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Kolzig on Goalies, Godzilla, and Life as a Coach
Olaf Kolzig playing defense. (Chris Gordon)
Capitals goaltending coach and legend Olaf Kolzig came to visit the Caps Fan Club last month. Here’s what he spoke about, via Staci Gelfound.
On Saturday, February 8, 2014 the Fan Club welcomed Olie Kolzig to their February membership meeting.
Olie started the meeting with some background on his NHL career. He played for eighteen years with four years in the minors. He regrets going to Tampa Bay to finish his career instead of retiring as a Washington Capital in 2007/08. He took two years off to spend time with the family. He moved his family to Washington State to work with youth hockey. His family missed Florida so much that they moved back and that’s when Olie got the call from Dave Prior to offer him the assistant goalie coach position. Kolzig stated that goalie coaches used to be part time with the team and split their time with the AHL and ECHL affiliates. However the demand of the league now requires each team to have a full time goal coach so that’s why his position was created with the Capitals. He spent time at the various training camps with Reading and Hershey then was home for two weeks and then back up to the teams. This year he’s the Goalie Coach as well as an Assistant Coach which is certainly a full time position.
Kolzig says he runs practice and sometimes sits in the press box during the games to see the players from above. He often educates the other coaches about the goalie position and the way the goalies need to play the position.
His biggest challenge so far is his relationship between him and the players. He has to remind himself that he’s no longer a player and can’t hang out in the locker room with the guys.
A question was raised about the Capitals’ goalie prospects. Olie said that Neuvy and Holts are currently having some growing pains with the new system. Holts is athletic and competitive but he sometimes thinks too much about his play however he’s becoming more controlled. Neuvy has been playing good hockey but has had bad luck regarding injuries this season. Gruby came up to cover Neuvy and is the dark horse of the organization. He’s very laid back and quiet off ice but very intense on ice. He needs development so he was sent back to Hershey. Kolzig commented on Dave Legigio from Buffalo; said he is having a fantastic season but he’s not considered a prospect at twenty-nine years old. Brendon Anderson in Reading is the most improved goalie in our system. Finally, Riley Gill has been assigned to the AHL and spends times between Reading and Hershey.
Someone asked how he got involved in the sport since he’s from South Africa. Olie said he’s a German born in South Africa but raised in Canada and works in the US. A question was asked about how a goalie can counter screening at the net. He stated that the goalie needs help from his defensemen. He’s also been teaching the goalies how to look around players and stay level or stationary in order to keep the location of the puck in perspective.
In regards to the Olympics, Olie said that the pressure is on Ovechkin because the Olympics are in Russia. He hopes that regardless of the outcome he hopes Ovi comes back even keeled.
A question was asked how Kolzig got the nickname of Godzilla. He stated that it started in his third year as a professional player in Rochester. He was an emotional player with a hot temper and was rather large for the position of goalie. Someone made a sign “Nobody beats Godzilla” and eventually it was shortened to Zilla. His first mask design was not good, looked more like Barney. He worked with his designer and the last few years of his career it morphed into Mega Godzilla.
Finally Olie addressed the recent goaltending rumors within the Capitals organization. He has explained to the players that they can’t let the rumors and statements affect your play especially with today’s social media. The goalie position is a lightning rod; lose a game and you get criticism. One needs to use the comments as motivation to play the position to the best of your ability.
The Fan Club was honored to have Olie, one of the most popular Caps Alumni players and the best goalie in Caps’ history, speak at our meeting. We wish him much success in his position as Caps goalie coach. How fortunate we are that Olie can continue his hockey career with the Caps.
Please join the Fan Club at their next membership meeting on Sunday, March 16th for our annual elections and another insightful speaker!