GRANADA, Spain – The IIHF Women’s Goaltending Development Camp is set to get underway at the Igloo ice rink in Granada in southern Spain.
12 goaltending coaches arrived in the Andalusian city that hosted the 2015 Winter Universiade for the first classroom sessions today and 40 goaltenders from 16 countries will arrive tomorrow to learn and practise during the rest of the week.
The camp was initiated recently by the IIHF Women’s Committee and aims at countries outside of the top-two: USA and Canada, who nevertheless will still be involved by providing coaching and training assistance. Lisa Haley, a former member of the Team Canada senior and U18 women’s national teams’ coaching staff, will support the IIHF’s camp director Blanka Elekes Szentagotai. Fellow countryman and goaltending coach Joe Johnston will be the camp goalie lead.
“The interest in women’s hockey has grown by leaps and bounds – both on and off the ice. The level of competition in international women’s hockey continues to evolve, with more nations developing their female hockey programs from the grassroots to the high-performance levels,” said Melody Davidson, general manager of national women’s team programs for Hockey Canada. “This camp provides us, as leaders in the women’s game, the chance to help other nations continue to build a key component of every team – goaltending. The stronger the competition, the better our teams become, and the more support we can attract for international women’s hockey.”
The four groups of goalies will be led by former Team USA goalie Brianne McLaughlin and Finnish goaltending coach Vesa Virta for the senior groups, and by Swiss national team goalie Florence Schelling and Zuzana Tomcikova, who just made the step from goalie to GM of the Slovak women’s national teams, for the U18 groups. Other staff from various countries include strength and conditioning coaches Jon Brown and Eric Innes from Canada, who will lead the off-ice training sessions, therapists Dave Humphreys and Amie Lee, who will be part of lifestyle sessions, equipment managers and other camp managers. The camp will be chaired by IIHF Council members Zsuzsanna Kolbenheyer and Marta Zawadzka from the IIHF Women’s Committee.
The IIHF members appreciate the new initiative for goaltenders. “It’s great that the IIHF managed to initiate a goaltending camp to follow the successful IIHF Hockey Development Camp concept,” said German national team coach Benjamin Hinterstocker. “It shows the value and energy the IIHF puts into women’s ice hockey. We appreciate that we’re able to send three goaltenders to Granada.”
What many noted as special is that the camp will not be held at a traditional ice hockey venue but in southern Spain. While the thermometer currently barely hits the 20°C-mark in Vierumaki, Finland, where the recent Hockey Development Camp was held, it will be up to 41°C in Granada by the end of this week. The camp is a chance to bring ice hockey to a country that is not that fare developed in ice hockey but is working on growing the hockey family in its country and yet provides an attractive environment for the participants. The local organizing committee will be led by IIHF Life Member and Spanish Ice Sports Federation President Frank Gonzalez. The Spanish Ice Sports Federation will be supported by the Andalusian Winter Sports Federation and the local authorities and rink.
While the sport is rather young in Spain, it is gaining popularity both among men and women. The women’s national team only started in 2011 and but is even ranked better (26th) than the men’s national team (31st) in the IIHF World Ranking.
“Spain organized the first IIHF Women’s Game Official Camp in Andorra and now we will be involved in organizing the first IIHF Women’s Goaltending Camp,” Gonzalez said. He had discussions with IIHF Women’s Committee member Melody Davidson while serving as co-chairman of the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship. “She explained how important it would be to have such a camp at a location where it would be attractive for the participants and she said to me ‘What about Spain?’”
Having world-class goaltenders in Spain is an honour and challenge Gonzalez gladly accepted. Looking for a facility that would be ready and have a good ice quality in the hottest time of the year, Granada’s Igloo ice rink was found. Gonzalez met with the rink’s manager and co-owner Steven Gonzalez (not related) in May followed by a site visit in June. A hotel and a restaurant were found nearby for the participants.
The Spanish Ice Hockey Federation started July ice hockey in Granada with an own women’s hockey camp with 44 players, four national team coaches and five club coaches under the supervision of head coach Christian Yngve in the city at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains before welcoming the international guests.
“Granada is a reference in snow sports in southern Spain, we also want to become a reference in ice sports with the two magnificent facilities,” said Guillermo Quero, delegate for tourism, culture and sports of the Andalusian government. Spain will also be represented on the ice with one senior and two junior goalies.
Find out more about what’s going on in the camp during the upcoming days on IIHF.com.