A blog dedicated to the fact you cannot make an NHLer,

Obviously you see the sarcasm in my blog name. This blog is about teaching the love of the game, the skills of the game and hopefully open some eyes to the crazy parents that think they can push their kid into becoming a star only to have the opposite happen or be the limiting factor in their kids hockey development. Remember, if you turn hockey from a game into a job, then all is lost and kids will drop out either physically or mentally.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Biggest Breakout issue in Minor Hockey

So its been a while since I have written. I have been busy with the kids and their hockey and playing myself.

I went to a Bantam AA (which here in Saskatchewan is the top tier, since we only have one AAA bantam team) and was witness to some very good players that will probably be taken in the WHL bantam draft. I noticed the same issue with breakouts that I see at all levels of hockey.

I am sure there is a fancy name for this, but I call it breakout breakdown. Here is usually what happens:

The defensive team battles for the puck down low. After some good work, luck bounce or rebound the defensive team has the puck. (in these examples green is the opposing team, so we are breaking out of our own end)

Now what usually happens is that the wingers leave the zone way too early like the following example.

As you can see the defenseman's only option is a long pass which is usually met by an interception since nothing works out like it does on paper.

As you can see the defensemen is ussually getting a lot of pressure from the forecheck and once the defenseman for the other team slide back to cover the breaking wingers like here in the bottom .

The Blue defenseman now has lots of pressure and no where to dish it off to since his wingers are easily covered.

The Blue defenseman usually tries a move or two or doubles back behind the net and then his wingers now stop farther down and wait for a pass, which has about a 10% chance of getting through and then the player has to start out flat footed to get into the other teams end.

The Reason this happens is our obsession with breakaways and many players figure that this is the best way to get them is with the stretch pass that we see on TV.

Here is the solution: Explain to the wingers and centerman that they should be able to create a 2 on 1 and the odd breakaways most of the time rather than the lucky breakaway.

Once the Defenseman has the puck have the wingers swing down to the boards near the hashmarks, as shown below:

Now once the defenseman makes the easy short pass to the winger, the centerman follows up towards him for support and the far side winger moves towards center, but does not break up ice. (if this is timed right it will look like you are heading across the ice to help on the other side.)

Notice how the defenseman in green has started to pinch to give the winger no were to go.

If he does not pinch you have lots of room and time, hence the support of the centerman.

After all this you will be able to move the puck up to the centerman, with either a chip up the boards if the green defensman pinches or a direct pass if the defenseman backs up.

As you can see it is pretty straightforward and if the far green defenseman is not backing up once the chip or pass is being made the far winger should break for the breakaway since the d-man would be flat-footed. See here below:

The very worst scenario is that both defensemen in green back up and you will have a 3 on 2 with puck control.

More of the post:

Most players accomplish the opposite of what they are trying to do on the breakout by leaving early for the breakaway. Work as a team and tons of offensive chances will happen. In this method both wingers and the centerman will have to take turns on leading the rush depending on what the defenseman do, but if they each get 15 chances a game the law of averages will keep them very happy.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Power Skating Arm Swing - common misunderstanding

The other day I saw a poster for a local powerskating school and it said"Your arms move forward (push and pull) and no side to side movement." I have not been to this power skating school, but it made me think of how we take to many concepts and ideas based on the resume's of some teachers base on how good of hockey player they were or where they coached before. While most are very knowledgeable, some are just rehashing the things that they were taught.

Since I have not been to this power skating school, I will not say they are doing it wrong, since they may be teaching the correct way. However, the wording is a bit confusing.

Here is my take on this whole arm swing:

Arm Swing. A lot skating power skating teachers are telling kids to push pull with the arms, but that is wrong. They are not 100 meter sprinters, they are skating. The key is the alignment of the arms and the legs, this may be the way they teach it but it sounds wrong from the description. The hand in front of the skater should be palm up and out in line with the center of gravity. The other arm aligns with the skating leg.
You can see how the force/power would be applied best in the diagrams below.

These are some notes from a study of NHL players.
· The correct shoulder (arm) movement for high performance skating is "side to side.", not forward-backward like a sprinter. When the leg pushes to the side the equal and opposite reaction is the shoulder (arm) moving to the side. This motion is confirmed by observation of high performance hockey players - clearly revealing that a side to side shoulder (arm) movement is used during straight skating/striding.
· Observation of forward and back (sprinter pump) shoulder movement shows that it causes a narrow stride. A narrow stride is characteristic of low performance skating.

Watch the video of the 2009 NHL fastest skater competition and you will spot what I mean right away, especially when they show the front back views.

Moral of this post:

When learning or being taught anything, think critically. The source is not always the best indicator of knowledge. Many NHLer's succeed in spite or their parenting or coaching, I am not saying many hockey schools teach the wrong things, most are terrific. Just remember to not be afraid to ask for explanations as to why things are done a specific way.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

How to find the coach best for your kids development.

We all hear the horror stories about the bad coaches, but are they easy to pick out?
In hindsight, most signs are telling. But at the beginning things are not so easy. Make sure you know what you want in a coach, then go from there.

For me, kids developing is number 1. End of story.......everything else is just for the parents, association and coaches ego.

The question that every parent should ask the coach and the other parents at all levels of minor hockey:

  • If you coached a group of kids for 4 years and they never won a game, would you be ok with that, how would you rate the success of that team and yourself?
  • If you coached a group of kids for 4 years and they never won a game, but all of them got hockey scholarships to college, would you call that success?
The reaction is almost as telling as the answer, especially since the second question would most likely be met with "That would never happen, you would win tons of games on a team with that much talent!"

Hopefully, at that point the light bulb would go off and the coach would realize that the chances of winning are pretty good when you have the top tier of kids on your team, but to get to that point does come with a price. Usually the price is failure.............lots of failure. This why we always seem true champions rise out of adversity and average people quit as soon as things get tough.

Now back to the questions and answers:

"Losing all the games would be tough on the kids, the parents would probably have me lynched after they got sick of losing"
  • Pressure is mostly perception, this coach might be fine, as long as he doesn't crack when the going gets tough, since he has not lost a game at this point and is already making excuses.
"Kids need to win to move on to the next level, they need to be show what it takes."
  • Stay away, unless this person has an amazing record for development of kids, they probably will be scared of this coach and we learn through failure and correction, not fear of failure.
"Wow, that would be amazing if one kid got a scholarship. You know how lucky you would have to be to have more than one???"
  • This coach's heart is in the right place, but they have already written off most of the team. You need someone who truly believes in the kids and has a plan to get them there.
"I would be so proud, it would be a lot of work and failure....if I can be a part of that development I would consider it my greatest coaching achievement. "
  • Chances are this coach already dreams of this happening. They constantly are learning and putting the kids first. Sometimes this involves tough love and kids being held accountable, but there best long term development comes first.

Moral of the post:

Think about who you want to coach your kids....not because you want them to become NHLers, but because you want them to be great at life and having all the lessons learned along the way to greatness make for an amazing journey.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How to spot a good coach.

Coaches, coaches, coaches..............

Kinda like parents, anyone can be one, but not everyone should. We have all heard about the stories of crazy coaches, and any of us that have played minor hockey probably have a couple stories that would seem like, well............... like this guy on the left:

Now don't get me wrong, I do not know enough about Mr. Knight or Basketball to truly evaluate his coaching ability, so my point is more about minor hockey and how coaches can make or break our kids passion for hockey and life in general.

So lets look at some indicators of a bad coach:

1. Poor knowledge of the game.
-This person usually has the excuse that the players are not trying hard enough. The confuse tactics and where they should be used (eg: dumb and chase on a penalty kill or power-play). They also are unwilling to take any accountability for the results of the game. They also consider conditioning to be the key to success with statements like " We are gonna skate the other team into the ground" and your practices include a lot of lines and some sort of humiliation to motivate you.

2. Mr. know it all
-This coach has an answer for everything and no suggestion is given any sort of consideration. This usually comes in the form of a former good hockey player who played junior or even pro. They figure their resume speaks for itself and they know all the right ways.
These coaches can be hell if they are teaching bad habits or techniques and can become outdated in a hurry. The other problem is that they skew the experiences of the past and replay them in the wrong context. "I ran stairs every day and that's how I learned to skate fast enough for junior hockey" would be an example of something that they would like but when you look at it critically then you realize that there is no way that could be more than a small contributing factor.

3. Wins mean everything
-This coach loves winning. Systems, powerplays and short shifting players are hallmark trademarks of this coach. In the lower levels they find two kinds of success which seems to make them think they are doing a great job. The first way is if they inherit a team of well developed players, and then it works good even if those players do not really improve during the year. The second way is that they win early on in the season and then by the end the other teams beat them with skill from improving all year. This usually leads to blaming the kids for not trying hard enough since "they won before against this team."

4. Carefree, do whatever
-This coach just wants to be out with the kids. Teaching them is secondary to having fun. Their idea of fun is to just let the kids do whatever. This quickly gets out of control and the kids get bored. We all know what happens when kids get bored.

5. Good heart, poor vision
- These coach have some knowledge of the game, but they are unable to recognize what is wrong and how to fix it. The fixes put in place are often worse than the initial problem. Tends to blame effort and not dumping the puck in as reasons for losing the game.

6. Tells you what you are doing wrong
-This coach should stay in the stands. Kids are confused enough. What usually happens is that this coach will point out all your weaknesses, but will not tell you anything to fix them. A common statement would be "You are a slow skater, practice more!". The statements come in all shapes and sizes but the message is the same "You have a weakness, now figure out how to fix it yourself". Poor kids...........some improve despite their coaches.

Now lets look at some good coaching traits:

1.Relates to the kids, speaks at their level of understanding.

This coaches talks to the kids at their level in languages they can understand. Gives them an environment to learn that they feel comfortable in. Being uncomfortable leads to thinking and worrying too much. That is best left to parents.

2. Does not treat players all the same

What about fairness??? In a group of kids with skill levels and personalities at all ends of the spectrum??? Of course not!!! These coaches deal with each kid as an individual and helps them accordingly. Some kids need structure, some need to be encouraged, some need discipline, and some need all three. Every kids is different, so treating them the same is unfair to all of them.

3.Encourages failure

This one is essential. A coach that creates an environment that kids are not afraid to fail will enjoy success unlimited. Kids are always wanting to improve, but are usually scared to fail for fear of embarrassment. Image how long it would take a baby to walk if they felt embarrassed every time they fell. Same applies here....heck everywhere. I always learn way more when I fail than when I succeed.

4.Identifies weaknesses, and understands how to fix them.

This coach can make the difference between growing bad habits and fixing them. These coaches explain what they are doing wrong, how to do it right and why the right way is better. This ability is invaluable at all levels. If the kids can buy into the logic of correct methods, then they will be off to the races in no time.

5.Has passion for the game

This coach loves the game. Loves to talk about it, loves to learn new things. You can see the sincerity and how their eyes light up when talking hockey. Coaching is seen as their contribution to the game and their success is seen by them in the success of the kids, not in personal fame or wins. They see hockey as a life tool for the kids. Teamwork, dedication, following your dreams and learning are just a few of the life lessons that this coach will try to instill in you child.

6.Doesn't have coaching secrets

Knowledge is power, but only if you share it. Those who keep secrets/knowledge do this put themselves ahead of the players and their development. The players should come first.
Ask this coach what his greatest accomplishments in coaching and he will talk about others or when he does talk of personal success he spreads the credit around.

Moral of the post

Coaches are a dime a dozen and many people have their heart in the right place, but there efforts are often misguided. Nature of the beast for a volunteer position.
Great coaches are few and far between. I do not think I am currently a great coach, but I truly believe that one day I will be. I do however recognize a good coach when I see one and they have great passion for the game, great desire and humility to learn and put the players development first. They take the time to help players improve when others write them off. Every great player has a story of a great coach that brought them to the next level.........hopefully everyone in life gets at least one great coach.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

How to draft like Detroit at player evaluations.

Hockey season is always closer than you think, and player evaluations are always the beginning, and can be either the beginning of a great team or the beginning of the end.

See the guys to the right? Pick them if they are available but if not don't despair since most minor hockey evaluations do not have Datsyuk and Zetterberg cruising around the ice.

"Duh, we would like to have Pavel and Hank on our team, but we only get one star since the rest are ,usually taken up after the first round, sometimes we can luck out with our 2nd pick!!!"

So what if I told you that that you probably have star potential with your first 15 picks. "You're Crazy" is a common answer, but consider this:

Detroit doesn't need the first 2 rounds of the draft:

Pavel Datsyuk drafted 6th round (171th)
-was there 170 better players? Nope!
Henrik Zetterberg drafted 7th round (210th)
-sedins, havlat, ryan miller ->206 other guys who can't hold his jock strap -> then Henrik
Johan Franzen drafted 3rd round (97th)
-maybe the other 96 guys were more clutch when their teams needed them
Darren Helm drafted 5th round (131th)
-131 players better than this guy, 24 points his draft year and all you end up with are a penalty killer and an OK skater (see these two videos penalty kill and explosive first step (47 seconds into video, yep that's Niedemayer and Beuchimen )

There are more, but the point is that anyone can get lucky with a late pick that works out, but Detroit seems to have more success than most, WHY???

Great scouting and a commitment to developing players. Most players in that organization do not make it till after they spend some time in the minors.

Hakon Andersson is the scout that found Hank and Pavel, but not because others had not seem them play, but because he saw something others did not. Past there shortcomings to to the players he could see. He likes to watch a player more than 3 time but less than 10, since after that "you start to pick on the player's minor weaknesses."

The other thing that Detroit does when scouting players is to look for players that fit into their system. They are a puck possession team and look for players that fit that mold. They look for Ability to play in the NHL regardless of size or age.

SO, who do I pick???

Here are some guidelines:

  1. Know your style of coaching and pick players that fit the mold. If you want a fast attacking team and that is what you are going to teach, don't pick big slow ogres.
  2. Understand your limitations. If you do not know how to teach skating, pick players that can already skate. If you have trouble with defiant kids, don't pick them.
  3. Understand your strengths and what you can teach. If a player just needs to learn a wrist shot and Joe Sakic is your assistant coach, pick that player.
  4. Understand the politics of your minor hockey association. Leverage if you can, but only if the players are put first.
  5. Believe in the kids you pick, tell them why you picked them and tell their parents too!

Pretty Good Guidelines, But how do I pick the sleeper picks?

Most teams are pretty even after the first 2-3 picks when the player drafts come in, so how you pick in the later rounds will have the greatest effect on the success of your team.
Here are tips for finding diamonds in the rough.
  1. Talk to parents if you can, find out more about the kid. Did he play all summer or is it his first time this year on ice? Is he an athlete or is he a one sport pony?
  2. Does this player fit into your style of coaching? If not, look for someone else, even in the first round.
  3. What is the player really good at? Stickhandling, hockey sense, passing.......... Find out if his strengths are above the others and if they are intangibles. Intangibles cannot really be taught, only refined, since they are gifts or the result of great development.
  4. Are their weaknesses something you can fix? Are they bad skaters, and it is something you can fix? Many people will initially write off bad skaters or cannot see past someone who has trouble handling the puck.
  5. Attitude................you can teach all of the hockey skills, and if they have a great attitude and a passion for the game, then it will be a season of improving leaps and bounds.
  6. Try to look past reputations ("That kid never back-checks and is lazy") and see if his bad hockey habits are something you can fix.

Moral of this post:

Make a plan for the kind of team you want and look for players that fit the mold. Don't expect to win all your games, think long term and you will be rewarded handsomely. Look at the players you want and how you will develop them for the end of the year. Remember, you do not want the best Novice players, you want the best Midget players so if you put the kids' long term development first then you have already won. No one in their right mind would give up a chance to play in the NHL, for a Atom AA league championship.

p.s I am sure I missed some stuff so ask questions if you want.

What Lebron can teach hockey coaches and players.

Lebron James just changed professional sports.

When he joined the Miami Heat to play with his friends and put together a championship team, he did what many have tried to do, but on a scale much larger than ever seen before. This might be the start of something....

Has this ever happened in Hockey???
Yes, sure has. Remember when Teemu and Kariya teamed up for a deal worth 7 million for both of them for the year to play on a star studded team in Colorado. Now that situation could have been the turning point in the NHL free agency, but a couple of things happened. One,Colorado did not win the cup, and both Kariya and Teemu did not have very good seasons (Kariya was injured for most of it and Selanne only got 38 points in 78 games). The next season the strike happened and people thought the experiment was a flop and we really have not seen anything like it since.

What makes it special now that Lebron is doing it?
  1. 3 players on a basketball team is like getting 2 lines of superstars to all sign in one place.
  2. Lebron is truly a king of the court (2 time reigning MVP)
  3. Salary Cap, means there is more to the game than signing all the big dogs (like the Yankees do in baseball) with big contracts.
I hear that Lebron is full of himself and this was a selfish move to turn his back on the team he built?

I do not think so..........here is what I see. (Please remember, me an Lebron do not hang and go clubbing together so I do not personally know the guy.)

  1. He wants to play with his friends from the Olympic team - sounds like a good guy to me.
  2. He held an hour long special to announce his decision - with all the profits going to boys and girls clubs of America rather than the big team press conference everyone else gets. This press conference was gonna be a big deal without him putting on a special on ESPN anyways.
  3. He took a pay cut for a chance at a championship - he still makes 14 million, but that is down from the 19.5 he could have made, and there is whole dynamic of taking a ridiculous pay cut and hurting all the other negotiation for players around the league. Pretty hard to get what your worth when the top player in the world just signed for 2 million.

The owner of the Cavs calls him a selfish coward who is narcissistic and that he betrayed cleveland and all the fans who supported him.
(click on underline text to read letter).

Lets look at this with an open mind. Cleveland had the best record in the regular season, good playoff runs and seemed pretty close to a team ready to add a player to take them over to the top. Why not bring Bosh or Wade (or any other free agent star) to Cleveland? Obviously there is more to this story that we all know. After reading the letter, I felt reassured that Lebron made the right decision. The way the owner reacted speaks volumes as to how he manages a team. Obviously the owner was not the leader with the vision that matched what Lebron wanted in a owner. So take a step back and think of being in Lebron's shoes. The owner mentions about who we want our kids to grow up and be like. You tell me who your kids should be like: someone who is willing to take a pay cut, share the spotlight and do what ultimately makes them happy or someone who has knee-jerk reactions when faced with adversity blaming others for their failures?

How does this relate to me as a hockey coach???

Lots of kids get bad reputations, bad habits and things that are keeping them from being good hockey players. I challenge you to look deeper and try to figure out what is really preventing them from being good hockey players. This is what separates good scouts and coaches from mediocracy. Don't write off kids, believe in them and understand what you can work with and what you can't. Understand that because a player may want to change teams, it may not be that he is not a team player. Maybe he just needs better direction and leadership, that's where you come in. In most minor hockey systems players develop reputations, just like coaches and parents. Look deeper than the surface (don't forget to recognize a bad situation it is right in front of you) and don't be afraid to make mistakes.

Moral of this post:

Players for the most part love hockey, remember this and believe in them and you will be rewarded handsomely with an abundance of players that will improve and surprise you. Take the time to figure out the whole story, the root of the problem and deal with it accordingly. You might fail, but you might end up with Datsyuk and Zetterberg on your team with your 6th round and 7th rounds of your player evaluations.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Value of Feedback

As coaches we always are looking to make all of our players better. If you only want a couple players on your team to become better, please do not coach hockey (or any sport).

Players develop on many levels (I am sure I am missing some):

  1. Physically get stronger and grow taller.
  2. Mentally get sharper and increase hockey IQ.
  3. Hockey skills technically get better.
So aside from getting taller, we as coaches can develop players in all aspects of the game. Today I am going to talk about giving feedback and how a player with a strong will and good direction and succeed with the help of a coach and not in spite of them.

Let me tell you a story about summer hockey. Over the past 10 years I have played summer hockey (unlike my youth which was spent on the ball diamond and summer hockey was not an option in rural Saskatchewan). I play against players of all skill levels. Some are terrible, some are amazing. Take Tyler Bozak for instance, he truly deserves to play in the NHL and after playing against him a couple of years back, it was only a matter of time till he forced someone to recognize how good he really was. He definitely took the long route to the NHL, going from AAA midget, BCHL, college, minors and then the NHL. Along the way he must have gotten some great feedback that helped him develop into the player his is today. Is he the best player out in summer hockey? Pretty much, but there are others that are at his level. Do they play in the NHL??? Nope!

Why is that?

Many reasons:

  1. Attitude
  2. Lack of hockey sense
  3. Skating
  4. Passing
  5. The list goes on and on........
So if they know the reasons, why can't they improve them to get to that level??

Feedback is the answer and the eternal gap between coaches, players and others who are involved (managers, trainers........). Some of them just get cut without any feedback.

So lets take a scenario like Yannic Pearault who played a far bit in the NHL. Here is a guy who gets something like 180points in the qmjhl and is having trouble making the NHL and is told his skating sucks, then one year in the ahl all-star game he wins the fastest skater. Imagine how confused this guy is. So was skating what was holding him back??? I have not seen him play, but can tell you that incorrect feedback probably kept this guy from reaching his full potential.
He did make the NHL and even the NHL all-star game one year, but was not thought of as an all-star, just a great face-off man. So maybe his issue was turning, stopping or acceleration or maybe it was not skating at all. Maybe it was how quick he read and reacted to the play. The last one will always leave you a step behind. If you do it faster than everyone else, then you end up like Jordan Eberle and can perform with success at all levels.

So what does this mean for us as coaches?? It means that when we give feedback, make sure your players understand what you mean. Do not use generic terms like "you need to be better", "your skating needs work", or "its a numbers thing". You owe it to them and yourself to help them. Even if you are cutting them from your team, it is a small world and the respect you lose with players will gain you a well deserved reputation.

"I watched him skate and something seems wrong, not sure what it is!!"
If this is you, then you need some feedback too......others may see what the issue is and may help you correct it. Coaches should be developing and improving every year too!!

Moral of this post:

Give real feedback, with real information that a player can use to improve. You may have some kid that goes from average to amazing over the course of a couple of years. If you cannot describe or are not sure what they are doing wrong, get advice. Lots of great hockey people see the game differently and you should be able to take away something from all of them.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Less injuries without contact study says!!!

So a new study about body contact came out and here are the highlights before I discuss:

  • Eleven-and 12-year-old ice hockey players showed triple the risk of injuries in games that allow body checking,
  • Many leagues in the U.S. introduce body checking at ages 11 and 12. In Canada, body checking is allowed in some leagues for players ages 11 and 12, with the exception of Quebec, which doesn’t permit the practice until ages 13 and 14, according to the authors.
  • Over the season there were 209 game-related injuries and 73 concussions in Alberta compared with 70 game-related injuries and 20 concussions in Quebec, the researchers found.
  • Most of the injuries in Alberta were the result of body checking, the authors wrote. In Quebec, the majority of the injuries were from incidental game contact, Emery said.
  • The study was of 11-12 year-olds in Alberta and Quebec.
  • They will be doing a study of 13-14 year-olds in both provinces, since both have contact at that age.
First off, this study has its merits and is a good starting point, but definitely not adequate information to make a decision as to what the age body contact should start at. Maybe after the next study we can actually get some data we can use, since we are comparing 2 full contact groups, just one has 2 years experience in contact.

Now lets look at the study with some logic. This study should not be shocker, more kids get injured in full contact than in non-contact. That is the equivalent of saying that more kids get hurt playing full contact football versus flag football. No one needs a study to prove that point.
This is where the study needs to continue to (and should include Saskatchewan with the younger players who started earlier) gain any credibility or true meaning.

What I would like to know is::
  1. If learning at a younger age meant they were less injuries when the kids were pee-wee, bantam and midget age?
  2. What roll does this play out for tier 1 level players, does having more skill help with the contact and injuries?
  3. What were the most common causes of the injuries? Head down, cheapshot, lack of balance, incorrect checking technique or poor position relative to the boards?
Now you can guess where I am going with this, so here are my thoughts:

Correct Age for contact:

-Depends on the physical development. My logic tells me that kids should learn how to take and give a hit correctly before puberty sets in and you have some 12 year old who shaves before the game and pulls beer for the high school seniors, trying to run little Billy (all 4'10 of him) through the boards. (p.s. I do not condone drinking in High School or anytime before it is legal in your area).

-Depends on the league. If you have Alex Ovechkin as a 10 year old vs a group of house league 10 year olds that still are learning to balance, then you are asking for trouble. They will get hurt, especially when you get kids that are full of testosterone as they are hitting puberty that can be very aggressive.

-Depends on the skating, checking knowledge and checking skill of the player. Players that are strong skaters are generally faster and harder to knock down or off the puck. If they lack checking skills and knowledge they will put themselves in dangerous situations and others in dangerous situations. A good player with good checking knowledge will always be aware of when the should be ready for contact and position themselves to either avoid the hit or absorb it (up against the boards, not 3 feet away). A player with good checking skills will be able to give contact effectively with getting penalties (eg. from behind, elbows up, knee out) and give themselves the advantage the contact is supposed to. Many times players go for the hit in an effort to "crush that guy" when they could easy gave a clean check, grabbed the puck and create a turn over for their team.

Moral of the post.

Body contact is part of hockey for boys and men. Injuries will happen. If you want safety, teach it to the kids. Teach them:
  1. Proper skating for balance and agility (this will help them give, take and avoid hits)
  2. Proper way to take a hit (avoid danger zones, use the boards to absord, and roll off hits)
  3. Proper was to give a hit (avoid penalty, strong core and recovery to next step after hit)
  4. Checking knowledge (play development, when to check, proper angles and use as a strategy)
Thanks for reading,

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Avatar = Hockey Inspiration???

I just finished watching Avatar. Amazing movie.
Made me wanna go play hockey, how about you???

OK, maybe I am reaching a bit, but hear me out!!!!!

Here is what I thought as I watched the movie.

"Written and Directed by James Cameron"
My wife says after the movie and this is displayed on the screen "He wrote it too? That guy is one amazing Canadian."

Darn right he is. Is it more amazing that he did it and he is from Canada? Nah, that just a bit of patriotism coming out. I have not read anything about his inspiration for the movie, but none the less he is a normal guy just like the rest of us at the root. What makes him different? Follow through - he sees how he wants things and then does not give up until they are as he sees them. Sounds like an athlete to me. Why him and not me, you may ask yourself? Why Sidney Crosby and not me in the NHL? Same reason it is James Cameron's Avatar and not "insert name here's" Avatar. Dream big, and Go for it. You might fail, but if it is your dream, failing is way better than "What if? Wish I would have!" and dreams are what happiness are made of, so trying to achieve happiness is better than doing nothing.

Heck ,when I put it that way, kinda makes it sound like everyone should be following there dreams and constantly coming up with new ones. Why not?

The Storyline:

The main character is a washed up marine, who gets to go on this journey because he has a twin brother. He cannot walk due to a war injury and we see him thought of as less because of it in the movie. When he is in his Avatar, he is strong and powerful and inspires others.

Kinda like a hockey player? You bet, when a kid gets on the ice, it is a chance to re-invent themselves, get away from all their worries and inspire others. Do 8 year-olds inspire others??? Of course they do, who do you think team mates and and 6 year old hockey players look up to? What about adults who watch them and think "Wow, Billy sure plays like it is the greatest day to be alive. Maybe I could take a page from that book and use it in my life."

Do not, I repeat, do not go tell Billy he needs to inspire others and a civilization depends on him!!!!

Kids don't need pressure, they need someone to believe in them. That's where we come in as coaches and parents. Support there dreams and do your best to help them. Do not decide what their dreams should be, or you will be on a different page as them most of the time and it will be even harder for them to accomplish their dreams.

Moral of this post:
As a coach and parent we need to allow our kids, and ourselves to dream big.

Monday, May 10, 2010

When to start skating!!! What Ed Jovanovski can teach us.

I have been asked lots of times, how old should your kid be to start skating?

The answer is not 1,2,3 or 4. The true answer lies in a number of factors:

1) Does your child have enough leg strength to stand up and stabilize?
2) Does you child have enough balance?
3) Does you child want to skate?

If the answer is No to all three then wait give them time, The idea is to give them a chance for success and enjoyment of skating. If the do not have good experiences at the beginning, the love of the game will harder to accomplish and that should be our goal.

If the answer to 1 and 2 is no, then you have a dilemma. If you want you can take them to the rink, but be warned you will experience lower back pain from having to hold them up and kick thier feet frantically in an attempt to "Go faster, dad/mom!!!" Usually this is a lot of un for the kids, so be prepared to carry them the whole time.

How do you know if they have enough leg strength and balance?

Easiest way is to take them out on the ice. If they can stand and take a step or two, then they should be good to go (remember to teach them airplane arms). Another easy way to check without going on the ice is to see if they can walk on the parking concrete barriers (no, not the 3 feet high ones, the ones that are a couple inches off the ground).

So what is the answer? Depends on each kid, but with teaching anything to kids remember that they need to be ready to learn or you will spend countless hours to make progress that could be made in an hour or two when they are ready. Here are some examples of this:
1) Parents always try to teach counting to their kids from the time they can say Ma ma, da da. Then all of a sudden they seem to know all the numbers and they parents rejoice that their child will now be able to lead a normal life, since Billy down the street that is the same age learnt his numbers months ago. (FYI - Billy probably will not win a nobel prize for math.)
2) My daughter was all gung ho for skating when she was 3, so we took her to skating lessons. She stepped on the ice, fell and decided that she hated skating. That year I took her myself and we went out and had fun and eventually she warmed up to the idea. The next year we got her some hockey equipment so she would not hurt her butt, and within a couple of weeks she had advanced to the top group that was on the ice at the time. Did I do anything special or spend countless hours the year before? Nope we just went once every month or 2 and had some fun and I am not buying my chiropractor a new vehicle with my visits.

  1. Have fun!
  2. Remember: Stand, March, Walk then Glide.
  3. Do not worry if the Johnson's kid could skate at 3, this is not a precursor for great skating.
  4. Do not be scared to take time off, the balance and strength can be developed many ways, such as running, jumping and just being kids.
Moral of the Post: Kids are all different, work on improvement and help them be the best they can be and not better than any other kids. I am sure there were many NHLer's that were not the best 5 year old on the team. Take a look at Ed Jovanovski. He is an elite skater in terms of speed and he did not start playing hockey till he was 11. I can guarantee you he was not in powerksating for 6 years prior to that, in fact his dad was a professional soccer player so I am sure lots of soccer was played and quick feet and acceleration are key components of that, and any sport.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Player Development in Minor Hockey

With the WHL Bantam draft coming up, I am going to hear all about what areas are having a good crop of players, but when I hear that Regina only has a couple prospects as per usual and Saskatoon is having another bumper crop of prospects, I think that having a bumper crop of players for the last 8 years or so is not so much a result of a good group of athletes as it is a good farm system that develops them.

This is from the star phoneix:
"Saskatoon has, in recent years, been a hotbed of talent. Since 2002, WHL teams have scooped up 98 Saskatonians. The local crop won't likely feature a first-rounder this year, but most observers expect a dozen or so Saskatoon players to draw interest Thursday."

Why does Saskatoon constantly have better teams? That is the question.
Answer: They develop players better.

How do they do this?
Answer: I do not live in Saskatoon. But it has more to do with novice and atom coaches than it does with Bantam AAA and Midget AAA coaches.

Further to the above, I have heard a couple of reasons such as:
  1. They have a bunch of pros and junior guys that have kids now and are coaching.
- While this may be part of it, so do other places with varying degrees of success. This is the equivalent of saying "they have better coaches" which is a lazy excuse for mediocrity. If you want better coaches help them get better.

2. They keep their kids together through all the age groups.

- This is a good idea if you have a good coach, even better is you have lots of good coaches. Here is why: a player develops great under a good coach, next year he has a bad coach and plateaus in his development, while the good coach gets some players that he has coached the year before and can keep building their skills, but also gets some from the bad coach since he has taken some of the good kids in the FAIR player selection draft from evaluations. I think this will make a good topic for a future post to get more in depth, but you get the idea.

The lower levels is where the base is made for players to really develop. I know this sounds ridiculously obvious, but skill development has taken a back seat to winning and coaches ideas of how to make a player better. I think proper development models need to be put into place to ensure success for years to come. This development model can take many shapes and have many driving forces, but has to have a common vision/goal.

A Minor Hockey Association needs to have its goals driving everything. If your goal is to make the fastest skater, then everything that is done should have this goal in mind and work towards it.

Here is an example:

Go to http://www.lahockeyclub.com/AboutUs.php and their mission is about player development.

Go to other minor hockey websites and you will multiple goals and sometimes conflicting mission statements.

Solution: Give your coaches a goal and give them guidelines to achieve this. Every coach will have a different style, but if a common goal is across the board, then success is not a struggle. Take a look at what is best for the kids development, not for wins.

Morale of this post:

If your Minor Hockey Association is not developing players, is it because that is not the goal or is it that the goal is not outlined and communicated correctly?? Having everyone with the same goal and making sure everything they do supports that goal is what will give you your best chance of succeeding and developing players (if developing players is your goal).

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Successfull Coach, Good players, and miss the playoffs???

I see this more often than one would think. How does someone who seemed to have success before and coaches a new team or gets a new team (eg. every year in a big city in minor hockey), and they are not good anymore.

Now there can be lots of reasons for this, I am going to talk about what I think is something many coaches overlook:

Are you and your team a good match????

Here in Saskatchewan we have a couple of hockey teams that seem to be successful every year. Take the Weyburn Red Wings for instance. This team is constantly among the top. WHY??

Well Dwight McMillian and Ron Rumble are good at picking a team that fits there coaches vision of how the team will play. I have seen good players get cut from the wings, since they do not fit in with the coach's vision of the team. They are not bad players, they are just not what the team needs (most likely they have that role(s) filled by another player) at this point. So what we usually see in Weyburn in a high turnover year (lots of graduated players the year before), it takes a bit to get all the new players on the same page, but once they are....another top contender.

So how does this apply to us minor hockey coaches, who usually do not have 200 players to choose from and can make moves up until January?

I think the answer lies in the adaptability of the coach at this point. Once you have your team you have to work with there strengths. If you have a team of grinders teach them to use relentless fore-check to create scoring opportunities. If you have a lot of skill guys, teach them to use the skill an creativity to control the play. Do not teach them to grind in the corners after a dump and chase.

I know some of you are reading this and thinking, "well sometimes you just have to get it into their zone to ensure you have no turnovers in the neutral zone!". Yes, you do sometimes have to just dump the puck in, but if you have the skill why would you give the puck away when your players can skate it into the corner and still have control? I posted earlier about dump and chase and how to actually use it effectively and not mindlessly like many coaches teach.

Okay, back to the topic. Coaches need to adapt and need to keep the team goals/vision in mind when picking players. Do you best and then adapt to find what works best for your team. Keep in mind your strengths and your players and hopefully with an open mind and trying different things you will find that combination that works for your team and you. After that success is just a matter of time.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Optimal Window of Skill Development.

Kids are usually just kids who like hockey, parents on the other hand............

We all have heard the proud parent who proclaims:

"I Remember when Billy was young, he could skate circles around that Kunitz kid, now look at him, playing in the NHL, some guys have all the luck"

Now I use the example of Kunitz since he was not a phenom like Crosby has always been, and I live in Regina too. They may mention other players and have a genuine surprise to the fact that this person made the NHL and their kid did not.

Time for a reality check:

  1. Your kid may have been better than Kunitz, I guarantee he is not now.
  2. Someone has to make the NHL, sorry it was not your kid.
  3. Most kids do not make the NHL, lots of minor league guys are considered to be better than Kunitz, depending on who is judging.

What most fail to realize is that of that you only has certain windows to develop at an optimal rate or you will need to twice the work to get the same results. So by missing these and/or not putting in the time and effort many players who make it to the nhl do.

What I am going to talk about is Peak Height Velocity (PHV).

PHV is a measure of the maximum rate of growth in stature during a growth spurt. The age of maximum velocity of growth is called the age at PHV.

Why is this important? Training the right things at the right time will give you the best athlete.

How do I measure it?
  1. After 6 years old measure height every 3 months
  2. Chart on a graph similar to the chart below
Windows of Trainability Chart

So some general guidelines are as such But remember where each kid is in the chart:

Kids 8 and Under:

  • This is the first window for speed training with an emphasis on agility, quickness and change of direction. Less than 5 seconds in duration.
  • Suppleness is another word for flexibility so incorporate that into their activities
  • Play multiple sports and that will help with speed, coordination, balance and agility
Kids 10 and Under

  • Motor coordination skills, and include fundamental sport skills such as throwing, kicking and dribbling........... (not just hockey skills but lots of hand-eye and muscle memory).
Kids 12 and Under

  • Optimal window to teach hockey skills
  • Focus on Development and not outcome of the games
  • Keep working on fundamental sport skills that build hand eye and muscle memory.
Kids 14 and Under

  • Optimal window for stamina or endurance, which means that aerobic training begins with onset of PHV

  • Optimal training window for speed (second speed window)

  • Focus on strength 12 – 18 months after PHV.

Now you get the idea and to remember that all kids grow at a different rate and to be aware of what you should be working on. Match it up with the chart.

Moral of the post:

The best kid in 6 in under does not always end up the best player in Junior. A lot of players gets passed development wise because all the work was done in the early stages and not much during the rest of the development windows. Remember, living in the past does not make you a better player, it just makes you sound like you were better as you tell the story more and more.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dump and Chase and how it is used wrong.

Ever since I can remember, I have always had coaches tell me the following :

"We don't have a lot of skill, so we need to dump it in every time we hit the red line and hit their d-man. We will wear them down and then they will start coughing up the puck."

This is usually followed up with:

"That's what they do in the NHL."

Now let's take a look at the statement and examine what they are saying from a kid's perspective.

"OK coach you want me to pass the puck to the other team so I can lay a body check on them and eventually they will start either giving me the puck back or just let me go in the corner and get it myself."

"That's what they do in the NHL??? Didn't you tell us that we don't have a lot of skill. So either NHLers don't have skill or we should do stuff that skilled players do since we do not have skilled players. And I thought girls were tough to figure out."

You can see how the poor kid is not sure what to think. Mixed messages are the death of productivity.

Here is my view of dump and chase.

When to use it:

  1. Player is tired and just wants to change.
  2. Player has no open ice and is out manned and the other 2 players are changing.
  3. Player has hit the red line and another player is close to the blue line with no lane to pass it to them.
  4. Set play. Now this is what they see on TV and marvel how great a strategy this is.
  5. Change of pace. Sometimes you need to back up the defense man to give you room to gain the zone. This gets more important as more kids learn gap control.

When not to use it:

  1. When a player hits the red line and the defenseman is already backed up on the blueline.
  2. When a player has room and there is no one ahead of him.
  3. When a player is on a 3 on 2.
  4. When you have done it the last 20 times.

So here is some explanation a little more in depth than the bullet points:

When a player has the puck and it carrying it over the red line, he has many choices. If a player has room he should carry the puck and gain the zone. If there is a player on his team that has speed and is cutting in on him, he should pass if the player is positioned to gain the zone better than him. How does he know if he should pass? The answer is not a blanket statement, but rather more of a read and react. Teach your players to take chances and this is no exception. However the player giving this pass must follow the pass to ensure he is in a good defensive position in case of a neutral zone turn over. So for instance if he passes cross ice, he should cut in to center to cover the dreaded neutral zone turn over.

All to many times the dump in chase does not wear down the other team, usually it goes like this: Billy gets over the red line and dumps it in, he is heard to cross ice dump it so he does. The far defenseman goes back grabs the puck and passes to either his defense partner or to a forward to break out. Meanwhile Billy has been giving all he has to end up being to late to perform a check or have any chance at the puck. Then usually the coach yells at him "to skate hard and dump the puck in with authority", so he does and the far defenseman has to skate less since the put comes out to him from the corner quicker, so he has more time. Ever so often the far defenseman messes up and coughs up the puck. The coach says "See kid, it works!!!" completely ignoring the endless possibilities that could have happened had he gained the zone first with his forwards having forward momentum on their side, rather than them being caught flat footed or going the wrong way as the opposing d-man makes an outlet pass.

What about soft dumps when the player is 1 on 2? Good point.

In this instance this may be a good choice providing the following:
  1. the player can get to the puck before or at the same time as the d-man, this gives him an opportunity for them to turn it into a 1 on 1 rather than having to try and pull one d man over to create a one on one using angles.
  2. the player is quickly running out of room and cannot gain the blue line to setup a play.
What about penalty kill? Interesting options here.

In this instance the player should try to have an idea of where the other teams players are and were his d-men are.

If the opposing teams have started to all come back, the possibility of giving the puck back to the defenseman exists and every second you have the puck is a second that they will never score.

Obvious guys says " if you do dump and chase on penalty kill be 99% sure you will get to the puck first otherwise you just put yourself out of position and created a 4 on 3 which is a powerplay with more space"

I know I could get more in depth, but this is getting as long as a twilight novel and my target audience is not the same.

Moral of this posting:

Controlling the puck is the name of the game, so don't give it up unless you have a way to get it back. This is not about never dumping it in, but rather to have your players understand when to use it effectively.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Kinetic Linking? Not a hockey training buzz word, but maybe it should be

Kinetic Linking

Why does a whip crack?
Answer: Because it is going faster than the speed of sound.

Who's hands move faster during a swing, hockey slap shot or golf drive?
Answer: Same around 75 mph

Which goes faster, slap shot or golf drive?
Answer: Golf Drive, of course.

Why the speed difference with the same body operating? It has to do with the end speed of contact which is a result of length of lever and kinetic linking.

How does this apply to hockey??
So we know we can't really improve the length of our sticks (to some degree I guess - which has something to do with Chara winning hardest shot every year), so deduction tells us to shoot harder we have to improve kinetic linking. I am not going into exactly how apply this to improve your players, but to take note and understand that this will count for some of the reason some can shoot harder and skate faster than others.

What is kinetic linking?

Lets simplify this since a bunch of fancy physics stuff will only make it sound like it is too hard for kids and if we need a dictionary or physics degree to read then it is useless.

Take a stick...Swing it.
Now the end of the stick is going way faster than your hips, correct?
This is kinetic linking.
A progressive increase in speed from the most massive to the least massive body part, and the stick is just and extension so the end becomes least massive body part. Now think of the whip, when when you snap it with just your wrist if gets pretty fast, but when you use your whole body, that is when you can make it snap and break the speed of sound.

We want this movement to flow as smooth as possible, which is why good shooters are able to shoot hard, The flow of the movement comes into the hips during the back-swing and then the flow of energy goes from hips/core to shoulders, elbows, hands, down the shaft of the stick to the end where the stick hits the ice inches before the puck to bend the shaft and then slide along the ice till it hits the puck and then it springs of the stick into an amazing 100 mph slap shot.

Now this sounds like normal slap shot, correct??? Yes, it is and many coaches do know that they need to put your body into it. What they fail to realize is that when they are shooting they need to watch the flow of the energy into the shot. When it is interrupted (hitch in the swing) then the power generated is lost or if the movement is not part of the flow (arms moving to fast and hips are not generating the power first) from core to end, then you have sub-optimal power.

Same thing applies to skating. Start from the core and move out to the end of the skate. The optimal flow of this energy is about a deep crouch and starts in the glutes then flows out through your legs to your skates. Now take away a deep crouch and the energy flows not from the glutes, but from the leg muscles and you have less energy flow and thus you are not skating as fast as you possible can. (I am over simplifying the skating here and efficiency and technique will be talked about in a later blog entry.).

Video Analysis would be a great way to help identify where the flow is being interrupted. Since you can slow it down, plus showing the athlete what they look like is invaluable in terms of trying to fix technique since a picture is worth a thousand words. (kinda reminds me I should put more pictures in my posts)

Thanks for reading

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Difference between good and great players.

Ok, we see it on TV. Ovechkin and Crosby in the NHL, Jordan Eberle at World Juniors. They always seem to be in the right place at the right time.

Is it a special gift?? Kinda... In m opinion and correct me if you think I am wrong, but this advantage comes from being able to process the play faster than other players.

Here is an example of how most of us have experienced this. We play hockey with little kids or even just watch them play. When we play we against them, we can see the play develop and go to where the puck is obviously going to go. The little kids cannot process the play developing as fast as we can, so we look like Hockey Gods to them. When we watch them play, we are constantly trying to get them to go to where the play is going, by yelling "Johnny, get to the boards for the wrap or get to the side of the net for the rebound." Now obviously if Johnny saw the play the way we do he could score 10 goals a game even if he is merely average in skill.

You see what I am getting at. They reason they are in position all the time or get to the open spots, it that they read the play and react, taking their first step in the direction of the opening or play developing while the other players are still reading the play. So as long as you are a decent skater for the level you are playing you have a one step advantage and that is a huge difference at all levels.

Ok, so how do we develop this. There is no one way to do this, but more of a combination in no order:
  1. Increase our reaction time. (work on a quick first step)
  2. Understand the flow of the game (Walter Gretzky used to have Wayne trace out on a piece of paper that path of the puck when watching NHL games, so I have heard)
  3. Work on seeing more of the ice (seeing where everyone is before you get the puck, or before.
So what are some ways to do this???? Stayed to tuned for another post on how to increase hockey sense and I will show you some drills that anyone can do in practice to work on these things.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

California - New Hotbed of Hockey

Ok, so I went down to Disneyland in Anaheim last week with my kids and we also went to a Ducks game. I was really surprised how popular Ice Hockey is. On our way to hang with Mickey and Friends I noticed a big store called HockeyGiant.com. Being the good old Saskatchewan Hockey Player I was, I pulled in to check it out and it was amazing (http://www.hockeygiant.com/ansup.html - for pictures.) I went in and talked to the staff and got a feel for how popular hockey is down there. The have quite a few rinks in the Anahiem area and ice hockey is more popular than roller hockey.

The next day me and the wife are looking for Strollers at the REI store and another hockey store is right there called Monkey Sports. Same thing, tons of great equipment and tons of people getting gear in April!! (http://www.monkeysports.com/monkeysports-superstore/index-hockey.html) .

So now I am curious about what the hockey would be like, so I do some research and also notice that lots of young kids are wearing team jackets around Disney (eg: LA selects).

Ok, but are these really hockey players or just a bunch of Getzlaf wanna-be's???? So here's what I find out. LA selects are one of the best Bantam teams in the nation. It looks like they will have 2 first round WHL draft picks in Brian Williams and Eric Comrie.

Comrie?? Like "the brick" and "Mike Comrie, engaged to Hillary Duff, Edmonton Oiler?? Yep turns out his dad went down to California and got involved in the LA selects program.

So the LA selects just one there first game at nationals in the Bantam Division 14-0, and at a National Championship tournament that is impressive ( I guess the real test will be Shattuck St. Marys - powerhouse who once had parise, crosby, jack johnson, patrick eaves and drew stafford all on the same team in 2002-03).

Anyways, Taking a look at the websites of the team such as LA selects and others, a resounding theme came through. Develop players for the next level. Nothing about winning. Lots about getting players to the next level and educational opportunities. Nothing about national championships in the about us sections.

How about that??? Is that what hockey is all about??? Being the best you can be and developing as a person and athlete. When you put that first, wins will come. Anyone can teach a system, exceptional coaches develop players to their true potential. I have a 2 year old and he can dump and chase, he shoots it on net and misses then runs after it. The Dump and Chase topic is gonna be a future post, but when was the last time you heard someone say "man can that kid dump and chase, he is really going somewhere?" . Never.

Anyways player development should always be key in any hockey program. Everybody likes a winner, but nobody wants to have coach that wins but the players never improve. Maybe California is a great place to be a hockey player, pretty sure the pressure is pretty minimal compared to some of the Saskatchewan Hockey stories I have heard and seen first hand.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Comments and Followers Needed.

I am more than willing to answer questions or talk about specific topics by request.
Comments are greatly appreciated.

What's coming up in future posts!!!

Here are a couple of posts I am working on :

  1. Hockey in California, good place to develop as a hockey player???
  2. Successful Coach + Good Players = Not make the playoffs, HOW ???
  3. Hockey sense, can it be taught?
  4. What separates good from great players? How can Crosby, Eberle seem to be in the right place at the right time??? My take.
  5. Kinetic Linking??? If this is so relevant to hockey how can come I never have heard about it before.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

We are going to skate the other team into the ground!!!

Now for a big pet peeve of mine. Coaches that focus on conditioning too much. I know, I know......I saw miracle on ice but if you think treating a bunch of kids like O lympic trained athletes will bring you to the league final, then I hope you like losing a whole bunch of games, and respect from your players.

"Well, you know good conditioning can make up for a lack of talent, we can out work the other team"
Lack of talent??? If you are currently coaching at an elite level, I will let you use this excuse as long as you are also equipping your team with a system that fits the skill level you have gotten with the team. If you are coaching kids lack of talent means you have to work harder, not the kids. Step up and be the coach that recognizes the gaps and helps his players bridge them.

Teaching kids the proper skills, techniques and knowledge will always win out in the long run.
Ever go what a really good old timers team ( you know, like the NHL old timers who tour around). They play teams that are younger with better conditioning and work harder. Who always wins and it doesn't even look like they are trying? The old timers, because they have the skill, technique and knowledge that allows them to work smarter and not harder.

Now you may give up a win or two during the season, but you will have a better team than what you started with and wins will come without that being the focus.

Another thing to note is that any endurance drills (eg lines, herbies or whistle blows) will fatigue the player and have him practicing skating with poor technique. If that is the norm of your practice then all you are re-enforcing poor technique and that will hurt your team more than anything.

How can I put some conditioning into my practice?

Interval Training.

  1. Keep hard skating to under 30 seconds at a time, give time to rest and go back at it.
  2. In corporate lots of competition in your practices with games that pit the players against each other, the clock or the coaches ( make some fun games, not fighting)
  3. Use up tempo drills.
Moral of this article: When your players play, it fatigue the reason they are struggling or is it related to them working harder and not smarter? Work on Technique and Skills first, the conditioning can always be done, but teaching motor skills is way harder once they are 20 years old versus 8 years old.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

You gotta take em at the Blue line!!!

Okay we have all heard this before, but what does it really mean?

First, it means kids will be confused and will make up their own meaning leading to a lot of missed checks and putting themselves out of the play and out of position.

Kids will usually see someone coming down on them and immediately lunge at them when they hit the blue line since that is what coach wants, right?

WRONG!!!! Gap Control is what they really mean. Gap control is the art of slowly narrowing the space between you (the defenseman) and the the forward. The key is narrowing the gap until you are close enough to hit him an not miss. The other thing that will help is to always keep to the inside so the forward has to go wide and then you have the boards as your helper.

How do we practice this???

This is easy to practice in a couple of ways:

  1. practice in 1 on 1 drills, but do not tell the forwards about gap control (this way the forwards will not usually try to vary speeds and make it harder on the d-man)
  2. practice in 1 on 1 drills with no pucks to focus on the man to man coverage (they always concentrate on taking the man when there is no chance of them making a move)
  3. practice in 1 on 1 drills with an emphasis that the forward must go to the boards without and worry on whether the defenseman hits him or not. (this emphasizes that they need to go wide and if they miss the forwards have longer to get to the net and less space)
  4. practice in 1 on 1 drills where the defenseman's only goal is to touch the forwards crest on his jersey. (this emphasizes gap control with keeping in front of the forward.)
  5. practice in 1 on 1 drills with the various gaps to start with between the d-man and the forward. ( gap control is different in every play in a game, so it only makes sense.)
  6. practice in 1 on 1 drills where the defenseman must attempt 2 or more poke checks on the forward (this will force the defenseman to keep in front of the forward.)
Remember be creative, make it fun for the kids. You could use flag football flags on one side of either the forward or d-man that would really have them protecting one side of the ice. Remember take things that you know can be turned into a game and make them your own, give it a stupid name and make it a competition. The kids will be asking to do it and will be skating harder than any set of lines.

How to make your stride longer.

I see some skaters and their stride is a thing of beauty. Now some coaches and parents see their kid as a choppy skater and figure that is just the way it is.
If that was true, great skaters would be no where to be found.
Go to a beginners skating class and you will see what I mean. It is just a bunch of kids learning to get up and walk on their skates.
What can you do to lengthen out that stride? I got good news and bad news.
Good News - All you have to do is increase leg strength.
Bad News - All you have to do in increase leg strength.

Good News

The stride length is directly related to how deep your crouch is, look at any powerful skater in the NHL, Olympics, and even speed skaters. You will see 90 degree knee flex with knees out in front of the ankles. One easy was to work on this is to to build you leg muscles by building strength in the crouch position. Sitting in the crouch position, squats and lunges are a great way to start. When you go to take a stride, going down into this deep crouch will give you power and length in your stride. Ever watch the fastest skater competition and you will see it plain as day.

Bad News

Increasing leg strength is pretty limited in kids, until after puberty. So unless you are feeding your kids steroids, just work on good technique for skating and they can do some leg exercises without weight to increase their strength. Work on balance and making the stride more efficient rather than working on something that is easy to work on with testosterone on your side.

So next time you see a choppy skater, take a closer look, are they just in a grow spurt? Are they a skinny kid who does not have the strength to support a deep crouch.

Moral of this article: If you want a longer stride increase leg strength for a deeper crouch. If you have not hit puberty, work more on technique and balance.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Welcome to my Blog, hopefully you realize that my title is sarcastic. I believe the exact opposite, nhlers are not made, don't let anyone take credit. Making the NHL is about passion. All we can do as parents and coaching is to NOT ruin kids development. I will go deeper into this with posts in further blogs, but the idea that some can make there kid into a NHL player is absurd and anyone who tells you otherwise probably should not coach or teach kids hockey.