Dave Starman has a mission: for all coaches to be goalie coaches. The long-time coach and instructor has seen advances across the board in the United States, but he says there's still plenty of room for improvement.
Starman, who also serves as a college hockey analyst for CBS Sports Network and recently on NHL Network for the IIHF World Junior Championship, spoke with USA Hockey about goalie coaching.
USA Hockey: What is the state of goaltending in America right now?
Dave Starman: I got to tell you – I think it’s good. When you look at guys like Jack Campbell coming down the pipeline and you look at Thatcher Demko and you look at some of the goalies at the NCAA and NHL levels, you can see a methodology to their game.
USA Hockey: Why the improvement?
Starman: I think they’re more athletic. They’re big and they’re athletic. I think our goalies use their legs very well.
USA Hockey: Are you seeing that at all levels?
Starman: Across the country, when I’m looking at young goalies developing, the one thing I’m seeing is kids who can track pucks, kids who can move, kids who can skate. The kids can take their pads off and skate forward and do so pretty well.
USA Hockey: Skating is so important for all hockey players, including goalies.
Starman: They started out playing out, not at goalie. I like the fact that we’re not pigeonholing kids as goalies at 6 and 7 years old. That helps. I was 5 years old and became a goalie and I never knew anything else. When I first took my pads off and started skating, I was like, ‘wow.’ I’m not good at this.
USA Hockey: You say goalies are more athletic now. Why is that?
Starman: I love the fact that these kids are more athletic. I like the fact that we’re encouraging goalies to play other sports. They’re playing lacrosse or soccer or baseball or tennis – whatever. You’re just seeing a more complete person as an athlete than we did 20 years ago. For that reason, I think our goaltending program is doing pretty well.
USA Hockey: How about our goalie coaching?
Starman: Right now, we probably have more good goalie coaches out there than we have ever had. Between guys that are goalie coaches at the NCAA level or the goalie coaches in juniors. It’s become more uniformed in how we do it.
USA Hockey: What do you mean by “uniformed?”
Starman: There’s a very set style that most of these kids are playing. That has allowed us in the goalie coach world to focus on developing them more as players as opposed to developing a style. That has helped us. We are so much more on the same page than ever before. The No. 1 and No. 2 goalies today basically look alike, but one’s a little better.
USA Hockey: When we look at goalie coaching in youth hockey, what can we be doing better?
Starman: I think the one thing we want to do more is make sure that regular coaches can be goalie coaches. I can’t emphasize that enough. There are so many coaches out there that are saying ‘Well, I wasn’t a goalie. I don’t know what goaltending is. I don’t know anything about it.’ Just because they don’t have any experience … They have to lose that intimidation.
USA Hockey: Intimidated by the potential to fail?
Starman: I was never a defenseman, but most of the places I’ve been, I ran the defense as a coach. I never ran a power play as a player, but there have been a lot of teams I’ve coached where the power play was my responsibility. You have to learn and you have to adapt. I bring this up at the coaching education clinics. Look at football coaching staffs. Most of the guys that are coaching a position never played that position themselves as a player.
USA Hockey: How do you instruct this at USA Hockey clinics?
Starman: Often the theme of my Level 4 clinics is teaching the non-goalie coach to be a goalie coach. We need to educate as to how to set aside time for goalies in practice and what drills they can use with them and what to look for in their stance and what they should look like at that age. If we can show a squirt or peewee coach a video of what a squirt or peewee goalie looks like making saves, then this coach can look at his or her goalie and say, ‘OK, my goalie doesn’t exactly look like that, but maybe I can get him or her there by studying this and studying the information out there,’ and then relying on guys like us who are teaching it across the country.
The No. 1 priority for coaches is to understand who their goalie is, what their goalie needs for development and how to do it.
USA Hockey: If the coaches aren’t doing this, do you think the goalies feel like they’re not getting included or getting attention?
Starman: Oh yeah. I see it all the time. Parents come up to the coaches and ask ‘Who is going to work with our goalies?’ One of the things that I’m trying to do is make sure all of our guys understand it. I want a parent to ask any coach in my organization who the goalie coach is, and I want them to say ‘We’re all goalie coaches here.’ That to me is the end goal of my efforts when it comes to educating coaches about goaltending. If we get there, the sky’s the limit on what we can produce in goaltending. We’ll overtake the Finns.