltending Coaching Clinics Provide Guidance for All Coaches

09/18/2020, 7:45am EDT
By Dan Scifo

USA Hockey courses are designed to teach fundamentals to coaches who may have little experience developing goalies

For Steve Thompson, USA Hockey’s American Development Model manager of goaltending, the biggest myth when it comes to coaching goaltenders is that a coach had to have played the position to be a great goalie coach.

His example is Grant Standbrook, the legendary coach who helped develop world class goaltenders like Mike Richter, Garth Snow, Mike Dunham, Jimmy Howard, Ben Bishop and others.

“He’s a great example of someone who’s an American-born coach, who became a world-leading goalie coach, but never played goal,” Thompson said. “All it takes is a general passion to help your kids. If you truly care about your kids, and every decision you make on the ice is about what’s best for your kids … if you follow that compass, you’ll be an excellent goalie coach.”

With that philosophy in mind, Thompson will help instruct a virtual USA Hockey Bronze goaltending clinic from Oct. 12-13. The Bronze level is the first step in the goaltending coach development program. The two-day virtual clinic will cover aspects of goaltending like practice planning, game management, fundamental saves, foundational skating, equipment education and more.

The seminar is available to Level 1 certified coaches, and upon completion, a coach will earn his or her Bronze Level status. Thompson said the course will feature nine different NHL goalie coaches and several from the Division I college level.

“It’s basically designed for the every-coach to learn more about how to help your goalies,” Thompson said. “It doesn’t matter if you never played hockey in your life, or you played the game, but never played in net. It’s designed to teach fundamentals of the position and look out for the best practices and drills to help your goalies.

Upcoming Goaltending Clinics

December 6-7 | 6:30 - 10:30 p.m. ET
Virtual Bronze Goalie Coach Developer Course
*This is a virtual course. Coaches from every district can attend.

December 12-13 | 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. ET
Virtual Bronze Goalie Coach Developer Course
*This is a virtual course. Coaches from every district can attend.

December 14-15 | 6:30 p.m. - 10:30 p.m. ET
Virtual Bronze Goalie Coach Developer Course
*This is a virtual course. Coaches from every district can attend.

Matt Millar, a goaltending development coach for the Los Angeles Kings, said the course is valuable because it brings a general knowledge and awareness to the basics of the position. Millar believes the course is important for coaches who may not know much about goaltending, as it allows them to jump in and give attention to goalies that may just be starting out.

“They do a great job [in the class] putting goaltending in terms of being just another player on the ice,” Millar said. “It’s not this spooky, mystic position nobody knows much about where you have to speak a completely different language and basically be part of a secret club. You’re just another player on the team. It’s not a super high-level NHL or college course. It’s open to everyone and it’s a great way for someone to learn about goaltending.”

Thompson breaks the seminar structure into six simplified goaltender fundamentals like stance, skating, positioning, save selection, rebound control and recovery.

“We kind of break it into these six segments and that allows for anybody that understands fundamentals to be able to identify how pucks may be going in, or maybe some different solutions you can use as a coach to help these kids,” Thompson said.

Thompson added that timing between shots is important, as he broke down the three pieces to every shot, including the pre-shot, the shot itself, and the post shot.

“I think the hard part for most coaches is that they don’t understand the shot isn’t over once the shot is taken,” Thompson said. “Those kids have to have time to follow that second puck up, control it if they can and compete for a rebound if there is one. Many times, coaches get so caught up in the shot itself that they forget about kids needing to be prepared before the shot is taken, and forget even more about kids competing and following that rebound.”

At its core, Millar said it’s important to keep the puck in front of goaltenders, but there’s additional detail like preparing for the shot, making the save and moving to the next position. That cycle can break down when shots come in fast, or there’s not enough time for a goalie to reset into another position, but it’s important to build good practice habits and focus on the foundation of goaltending.

Millar said it's paramount to coach the person before teaching the fundamentals of the position.

“Getting to know the person, and letting that person know that you care and you want to see them play their best hockey, and help them progress is important,” Millar said. “I think you can still provide support to that person even though you might just know the basics of goaltending through a bronze course.”

Thompson said individual attention is given during the Zoom clinic during the breakout room function.

“We find it to be more personal through Zoom than we ever had the capacity to do in person,” Thompson said. “We have many breakout rooms and that’s when the real learning takes place, when you’re with your peers. The teaching happens when you share what you do where you live, or talking with an NHL, or college goalie coach about what they do. It’s less about the instructor teaching, and more about all the rich discussion that takes place in those rooms.”

Anyone interested in signing up can contact Thompson at They can also reach out to David Caruso at

“We’re always looking for volunteers that can be goaltending development leaders within their areas,” Thompson said. “Anybody that finds teaching to be a passion of theirs, or goaltending, specifically, we’d love to find them a home.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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