Shop Talk: Goalie school to BTM: Amazing how fast the time flies by
After graduating from Lake Superior State University in 1987, I decided that I wanted to start a goalie school.
I rented ice once a week at Weston Lions Arena in Toronto and bought a puck shooting machine (one that would later be famous). All I needed to do was put up a couple posters and the goalies would come.
I arrived at the rink a couple hours before the first session of what was then called the Randy Exelby Goalie School. I waited and waited until my first and only goalie showed up. So here I was with a puck shooting machine and an hour and a half of ice time rented – to have one goalie show. A little discouraged by my lack of attendance, I hit the area rinks harder, putting up more fliers. By the end of the first summer, I had a better idea that running a goalie school was harder than I thought.
I spent the next winter playing in the American Hockey League for the Sherbrooke Canadiens, the Montreal Canadiens’ farm team. On the long bus rides, I thought of ideas to make my goalie school better. That next summer, I had a steady stream of regular goalies and a few new ones show up to the weekly sessions. I wore full goalie equipment on the ice and demonstrated all the power skating and movement drills. I now brought out college and Junior A shooters. It was starting to look like a goalie school.
After another season in the AHL plus five call-ups to the NHL team, I was ready for my first full-week camp at Tomkin Twin Rinks in Mississauga, Ont. My family plastered the rinks with goalie school brochures. I had 18 goalies signed up and the camp was a success.
One year, I got a call from a parent wanting to sign up his son over the phone. I asked for the student’s name, to which the reply was “Michael Dryden.” Imagine the surprise when Ken Dryden showed up on the first day with his son, Michael. On the last day of the school, both Hall of Famer Ken and his NHL goalie brother Dave showed up to watch the school. What a thrill for me and the other goalie school parents.
In September of 1989, I was traded by Montreal to the Edmonton Oilers. After playing in a few exhibition games, I was given the choice of going to Cape Breton in the AHL or to the IHL’s Phoenix Roadrunners. I chose Phoenix. Little did I know that I would retire from hockey here and open Behind the Mask.
In 1992, I decided to see if I could run my week-long goalie school in Phoenix. I rented ice at Oceanside and got a record 20 goalies. Each year the school grew, goalies starting coming from out of state to attend. A fond memory was the dryland sessions outside on the hot asphalt. I guess you could call it a character builder.
Back to the famous puck shooting machine. I received a call from my good friend, Orlando Boni, the manufacturer of the Boni Puck Shooting Machine. It looked like a sitcom wanted to rent my puck shooting machine to use in an episode. I put the machine on a trailer and drove with a couple friends to L.A.
The show was Home Improvement.
In Feb. 1994, episode 65, my puck shooting machine was given a paint job and new graphics – now called the “Puck Chucker.” It was a classic episode, which included Tim “The Toolman” Taylor stopping shots wearing lawn furniture seat cushions, and ended with Tim souping up the machine that resulted in a puck being shot through the neighbor’s window.
Now as we start our registration for the 31st Annual Behind the Mask Goalie School, I look forward to my favorite week of the year. See all you goalies in July!
Randy Exelby is the owner of Behind The Mask Hockey Shops.