(April 25, 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.
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 Brittle Goalie
Goaltending is extremely stressful, dangerous, difficult and more times than not potentially embarrassing. To show up day in and day out whether you're feeling your best or not is challenging. A true athlete plays through bumps and bruises and nagging minor issues. I dont advocate playing when you are legitimately injured. What is that fine line between being able to play or not to play?
The ultimate call in any situation regarding the goalies ability to play is the goalies and the opinion of the trainers and doctors. If there is a chance for long term damage or if your performance will be severely hindered of course you shouldnt attempt to play. This article is designed to address the decision that is more in the grey area.
When you arent able to play at 100% there is a fear that failure and embarrassment are much more likely. Touches of the flu, slight muscle strains and painful bruises are common challenges all goalies go through. How often you show up to play in these situations and play well in spite of the problems will dictate how far you go in the sport.
Why is this such an important issue? First of all, every player on your team will face the identical challenges with respect to minor injuries, illness etc. You want your number one defenceman to play if it all possible and he feels the same about you.In addition, to play the game at the highest level you may need to play sometimes 60 or 70 games a year. If you are constantly out of the line up with minor things your job will eventually be given to someone more reliable. You cant lose your job if you are always ready to play and are able to play through pain.
Another area to discuss is your reaction to contact and collisions around the net. Unless you are really injured, get up immediately and carry yourself as if it didnt hurt a bit. Show the other team how tough you are and your teammates will notice it as well. Again, I have no problem if you're really injured. Of course that is another situation. The less you scare your back up, your coach and your family the better.
Take pride in your ability to play through pain and your ability to play when you dont feel your best. Toughness doesnt mean fighting. Toughness means showing up to play even when you feel like pulling the chute. Many times you will have great games when you show up to play in these types of games. In your mind you put less pressure on yourself for success because you have a built in excuse for failure. You feel good about yourself because you know you showed up to play. In this relaxed frame of mind many peak performances occur.
"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 www.futurepro.com.
Toronto Maple Leafs Goaltending Coach