The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/11/13 at 04:52 PM ET
Paul noted that the Canadian Hockey League--which is the umbrella organization representing the three Major Junior hockey leagues that are the Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Western Hockey League--may or may not be planning on banning European-born goaltenders to protect what some elements in the CHL believe is a present as well as future threat to the development of American and especially Canadian-born goaltenders.
Yahoo Sports' Sunaya Sapurji spoke to Red Wings goaltending coach Jim Bedard about the issue, and Bedard believes that the plain old fact that playing goal is incredibly expensive, especially in terms of having to buy and then replace gear as growing players no longer fit in to their equipment, isn't getting enough attention...
[T]he cold hard fact is playing hockey in Canada has become an expensive undertaking. Many families can no longer afford the cost – ice time, travel fees, equipment, etc. – to keep their children playing. It’s even pricier if your child happens to be a goaltender. It can become financially crippling and many talented goalies are forced out by economics.
“That’s definitely a factor,” said Bedard, a former OHL goaltender who also runs summer camps to help young goalies. “I see kids who come to camp with a lot of potential but their equipment is very shabby. You can see that the parents have been stretched to the limit with the cost of the equipment. If you want everything custom and to keep up with everything, you’re looking at a $2,500 to $4,000 bill from head-to-toe. It’s a very expensive position.”
There is also a plain truth in the fact that there are more skaters and goalies in the U.S. and Canada than, say, the goaltending factory that is Finland (it should be noted that in Europe, most players remain with the same organization from the time they lace up their skates until they "turn pro," and those organizations tend to help subsidize equipment and ice time), so it's easier to get one's hands on a position-specific, skating or physical conditoning coach, whereas over here, the ratio of coaches to players is much lower...
And as such, accessing specialized coaching is also cost-prohibitive:
There is also the high cost for goalie-specific training, since most minor hockey teams are without a designated goalie coach. Coaching clinics for goaltenders are a necessity that can run into the thousands for parents and that’s not even counting the time and mileage to get them there.
“I’d say on instruction alone that was at least $500 to $1,000 a year for a 10-year period,” said [Alain] Jodouin, who would drive [his son] Richard an hour each way from Prescott, Ont., to Ottawa for coaching. “So we spent at least $10,00 to $15,000 on goalie instruction.”
And that’s not even counting registration fees, ice-time and related ancillaries such as traveling to out-of-town tournaments and spending weekends in hotels. So, the problem of development starts long before players ever make it to the CHL. One way in which European federations are combating the cost of developing their goalies is by providing regional development camps free of charge.
Sapurji and Bedard note that specialized caoching is provided free of charge, too...
In Sweden and Finland it’s not uncommon to have a head goalie coach with four or five instructors travel around the country to work with goalies, visiting every team at almost every level of hockey.
“They schedule all the kids in with practices and if they’re working with say 10-12 year olds’ teams, they’ll maybe have six (goalies) in one session,” said Bedard, who played 14 seasons in Finland with TPS in the SM-liiga. “But they’ll have all those goalies work with them on fundamentals and power skating. So that’s where they’re farther ahead of us. Here it’s strictly private enterprise all the time and parents are whisking kids off to private lessons.”
But Bedard's bottom line is simple:
“How about be better? Be better than them,” said Bedard of the perceived European threat. “In the NHL we can’t have import goalies eventually because we want to make sure that Timmy and Tommy and Bobby and Billy get a chance to play? If you’re not good enough, you’re not good enough. That’s the way it goes.”
Helping players grow into players who are better tha their European peers involves addressing the issues that make the position cost-prohibitive in terms of equipment, playing the game and accessing goalies coaches and goalie-specific coaches. A ban on "imports" won't do anything to address those issues or increase the number or quality of Canadian-born goalies.
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