BROSSARD – For those youngsters lucky enough to attend the inaugural Montreal Canadiens Goalie Camp, spending quality time with Stephane Waite surely provided a memorable learning experience.
Sixty kids aged seven to 15 hit the ice – and soaked up valuable knowledge in the classroom – under the watchful eye of the Habs’ goaltending guru and a talented group of professional coaches during the three-day program at the Bell Sports Complex, which also included off-ice instruction in goalie-specific conditioning, stretching and warm-up techniques.
“There are a lot of things that I’d like the kids to understand, but the two most important things are focusing on details and working hard. That’s the best way to get better at something. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun while you’re improving. It’s important to have fun, but focusing on the right things and working hard is what will make you better every single day,” offered Waite, who boasts two Stanley Cup titles on his resume, having claimed hockey’s top prize with the Chicago Blackhawks in both 2010 and 2013, before joining the CH two years ago. “That’s also how you go about developing good habits, because bad habits are the worst thing that can happen to a goalie. They follow them into games. Sometimes, goalies only realize they’re doing something wrong when it’s too late – in Bantam, Midget or even in Junior. That’s why I spend so much time in camps teaching young kids that details matter.”
With that in mind, Waite afforded campers the opportunity to take part in valuable "chalk talks" prior to strapping on their gear on the South Shore. In addition to expanding upon a variety of goaltending principles, the Sherbrooke native also treated his pupils to a video session featuring clips of Carey Price plying his trade in a host of different game situations. Veterans Tomas Plekanec and Alexei Emelin, prospects Zachary Fucale, Nikita Scherbak, Sven Andrighetto and Stefan Fournier, and newcomer George "Bud" Holloway, even stopped by for a visit on ice, offering up some words of encouragement to their young fans.
“The goaltending position is such a fun position because there are so many different things involved. Most people have never played goal, so they don’t understand that. They probably think that stopping a puck is easy. But, there’s a lot more to it. That’s why experiences like these are fun for kids. It’s good for them. They’re going to learn so much. If they remember even half of what they’re being taught, I think that’s perfect. They’ll keep improving year after year,” mentioned Waite, who also runs a goaltending school of his own every summer, setting up shop in Sherbrooke and Terrebonne. “These camps are good for me, too. They bring me back to basics like game preparation and positioning. But, I really love to share [my knowledge] with kids. I like to see their enthusiasm.”
LaSalle resident Eric Paradis enrolled his 10-year-old son, Samuel, in the camp shortly after learning that Waite would be on site.
“When we found out that the Canadiens were hosting a camp for goalies only – and that Stephane would be there – it was a big thing for Samuel and for me, too. That was worth the price of admission. It was a no-brainer. He’s Carey’s coach, and my son absolutely loves the way he plays the game,” offered Mr. Paradis, who is a goaltending coach in his own right in his part of town. “I want him to enjoy the experience, to get better at the position and to understand work ethic. It’s been great to see Stephane work so closely with the kids. He takes the time to stop and correct them when they’re a little bit off. That’s what goaltending is all about, repeating things again and again the right way.”
For their part, organizers Stephane Verret and Angelo Ruffolo couldn’t be happier with the response to the brand new venture, which they believe will ultimately be the start of something very, very good.
“Having that type of quality coaching available, you don’t get that with a team every day during the regular season. To have the opportunity to be on the ice with a guy like Stephane is huge. He’s giving kids the chance to learn the best possible techniques and giving them the best advice out there. It’s great all around, even for the parents. They can feel confident knowing their kids are getting a top-notch experience with us,” offered Ruffolo, who was pleased to see both locals and those living abroad embrace the idea of a position-specific program, and in some cases make long treks to Quebec just to participate. “Even with school starting up soon, we had people travel from places like Alberta, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and parts of the United States. We’ve had a chance to meet all kinds of kids from a variety of areas and different communities. This really is the first step towards establishing similar camps that we have in mind down the road. It's definitely opening up some doors.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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