Jr. Sharks goalie coach Cazares answers USA Hockey’s call
There’s no offseason for San Jose Jr. Sharks goaltending director Rick Cazares, and that’s just the way he likes it.
Already a mainstay at Sharks Ice working with goaltenders of all ages within the Jr. Sharks organization, Cazares recently took on an additional position with USA Hockey where he will serve as regional development coordinator working with goaltenders and coaches throughout Northern California.
In his new role, Cazares reports directly to USA Hockey on his day-to-day work with, in addition to setting up coaching clinics to better help coaches understand how best to work with their goalies.
“A big part of this is helping teach coaches,” said Cazares. “Coaching goaltenders is often an overlooked aspect of hockey, and it’s not anyone’s fault because there just isn’t that many goalie guys out there, but if we can start teaching coaches within the organization, we can better develop goalies along the West Coast.”
For Cazares, the offer to work with USA Hockey sounded almost too good to be true.
“When Phil Osaer (the American Development Model manager of youth goaltending at USA Hockey) reached out and asked if I’d be interested in the project, that’s an easy question – of course I’m going to jump on that,” said Cazares. “Someone from USA Hockey comes and asks me if I want to be a part of something that I believe in – it’s the second best thing to playing for USA Hockey.”
The coordinator position is part of a larger goal within USA Hockey that Cazares describes as the 51-30 model. By better developing young goaltenders, the hope is that by 2030, USA-born goaltenders can account for 51 percent of the minutes played in the NHL.
“Right now, we’re at something like 23.8 percent, so we’ve got a ways to go,” said Cazares. “With this program, we’re exposing more kids and sharing more ideas among the coaches. We’re all on the same page now, and instead of wondering how they are doing it in different parts of the country, now we do it the same everywhere.”
As part of his new position, Cazares attended the Warren Strelow National Team Goaltending Camp in Plymouth, Mich., in May to work with some of the top goaltending prospects in the nation and brainstormed with minds like USA National Team goaltending coach Kevin Reiter and ex-NHL netminders John Vanbiesbrouck and Ty Conklin.
“It’s like Disneyland for goaltenders,” said Cazares. “It’s pretty much the greatest place in the world. All the big dogs were there, and I really felt like I was part of something special. You get to bounce ideas off of all these guys and get their input, and then you take those ideas and apply them on the ice to all these talented goaltenders.
“We shared so much. I’ve already implemented a bunch of different drills from other coaches in my day-to-day work with the Jr. Sharks. The biggest thing for me is to talk about all of this stuff so I can reaffirm the things I’m doing right and fix the things I’m doing wrong.”
While the workload is significant, Cazares has a difficult time suppressing his enthusiasm for the work he’s doing, both with the Jr. Sharks and with USA Hockey.
“I don’t think I could have come into this at a better time,” said Cazares. “I’m so grateful that the organization has helped me so much, anything I ask for from the Jr. Sharks they have given me, and now being able to work with USA Hockey. This past year has affirmed my love of coaching, and now I’m able to translate that to these young goalies and teach them with the help of the backing and support of an organization like USA Hockey.
“We can make a difference – that’s what I’m most excited about. There’s so much opportunity for our kids to get better now, and we have a community that we believe in and we are going to work together to achieve our goal.”
– John B. Spigott