Main: McKenna on the Children of the Korn, and the disciples of Allaire
Justin Bourne: What inspired the tweet about Korn/Allaire? Is this something you’ve thought for a while, or did it just come to you?
Mike McKenna: It’s a topic that’s been percolating for years in the goalie community, something that we talk about fairly often. With the Hockey Hall of Fame voting taking place, it seemed like an appropriate time to round up the goalie union and try to get some momentum for our coaching pioneers. They are builders of the game in every sense.
JB: Which goalie coaches did you work with? How much effect can a goalie coach have on a goalie?
MM: With my suitcase career, it’s more of who didn’t I work with! Where do we start? I’m probably forgetting someone, but here’s a list:
Goalie coaches play a massive role in the development of goaltenders. Skill is easy to find these days, but cultivating NHL goaltenders? That’s the hard part. Relationships and communication are key. When a goaltender is on the same wavelength as their coach — both professionally and personally — that’s when the magic happens. It’s a unique relationship; very different than the normal player/coach dynamic. We look to goalie coaches to provide technical instruction, mentor us, and most of all be in our corner when things go wrong. A goalie voice is essential to the balance of the Coach’s room.
Francois Allaire is forever tied to Patrick Roy, just like Mitch Korn is with Dominik Hasek. Were they fortunate to work with supremely talented goaltenders? Absolutely. But the goalie community knows that those two goalies may have never achieved legendary status without the help of Allaire and Korn. They took their game to the next level.
JB: How do you believe Allaire/Korn have impacted the game, and with that, why do you believe those things should qualify them for the Hockey Hall of Fame?
MM: It’s hard to describe how massive their influence has been. While Allaire wasn’t the first NHL goalie coach, his success opened the door for others. He was instrumental in fine-tuning the butterfly technique and bringing it to the masses. He ran goalie camps out of Quebec and Switzerland that were attended by countless NHL goaltenders: it’s actually hard to find a goaltender from Quebec who wasn’t coached by Francois at some point.
While his NHL success is forever tied to the Stanley Cups won by Roy and Giguere, he was also a mentor to goalies like Luongo, Crawford, Biron, Hiller, Bryzgalov, Gerber, Aebischer, Reimer and many more. His scientific approach to the position was revolutionary at the time: Frankie took data into account and tried to find efficiency. Movements had to be precise and structure was paramount. He wouldn’t settle for anything less and he got results.
Mitch Korn’s influence is similar in scope. His goalie camps have spawned an informal goalie club known as “Children of the Korn” and provided the starting point for countless pro and college careers. Beyond the youth aspect, Korn will always be tied to the NHL success of Hasek, Rinne, and Holtby, but there are dozens more. Under his guidance, the Sabres, Predators, and Capitals were goaltending factories churning out starting goalies in-house, and developing others into tangible assets. For a long time Mitch was known as “the prop guy” for using white pucks, screen boards, deflection boards, etc., to challenge his goaltenders. Something of a mad genius. But I think the turning point for Mitch — at least in terms of public recognition — was when the Capitals won the Stanley Cup. Quite a few of us had tears in our eyes watching him achieve the ultimate goal. Much like Allaire, Korn was early to the game joining the Sabres in the ‘90s and paving the way for future full-time goalie coaches.
Without question these two deserve consideration in the Builder category of the Hockey Hall of Fame. If we’re talking about contributions to the game of hockey in general, these guys are on Goalie Coach Mount Rushmore. They’ve influenced thousands of athletes in pro and amateur hockey. And if winning a Stanley Cup seems to be near-requisite for entry into the Hall, both have it on the resume. Goal tending is often cited as the most important position, yet for years it was neglected when it came to coaching. Allaire and Korn changed that. They got results and validated the need for every team to have a goalie coach. It’s time for these pioneers to be recognized by the Hall of Fame.