Terry Barbeau. Bill Vanderleest. Noah Zeppa. They are three reputable Sault Ste. Marie residents who are all performing goalie coach roles with high end hockey programs on both sides of the International Bridge and the St. Mary’s River.
Barbeau, who is the Methuselah of goalie coaches in the area, has been instructing up and coming puck stoppers at the youth, under 18, junior A, major junior and national collegiate levels as well as with Hockey Canada skill academies for parts of five decades.
In addition to being a private tutor locally, Barbeau — who is a long-retired Canada Post employee — currently works as the goalie coach for the Soo Indians of the USA Under 18 Tier 1 Hockey Federation League. His prior experience includes decades of duty as the goalie coach for the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League, both the Soo Greyhounds and Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League, and the Lake Superior State University Lakers of the Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association.
As the goalie coach for the aforementioned U18 Soo Indians, Barbeau is working with 2007 birth year net minder Nathan Maguire. Maguire was a seventh round pick of the Flint Firebirds from the Soo Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North Under 18 Hockey League at the 2023 Ontario Hockey League priority selections draft. And in a recent guest appearance on the Hockey North Show Podcast, Barbeau was asked about Maguire’s development with the U18 Indians as an OHL draft pick of Flint.
“He is a hard-working kid who comes to practice and the games and never complains,” Barbeau said of Maguire. “And he is getting a valuable opportunity to prove that he is worthy of being a seventh round pick to Flint.”
When asked who some of his favourite goalies were to work with in previous years, Barbeau was quick to mention two former OHL tenders in Kyle Gajewski of the Greyhounds and Jake Paterson of Saginaw as well as Jayme Platt and Matt Violin of the Lake Superior State Lakers. Of note, as a 16-year old, Paterson backstopped the Soo Eagles to an improbable NOJHL championship back in 2011.
As the game of hockey has changed, the goalie position hasn’t that much, said Barbeau.
“Other than maybe having to stand on your feet more, the basic fundamentals are the same,” Barbeau shared. “You just have to stay current. It is all about attention to detail.”
Meanwhile, as Barbeau continues to do his thing as an esteemed instructor, another ageless teacher of the position, the aforementioned Bill Vanderleest, has stayed active as the goaltender coach for both the Sault College Cougars varsity women’s hockey team and the Espanola Paper Kings of the NOJHL.
The affable Vanderleest, who is in his first season in Espanola, is no stranger to the NOJHL. He spent the past decade as the goalie coach for the NOJHL’s Soo Eagles.
A tireless worker, Vanderleest told Hockey News North that he frequently commutes from Sault Ste. Marie to Espanola for practice sessions with the Paper Kings goalies. And that is only part of his commitment.
Besides the odd trip to Espanola for home contests, Vanderleest also takes in Paper Kings road games against their West Division rivals — Soo Eagles, Soo Thunderbirds, Blind River Beavers, Elliot Lake Vikings and Sudbury Cubs — “to touch base and confer with our goalies.”
Then there is the youngest member of the local goalie coach group in the aforementioned Noah Zeppa. An established goalie of good repute who starred for the Soo Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North U18 HL and the Soo Thunderbirds of the NOJHL, the just turned 21-year old Zeppa is in his first season as the goalie coach for the NOJHL’s Soo Eagles.
Zeppa said he is “really enjoying” working with Eagle goalies Marino Ramirez and Anthony Zolezzi, who are not much younger than he is. And Zeppa can’t say enough about being part of the Eagles staff that includes president and general manager Bruno Bragagnolo, head coach Doug Laprade and assistant coach Ken Belanger.
“They ask for my opinion and input … it has been a great experience working for the Eagles,” Zeppa relayed. “They give me a lot of say with our goalies. And Bruno, he runs a great program and treats everyone with respect. He is a great guy who knows a lot about the game.”
And Bragagnolo is happy to have Zeppa on board as his goalie coach.
“Noah is a smart young guy who was a really good goalie in our league and someone who I have always respected and liked as an opposing player with the Thunderbirds,” Bragagnolo relayed to Hockey News North. “And let me say that he is doing a great job as the goalie coach for the Soo Eagles. Our goalies really like him and so do Doug (Laprade) and Ken (Belanger.) Noah has been a really good addition to our staff.”
Of note, Zeppa, who is an outstanding student at Algoma University, is just one year removed from the game as player.