IceCaps Insider: Hitting the Dusty trail Posted by IceCaps on
IceCaps goaltending coach logs lots of travel to ensure bright future between the pipes
By Chris Ballard
Winnipeg Jets’ goaltending development coach Dusty Imoo is no stranger to the road.
As a player, Imoo started his goaltending career in the Western Hockey League, playing parts of four seasons with the New Westminster Bruins, Regina Pats and Lethbridge Hurricanes before transitioning to the pro game in the early 1990’s.
Imoo dabbled in the minor pro ranks in North America, suiting up for four teams in the East Coast Hockey League and the International Hockey League before trekking to Japan, where he enjoyed 10 successful seasons in the Japan Ice Hockey League (JIHL).
He honed his game in the JIHL and later in the Asia Ice Hockey League, where he won three league titles and two MVP awards in 1995 and 2000. Imoo represented Japan at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano and again on the international stage at several World Championships.
These days, Imoo puts his vast experience to good use training and mentoring goaltenders in the Winnipeg Jets organization, wherever they may be.
“I take care of everybody,” Imoo said.
“From draft picks right to the American league. Wade (Flaherty, goaltending coach for the Winnipeg Jets) just takes care of the two guys in Winnipeg and that’s it. I make sure I get out and see everybody and give everybody the attention they deserve.”
This past month alone, the 43-year old has racked up his air miles visiting the various goaltending prospects playing in the American collegiate system. From St. John’s, Imoo traveled to see prospects playing in Michigan, took a short break to head home to Vancouver before visiting Boston to watch goaltenders at UMass Lowell and the University of New Hampshire.
Imoo spends equal time preparing Eddie Pasquale and Jussi Olkinuora for regular duty in the American Hockey League and helping other Jets’ goaltending prospects advance in their careers. He admits that there is quite a difference in helping prepare seasoned professionals and up-and-coming prospects.
“It’s a lot different but it’s not any harder,” Imoo said of juggling his professionals and his prospects.
“I’ve been on both sides of the coin, so I know what they’re thinking. You have to treat them a little differently. When you’re dealing with adults and they’re already making a living doing this job, you can’t talk down to them. Not that you talk down to the kids but it’s definitely more of a mentoring role when you’re talking about the kids.”
There’s no denying that Imoo’s combination of experience across the globe, between the amateur and professional ranks and into the international realm has endowed him with the experience needed to help bring the Jets’ goaltenders to the next level. He believes that’s why IceCaps’ general manager Craig Heisinger was eager to bring him on board.
“I think one of the reasons I was hired was because I had a playing background for a long time,” Imoo said.
“I’ve been through a lot of the trenches and persevered through it all and matured over time. A lot of kids never get through that and it’s hard to look back and know why. One of the things that I think makes a great goalie is the maturity, and I don’t mean an old person. Maturity is how you deal with the bad stuff. Getting booed or letting in four goals in a period or letting one in from outside the blue line, these kinds of things can ruin careers. I try to help with that and teach them that if you can maintain your head through all this, that’s what will make you a pro and help keep a pro career.”
Imoo is in St. John’s working with the IceCaps’ goaltenders this week but it won’t be long before he’s on the road again, visiting another group of prospects. His work with IceCaps goaltender Eddie Pasquale has paid off with Pasquale’s strong play of late, but Imoo isn’t afraid to back away when a goalie hits a hot streak.
“He’s playing well right now,” he said of Pasquale.
“I just gave him a few things he can work on and focus on but didn’t have a whole lot in his face. I like our goalies to be comfortable and play how they feel comfortable. But at the end of the day, it’s about stopping pucks. I don’t say anything if you’re stopping the puck.”