The camp aimed at bringing top goaltender of their respective countries together. Aspiring goaltenders for the senior women’s national teams as well as current under-18 goalies were helped by the coaches as well as mentors with Olympic experience.
The once immense gap between North America and the rest of the world in women’s ice hockey has shrunk as the recent results showed. This goalie camp focused on helping these nations getting their goalies better and give them the kind of education and training that they may not have in their countries in many cases. Having goaltending coaches in women’s hockey at the top national level is not a matter of course everywhere. Some of these coaches were invited as well to learn as much as to work with the multicultural group of goaltenders what were split into two senior and two under-18 groups during the camp.
“There’s a passion for the game. The staff is really hungry to get this to their countries and develop their group,” Johnston said.
“There are a couple of goalies who I’m really surprised by. Typically most coaches would look for big goalies but we’re trying to teach it’s not just about your size, it’s about how you play. There were a couple of small goalies who were unbelievably good here. Like, good enough to go and play right now at collegiate levels in Canada or the U.S. and have success. I’m surprised by some of the smaller goalies and some nations you wouldn’t expect.”
The 44 participating goaltenders came from 24 different countries. Some from Africa, Asia and Latin America, many from European countries.
“It’s awesome. It’s a lot of work, very long days. This camp is extremely rewarding because you get a chance to see coaches from all over the world do mentoring, find a common language and themes of teaching. In the end the girls are having fun. It’s a long camp for us with 24 sessions of ice but you see a lot of smiles and a lot of development,” Johnston said.
Despite being physically tired after three intense days on the ice, the women and girls had a blast and made friendships that can stay for a lifetime. And they learned from morning to the evening how they can improve on and off the ice.
“It’s easy to see the top goalies that get goaltending development back home and the less developed nations. But what is really impressive to see is that the middle group is growing now. You have your upper athletes at one end and your lower athletes at the other but the middle group is getting better. You see a big improvement there. The top goalies in the world are not as top anymore, that group is starting to shrink because of the development and the teaching that the others are now getting,” Johnston said.
“We saw this only during this week alone. We saw some kids who came onto the ice to learn for the first time the new technique of low post, they never did it before. After 10 minutes a young girl from Mexico became our demo. You can see how fast they develop when they get the teaching.”
Here’s what it looked like on and off the ice at the camp:
“Especially in the female game they have to work on their mobility they have within their feet based upon the stance they have in their equipment. They got to learn to flex more their ankles and knee so they can be better skaters,” Johnston said. “Then we can make their skating better and then it’s just a matter about teaching them more about the game and they will have more success. But stance is by far most important at all levels.”
That brings us to another part of the camp as the participants also spent hours in the classroom, at courts outside the rink and the gym to learn about off-ice training with the strength and conditioning coaches from different countries who were led by Emily Fulton from Canada.
“The goalies here are still improving. We wanted to master the basic skills in strength and conditioning and continue from there,” Fulton said.
And for the basics the training is not much different than for other athletes and sports.
“The biggest thing is that they’re improving everything together. Overall athleticism is important, being able to handle more things, continue to build an aerobic base is something we really stress. They can handle more, don’t get as tired quickly,” she said.
Goalies are still special and there’s some methods that may be more important for goalies than for other players in hockey.
“Goalies put more weight on their toes of their feet while hockey players are about in the middle of the skate. Their stance is different, it’s a little bit wider than their hips,” she said.
“We did a lot of hand-eye co-ordination with tracking drills and vision drills or with a tennis ball. It’s still important for other players but it’s bigger for goalies.”
Some of the participants talk in this video about aspects like that as well as other questions that they were asked by fellow goalies and other followers on IIHF.com and our social media channels:
In women’s ice hockey this camp has now been alternating with the Women’s High-Performance Camp taking place in odd years.
However, it’s not over yet in term of camps. A camp for female players in Asia is right now going on in Malaysia (more about it later on IIHF.com) while during the weekend young male players, coaches, instructors and managers will travel to Finland for the 2019 IIHF Hockey Development Camp.