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Wednesday, 19 June 2013 15:05

Euro goalie ban masks CHL’s, Hockey Canada’s real crisis

Written by  Brad Brown, A Bard's Eye View
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The Canadian Hockey League took its net and went home (somewhat literally).

The CHL, in partnership with Hockey Canada, last week banned selecting any European goaltenders in its annual import draft following the first round of this year’s draft, citing “the need to further develop Canadian goaltenders by providing increased opportunities for them to compete in our league and succeed at the next level.”
In other words, once the final European goalies from this year’s draft have exhausted their major junior eligibility in 2015-16, don’t worry about paying to see the next Eetu Laurikainen. Instead you can pay to watch the second coming of Blaine Neufeld or Derek Tendler.
Don’t worry about your boy, whom you’ve no doubt invested tens of thousands of dollars in just to get him to this point, being challenged to improve by the next Patrik Bartosak. Instead, he’ll be able to pad his stats shooting more pucks on the next Dawson Guhle or David Aime.
And don’t worry about your other boy, who may in fact be the next Neufeld or Tendler or Guhle or Aime. He won’t have to worry about mastering his craft and all the lessons that go with it — for now, it will just be given to him.
The two most cited stats in explaining the so-called Canadian goaltending crisis stated first that it’s been four years since a Canadian was the first goalie taken at the NHL Entry Draft and second that only 11 of 24 goalies taken in 2012 were Canadian.
Eleven of 24. That’s 46 per cent. From one country.
What does that say about Sweden, Finland, Russia, Denmark and the Czech Republic, who had to share just 38 per cent of the goalies chosen, and who accounted for just eight of the top 60 (13 per cent) goalies by minutes played in the CHL last year?
Must be a real mess over there … except it’s not.
The aforementioned Bartosak was this year’s CHL goalie of the year.
Russia and Sweden each have a gold, a silver and a bronze medal in the past four IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships.
Two of the last three Stanley Cup winning goalies (three of the last four after Boston finishes toying with Chicago this weekend) have come from Europe.
And it’s been five years since a Canadian won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender.
But this still isn’t a real crisis. The rest of the world was bound to catch up eventually.
A real crisis is Hockey Canada’s and the CHL’s ignorance toward giving young goalies and their parents — many of whom are shelling out thousands of dollars a year in equipment, private summer camps and other expenses — any prospects at all for success.
By way of contrast with Canada, InGoal Magazine was quick to point out the existence of comprehensive goalie development programs in Sweden and Finland.
It also wrote of more than one goaltender who reported attending Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence Goaltending Camp and receiving contradictory coaching at different stations within the same camp.
One ex-junior player recently described his team’s first goalie coach to me as a lifetime forward, and said if he were an elite Canadian goalie he would choose the NCAA over the CHL in a heartbeat.
Another ex-junior, former Swift Current Broncos goalie and aspiring goalie coach Ian Gordon, talked in an interview last month about his desire to make young goalies into the best versions of themselves, instead of what he sees as the current standard of forcing every goalie to fit one specific mold.
And Erie Otters’ owner Sherry Basin was quoted by CBC as saying goaltenders are the least-coached position on any team at any level.
Suffice it to say there’s a glaring problem at the developmental level of Hockey Canada. If the kids who are going to eventually fill the spots vacated by our European friends were good enough to begin with, teams wouldn’t have started drafting European goalies in the first place.
Banning a handful of elite European goalies in favour of a dozen fringe Canadians is like bringing a Super Soaker to a four-alarm fire.
If the CHL is serious about being the best developmental league in the world, then it owes it to its homegrown talent to pit them against the best in the world — including in goal.

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