Gateway to the Crease

Driedger’s Keepers Strives To Make Goaltending Equipment Accessible For Youth Hockey Players In Seattle
By: 
Taylor Moe

Chris Driedger was facing a dilemma last summer. The Seattle Kraken goalie had torn his right ACL at the 2022 IIHF Men’s World Championship, and he was going to miss a significant portion of the 2022-23 NHL season. 

Driedger, though, wanted to stay involved in the Seattle hockey community. Consequently, he started to research local youth hockey programs and what opportunities existed for aspiring goalies.

Reflecting on his own experience as a youth hockey player, Driedger decided he wanted to create a program like the one in his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. According to Driedger, the Winnipeg hockey community funded the purchase of communal goalie equipment so that players interested in hopping between the pipes could have access to goalie equipment without financial hardship. 

“We’ve been building through our grassroots program, so using our QuickChange gear and just trying to make [goaltending] seem like the coolest thing possible has gotten a lot of kids interested.” – Julia Takatsuka, Seattle Jr Kraken Goalie Director

With these ideals in mind, Driedger’s Keepers was born. The program is now propelling a new wave of goaltending in Seattle with free goalie gear available for youth hockey players. 

“I wanted to take that same model and just kind of flip it over and use it here in Seattle,” said Driedger. “I thought we should get something started where maybe we can fund some of the costs of buying the gear and get kids into gear, get them into the position, get them into goalie equipment and just alleviate some of the financial burden for the parents.”

The program possesses an assortment of QuickChange goalie gear, as well as various 12U and 14U goalie sets. These pads are available for use by any teams or individuals under the Jr Kraken Association and are often used by the association to rouse interest in the position. 

“We got some QuickChange gear now, which goes right over the chin pads, so the kids can just try the gear on for a couple shifts if they want and switch it. It takes 90 seconds to switch it. It’s a brilliant idea and a great way to get kids into the position,” said Driedger. “That’s kind of how things got started, and we are looking to potentially expand it next year.”

Equipment provided by the Driedger’s Keepers program has been funded by the sale of Driedger’s first set of Seattle Kraken goalie pads, ultimately helping the program set sail. 

The program continues to focus on spreading the experience of goaltending to young hockey players who might not have had the chance to try it otherwise.

“The goal is to make the goaltending position more accessible,” said Driedger. “It’s kind of been a position that’s become my whole life right now and it’s very dear to my heart, so I’m just trying to share it with everyone that I can, and we’ll see how that evolves over the years.”

***

The Seattle Jr Kraken Association is as new as the team it shares a name with. However, they have already begun to place an importance on the development of all positions, including goaltending. 

The Grassroots Goalie Class and Goalie Development Class was created as a development path for young players and goalies to attend clinics or camps, ultimately fine-tuning their skills. It has also provided coaches with an opportunity to utilize QuickChange gear and allow kids to try goaltending, with the help of the Driedger’s Keepers initiative. 

Seattle Jr Kraken Goalie Director, Julia Takatsuka, relays the importance of the grassroots programs for the goalie community.

“We’ve been building through our grassroots program, so using our QuickChange gear and just trying to make [goaltending] seem like the coolest thing possible has gotten a lot of kids interested,” said Takatsuka.

The partnership between the Jr Kraken and the Driedger’s Keepers program has given the goalie community the ability to expand and flourish. 

“[Driedger’s Keepers] has already helped us quite a bit since it funded four to six sets of our gear this year, so we’re able to do goalie clinics, as well as suit up our 8U teams with gear bags of their own that they borrow throughout the season,” said Takatsuka. “If we didn’t have that gear, we wouldn’t be able to do either of those things to the fullest potential.”

***

In addition to producing a program that has been beneficial to the goalie community, Driedger also decided to take things one step further. Driedger was introduced to young goalie, Jude Gullan, through the Jr Kraken, and the two quickly formed a perfect bond.  

After spending time together, Driedger and Gullan discovered that they share many similar interests, with the main one being their love for goaltending. 

Driedger attended one of Gullan’s practices early on and the Kraken goalie was quickly swarmed by many excited young hockey players. Driedger says it is important for him to be visible to kids in the community beyond a television screen or social media highlight. 

“Putting me back into 12-year-old Chris’s shoes, it’s a no-brainer to be seen as much as possible to go out and help the kids,” said Driedger, reflecting on his childhood. “It’s pretty nostalgic to be back out there with the kids. It’s really cool that we have the opportunity to do that with the Kraken.”

Driedger and Gullan have attended Kraken games, and even hung out at Dave & Buster’s beyond their on-ice training sessions together. 

Gullan is looking forward to continuing to grow as a goalie thanks to his new mentor and friend. 

“I would like to be a better goalie by the end of this and this is really going to help me,” said Jude. “I’m glad that he can come out to help the community and that it’s really cool because it’s nice to have a really good goalie coming out there giving goalies pointers, helping them become better and just help them strive for their dreams.”

Issue: 
2023-06

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