Random Thoughts on Coaching Hockey
I am spending the weekend in Halifax doing some scouting of a girl’s peewee and bantam tournament. The top teams from Nova Scotia are mostly here with a few teams from PEI and Newfoundland. The level of play has been high and there are, of course, some of the best players in Atlantic Canada playing here this weekend.
When I watch hockey games, there are always things I see that give me pause. I see something new, something that drives me nuts, interesting things that I have never seen before.
Here are some quick hits on coaching that are applicable to any age, gender and level:
]1) First and foremost, a shout out to two of my former players, Jess Enman and Jenna Briggs, who are both giving back and coaching young teams at the tournament. As coaches, there is nothing like seeing your former players share your love of a sport and passing it on to the next generation.
2) I have watched a lot of players get “stuck” on the boards on offensive rushes. It typically ends with a loss of possession in the corner as the player has tried to maneuver around two defenders. Instead, a quick east-west pass behind the net would work wonders to take pressure off and spread out the opposing defence. This should be an automatic play for teams when in this situation.
3) I overheard an interesting conversation between two parents. The one parent was saying that her daughter was asked to play forward for the weekend because of some injuries. Her daughter had “played defence since Atom!” and “she didn’t know what to do!” I found this very odd, interesting and curious. Who doesn’t know how to play forward? Do we not ask players to play all positions when they are young enough? Are we making the game too complicated? I figure you say to the defenceman playing forward for the first time “cover your point and go score goals!” That should take care of everything.
4a) Why does no one ever cover the points in the defensive zone? I get so tired of the puck being kept in the zone easily by the strong side defenceman.
4b) Does no one ever work on getting the puck out of the defensive zone when it comes up the boards? I remember working our butts off in practice battling defencemen to get the puck out. Chipping, passing, carrying the puck - anything to get it out.
5) At the start of one game today, the opening faceoff saw the puck go end to end with a whistle 22 seconds into the period. I was a little taken aback that there was no change on either side. When trying to keep shift length under 40 seconds, it just seems natural that anything past 20 seconds demands a change. At the start of the game even better - get more players on the ice faster in the first few minutes.
I also have two rules of line changes. One, I always change after a goal - whether a goal for or a goal against. Goals for tend to give a line the feeling that their job is done, a goal against is a “downer” and a fresh line is crucial. Two, I always start a special team with fresh legs. You never know when the puck will get stuck in the zone for a minute or more. Starting with a line that has been on for 20 or 30 seconds is asking for trouble.
Just a few random thoughts from the weekend.