Category Archives: High School Hockey

And so it begins. . . .

Here I am, on August 30, sitting in a hotel room just outside Chicago for our first tournament of the year.  One game in the books and it was a thriller.  Another one today and then two more tomorrow.  Then off to Canada next weekend, followed up by a trip to Detroit the weekend after that.

BANG!

Was that just the starters gun I heard?  Off and running on another season of hockey. . . . .

And I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

The chill of the rink, the quiet before the teams come on the ice, the nervous anticipation of the first drop of the puck on a new season – wondering what will happen, how will the team play, will it be an up and down game or will it be a “grind it out” type of game?  All these things going through your mind and then you realize what must be going through the players’ minds – “let’s get it on”.

It is thrilling to see the anticipation in their eyes, the realization of another season beginning, the coming together of players to form a true “team”.  What a great time of year this is.

It may be 85 degrees outside, but inside that rink you’d swear it was 25 degrees with 2 feet of snow on the ground outside – the dead of winter – fully engulfed in the glory of another hockey season.

Enjoy it everyone!  Cherish this time – they grow up so fast and before you know it – it is a series of fond memories you’ll look back on and smile.

Let’s play hockey!

See you at the rink.

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Filed under AAA hockey, High School Hockey, House Hockey, Tier II - A & AA Hockey, Travel Hockey

Jumping

As in jumping teams prior to signing a roster or in some cases after a roster has been signed.  This is one of the biggest opportunities within youth hockey today in my opinion.  We have too many instances where a verbal commitment is made and then a change of heart comes along and the jumping begins.  This is something that absolutely needs to be addressed – whether that be locally within districts, state wide via MAHA or across the country through USA Hockey.

 

There are two sides to this of course – the coaches side and the players side.  Each side contributes to perpetuating the actions on the other side.  When a coach decides to bring in another “better” player after selections are made and cuts a player who was already offered a spot on the team, a ripple effect takes place as that player now begins looking for another place to play.  The opposite is true as well, when a player makes the choice to go to another team it sends the ripple effect the other way.

 

The problem I see here is that someone is initiating this sequence of events –whether it be a coach who is looking to fill out a roster or increase the skill level within his team or a player who is becomes dissatisfied with his team selection over the summer – maybe during pre season skates or maybe through conversations with other players.  Regardless of where it starts, it needs to stop.

 

I responded to a message on the mlive forums regarding this topic – my response is below:

 

All things being equal off the ice, the only reason for a coach to go back on a commitment to a kid is because he is focused on wins and losses.  That is not what youth hockey or youth sports is all about.  You held your tryouts, you selected your team – if you knew you had some “projects” on the team then step up to the challenge and teach them.

As a kid, there are many reasons to switch teams some of which don’t have anything to do with wins and losses – more friends on the other team etc.  However, it is still not acceptable once you have made a commitment to a team.

 

There should be a personal commitment, supported by integrity that would prevent this from happening.  But reality has proven otherwise.  We need to ask ourselves what values we are instilling in these young athletes when we condone and perpetuate this type of behavior.  What type of adult are we creating when honor and integrity are not priorities?

 

We have all seen the examples of this type of selfish approach in professional sports.  The athlete who holds out for more money, when millions of dollars are already on the table in compensation for playing a game they supposedly love to play.  The dissatisfied player who doesn’t play to his abilities or refuses to play because he is unhappy with management, the coaching staff, the team etc.  Browse any forum on these topics and you’ll see the negative comments associated with this behavior.  If that is the case, why do we condone this type of behavior from a child and why do we set this example for these children as a coach?

 

The answer is to lead by example through our actions and words to teach these athletes the importance of honoring your commitment.

 

See you at the rink.

 

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Fight!

I went to see the fight and a hockey game broke out.

 

We’ve all heard that one at some point, right?  And while it is meant to be funny it does point to an aspect of hockey that is a fairly divisive subject.  Some folks enjoy a good hockey fight, while others are repulsed at this spectacle on ice.  Of course, for the vast majority these opinions apply to the professional ranks of hockey possibly extending down to the Junior levels.  The fact is, at these levels there is a place for fighting in the game and eradicating it from the game would be a mistake.  All players need to understand there are consequences for running a star player or intentionally delivering a cheap shot on another player and that this consequence will be delivered not by the officials, but by an opposing player.  But again, this is at a different level – not at the youth hockey level.

 

At the youth hockey level, fighting is not and should not be tolerated.  There is no room for this at the youth hockey level and the consequences for engaging in this are justifiably stiff.  But it happens – each and every year it happens and like it or not it will continue to happen.  With all apologies to girls hockey teams – it is no wonder this happens when there are teenage boys, hormones raging, skating around trying to knock each other’s heads off with many talking smack to each other.  It’s a recipe for a fight and it takes the utmost discipline to stay out of it and that discipline applies to not only the players, but the coaches and parents as well.

 

A recent experience I’ve had:  Last season after a player grabbed an opposing player in a headlock, threw him to the ice head first (which knocked him unconscious) and proceeded to push his facemask up and punch him in the face (while he was unconscious) he was congratulated in the lobby of the arena by his teammates, by his parents and by his teammate’s parents.  Not only that but both players – the one doing the punching and the one knocked unconscious (when he came to) were given double minors for roughing (but officiating is another topic).  This complete lack of discipline displayed by the player, coaches, teammates and parents is reprehensible in youth hockey.

 

So what constitutes a fight in youth hockey?  The definition seems to be widely interpreted depending upon the officials, coaches, players and parents point of view.  I believe fighting is generally when you have two (or more) people attempting to hit and/or hitting someone else – whether they have their gloves on, their masks on etc. doesn’t matter.  But what about those situations where the other person is not a willing participant in a fight?  What happens if the other player turns away but is repeatedly hit or does not attempt to hit the other person?  Is that a fight?

 

I’ve personally witnessed many instances where punches are repeatedly thrown by one player while the other does not swing back.  I’ve seen the non-participant thrown out of the game for fighting and I’ve seen that player stay in the game – maybe a minor is assessed – while the other player is tossed.  Seems to me an instigating penalty of some sort (or something similar) should be adopted into youth hockey with a stiffer penalty associated with an instigation and fight as opposed to just fighting.

 

The penalties – missing the next game – the double jeopardy rule in league play are stiff penalties, but those players that are instigating fights should be treated more harshly than those that are coaxed into the confrontation.

 

I don’t think we will ever get rid of fighting completely in youth hockey, but I do think we can institute rules that will curb the behavior and need to continue to encourage non tolerance from coaches and parents.

 

See you at the rink.

 

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Games vs. Practice

There’s a few different ways of looking at this topic and I’d like to focus on two of them.  First up:

 

Time on the ice

 

There is no question that any hockey player at any level of the game is going to get more time on the ice during practice then they are during a game.  If anyone questions that think of this:

 

During practice – the entire team is on the ice the majority of the time and engaged in some type of drill the majority of the time.

 

During a game – A max of 5 skaters are on the ice at any given time.  Consider a team with 3 to 4 lines and it’s a pretty easy equation to determine that there is less time on the ice in games.  Let’s not even consider the coach aspect (1st, 2nd, 3rd lines) of this equation at this point.

 

With that fact out of the way, now consider the differences in coaching styles.  This is a huge factor in what happens during a practice.  A coach that is utilizing his ice time its max is prepared with a good practice plan that involves every player in drills without much standing around.  Fast paced, high tempo practices with skill work intermingled.  Have a coach that comes prepared in this manner ratchets this up another notch – now not only are you getting more time on the ice during practice, but you are also becoming a better player at the same time – not just another kid that is in shape and can go hard during their shift.

 

So with that said, it definitely makes sense to keep practices at a ratio relative to games that produces high quality, highly skilled hockey players.  It can’t be all about number of games and tournaments you play.  If you want improvement – there is a balance between games and practices that is essential.  Something to look for when you decide what team to hitch your wagon to for the upcoming season.

 

The Next way to look at this topic:

 

What you do with that time on the ice

 

How many times have you gone to your son or daughter’s practice and noticed a consistent lack of effort by one or more members of the team?  Have you ever heard your son or daughter tell you that they don’t like doing drills with this player or that player because they can’t pass or can’t skate or don’t try hard?

 

The fact is that you won’t get 110% effort from every player in every practice.  But on average you expect to get 110% effort as a coach.  That’s the way you prepare drills and the expectation you want to set on the ice with your team.  The effort given by the players is in many ways tied to these expectations, but is also a product of preparation by the coaching staff.  Good drills, high tempo drills, organized practices, flow drills – all these things set the tone for the players during practice and must be there if you have the expectation of getting 110% from your players in practice.

 

The other side of this is the players themselves.  They must be willing to give 110% on the ice during practice.  There’s an old saying that I’m sure everyone has heard:

 

“Practice makes Perfect”

 

I completely disagree with this statement when it comes to hockey – and for that matter any sport.  Practice doesn’t make perfect.  Here’s a version of this statement that I heard many years ago:

 

“Practice makes permanent”

 

Now that makes more sense.  I can practice a skill for hours, days, weeks, months and years and get very good at it.  However, if I’m not practicing it properly I’ve developed bad habits and potentially restricted the skill level I might have attained had I done it properly to begin with.  This is where quality coaching plays a big part.  But let’s turn that around to the player – If I practice at 75%, what am I going to do during a game?  If I don’t backcheck at 110% during practice, what happens when I’m tired at the end of a game and there’s a turnover in my offensive zone?  I haven’t practiced backchecking and because I’m tired instinct takes over and I simply give my 75% effort to get back and play some D.

 

Most players I’ve encountered that don’t give 110% in practice will tell you; “I can turn it on in games” or “I’ll have more jump when it matters”.  And my response to these players has always been the same:

 

“Practice makes permanent”

 

See you at the rink.

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State of Midget Hockey

This is a portion of a posting from the Mlive Youth Hockey Forum today and is a great description of a major challenge facing kids at the midget level in Michigan.  It does not seem to be discussed very often in my experience, but the rift between MAHA and MHSAA is causing problems for associations that field teams at the midget level.  jrAAA does a nice job of talking about that in his post below:

state of the game by jrAAA, 8/1/08 11:06 ET

The arenas are also forcing teams to start contract ice in August…so you have to have tryouts in July so that come the first week of August you can pay your first 2008/2009 ice bill. When my son played the contract ice didn’t start until September. By forcing contract ice to start in August that screws up all of the timing for tryouts. In the past(and how they still do it in Canada) you had….in order…Juniors, AAA, Travel then finally house. Now it isn’t like that…you have all the travel teams trying to get the few players that are available not knowing what kids are waiting for the Junior or AAA tryouts. They take some players that end up leaving the team in October to play for their high school…in front of a big crowd, their girlfriends & family and the ice bills are cheaper…then again they play 20 games not like the 50+ the travel teams do all the time improving their game.

Now what else is hurting Midget hockey in Michigan….Of course high school hockey, then you have the so called AAA teams that sprout up every year…not to mention the new Junior C programs in the area. Everyone trying to go after all the same players and those numbers are dwindling because of economy, jobs, school and so on.

Being one of the founding fathers of the MWEHL I can share that the MWEHL was formed because the MNHL was becoming watered down with a number of weak teams that no one wanted to play. We have that again with AAA teams popping up all over.

Midget hockey will continue to die unless something is done….by MAHA and MHSAA. They need to put differences aside and look towards Minnesota and Massachusetts and how in those states they work at having both travel and high school hockey co exist and help each other.

I don’t necessarily agree that having additional AAA teams as an option for some players is a bad thing.  There are several other leagues outside of the MWEHL available for these teams and they can always choose to go independent as well.

The larger issue is that many kids at the midget level will tryout for a travel team – some tryouts as early as April (just after the previous season ends) and commit to that team for the upcoming season.  The coach limits his roster to 18 players – 16 skaters and 2 goalies – and hopes he doesn’t lose anyone to high school hockey.  But every coach at this level in Michigan knows that he will most likely lose one or more players to high school as the draw of playing in front of friends and family is strong.  This leaves that midget team with a short roster and facing a difficult season ahead.  In some cases, teams have been forced to fold after the start of league play, after they have committed to ice schedules, after parents have made payments etc.  The choices of a few end up negatively impacting everyone.

I believe we need to reach some type of agreement between MAHA and MHSAA that would provide a similar program to the one found in MN.  In addition, we (as parents) need to instill in these kids a sense of loyalty to the team to which they committed originally.  If these kids plan to play high school, they have no business involving themselves in a tryout and taking the spot of another player.

See you at the rink.

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