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

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