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Receiving the 2024 Hockey Goaltending Growth Award Only Makes Brad Johnson Want to Work Harder

By Dan Scifo, 07/10/24, 9:15AM MDT

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Johnson is constantly thinking of ways to increase goalie participation, from the youth level all the way to adult leagues.

Brad Johnson appreciated being honored at the recent USA Hockey National Goaltending Symposium in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Receiving the 2024 Goaltending Growth Award mainly excites Johnson to continue to strive to further grow goaltending registration numbers across the country.

“It’s always nice to get recognized, but this just fires me up to keep going,” Johnson said. “I look at the numbers and realize that I can’t take any time off and have I have to keep at it. I enjoy it a lot and it’s something I’m passionate about. Any opportunity to have conversations about it and get other people on board and spread the good word is a good conversation.”

He said the award is validation that he and other like-minded instructors are on the right path.

Johnson, a Level 5 USA Hockey coach, is the associate coach-in-chief for goaltending with the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association. He is also a national sales manager for Brian’s Custom Sports, with a focus on NHL, college, junior hockey and retail goaltender equipment.

“I live goalie every day,” Johnson said. “The advantage is that it frees up opportunities to focus on these types of initiatives.”

Johnson has spent years committed to changing goaltending registration numbers within his district. He’s spent many nights printing trifolds for parent education sessions and lugging multiple sets of quick-change gear across the state.

Johnson said the hockey community’s focus shouldn’t solely be on the Try Goalie for Free events, but also integrating goalie stations into Learn to Play Hockey programs.

“Try Goalie for Free events are great, but the people who show up already decided they want to give goalie a try,” Johnson said. “We obviously want to continue Try Goalie for Free events, but we should champion adding Try Goalie into Learn to Play events so before they get to the 8U level, it’s not a foreign concept to rotate kids in and out of goal.”

Johnson realizes the goalie shortage is well known throughout the hockey community and one solution is to give more kids an opportunity to try the position.

One way to help is quick-change equipment, which is specifically designed to make it easier for a coach or parent to convert a skater to a goaltender within minutes. The set features a chest and arm protector, gloves and goalie pads. 

“The quick-change gear has made it a lot easier,” Johnson said. “I just ask to dedicate a corner of your Try Hockey events to goalies and give these kids time to rotate in and out. When you rotate the stations, everyone wants to try it.”

Johnson doesn’t just want to grow the game at the youth level. He has also focused on hosting free clinics for adult goaltenders as well. He’s seen a wide range of goaltenders at his clinics, from kids who are a few years removed from playing in college, to goalies in their 70s.

“It was a bunch of adult goalies having fun, but we worked them and we designed the on-ice activities specifically to cater to adult-league hockey,” Johnson said. “A lot of our activities and drills were scoring opportunities where your defense isn’t playing well and there are screened shots and multiple chances right in front of the net.”

The results keep Johnson going. He likes going to events and watching kids try the position for the first time. Johnson also enjoys seeing support from the parents, particularly if they weren’t initially keen on the idea of their child playing in goal.

“When it’s their kid’s turn to try the goalie station, those are sometimes the parents standing on the glass taking pictures with their camera phone,” Johnson said. “We have documents to lay out some of the myths and misconceptions of youth goaltending and tried to get parents to not be afraid if their kid wants to step in net. Those conversations drive me, seeing some reluctant parents turn into the biggest goalie cheerleaders. 

“We’re seeing in the trenches that the hard work does pay off.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc

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