Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 34
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
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TEXT MESSAGE: Craig Fiander makes a point at his Textbook Goaltending Summer School last month at the Ice Land Skating Center in Hamilton. Fiander, a 1993 Princeton University grad and star goalie for the Tigers, has been running the summer goalie program for 11 years.

PU Alum Fiander Runs Textbook Goalie School, Pushing Students to Learn On and Off the Ice

Bill Alden

At first glance, the scene on one of the rinks at Ice Land Skating Center in Hamilton last month appeared to be a run-of-the-mill ice hockey camp.

There were 50 or so players and coaches on the ice, running through drills at a steady clip.

But upon closer examination, one saw something different about this camp as all but a few of the participants were in goaltending gear.

With 10 nets set up on the rink, each of the stations required the aspiring goalies to work on a specific skill germane to their special position.

Presiding over the goalie convention was former Princeton University star netminder Craig Fiander as he directed his 11th Annual Summer School put on by his Textbook Goaltending organization.

Although Fiander has been working for local software development firm, ALK Technologies, since graduating from Princeton, he hasn’t gotten goaltending out of his system.

“That’s my full-time job, that’s my career,” said Fiander of his position as a Vice President of Marketing for ALK.

“I refer to Textbook Goaltending as my spare-time passion. It’s more than a hobby; it is a goaltending school that runs year round. I do work with youth hockey organizations like the Princeton Youth Hockey Association and the Lawrence Flames.”

Fiander, who won the Richard F. Vaughan Cup for perseverance and dedication to Princeton hockey in his senior season, brings a wealth of experience to his school.

After graduating from college, Fiander, a native of Fredericton in New Brunswick, Canada, played for the Fredericton Canadiens of the AHL and the Trenton Titans of the ECHL. He also spent 12 seasons coaching the men’s and women’s goaltenders at Princeton.

In founding the goalie school 11 years ago, Fiander had a basic goal. “When I started this camp, I was trying to be very objective,” said Fiander, who held the camp at Baker Rink for three years before moving it to Ice Land as he attracted more students.

“I don’t claim that Textbook Goaltending is going to churn out Division 1 goalies because in general that it is a very difficult task. I am trying to make these kids better goalies and get them prepared for the next level whether it be going from squirt B to squirt A or playing on that high school team in a regular role versus a back-up.”

The five-day school, which is open to boys and girls of all ages and levels, features 15 hours of on-ice instruction that include skills sessions and goalie power-skating drills. There is a student-to-instructor ratio of approximately 2:1 with the camp this July having 28 students and 17 coaches.

There is also classroom work on goalie theory and psychology. The off-ice component of the program also includes personalized video evaluation from the day’s drills.

“We have fine-tuned the overall agenda and the curriculum to really make this as efficient as it can possibly be,” said Fiander, who held his annual Pre-Season Tune-Up Clinic at Ice Land last weekend.

“We have tried to do a lot in the drills on the ice and also off the ice. I think the main differentiation from my perspective is personalization. With regard to video analysis, I think it is really important for them to see themselves and then talk about it. You see certain things and you absorb so much visually.”

An important teaching aid the past two summers has been a visit by former NHL standout Jim Dowd, who has put on his skates and fired shots at each student.

“It is such a thrill having an NHL player on the ice,” said Fiander, who has brought in Princeton alums and NHL players Andre Faust and Jeff Halpern to the camp in past years.

“It is something these kids will never forget. You get to experience that and you see what he can do. The way he interacted with students and coaches on and off the ice was great, he is a class act and a consummate pro.”

Dowd, for his part, enjoyed the experience of putting the goalies through their paces.

“Any camp is great, it is fun and the kids can learn a few things,” said Dowd, a native of Brick, N.J. who helped the New Jersey Devils win the 1995 Stanley Cup and played 17 seasons in the NHL.

“A lot of camps don’t do a ton for the goalies so something like this is extra special. The kids all want to get better at being a goalie and this is structured for them.”

One of the kids, Katie Alden, (this reporter’s daughter) relished the chance to face Dowd.

“The main highlight for me was getting shot on by an NHL player and other guest shooters like [former Princeton stars] Scott Bertoli and Jeff Kampersal,” said Alden, a rising seventh grader at John Witherspoon who will be playing for the Princeton Tiger Lilies 14-and-under program this winter.

“I was worried at first but I was thinking ‘you can do it, it won’t be as bad as you think it is.’ It was really fun to stop an NHL player’s shot.”

Alden gained a lot from the other sessions at the school. “The most important lessons were mainly in technique and how to improve in certain areas like my butterfly slides,” added Alden.

“The skating drills also helped me to become a better goalie. The classroom work really helped. Seeing your errors on tape makes you know what you need to do better.”

For Fiander, the underlying goal of encouraging the students to do better in all areas is reflected by the textbook name.

“I think it is always funny to talk about it because the little kids say ‘ooh textbooks, I don’t want to deal with that’ but I think they get it,” added Fiander, who takes as much pride in his camp alums who have succeeded on Wall Street as those who have played pro hockey.

“What we are trying to do is to instill in them a sense of work ethic. If you are fanatical about the goaltending position, you have to treat it with passion and be a student of this position. On the flip side, treat your schoolwork with the same passion you treat your hockey. I want kids to understand how important school is because hockey is only going to last so long. Getting a good college degree is the ultimate goal.”

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