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No Rebounds: Steve McKichan's Goaltending Tips

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
Maple Leafs New Goaltending Coach Has Advice From The Pros

(March 28, 2005) -- For the past two years, Steve McKichan has been Ed Belfour's personal goaltending coach. In Ed's first year in Toronto he set a team record for victories with 37 and was a big reason the Leafs had a successful season. This past season Eddie had another stellar year finishing the season with a career win total of 435. During the playoffs he posted three shutouts in the opening round as the Leafs sneaked by the Ottawa Senators.

Eddie Belfour makes a save against the Bruins last season.
(Getty Images/NHLI)
After the season ended, McKichan accepted the position of Goaltending Coach with the Maple Leafs, which means that all of the goalies in the Toronto system will now be under his guidance and coaching.

As an NHL goalie coach, Steve must develop all the goaltenders in the system and try to get them all progressing towards the mutual goal of playing in the "show". Besides the two goaltenders on the big club, most teams will have two goaltenders in the AHL and one or two goalies in a third tier level like the ECHL or the Central Hockey League. In addition there are normally two or three other youngsters that have been drafted but still play in Major Junior or college hockey.

Now, Steve will regularly offer up some great practice tips for goalies of all ages at all levels...

"All pro goaltenders do things really well as you would imagine but clearly they all have areas of weakness or more accurately areas the need to improve on. The fact that they are getting paid to play doesn't mean they have the position perfected. This applies to the guys on their way to the Hockey Hall of Fame and the guys trying to get their first taste of the Big Leagues.

"Each individual goaltender in our system would have specific areas to address but all goaltenders need to work on three core areas. Even goaltenders still playing in youth leagues or in the recreation leagues can benefit from these ideas...

The Starting Goalie
For a variety of reasons on many teams one of the goaltenders is defined as the starter. As you progress up the hockey ladder your goal of course is to be the starter - the go to guy.
A starter by definition is the goaltender who plays the majority of the games, the big games, the tough games and the must win games. To be a starter you must relish the role, accept the responsibility and hunger for the pressure of being a crucial factor in the game's outcome.
The starter's preparation is typically different than the backup's on several levels. Proper rest, nutrition, physical conditioning and recovery must be considered extreme priorities. A starter can't be often injured, tired or unprepared. Being ready to play at a high level all the time is crucial or your starting spot will slip away.
Proper Rest
Of course proper rest is important for both goalies but as a starter you must earnestly protect your time to allow proper rest. There are many distractions on game day but you must force the proper amount of rest into your pre-game routine.
After years of study you'll have learned exactly how much sleep / quiet time you need. Rooming with the back up goalie on the road should be avoided where possible, as they may not feel the need for a quiet atmosphere when they are not playing. On a side note, avoiding colds and flu is important and you can't have both goalies down sick. It is best to room with someone other than the back up.
Eating properly takes on more significance when you are a starter. Consistent long-term performance can't come from a diet that is inconsistent in schedule and quality. To play 60 or 70 games a year at a high level requires a well-fueled machine.
Physical Conditioning
Elite athletes train incredibly hard during the off-season and these gains tend to be lost as the season winds down. Clearly, we can't work at the same level during the season but to be as strong, flexible and explosive in Game 72 as we are in Game one takes in-season efforts. Daily significant flexibility work is probably the priority of all the fitness components. Cardio and strength programs can be prescribed for your personal profile.
Besides the preparation issues, a starting goaltender must behave differently. You must be the hardest worker on the ice during practice without excuse. You must not take shortcuts as the starter and stay on whenever possible after practice to work on your game. You must treat every practice as if someone is trying to steal your job ( by the way - they are!).
A starter doesn't blame teammates or coaches for their performances; they take ownership of their individual and team results. For this reason and others they are leaders on and off the ice.

"If you want to reach your goals in hockey as an elite goaltender it is important to focus on these core areas. If you have any other questions you could drop me an email or visit my website

--Steve McKichan
Toronto Maple Leafs Goaltending Coach

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