In a sport where players constantly refine their technique, hockey goalies need to keep on top of the game. Traditional training still aids the cause, but goalie schools may add the extra edge.
That’s what Matthew Murray hopes for. The fourteen-year-old St. Albertan has played hockey since he was four. At six, he decided to be a goaltender.
“I thought it was fun, that was the main reason. And there are only two goaltenders on the team, and a lot of players,” he said.
“I like being the centre of attention. It’s a spot where you can impact the team and the game. Individually it gives me a bigger role.”
The ultimate goal, of course, is to play in the NHL. Murray practises hockey two to three times a week with his team. Another two evenings are spent at Gold in the Net, a local goalie school.
The company has three facilities in the country – in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta – and offers seasonal training in most other provinces, as well as schooling trips to Sweden and Finland.
The youngest puck stoppers here are six years old. There is no age limit but St. Albert Gold in the Net owner Erick Robertson said they see everyone from professional hockey players to parents who want to refresh their skills.
Goalies can sign up for everything from weeklong to half-day summer and holiday camps, group training and private sessions on seven days a week. Prices range from $45 an hour for group lessons to $133 an hour for private lessons.
Most instructors start volunteering at Gold in the Net while playing minor hockey, and become full-time employees later on.
That is how Robertson started his career. He grew up playing hockey in Sherwood Park, and later studied goalie techniques at a school in British Columbia. That’s where he first worked with Gold in the Net.
By the time he was 20, he was a full-time employee and offered to run its Edmonton location. Though still finishing a degree in education, he took on the challenge, with some administrative help from his parents.
Today, Jeannie Robertson, his mom, still drives the Zamboni and helps out in the office. Together, the family-run business trains about 700 goalies a year from across Alberta.
The St. Albert location started out in Riel Business Park but moved to Campbell Business Park in 2005. At the same time, it switched from a synthetic rink to real ice.
Robertson said they operate year-round, which is necessary in this day and age. With 16 players on a team, most coaches don’t find the time to focus on training the two extra goalies.
“There is a big need for it, just the nature of the position is so different than being a normal player and the majority of coaches are coming from that background,” Robertson said.
“Quite often, even at junior levels, the goalies can be left on their own to figure it out.”
When the goalies are young, Gold in the Net focuses on movements and muscle memory. Later on, Robertson said they add a mental training component, building confidence and helping players adjust to the pressure of the game.
“A lot of kids, especially at the younger levels, get discouraged because the expectations are way too high and unfortunately a goaltender counts more when it comes to making mistakes,” he said.
“The positive approach is that you get lots of shots and get better and have a chance to show what you can do.”
Gold in the Net keeps a file on each goalie to keep track of their improvements. Murray said the personalized training he receives with Robertson is key in developing his strength in the game and fixing mistakes – whether that is keeping his cool or moving faster on the ice.
“I like how they personalize every aspect of your training,” he said.
“They don’t teach you the same thing they teach someone else. They teach you what you need to work on to become an all around better goaltender.”
He added that Jeannie attends most of the camps and trainings and Erick takes a personal interest in each of his goalies.
After eight years of training, he said the Robertsons are not only trainers but much like family.