Some guys know during their playing days that they want to go into coaching. Olie Kolzig said he didn’t even have an “inkling” of that.
But after doing some coaching work with the Tri-City Americans, the junior team he owns, Kolzig started thinking about it.
“Being away for two years, I started to get an itch again, to get involved again with hockey,” he said.
With he and his wife, Christin, set to relocate to Florida, Kolzig was ready to start sending out feelers and resumes to see if NHL teams were interested. Meanwhile, the Capitals knew Arturs Irbe wouldn’t be back – George McPhee said he was returning to Latvia for family and personal reasons – and got in contact with Dave Prior, who was goaltending coach from 1996-97 through 2008-09.
Prior got the gig, and it was a matter of finding a second-in-command. Kolzig jumped at the chance to come back and work with the man who helped get his NHL career on track.
“I was looking, and I guess you call it fate and Dave approached me and it was the perfect way to get back into it,” Kolzig said. “It’s not a full-time schedule, but it allows me to work with the kids and see if it’s something I wanna do long-term and be the full-time guy.”
Prior will take care of day-to-day operations with the Caps, while Kolzig will be in charge of helping the young goalies in the system develop – primarily with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League and the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL.
And while Kolzig will have some technical work to do – he criticized goalies league-wide for going to their knees too much – his main job will have a lot to do with psyche. The way he described it, the 41-year-old could be in charge of instilling in and maintaining some patience with Braden Holtby if he’s stuck in the minors another season.
“I think a lot of my coaching will be handling the mental part, too, especially with the guys in the minors,” Kolzig said. “They’re gonna have that itch to get called up. … It’s gonna be my job to kinda keep them in line and tell them to be patient.”
Of course it remains to be seen if Holtby will be with the Caps or Bears – but either way it appears Kolzig will be central to his development.
“There’s a lot of similarities between Holtby and the way Kolzig played when he was in the NHL,” said analyst Justin Goldman of the Goalie Guild. “I think this really bodes well for Holtby long-term.”