Red Deer’s Brad Kirkwood has established himself as the go-to goaltending coach for Hockey Canada.
The 51-year-old not only has years of professional playing experience but also over a decade of coaching experience.
His work with Hockey Canada began in 2015 working primarily with the women’s national team program but has evolved to also working with the men.
He’s been to two Olympic games with the women’s team, winning gold and silver but he also recently took over as the goaltending IST lead at Hockey Canada.
His new role will put him in charge of the development of goaltenders within all 13 of their leagues including Hockey Alberta and Sask. Hockey.
“I’ve taken on a role from the grassroots level… My job is to work on a development plan so each province is sort of calibrated in what we’re doing. I’ll be looking to produce high-end goalies for the years to come,” he said.
“It’s something that just kind of presented itself to me… Through that, you love to help kids get to where they want to be but it’s also rewarding to see a goalie who’s maybe not as touted as someone with great skill develop them.”
Kirkwood was born in Calgary but moved to Red Deer when he was in Grade 3.
He went through the minor hockey program in Red Deer suiting up for the U18 AAA Red Deer Optimist Chiefs before joining the Red Deer Polytechnic Kings hockey program.
Kirkwood explained he wanted to be a goalie not only because the equipment was cool but also because of the high pressure that comes with playing the position.
“I stuck with it and ended up being okay at it,” he said.
Kirkwood played four years of professional hockey in Europe in the English Premier Ice Hockey League from 1996 to 1999 before retiring.
He moved back to Calgary where he still resides today after his playing career to join the Calgary Police Service. He worked for them for 22 years until he retired.
While working as an officer, he joined the University of Calgary Dinos men’s and women’s hockey teams in 2010 as a goaltending coach and has been there ever since.
“Since I’ve been there we’ve had the opportunity of putting 10 goalies in touch with professional contracts and offers,” he said.
“So, that keeps me going. From when you quit playing to being able to help someone else reach their dreams and goals it’s quite rewarding. It’s filled the void of not playing.”
That’s also evolved into more coaching opportunities which includes development work with Top Prospects Goaltending and most recently, joining the Professional Women’s Hockey League team in Toronto.
“I never really thought about coaching much. I had switched gears from playing to my new career with the police. Once I started coaching I found that I still had a passion for the game,” he said.
“It’s easy to go to work and put in long hours and be a student of the game when it’s still your passion.”
Kirkwood said he got all of his opportunities in coaching hockey through the trust of the players and coaches he’s worked with.
“That’s 90 per cent of it. Eventually, you start producing a pretty good track record of performance goaltenders. Word gets out a little bit and things take off from there,” he said.
Later this month Kirkwood will be on his way to Kitchener and Sarnia for the upcoming Rivalry Series between the United States national women’s program and Team Canada.
“This coaching staff is phenomenal so I’m heavily involved. I have input in our powerplay, our PK, and I do scoring presentations to the team. It’s busy but it’s a pleasure to work with a staff that has that trust in you,” he added.
“I still have a competitive edge and I want to be the best at what I do. But it’s more being able to see these goalies reach their dreams and their goals.”