Better With Age

Not Content To Rest On Their Laurels, Organizers Of The Warren Strelow National Goaltending Camp Keep Pushing Forward

PLYMOUTH, Mich. – On and off the ice, Joe Exter pushes his goaltenders to be the best they can be. He expects no less from himself and the programs he creates.


As one of the principal architects of the Warren Strelow National Goaltending Camp, Exter set lofty goals when it came to creating a springboard for talented young goaltenders to advance in their careers while giving the United States a deeper talent pool for international tournaments.


Now in its 11th year, the camp has lived up to those ideals. Look no further than it’s impressive list of alumni who have come through the program, including current NHLers John Gibson (Anaheim), Jack Campbell (Los Angeles) and Thatcher Demko (Vancouver).


“Over the years that we’ve had the camp, the driving force has been to better identify our goaltenders and help give them the tools to be successful while also giving USA Hockey better depth in goaltending. And I would have to say that it’s worked,” said Exter, the first full-time goaltending coach at USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program.


“Another driving force is we wanted to be able to go into tournaments and have a chance to win gold medals and you can’t do that without goaltending.”


Not looking to rest on its laurels, this year’s camp has added a new twist under the direction of Phil Osaer, USA Hockey’s manager of goaltending, and Thomas Speer, USA Hockey’s national goaltending coach.


For the first time, the camp has padded its ranks with a handful of professional goalies who are incorporating their time on the ice to prepare for their upcoming season while also creating an organic mentorship for the next generation of goalies. The most notable goalie here is Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings, who is joined by fellow pros Phoenix Copley (Washington Capitals), Charlie Lindgren (Montreal Canadiens), Zane McIntyre (Providence Bruins) and Collin Delia (Rockford Ice Hogs).


“In our drive to create a world-leading goalie program, we’re constantly looking to improve this camp,” said Osaer, who has been involved since the camp’s inception. “Over the years we’ve wanted to create an environment that is more suited for development than simply evaluating goalies. And by bringing in these pro guys these younger goalies can learn from them and see what it takes to get to the next level.”


Several rising college stars are also here, including Jake Oettinger (Boston University), Cayden Primeau (Northeastern University) and Joseph Woll (Boston College). Like Howard, Oettinger and Woll are alums of the NTDP.


“When I was first able to come to the camp, the first group were [two years older] so you looking up to them. Now there are younger guys who are looking up to us,” said Primeau, who is attending his fourth Strelow Camp.


“With the addition of the pro guys we still have guys to look up to. It’s cool to be around them  and see how they carry themselves.”


In addition to pro goalies on the ice, a number of NHL and AHL goalie coaches are also here, including Peter Aubry (Chicago Blackhawks), Mike Buckley (Pittsburgh Penguins), Scott Clemmensen (New Jersey Devils), Jeff Salajko (Detroit Red Wings) and Chris Terreri (New York Islanders) to name but a few.


Over the course of the four-day camp, the curriculum focuses on both physical and mental aspects of the position. In addition to intensive on-ice training sessions, goalies get a crash course on how to get to the top of the profession and what it takes to stay there.


For Exter, who has spent the past seven years coaching in the college ranks, the message is relatively simple.


“Like anything in life it all reverts to the basics, your foundation and your fundamentals,” said Exter, who is starting his second season as an assistant coach at Michigan State after six years at The Ohio State University.


“That’s what it all comes back to. You work hard, you focus on the next shot so you can stay in the moment, and you have fun. That’s what it’s all about.”

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