WATERFORD, MI – When it comes to goaltending, Randy Wilson knows a thing or two about playing between the pipes.
A former professional goalie, Wilson played for five teams in the old International Hockey League from 1977-1983 and has been a goalie coach the better part of the last 30 years, including two years with the United States National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor and a current gig with the Metro Jets.
“I always knew I wanted to coach,” said Wilson. “I worked my first goalie school back in 1968, so that’s going back a few years. Goalie coaches are still somewhat of a commodity, but it’s only come to pass in the past 12-15 years that goalie coaches are paying jobs. Back in 1998 or so, I started to look at making being a goalie coach my full-time vocation and here we are.”
Along with the Jets, Wilson also works with goalie as two other levels – with the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League and the Motor City Metal Jackets of the North American Hockey League.
With the Jets, Wilson has seen marked improvement this season from Matt Braun and Eric Trunick, two 18-year-olds looking to move up the hockey ladder next year.
“Both Matt and Eric are technically sound and more than capable of making the jump,” said Wilson. “They’re as good as some of the other top goalies in this league (North American 3 Hockey League) and are both good team guys.”
Braun and Trunick each gave praise to Wilson for their play this season.
“Randy has helped me notice and improve a lot of the little mistakes I was making,” said Braun. “I think it’s very important to have someone there who knows the game like Randy does.”
“Randy has helped me this season and he’s been helping me for a few years now,” added Trunick. “We have a pretty good relationship and it’s always good to have him there to remind us of things. Playing juniors, I think you have to have a goalie coach that knows what he’s talking about and Randy is very qualified for the job. I’m glad he has been around to help when I need it the most.”
Wilson noted that over his tenure mentoring young goalies, 35 have been drafted by National Hockey League teams. That stat aside, Wilson said it’s more than numbers and big statistics that make his job fulfilling.
“When I get a kid who I think has potential, if I can get him to adapt to good game habits and he can move on, I feel I’ve made a contribution,” said Wilson, who makes his home not far from Metro’s home rink, Lakeland Arena. “The biggest compliment a coach can receive is when a kid tells you that you made a difference. When I’m coaching a kid, I treat him like my own kid. Seeing them learn and excel, that’s the biggest reward for me.”
Born in Pontiac, Wilson played juniors at Lakeland the first year the arena was open and has stuck around ever since.
“This rink has always been home to me,” said Wilson. “I’ve worked with the Jets off and on for the last 12 or 13 years or so and I know (Jets’ GM) Butch (Wolfe) has always run a good program. I think now with the coaching staff they’ve got with (head coach) Jason (Cirone), Clarky (assistant coach Sean Clark) and (associate coach) Jamie (Hayden), from a development standpoint, I don’t know that this league has three better guys coaching one team. What those three have done this season has been pretty remarkable.”
As for what the future holds for Wilson, he said he has his eyes on the big time.
“I actually interviewed last year for the goalie coach job in Tampa Bay, but I didn’t get it,” explained Wilson. “I’d like to get an NHL job in the next 3-5 years, but until then, it’s status quo. I’ll still work and enjoy my time with Metro, Saginaw and Motor City and if I don’t get into the NHL, I’d still like to stay involved in hockey, but maybe I’ll just slow down some.
“I’d like to keep my hands in it, but I only wish I had more time. That being said, I feel I’ve been successful at what I do and I can take pride in that.”
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING AHEAD
The Jets split on the road in Cleveland last weekend, earning a dramatic win Saturday night before getting shutout Sunday afternoon.
Saturday night, Jacob Schlacht and Tommy Burns scored 42 seconds apart late in the third period to erase a 3-2 deficit and take a 4-3 win.
Schlacht tallied at 17:11 and then Burns potted the game-winner at 17:53.
Brett Grech and Dan Hudson also scored and Justin Bennett tacked on two assists to back Trunick’s 54 saves against his former team.
Jon Buttitta and Matt Zaremba each had a goal and an assist for the Jr. Lumberjacks.
Sunday afternoon, Brian Berger recorded two goals and two assists in an 8-0 win. Alex Larson stopped all 41 shots fired his way for Cleveland.
Trunick made 44 saves for the Jets.
Metro (13-29-1-0) finishes up the 2010-2011 season this weekend with two games on the road at Quad City.
The Jets’ 13 wins this season are the most since another 13-win season back in 2006-2007.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Barry Haber, one of the goalies on Metro’s 2002 Junior B national championship team, owns his own remodeling company in Tallahassee, Fla.– Haber Remodeling.