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Teaching a Beginner Goaltender

Corey Hirsch
October 15, 2007

There are certain things to look for when teaching a beginning goaltender. The first and most obvious is skating skills. In order to be a good goaltender, you don’t necessarily have to be the fastest skater on the team, but a goaltender needs to be extremely agile and have great balance. Before you decide to put a goalie in the net I suggest that your goaltender be comfortable with their skating skills. This is the main reason minor hockey programs will wait until the ages of 8-9 years of age before allowing a child to become a fulltime goaltender. It is important for them to develop their skating skills as a player, in order to become good goaltenders.

When teaching a new goaltender the instructor should focus more on the mechanics of skating and the butterfly technique. Similar to when you’re teaching a child anything such as hitting a baseball or swinging a golf club, hitting the ball is not what is important, it is the swing that matters. The same goes with goaltending, it isn’t so much about stopping the puck at first, it is more about getting the proper technique in place. When the proper technique is set, making the save will come naturally. With that being said, I would like for coaches and instructors to remember that there is a time and place for mechanics to be taught and time for the child to just have fun and let their athletic ability take over. I believe both play an important role in goaltending as more and more young goaltenders are being taught only the mechanics of goaltending, but not being allowed to use their athletic ability.

The first and easiest drill I suggest doing with a beginning goaltender is to use the goal line and have them practice t-pushes and shuffles across it. The t-push technique is the fastest way and easiest movement to get around the crease when playing goal. The goaltender should first start in their proper stance facing forward, in one easy motion they will turn their skate outwards to the side and push with the other foot gliding along the blade of the skate. The distance they should travel is about 3-4 feet at a time. The most important thing to look for is if their head is bobbing up and down. It should be a level motion and they should try to stay low and in their stance. A young goaltender most likely will have trouble with this until their legs become stronger. The goaltender should not be coming out of their stance to move, it should be a continual, smooth transition.

I also suggest the coach do everything in sequence, telling the goaltender when to push and when to stop. For example, when the drill is in progress the coach should be calling out…PUSH…STOP…PUSH…STOP…PUSH …STOP. This will allow the goaltender to have a second in-between pushes so that he or she can gather oneself and get in a set position to push again. The drill should be done from corner to corner all the way across the goal line. Repeat the drill back the opposite way so that the other leg will be used and the goaltender can become more efficient moving in both directions.

The same drill will be done using the shuffle, by lining them up and having them go again across the goal line. The difference with the shuffle is the goaltender will stay in their stance moving sideways at all times, they do this by sliding their outside skate along the ice while pushing with the opposite foot. Again this will be difficult for a young goaltender to do as they need to develop strength in their legs. The same rules apply here by having them stay in their stance, without their head bobbing up and down. The difference with the shuffle is that it allows for small adjustments. The goaltender will not be able to move as far as they would with a t-push as there is no gliding ability when doing a shuffle. So, look for the goaltender to only be able to move 1-2 feet at a time. It is more of a small movement positioning tactic, whereas the t-push is used when having to travel greater distances or when there is a need for more speed.

The beginner butterfly save is the next area to teach new goaltenders, they again must have the proper mechanics and everything else will eventually fall into place. The beginner butterfly should be taught at first using no pucks. Have the goaltender drop to their knees and then get up again. Repeat each movement allowing the goaltender to recover in between. Repetition will be the key teaching tool, as they will get better as they repeat the drill. The goaltender should be taught to butterfly with their stick covering the five hole and their legs stretched out to the sides; gloves do not drop to the knees and should be kept in a ready position. The goalie should not be kneeling on the face of the pad. Instead the pads should be on their side, building a wall, and the goaltender’s knees should be resting on the inside knee pad. Their chest needs to be up and not sunk down, with the body leaning slightly forward.

Set your goaltender in the proper stance standing on their feet. On the coach’s signal, they should drop to their knees and wait for the coach’s cue to get back to their feet. When they do drop, it is important to look for these certain things:

1. Their hands do not have to move much when dropping into the butterfly, they may come down a little, but have them avoid dropping them completely and have them at a ready position at their sides.

2. The pads should not be face down; rather, they should be on their sides with the inside roll of the pad along the ice.

3. It should be a smooth motion with limited head bobbing or arm movement.

4. Stick should be covering five-hole.

5. Chest needs to be in an upright position leaning slightly forward. We never want our goalies falling backwards; always teach your goaltenders to fall forward if they happen to lose their balance.

Once this is taught and the goaltender is somewhat comfortable with a butterfly save, I suggest adding pucks and shooting low shots from the slot and then off to the sides for angle work. Remember to shoot slowly and allow for recovery time in between shots.

These drills and ample practice time developing skating skills and a proper butterfly technique will be a good way to start any goaltender off in the right direction. I suggest the instructor remember to go slow and allow ample recovery time for these beginner goaltenders. It will make a world of difference and their progress will be more rapid.

How to recover from a bad goal

Key for goaltenders is to manage their reaction and quickly put focus back on competing

Pasco Valana
February 25, 2020

It happens to even the best goaltenders. Nobody comes to the rink to play poorly or allow a bad goal and those moments are often amplified by the initial reaction when they do happen.

From minor hockey to the National Hockey League, mistakes happen, funny bounces happen and goaltenders will more often than not be scored on at least once per game. Knowing this means a need to manage that process quickly and effectively.

Step 1: Recognize and develop a plan
Goaltenders will allow goals, and sometimes they will appear to be easy stops that somehow got away. They should have a plan (no more than 10 seconds) to manage their reaction to that moment so it doesn’t become a momentum-changer or string of poor goals in short order.

Step 2: Review
What caused the goal? Was the shot taken for granted? Were steps skipped that were normally followed?

Step 3: Bring closure
Breathe. It’s done, it's over and the goal is now in the past. Goaltenders should never allow a negative thought to complete itself in their mind. Always disrupt negative thoughts with positive affirmations.

Step 4: Compete
Bring back the competitive nature. Get ready to defend the net, and that starts with physical presence. Dealing with goals against should be approached the same as physical fitness. It is a muscle that needs to be flexed often while working on the mental game. Goaltenders can have size, skill, and technical and tactical skills, but if they fail to be strong mentally the very foundation of a goaltender becomes flawed.

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North Shore Winter Club Bantam Hawks

November 26, 2008

2007-08 was a season to remember. Before we even stepped on the ice, it was safe to say that the expectations for this edition of the Bantam team at the North Shore Winter Club in North Vancouver weren’t exactly through the roof. Our team was quite “vertically challenged” - so much so that we were often mistaken for a Pee Wee team. They also had a head coach without any hockey experience - whose athletic background was in football.

The season began as most predicted - a little bumpy, but this group of young men quickly came together as a team. When all was and done, they played like giants, proving that it truly is “not the size of the dog in the fight - but the size of the fight in the dog.”

They won a banner in their division playing against a team that was bigger, faster, and more skilled - but not better on this day. They were also awarded the League Achievement and Sportsmanship Banner for their division. To cap off the season they went undefeated in an exhibition tournament on Vancouver Island. They out-scored their opponents 25-3 over the course of the 4 games. These young men proved game-in and game-out that your body’s biggest muscle truly is your heart.

Part of the credit goes to a group of dedicated parents who made up the rest of the coaching staff but what was most helpful was the Hockey Canada Bantam Manual.

To use football terminology it was our “Playbook”. The basic principles for success in athletics are the same no matter what sport you play, or at what level you play - whether it is Pro football or Bantam hockey. However, the Skills and Development Manual is an excellent teaching aid - especially for a rookie head coach. Each week I would design our practice schedule around drills that were offered in the manual. No matter what area of concern there was from our previous game – there was always a drill that would sharpen our skills.

I have been fortunate enough in my athletic career to be part of a Grey Cup Championship team and I can honestly say, without doubt, the 2007-08 season with the North Shore Winter Club’s Bantam Hawks was a season I will never forget. Thanks to Hockey Canada!

Glen Suitor
Head Coach
North Shore Winter Club Bantam Hawks

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Goaltending Point Shots: Tips and Tricks

Corey Hirsch; National Team Goaltending Consultant
February 21, 2008

I am noticing a disturbing trend in the increasing number of goaltenders who are getting beat by screens and tips from point shots. This is becoming a problem as young goaltenders are not being taught properly as to how much they should challenge a point shot. This is due strictly to being caught too deep in the net and not being aggressive enough when the puck is at the point. A good rule of thumb for point shots is that a goaltender should be at the minimum of having their toes on the edge of the top of the crease when the puck is at the point. The only time this would change is during a 5 on 3 powerplay where a goalie may have to hang back due to the fact that there will be 2 extra men open. So get out of the crease and be aggressive, hanging back only opens up net and enhances screens

Tricks of the trade

Get out there and get your toes to the top of the crease:
On any point shot whether it be a screen or an open shot, be aggressive and get your toes at a minimum of the top of the crease. This will allow you to take away some of the shooters advantages and will in fact put you at the advantage. It will allow you to get closer to the player that is screening you, which will allow you to see better. It will also allow you to take away any tips or redirections. If you hang back in your crease it makes it extremely difficult to see through a screen and opens up way too much net for tips and redirections that you will have no chance to react to.

Open point shot:
Any time the puck is at the point on an open point shot get your toes to the top of the crease, be aggressive, and take away some of the net. Hanging back only gives the shooter more net to work with and will enhance the ability for him to beat you with an open shot. Read the play and be aware of any dangerous players lurking for a garbage goal, but if there is no other imminent threat, get out there and make him beat you.

Screen shots from point:
The best way to play a screen shot is to get as close to the player as possible that is screening you. This takes away his advantage of not letting you be able to see and if he does happen to tip or redirect a puck, it takes away any chance for the tip to go anywhere as you are so close to the player that the puck will have nowhere to go.

Tips or redirections from point shots:
With the speed of a shot, the actual possibility of reacting to a tip is minimal. The best way to avoid getting beat by a tip on a point shot is to get as close to the tip as possible. This will put you into a blocking position and will take away any angle the puck has to move. If you hang back too far, it gives up too much net and this will put you into a reacting position which is almost impossible.

Pro Tip

Looking through a screen:

When trying to look through a screen, the absolute best way to look for the puck is to get as close to the player screening you and look over top of them. A lot of young goalies are being taught to hang back and look low through player’s legs, THIS IS 100% WRONG. All this does is opens up the top of the net. By looking low through a player’s legs it makes it extremely difficult to move by putting too much pressure on your legs. It will also enhance the screen and I guarantee you will eventually lose sight of the puck. The puck moves around too fast, and by looking over top of a player it opens everything up.

The theory of this is that most point shots are low, so you should stay low. This could not be more wrong. The fact of the matter is that players are becoming smarter as defensemen are getting their shots up and finding the top of the net. This is because goalies are increasingly, staying low in their crouch, looking through a player’s legs and losing the puck. Trust me if you come out of your crouch a bit to look over players you will still have plenty of time to react to the shot.

A good analogy of this is by thinking if you were lost in a forest and needed to find your way out, the best way would be too get as high as you can, to see as far as you can, and over top of everything. You wouldn’t get on the ground to look and try to find your way out, because you wouldn’t be able to see anything.

The same goes for goaltending….the lower you look the less you can see. If you look high over people you can see players, the puck and be able to read the play.

*When looking over a player it is ok to come out of your stance a bit to try to look over the player. Try to keep the toe of your stick on the ice and knees slightly bent. When a player does get into a shooting position, you will then quickly get back into your lower stance.

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Hockey Canada and Itech Announce Design-A-Mask' Contest Winners for 2008 IIHF World Junior Championship

December 15, 2007

(MONTREAL, QC) For the fifth consecutive year, ITECH and Hockey Canada invited children from across Canada to draw an original Canadian-themed mask design that will be worn by Team Canada’s goaltenders during the upcoming 2008 IIHF World Junior Championship in Liberec and Pardubice, Czech Republic from to .

Based on the past success of the Design-A-Mask contest, which produced unique designs worn by the likes of Marc-André Fleury, Justin Pogge and Jeff Glass, this season’s competition again generated two winners; Morgen Schinnour of Drumheller, Alberta from the 13-and-Older category, and Gabriel Coughlan of St-Jean-Chrysostome, Quebec from 12-and-Under age group.

On top of the thrill of having their designs worn by Team Canada’s netminders, the two contest winners will also receive their very own duplicate, custom-painted ITECH mask, which will be autographed by members of Canada’s National Junior Team.

The Design-A-Mask contest was part of Hockey Canada’s kick off to the hockey season, Puck Drop ’07, which ran from September 8th to October 14th. Puck Drop ’07 was a national initiative led by Hockey Canada with participation from its 13 provincial Branches, minor hockey associations and partners to celebrate the start of the 2007-08 hockey season. Each year, 550,000 registered players’ lace up the skates to participate in hockey in Canada. In fact, on an annual basis, Hockey Canada welcomes close to 80,000 new participants, including players, coaches and officials.

About Hockey Canada
Hockey Canada is the sole governing body for amateur hockey in Canada, including overseeing the national development programs for minor hockey coaches, officials and players across the country, as well as the operation of Canada’s men’s and women’s national teams and national and international hockey events held in Canada.

About Mission-ITECH Hockey
Created in May 2004 following the merger of Mission Hockey and ITECH Sport Products Inc., Mission-ITECH Hockey Ltd. has quickly become a top-tier, trend-setting hockey equipment manufacturer that competes on the global market through its central headquarters in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. With two well-known and widely respected hockey brands, Mission and ITECH, the company boasts a long list of impressive professional athlete endorsements and league designations such as The Official Visor and Goalie Mask of the NHL and The Exclusive Facial Protection of Hockey Canada.

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At What Age Should Your Child Become a Fulltime Goaltender

Corey Hirsch
October 15, 2007

As the Goaltending Consultant for Hockey Canada, I am asked my opinion quite often as to what age should children become fulltime goaltenders. This question can be somewhat debatable as, to me, there is no definite line in the sand. A strong majority of minor hockey organizations go by a protocol of 8-9 years of age, and there are some strong arguments both for and against this.

When I was a kid, I played no other position than goal from the time I was six years old. This is what I wanted to do and there was no question in my mind, or my parents’ minds, even though I think my Father had some reservations about it. That was 29 years ago, which is hard for me to believe, and things have changed in minor hockey. With most children I do not believe that the answer is as cut and dry, and it is not correct to label them as goaltenders at such an early age. I also know a lot of goaltenders in the NHL that didn’t become goalies until they were 12-13 years of age. So, quite frankly, it is not true that you have to be a goaltender before or after a particular age. Minor hockey, however, has had to put a guideline in place to keep it fair for everyone and to try to develop all skills for everyone.

When taking a closer look at why a majority of minor hockey organizations do not allow a goaltender to become fulltime until the age of 8-9; you will find there are a lot of good reasons as to why it done this way. The best and the strongest argument for me is that in order to be a good goaltender one must be a strong skater. For myself personally, I had started skating at the age of two, and was probably ready to be a goalie at six years of age. However, the majority of kids need to improve their skating skills. The years between the ages of 5-8 are extremely important development years that help to improve a player’s skating ability. All the fundamentals of skating are taught in these years, and it is difficult to develop these if your child is stuck in the net.

When discussing skating ability I am not talking about straight out skating speed, I am talking about balance and agility, the necessary components to being a good goaltender. These are developed during those first few years of hockey. When your child can do these skills with comfort and ease, I say they are ready to try goaltending fulltime. Like any skill, these take time to develop and the first few years of hockey will allow them to do so. This does not mean they should not try their hand at goaltending before age 8; they should be able to have fun and try every position. It will also give the child a good feel if they like goaltending or not, and therefore, you can make a better decision when they get to the level where they can make the decision. I believe kids should have both the opportunity to know what it feels like to:

A. Score a goal
B. Stop a goal

One argument to this idea could be, ‘if a child knows from an early age that they want to be a goaltender, then they should be able to do so.’ While I respect this opinion, we have to remember there is only one net and only one kid at a time can play goal. We’ve been taught to share from an early age, so what’s fair is fair, and this must also be true for goaltending. If you happen to be in a situation where there is only one child on the team that wants to play goal, and all parents are in agreement, then so be it. Let the child who wants to play goal be in the net.

I think this would be a very unique situation, but my suggestion is that if this does happen, the child must participate in all team skating drills. Even as a goaltender, I participated in all skating drills with all my goalie gear. That is a one thing which helped me a lot in hockey. Most minor hockey organizations won’t even allow this to be the case anyways, but not all go by the same rules. I am also a believer in having a goaltender learn to stick handle and play the puck, so they should participate in all these drills as well.

It is important to know your child will not be behind in goaltending development if they do not start fulltime until later. The development of skating skills in the meantime will be very valuable in this situation. Remember that not all kids on each team even want to play goal. You may find a situation where the child does get a lot of net time, but don’t be discouraged if they don’t, as there are many ways around this if your child truly wants to be a goaltender. There are lots of people and organizations that offer extra lessons or hockey schools in goaltending. The problem here is that this will cost extra money and private lessons can become very expensive. You will have to weigh the pros and cons to determine if the cost is worthwhile at a young age.

In my opinion, most minor hockey organizations are doing the right thing by not having fulltime goaltenders until the age of eight. It gives the children time to develop all the necessary skills, which will make them better goalies. In the end, there is no definitive age as to when a child should become a fulltime goalie. The only thing that stands out to me is that they absolutely must have strong skating skills before they become fulltime goaltenders. When you see this and the child wants to play goal, then that is the right time, and there is no age to draw the line for that.

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Mason Takes to Ice With Program of Excellence Goaltenders

June 11, 2007

The thirteen goaltenders that took to ice this weekend in Calgary for Hockey Canada’s second annual Program of Excellence goaltending camp got a special treat when they were joined on the ice by goaltender Chris Mason of the Nashville Predators.

Mason, a native of nearby Red Deer, AB and a member of Team Canada at the last two IIHF World Hockey Championships, was extremely impressed with what he saw on the ice at Norma Bush Arena this weekend, from both the goaltenders and the instructors.

“I’m really glad that I got a chance to come out and work with the guys they had here,” Mason said following Sunday’s final on-ice session. “When I was in Junior we had virtually no instruction, and now, with all the knowledge and skills these guys have, the instructors are really top notch.”

Although he never took part in any step of Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence – World Under-17 Challenge, National Under-18 Team and National Junior Team – Mason says he is a huge proponent of the program and what it can do for the career of a young goaltender.

This weekend’s camp featured seven goaltenders in the running for a spot on the National Junior Team for 2008, and six who will battle for a spot on the National Under-18 Team, but Mason says he saw no competitive feelings between goaltenders.

“I think this I such a great idea that Hockey Canada does this. You get to go (to camp) with the best players in the country and see the guys you wouldn’t normally get to see,” he says. “You see the competition, but all of these guys got along great, and they’re buddies in the dressing room. I think they learned a lot and had a great time.”

Having been to a pair of world championships and seeing the strength of Canada’s goaltending, and now having seen the up-and-coming goaltenders Canada has to offer, Mason is excited about the future of Canadian hockey between the pipes.

“It’s extremely strong,” he says. “That has always been Canada’s strong suit, and I think it’s going to continue to be. Other countries don’t have the luxury of having so many guys to choose from, they’re just kind of stuck with a couple guys, so that bodes well for our chances in international competitions.”

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Goaltending Skill of The Day: Agility

June 09, 2007

Long gone are the days where a goaltender would be the biggest player on his team, placed between the pipes because he could cover the most area.

Today’s goaltenders need to be quick, and they need to be agile.

“A goaltender needs to be able to move side to side,” says Corey Hirsch, Hockey Canada’s goaltending consultant. “It’s really all about skating if you want to be effective. If your agility isn’t what it needs to be, you’re probably not going to be successful.”

If a young goaltender wants to improve their agility Hirsch suggests letter drills, which involve the goaltender making letters – popular ones include ‘Y’, ‘W’ and ‘Z’ – in their crease to mimic the movements made during a game.

As for off the ice, the former NHLer and Canadian Olympian suggests simple things to improve footwork, such as skipping or running through a rope ladder placed on the floor.

For the goaltenders attending this weekend’s Program of Excellence Goaltending Camp, agility plays a major role in their games.

“It’s huge,” says Peter Delmas, a goaltender for the QMJHL’s Lewiston MAINEiacs, of being agile in today’s game. “Goalies are a lot different than what they used to be. They need to be always moving.”

Leland Irving of the WHL’s Everett Silvertips, a member of Canada’s 2007 gold medal-winning National Junior Team, agrees with Delmas, saying the position has evolved over the last number of years.

“You’ve got to get into new positions and be able to cut down your angles, and if you’re not agile, you’re not going to get there quick enough,” the 2006 Calgary Flames first round draft pick says. “It’s an extremely important part of the game for a goaltender.”

Much like Hirsch, both Delmas and Irving preach the benefits of the letter drills, while Delmas also likes general side-to-side and up-and-down movements in the crease to perfect his agility.

Irving, meanwhile, employs a much more straightforward method.

“Just compete during practice,” the Swan Hills, AB native says. “Work hard, battle for every puck, just as you would during a game. If you do it in practice, you’ll see results in a game.”

When they’re not on the ice, both Delmas and Irving keep it fairly basic when it comes to agility drills.

“Just try to build quickness and leg strength,” Irving says. “Mix in some weights and sprints, and just make sure you’re doing everything explosively. If you’re explosive off the ice, you’ll be explosive on the ice.”

“I do a lot of lunges, a lot of jumping side to side,” Delmas says. “Anything that can build quickness would be a great thing to do. Anything to improve your power and improve your speed.”

With NHL goaltenders needing exceptional speed and agility to keep up with the pace of today’s game, getting an early start, according to Hirsch, would definitely not be a bad idea.

“There are things you can do anytime, at any age,” he says. “You don’t need to be a Midget or Junior goaltender to be skipping or sprinting. Get started at a young age, and you’ll see results.”

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Goaltending Skill of The Day: Hand-Eye Coordination

June 08, 2007

You see it countless times every night on TV – a goaltender making a glove save.

But it is really as easy as it looks? And just how important is hand-eye coordination to a goaltender?

“It is probably the biggest thing a goaltender learns,” says Corey Hirsch, Hockey Canada’s goaltending consultant. “If you don’t have good hand-eye, you’re not going to stop very many pucks.”

According to Hirsch, developing hand-eye coordination should be one of the first things done when a child decides he or she wants to be a goaltender, and the drills to do it, both on and off the ice, are very simple.

“All you need is a coach and a pile of pucks,” the former NHLer and Canadian Olympian says. “Have him set up and throw soft shots at your glove side. That way you can follow the puck and watch it into your glove. The shots can’t be too hard, or else you can’t follow the puck.

“As for off the ice, just use a tennis ball. Bounce it off the wall, bounce it off the floor, anything like that will work. Any game that involves catching and watching a ball come off something is great.”

For goaltenders Steve Mason of the OHL’s London Knights, the 2006-07 Ontario Hockey League Goaltender of the Year, and Jeff Bosch of the WHL’s Regina Pats, hand-eye coordination is something they are always working on, and is something essential to their success.

“It is extremely important,” Mason says. “The shots are moving pretty quick and you need to be able to read the puck the second it comes off the stick, so you have time to make your move.”

“It’s huge,” Bosch adds. “Whether it’s catching pucks or deflecting them into the corner, it (hand-eye coordination) is definitely one of the biggest skills you need to be a successful goaltender.”

Both goaltenders have pre-game drills they use to help them sharpen their hand-eye coordination and say that for a young goaltender starting out, the drills would a great way to learn.

The drills for both include nothing more than a ball, or two, and a partner.

“I have two racquetballs, and me and my goalie coach (Dave Rook) toss them back and forth to each other, standing about 10 feet apart,” Mason says. “Tossing one while trying to catch another really helps my focus, and helps my hand-eye. We do it stationary, and then moving laterally to mimic the side-to-side movements of a goaltender.”

“I have a tennis ball, and sometimes I throw it to myself, bouncing it off the wall, or with the other goaltender,” Bosch says. “It’s not much, but I find that it helps in a game situation.”

When it comes to the offseason both Mason and Bosch keep up their work, whether it is on the softball diamond, at the golf course, playing ball hockey, or specialized games with a trainer.

“We (my trainer and I) play a game called Reflexball,” Bosch says. “It is a misshapen ball, so you never know which direction that ball is going to go in. We stand at opposite ends of a gym and hit the ball with paddles. It’s something a little different, but it helps.”

The best advice that either goaltender, along with Hirsch, can give a young goaltender is to keep at it, that good hand-eye coordination will come with practice and make them a better goaltender.

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For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

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