For my blog today, I decided that I would write a bit about what I think about the European Goalie Situation with the Canadian Hockey League.
For me, the love of hockey came in the Junior league (WHL) at the will of the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Being raised an Edmonton Oiler fan in southern Alberta, I never really got to see many games (none actually) of the NHL calibre, but living in Purple Springs had afforded me the opportunity to go see almost every Lethbridge Hurricanes game where I got to meet the players and find a passion for the sport that one doesn't really get to see simply by watching hockey on TSN, atleast not in the early 2000's. In all of the years of watching the Hurricanes, I had seen rookies and bantam draft picks age out, or go to NHL teams, making room for new players to come in and stake their claims. Justin Leclerc started in net for the Hurricanes and was their for just one year before he was shipped off to the Kamloops Blazers. What I remember the most about him and his tenure with the Hurricanes was that he was easy to look at and a wrist shot from the point knocked him over in the net for the game winning goal of one game.
His back-up was the late Michael Maniago, who was a fantastic Goaltender, atleast in the regular season. When the playoffs came (and they didn't very often for this team), he would crumble under the pressure. This is when we had his back-up Juha Metsola, a finish second round draft pick in the Import Draft come in. He was fantastic in every situation, and he handled the pressure of being the "go-to" guy right away. The fans would chant his name after every big stop and he brought the Lethbridge Hurricanes passed the first two rounds in each of his seasons as the Hurricanes number one, even as far as to the Western Hockey League championship round one year, loosing in 4 straight to the eventual Memorial Cup winners the Spokane Chiefs that year. Since then, Lethbridge has gone through tons of Goalies and the only ones that would work for them in this time were ones they bought from other teams in their over-age years.
The fact is, European Goalkeepers ARE taking away jobs from Canadian Goalies in the CHL, but for good reason (they are better). It's not a secret; everyone in the CHL knows this. They arn't giving this position around freely to anyone from another country, they are giving it to the player who deserves it, and in most cases that is the European Goalie developed prior to coming into the CHL by much more qualified trainers.
Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to say that Canadian Goaltenders are bad, cause that isn't it at all. What I am trying to say is that European Goaltenders are not to blame, and banning them from coming to play in the CHL is completely un-Canadian, and the Individual who ultimately decided that this would "correct" their issue of not medalling in the world Juniors or having more Canadian number one goalies in the National Hockey League should be fired from his position and thrown out of the Country. I am ashamed that someone from MY country made this decision, ruining dreams of kids across the pond who wanted to come here and learn this style of hockey. What makes this so much worse is that they have allowed the Forward and Defensive European players to continue being drafted, outright discriminating against the position of Goalkeeper altogether.
The reasons that Canada doesn't win in the World Juniors isn't because the European Goalies are better or more developed due to them taking our jobs in the CHL. It's because the goalies that they select to represent us are GOD AWFUL, who in their right mind who select Malcomn Subban to lead our Junior Squad into Battle against the worlds best scorers. He wasn't even that great on a good team in the Bulls, but he was still considerably better than Mark Vesentin who was the sole reason Canada sucked for two straight years. Although you can't blame him for crumbling under the pressure, I mean just the year before he had to watch Jake Allen out-awful the American Goalie in the Gold Medal Game. The reason why the Americans won? they pulled their goalie, Canada left theirs in until it was too late. So in conclussion, it isn't the European Goalies that are to blame, they wernt the ones who selected the worst possible tandem to represent Canada at the world Juniors 5 years running. Although given the chance, they probably would make the same selections, so they would ultimately have the best chance to win.
I think the worst thing about this decision is yet to come, the individuals are going to untimately look like heros in the end because Canada is going to become a contender again. Not because of the Goalie thing, they are still going to select the worst candidates possible, but because Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Droun are going to be joined by Franchise player Connor McDavid (if MacKinnon and Droun play) who will ultimately take everyones mind off of the fact that Canada did everything just short of cheating to win gold.