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, 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.