Crisis in Canada: Goaltenders


In 2013 the CHL’s three major leagues (Western Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and Ontario Hockey League) voted to ban imported goaltenders.  Rationale being Canadian-born goaltenders are losing opportunities to play at elite levels due to the influx of talented foreign goaltenders.

Canada is producing fewer elite players at the goaltending position; a position that has in the past been dominated by Canadians.  Here’s a brief history:

Terry Sawchuk (1949-1970) started playing hockey before goaltenders wore a catching glove, let alone a mask (the first glove was worn in 1948 by Reid Miller; it was a first baseman’s mitt).  Sawchuk was so good his Detroit manager, Jack Adams (whose name you might recognize), traded Harry Lumley, who had just led the Red Wings to the Stanley Cup in the previous season.  Unprecedented then, unheard of today.

Jacuqes Plante (1952-1975) is a hockey innovator, legend and is regarded as one of the best goaltenders to ever play the game.  He was the first goaltender to wear a mask, one which he designed.

Glenn Hall (1955-1971) had his name on the Cup before stepping foot on NHL ice.

Tony Esposito (1968-1985), brother of NHL legend Phil Esposito, took the Chicago Blackhawks to the playoffs every year he played for them.

Ken Dryden (1971-1979) is not just a goalie.  He’s not just a man.  He’s a superfreak.  Dryden won the Stanly Cup and Conn Smythe trophies

Apr 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy reacts towards referee Kevin Pollock (33) in the second period against the Minnesota Wild during game two of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

before he was considered an NHL rookie.  He’s written several books, and was also the commentator alongside Al Michaels during the 1980 Olympic final “Miracle on Ice“.  It would be an understatement to say Dryden’s done everything (on a minor note of achievements Dryden was a Member of the Canadian Parliament from 2004-2011).

Ed Belfour (1988-2008) was one of the best for two decades, and along with Tony Esposito is one of the greatest Blackhawks of all time.

Jan 18, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien stands on the bench in front of fans dressed as goalies against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Roy (1985-2003) is a polarizing figure, you love him or hate him.  Considered one of the greats; he helped to put the Colorado Avalanche franchise on the map after their move from Quebec winning two Stanley Cups with the team.  He currently serves as the Avalanche coach and vice president of hockey operations, and is the only coach in the NHL with the power to make general manager decisions.

And last but certainly not least, everyone who has heard of hockey in the last three decades knows the name Martin Brodeur (1988-current free agent) whose awards and exploits are too long to list.

So that the “short” list that covers the last 65 years of Canadian dominance in hockey goaltending.

This drop-off of talent involves hockey, so it’s a national crisis for Canada.  Only four Canadian goaltenders in the NHL are currently considered elite: Corey Crawford, Marc-Andre Flurey, Roberto Luongo, and Carey Price.  Crawford has done better the past two years, but critics would attribute his success to the powerhouse team his plays for.  Carey Price was struggling early in his career until the last two years.  Specifically, this post season when he led the Canadians to the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals, before being sidelined by injury.  Flurey and Luongo have

Jun 13, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (30) reacts as the Los Angeles Kings celebrate the game-winning goal by defenseman Alec Martinez during the second overtime period in game five of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

had some success, but have faced far much more adversity.  In no one’s mind would they be considered dominant.  Consistency has been a glaring problem for all four of these goaltenders.

Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundqvist are considered by many to be battling for the title of the best goaltender in the world.  Both goalies led their teams to the Stanly Cup Finals in 2014.  Quick has 2 cup rings, a Conn Smythe trophy and a silver medal.  Lundqvist a Vezina trophy, and a gold and silver medal.  Quick, as Kings fans know is an American;

What will this mean for the CHL?  Will it help Canada to produce better goaltenders?  Or will it bring down the level of competition?  Will we see higher scoring out of CHL forwards because the goaltending is not at the same standard?

It’s a desperate move that has reward and risks, but as it stands now Canadian goaltenders are no longer dominating the NHL, like they once were.

Jun 13, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New York Rangers right wing Derek Dorsett (15) looks for the puck in front of Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty (8) and goalie Jonathan Quick (32) during the second period in game five of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports