A Masked Initiative
The door is shutting on puckstoppers from Europe.
Within four years or less, there will be no more European goalies playing major junior hockey in Canada and the U.S. after the CHL officially moved to make goaltenders ineligible to be selected in the league's import draft starting next year.
As reported 10 days ago by The Star, the three junior leagues - OHL, QMJHL and WHL - were considering the drastic move amidst concerns that Canadian goalies simply are being squeezed out of opportunities in major junior and the country is developing fewer and fewer elite netminders.
After a consultation with Hockey Canada last week, the change was officially announced Monday night at the OHL's "Protect the Net" symposium, a gathering designed to address the "crisis" in Canadian goaltending, specifically in Ontario.
For the 2013 CHL import draft, import goalies can be selected by any of the 60 teams only in the first round, and those goalies plus others currently playing in the league can play out their full junior eligibility.
Starting in 2014, import goalies will be banned from the draft, and will have no other way to become eligible to play in the CHL. The current limit of two imports per CHL team won't change, but ultimately those roster spots will belong to only forwards or defencemen.
The concern about Canadian goaltenders exists at all levels. All three finalists for the NHL's Vezina Trophy this season are Europeans, while a Canadian hasn't been the first goalie selected in the NHL draft in five years. Of the four Memorial Cup finalists, only Halifax, the eventual champion, started a Canadian goalie, and Russia's Andrei Makarov of the Saskatoon Blades was the tournament's outstanding goalie.
The top goalie in the CHL this season, meanwhile, was from the Czech Republic.
“For me, it’s all about opportunity,” Ron Tugnutt, a former NHL goalie and Hockey Canada consultant, told The Star on May 30. “There’s nothing wrong with goalies in our country and there’s nothing wrong with how we’re developing them. They’re just not getting a chance to step up to the plate.”
The OHL goalie symposium continues Tuesday and is expected to make other recommendations aimed at boosting the development of goalies in the province.