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Vanbiesbrouck Brings ‘A’ Game To Breakout Sessions

08/23/2014, 5:30pm MDT
By Harry Thompson - Editor, USA Hockey Magazine

For 18 seasons John Vanbiesbrouck was the gold standard for NHL goaltenders. His 374 career wins still rank as the most all time among American goaltenders even though he hung up his competitive pads more than a decade ago.

Now he is passing on some of that knowledge to other coaches to help them improve their understanding of the position. It’s a big part of giving back to the game he has dedicated his life to.

In addition to listening to a host of speakers at this week’s National Hockey Coaches Symposium, Vanbiesbrouck has been pressed into action to conduct breakout sessions on goaltending.

“It’s great to be able to take a piece of history, what I’ve done in the past, and bring it into the future and see how it applies in today’s game,” said Vanbiesbrouck, who was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.

While the featured speeches in the main ballroom are the centerpieces of the four-day event here in Las Vegas, the breakout sessions provide an opportunity for coaches to learn some of the basic Xs and Os of the game at age levels they are coaching. It also gives them more one-on-one interaction with presenters, which makes for lively discussions.

“The coaches wanted to ask questions about 25 minutes in [to the breakout session], so that tells me they were prepared,” Vanbiesbrouck said. “They’re investing a lot of time and I think they really are valuing this time because they get to touch and feel and listen to all of these great speakers and really engage in conversations.”

In addition to the goaltending sessions – Vanbiesbrouck is teaching the 13 & Over track while NTDP goaltending coach Kevin Reiter is working with the 12 & Under coaches – there are sessions on small-area games, the art of coaching and practice planning.

While a lot has changed since he came into the league in 1982, Vanbiesbrouck said that many of the principles of playing the position remain the same.

“For goaltending, specifically, those old principles don’t apply, but then again they do apply,” he said.

If coaches walk away with one thing from his presentations, Vanbiesbrouck hopes that they know that they have to build a relationship with their netminders.

“You have to build trust and build a bond,” he said. “To do that, you have to communicate with them goaltenders and use terms that will hit them in the heart.”

In addition to his work as a presenter here, Vanbiesbrouck remains closely tied to the game, serving as a USA Hockey vice president and chairman of the Junior Council in addition to his full-time job as the general manager and director of hockey operations for the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the United States Hockey League.

For all of his involvement in the game, the man known as “Beezer” is impressed with the level of passion and commitment he’s seen here this week, and has enjoyed the opportunity to talk hockey with coaches from around the country.

“At the end of the day we’re all fans of the game,” he said. “We grew up fans and if you played like I played for a few years, you were a fan inside the game, and now I’m a fan outside the game. The core of it is that people love this game and they want to be good custodians of it.”

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For 18 seasons John Vanbiesbrouck was the gold standard for NHL goaltenders. His 374 career wins still rank as the most all time among American goaltenders even though he hung up his competitive pads more than a decade ago.

Now he is passing on some of that knowledge to other coaches to help them improve their understanding of the position. It’s a big part of giving back to the game he has dedicated his life to.

In addition to listening to a host of speakers at this week’s National Hockey Coaches Symposium, Vanbiesbrouck has been pressed into action to conduct breakout sessions on goaltending.

“It’s great to be able to take a piece of history, what I’ve done in the past, and bring it into the future and see how it applies in today’s game,” said Vanbiesbrouck, who was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.

While the featured speeches in the main ballroom are the centerpieces of the four-day event here in Las Vegas, the breakout sessions provide an opportunity for coaches to learn some of the basic Xs and Os of the game at age levels they are coaching. It also gives them more one-on-one interaction with presenters, which makes for lively discussions.

“The coaches wanted to ask questions about 25 minutes in [to the breakout session], so that tells me they were prepared,” Vanbiesbrouck said. “They’re investing a lot of time and I think they really are valuing this time because they get to touch and feel and listen to all of these great speakers and really engage in conversations.”

In addition to the goaltending sessions – Vanbiesbrouck is teaching the 13 & Over track while NTDP goaltending coach Kevin Reiter is working with the 12 & Under coaches – there are sessions on small-area games, the art of coaching and practice planning.

While a lot has changed since he came into the league in 1982, Vanbiesbrouck said that many of the principles of playing the position remain the same.

“For goaltending, specifically, those old principles don’t apply, but then again they do apply,” he said.

If coaches walk away with one thing from his presentations, Vanbiesbrouck hopes that they know that they have to build a relationship with their netminders.

“You have to build trust and build a bond,” he said. “To do that, you have to communicate with them goaltenders and use terms that will hit them in the heart.”

In addition to his work as a presenter here, Vanbiesbrouck remains closely tied to the game, serving as a USA Hockey vice president and chairman of the Junior Council in addition to his full-time job as the general manager and director of hockey operations for the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the United States Hockey League.

For all of his involvement in the game, the man known as “Beezer” is impressed with the level of passion and commitment he’s seen here this week, and has enjoyed the opportunity to talk hockey with coaches from around the country.

“At the end of the day we’re all fans of the game,” he said. “We grew up fans and if you played like I played for a few years, you were a fan inside the game, and now I’m a fan outside the game. The core of it is that people love this game and they want to be good custodians of it.”

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