“What we tried to do was develop an ability to recognize: ‘Is this one that I can cover up, or do I start to prepare for the second shot?’ And it was preparing for the second shot that gave him a better chance at making the save and he started to have some success. There’s a rebound game that isn’t unique to our goaltenders but we sort of modified it for Olie when we got started that first year, and he has continued to do it. It’s an excellent discipline for him. It’s a competition between shooters and rebounders where we keep score, up to 10 and best out of three in games. It actually keeps that habit of chasing rebounds under control. He gets practice at realizing what is beyond him, and he becomes very urgent about his recovery. It’s that decision process. That’s a little different than just a technical move.
“A very common one is if a goaltender is starting to go down to one knee, or paddle down all the time. It’s more common with goaltenders out of junior. They’re having success on the ice and they get to this level and it starts to cause them problems if they’ve made their commitment before the player has actually made his. At this level, the guys will react to it. That’s one of the hardest for me to build in a new method. You are almost taking someone and trying to teach them a new skill at stopping the puck, and this is the last place you want to be working on it because they are facing the best shooters in the world. You are telling them to take one of the tools that they’ve had for their lifetime as a goaltender and put it on the shelf while you try to make them better with this one that they’ve never used. This isn’t the place to do it, and even at the [minor league] level it’s difficult. When I talk to our scouts, those are some of the things I will identify with a potential draft choice and just say, ‘Well, I’d sooner we stay away from this guy.’ Not because he is not a good goaltender, but I don’t know if he can overcome some of these things. So all things being equal, let’s consider this goaltender who is more structured in his game and easier to make some progress with.”
Prior is a treasure trove of information and useful advice on odd subjects like backhoes, construction, remodeling, hotels, cigars, red wine, routes to and from virtually any North American city where competitive hockey is played, and countless other topics.
“I think one of Sarge’s greatest attributes is his personality in terms of just telling what he thinks and believes, unbiased and untainted,” says former Caps goaltender Craig Billington, now director of player development for the Colorado Avalanche. “And I think that’s a great thing. Because I think a lot of times in life people don’t do that enough. Dave’s straight. He just tells it the way it is. I think that’s a great quality and something that is often overlooked.”
If you’ve read this far, you know exactly what Billington is talking about. Another thing that sets Prior apart is his passion. He loves the game and is devoted to it and to his pupils. He also has that same burning desire to win a Stanley Cup that Kolzig and his teammates possess. More than anything else, Prior is happy to have spent his adult life around the game he loves.
“I can’t think of anything that I’d sooner do,” he says. “The downside of this game for myself is just the travel. It can be as many as 200 days in a season. And not living in this area, I don’t have any home games. With training camp and preseason, if all goes as planned I will have about 40 days on the road. That’s a significant road trip. But that’s the only downside of the job. I really enjoy coaching young guys. You impact their lives, you live through their highs and lows and teach them to deal with them and how to respond to them and bring their game along. It’s a great job.”
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