BRATISLAVA – Danish goaltending has come a long way since 1949, when Canada blasted Denmark 47-0. That’s partly due to the fine instruction provided by people like national team goalie coach Carl-Johan Klint.
IIHF.com had a perfect opportunity to chat with Klint after the first period of the Finland-Denmark game at Orange Arena. The affable 33-year-old Swede had set up shop near our workstation in the press tribune, recording Danish goalie Frederik Andersen’s moves on a small, tripod-mounted video camera. There was plenty of action to keep track of, as the Finns outshot Denmark 15-3 in that first period alone.
The former netminder, who spent most of his career with Hammarby Stockholm, explained what he was doing: “Frederik has a very sound game plan. He plays calmly and he plays his position very well. I’m just making sure he sticks to his plan. After each game, we review the video for maybe 15 or 20 minutes. Then we lay that game to rest and refocus on the next game.” He takes the same approach with Denmark’s other netminder, Patrick Galbraith.
A Gothenburg native, Klint became both a student of goaltending and a teacher long before his playing days were over. He’s been working with the Sweden Hockey Institute since it was founded in 1998.
Klint got the job with the Danish national team by succeeding his mentor, Stefan Lahde, who’s now the goalie coach for Sweden. Prior to Christmas, Klint worked with the Danish junior team, which secured promotion to the 2012 IIHF World U20 Championship Division I tournament in Bled, Slovenia.
As it happens, the Danish coaching staff here in Bratislava is dominated by Swedes: head coach Per Bäckman, who’s coached Färjestad Karlstad and Frölunda Gothenburg, and assistant coach Tomas Jonsson, a former star NHL defenceman and IIHF Triple Gold Club member, who currently coaches Esbjerg in Denmark.
In the dressing room, Klint explains, language is never an issue. Swedish and Danish are very similar. “Most of the Danish players have played in Sweden a couple of years,” he added. “So the coaches talk a lot of Swedish with some Danish words in between, and it’s the other way around from the players.”
While goalie coaches typically operate in their own bubble, focused on the men who have to stop the pucks, there are times when Klint interfaces with the other bench bosses: “If there is something in the box play, some details that affect Frederik or Patrick, then we might discuss what steps to take or what the defencemen should focus on. Small things like that.”
Klint believes it’s important for a goalie coach to not try to impose his own personality or style on the goalies he works with. “Obviously, as a player, I didn’t have the size that Frederik and Patrick have, so I had to be a bit more aggressive,” he said. “With these guys, you have to look at how they play personally and make that better. I can’t bring my style to Frederik or Patrick. I need to help them make the best of what they have.”
Even though Denmark has just 22 rinks for 5.5 million inhabitants, clubs like Herning Blue Fox are producing talented young netminders – and players at all positions. That helps account for the fact that Denmark has never been relegated since entering the Top Division in 2003.
“For goalies especially, it’s been a drastic change in the last five or six years,” said Klint. “The Danish program is very positive and they’re on the way up. It’s a nice working environment. It’s a small family, but we’re on the right track. It’s very inspiring.”
If Denmark can match or improve on its all-time best eighth-place finish, recorded last year in Germany, that’ll provide further inspiration for the young netminders of Frederikshavn, Odense, and Herlev.