Former Leafs coach offering free clinics

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

They're often treated like shooting targets in practice.

The better they play, the more the rules of hockey change to put them at the disadvantage.

The gear keeps shrinking, but it's still really expensive.

But finally, some positive puckstopping news: the former goaltending coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs wants to give those who stand in the crease a break.

Strathroy's Steve McKichan is offering his expertise free of charge to interested minor hockey associations in Southwestern Ontario.

"The Leafs are paying me (a six-figure salary) to do nothing this season, so I felt I could take the time to try to give something back," the 41-year-old proprietor of Future Pros hockey school said. "If someone wants me to help, I'm here. No strings attached.

"As an example, let's say Woodstock minor hockey is interested in having a goalie coach come in and work with them. All they have to do is set up some ice time at one of their arenas, gather the goalies in their organization and we'll do a session together."

Young goalies will gain the wisdom McKichan imparted to Maple Leafs like Ed Belfour and Vesa Toskala, who both spent summers training with him in Strathroy.

"My goal is to get back in the NHL again," he said. "It's offseason for my (summer goalie) camps. I have the opportunity now to help out during the hockey season, so I'm putting this out there."

McKichan continues to keep close tabs on the big leagues. He was watching the St. Louis-Montreal game on TV last week when Strathroy native and Blues forward Andy McDonald -- a long-time shooter at his goalie schools -- crashed into the boards and broke his left leg.

That game ended in a shootout. The breakaway contest has become a big part of pro hockey and McKichan has studied it closely and documented his findings.

"You look at the standings and by the end of the year, teams can expect to be involved in, on average, 10 shootouts," he said. "That's 10 points on the table. Say the Maple Leafs make $1 million a playoff game and if you figure the difference between getting a playoff berth and missing it could be a couple of points, then doing well in the shootout is huge.

"I'm sure a GM when he's looking at the pay formula, if a guy has a $1-million contact and has proven to be good in shootouts, that could be one of the factors in them deciding to pick it up for another year."

Earlier this year, the Leafs went against the grain when coach Ron Wilson yanked Toskala for a shootout and inserted cold backup Curtis Joseph. The move didn't work, but McKichan didn't criticize.

"There are detailed statistics on every shootout situation since it came into the league (in 2005-06), but you do what you think gives you the best chance to win at that time," he said.

GETTING IN TOUCH

Steve McKichan can be contacted at (519) 247-3122 or by e-mail at info@futurepro.com


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