GARRET SPARKS - Head Instructor, Toronto Maple Leafs
Garret Sparks is one individual who needs no introduction. However, there’s more to the familiar face than what most people know.
The Illinois native played for the Chicago Mission of the Tier 3 Elite Hockey League before joining the Guelph Storm in 2010. Sparks started in 19 games for the Storm, finishing the 2010-11 season with a record of 8-6-1 and a save percentage of .890. In addition to his stellar numbers with Guelph, Sparks competed in the 2012-13 World Junior Championships in Russia, where the United States U20 team took home the gold medal. “Team USA is something I never thought I’d be a part of,” says Sparks. “It’s something you dream about.”
It wasn’t the only dream come true for the 18 year old; his time with the Storm caught the eye of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who drafted him in the 7th round 190th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. After splitting time between Leafs’ AHL and ECHL affiliates throughout the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons, the then 22 year old made his NHL debut on Monday, November 28 against the Edmonton Oilers. Prior to his debut, Sparks had a win record of 8-2-1 in 11 games with the Marlies, a 1.90 GAA and a save percentage of .938 - second best in the AHL. The Leafs’ rookie made 24 stops and blanked the Oilers, becoming the first goalie in Toronto history to record a shutout in his NHL debut.
Following such a historic first appearance in a Leafs jersey, Sparks appeared in 16 more games for the Toronto, accumulating wins against teams like the St. Louis Blues, New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders and Anaheim Ducks. But despite the sudden stardom, Sparks never lost sight of the things he valued off the ice.
His involvement in GGSU started in 2013 when a friend of his made him an admin, and since then he has devoted most of his free time to building a community around one common theme: to “continue to bring goalies around the world together.”
In a predominately male sport, Shannon Szabados is breaking barriers and carving her own path. The Edmonton, ALTA native started early, becoming the first female to play in the Western Hockey League when she joined the Tri-City Americans at the age of sixteen Fours years later, Szabados made her international hockey debut when she helped Team Canada to a gold medal in the 2006 4 Nations Cup. Fast forward to May 2017 and she continues to have evolving success.
In the 15 years since she made a splash in men’s hockey, Szabados has trained to be the backbone of Team Canada for ten of those years. In that time, she has appeared in three Air Canada Cups, seven Four Nations Cups, three Women’s World Championships and two Olympics.
In the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, Szabados posted a stellar shutout performance against the U.S. Women’s National Team to win gold. Her performance earned her selection to the 2010 Vancouver Media All-Star team, as well as Directorate Award for Best Goaltender. In the 2014 Sochi Games, she was victorious in all three of her starts, including the gold medal rematch against the U.S, which went into overtime. Szabados recorded a .953 save percentage and a 0.96 GAA in 3 GP.
Following her Olympic success, Szabados signed with the Columbus Cottonmouths of the Southern Professional Hockey League to finish out the 2013-2014 season, becoming the first female to play with an SPHL team. After losing her first game to the Knoxville Ice Bears, she rebounded and became the first female to win a SPHL game when the Cottonmouths defeated the Fayetteville FireAntz 5-4 in overtime on November 21st. She also became the first ever female to record a professional shutout when she made 34 stops against the Huntsville Havoc in 2015.
For most goalies, hockey is more than a hobby - it’s a lifestyle. For Szabados, it has been what has defined her over the past 20 years of her life. When asked what she wants to see accomplished by the end of the camp, she says “the progression everyone makes! It’s incredible to see how far all of the goalies come from the start of the week to the end!”
For this Canadian native, the Toronto Legends Camp is especially exciting, since it is the only camp in Canada, which means “more Tim Horton’s and beer!.” It also provides a place where she can watch each attendee’s progress throughout the week: “With the amazing staff GGSU assembles… it’s no surprise the knowledge the goalies retain from the start of the week… it’s really fun to watch!”