Unless you are a hardcore New York Rangers fan, then the name Terry Kleisinger may not ring a bell. But the Regina native played four games for the Blue Shirts in the 1985-86 NHL season after four years of NCAA with the University of Wisconsin.
Whether you play one, four, or a thousand-plus games in The Show, it’s considered a great achievement for any hockey player’s career, and Terry’s NHL story is noteworthy to say the least.
Fresh off their worst season in franchise history with 44 losses and 345 goals allowed in the 84-85 campaign, newly appointed Rangers head coach Ted Sator made sweeping changes two days prior to the new season – starting goalie Glen Hanlon was sent to the minors, replaced by a young John Vanbiesbrouck, with Kleisinger serving as backup.
Kleisinger signed his NHL contracts just days after being involved in one of the largest team brawls in the league’s history. During a pre-season game against the Philadelphia Flyers, a full-scale fight broke out that took half an hour to resolve and resulted in 506 penalty minutes and 22 players ejected, Kleisinger included.
As you’ll see in the video below, the Rangers netminder skates the length of the ice to engage with Flyers goalie Bob Froese.
These days he lives in Vail, Colorado working as a goalie coach for the junior Huskies team. While the Ice Blacks were in town for two weeks with their training camp, the local Vail Yeti hockey club connected Kleisinger with the New Zealand national team to help prepare their goaltenders, Rick Parry and Vince Mitalas, for the IIHF Worlds.
Mitalas is a name Kiwi hockey fans will be more familiar with having won three titles in New Zealand’s national league. The 6-foot-2 goalie last played for the Canterbury Red Devils during the 2013 NZIHL season, but now resides in London, Ontario.
Originally named as a non-traveling reserve for the 2019 Ice Blacks squad, Mitalas received the emergency call up when Csaba Kercso-Magos became unavailable.
With the opportunity to represent New Zealand again, Mitalas sprung into action, enlisting the help of two goalie coaches (including Perry Wilson) prior to meeting up with the Ice Blacks in Vail.
A Red Devils blast from the past.
Rick Parry on the other hand is coming off a NZIHL championship-winning season with the West Auckland Admirals where he split starts with Kercso-Magos.
Based on first impressions, their temporary coach was impressed with both Kiwi goalies as he began to look for ways to improve their game within a short space of time.
“They’re very good, it’s just a matter of getting used to the altitude. It’s tough here and first of all, the first few days you got to get them used to it so they’re not just sucking wind,” said Kleisinger.
With the first few trainings behind them, the rapport with Kleisinger grew, particularly for Parry whom also aspires to be a goalie coach with his recently launched Rick Parry Goalie Academy.
The coach highlighted Parry’s puck sense and ability to move side to side as his strengths, and while Mitalas has been away from competitive hockey for an extended period, Kleisinger believes that coming into the training camp with a great attitude and being mentally prepared will serve the 40-year-old goalie well.
Both Parry and Mitalas are also singing Terry’s praises after spending ten days together, breaking down their current techniques and refining what they’re doing so they can become more efficient in their movements.
“It’s been awesome. So many times with New Zealand camps the goalies just don’t have a trained set of eyes to see what we’re doing. We go so many weeks and months without a goalie coach that habits creep in and Terry’s able to jump on them pretty quickly and set us back in the right direction.
He doesn’t make any wholesale changes because he just doesn’t have the time – just tweak for the World Championship and refine things, he’s been fabulous for that,” said Mitalas.
Parry keeping an eye on the Aussies. Photo: Jay French
While Parry feels like he has come away with a wealth of knowledge from his time with Kleisinger, something that could become beneficial not only to himself, but to youth goalies around New Zealand that enrol into future RPGA camps.
One such lesson has been a set of warmup drills that Parry mentions can be used in any practice situation, along with ways to tackle certain in-game situations that can be challenging for a goalie – those big moments when they’re called upon to either steal or save the game for their team.
“One in particular has been the cross-ice one-time situation like a 2-on-1. Instead of pushing out to a player, you push back to the post which buys you a bit more time. Just little things like that, that you kind of know but need somebody to pick up on and then tell you so you can refine it,” Parry explained.
Having come through the second week of training camp with an improved effort on the backend for all concerned, reducing the amount of goals allowed from 14 in week one to 7, it appears the time spent with Kleisinger has been invaluable.
But the true test lies within New Zealand’s opening games of the 2019 IIHF Division 2B World Championship, starting with hosts/rivals Mexico tomorrow, followed by a potentially lethal Israel team the next day.
While Parry will see the majority, if not all, of the starts this week, Mitalas is more than prepared to fulfill his important role as backup goalie.
“I’ll have a great seat on the bench watching Rick do his thing, and then again if I’m needed I’ll be ready.”
Ice Blacks Game Times
NZ v Mexico – April 22, 1:15pm
NZ v Israel – April 23, 9:30am
NZ v Georgia – April 25, 6am
NZ v North Korea – April 27, 6am
NZ v Iceland – April 28, 9:30am
Game times are listed in NZ time.