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Post-Game Tirades

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Comments & Thoughts
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As I entered the locker room to address my team before a tournament game last weekend, for the second time in as many weeks I was over-powered vocally by a coach from the adjoining locker room screaming and cursing out his team.  Both times myself and my team were basically forced to listen to a curse-laden tirade while we were attempting to get ready for our own games.  One of them even went so far as to kick the exit door open on his way out.  These incidents led me to contemplate a few issues after our own games and evaluate the lessons being taught by these coaches.

1) What lesson is being taught to these kids? One of the only things continually crossing my mind was: “I really wouldn’t want to play his team – if that’s the way he acts and ‘controls’ himself during tense situations, I can only imagine how the children he is coaching will maintain their control.”  Kids are like sponges, they pick up on the smallest things leaders they respect do.  While I can’t say for certain whether or not the players in those locker rooms respected the coaches, I can almost guarantee they are absorbing poor behavioral habits in times of difficulty/stress.  If a coach completely loses his cool when something doesn’t go right, how can he/she expect a player to maintain composure when something happens to them during a game?

2) Why do parents put up with this?  In our area, the cost to play midget hockey is substantial – usually falling in the $2,500 range for non-Tier I (AAA) programs.  With that much money on the line, I don’t see how parents could be willing to put up with actions like these and continue to allow their children to be exposed to this sort of behavior coming from an ‘adult.’

3) What are the long-term effects of this learned behavior?  It is easy to see the short-term effects coaches who are out of control can have on a team, but the long-term effects are much harder to quantify.  Habits, no matter how small, play an enormous role in the long-term development of people. One of the best simple habit examples is the age-old saying: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”  Imagine the long-term impact and difference between consistently practicing that habit versus: “A candy bar a day keeps the doctor away!”

Now, don’t get me wrong.  There is a time and place to raise your voice to make a point, but I don’t think there’s a place in our game to degrade and personally attack youth.  I definitely have things I struggle with handling, as I’m sure every coach does.  This is OK – nobody is perfect.  I’m sure there have been instances where I was out of line with my actions.  My simple hope is that you and I, as a coaches, take the time to evaluate our interactions with our teams.  Make sure they’re appropriate.  The kids are watching you.  Coaching is a position of leadership.  Let’s make sure we’re leading them in the right directions – not only in hockey….but in life.


Corner Create Space Drill Video [M2]

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Hockey Drills,Instructional Video
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This week’s video features the Corner Create Space Drill which focuses on the following:

1) Puck Protection
2) Creating Space
3) Battling in the Corners
4) Skating Through Checks
5) Quick Feet/Acceleration Out of the Corner
6) Shooting in Stride/Driving the Net


Crucial Areas of the Ice

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Comments & Thoughts
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Those of us near the Chicago area are lucky to get Eddie Olczyk’s analysis of the Chicago Blackhawks games on a regular basis.  In my opinion, he does a great job of breaking the game down and analyzing important plays.  Any player (or coach) who watches games he’s announcing can take lots of great tidbits and apply them directly to their own game.  In last night’s Olympic matchup between the USA and Canada, Eddie O pointed out the key areas for USA in the last minutes of the game.  The areas he mentioned are simple, but important.  I thought it was a great opportunity to cover what he said, and expand on it further.

Important Areas on the Ice for Hockey

The areas shown above are important not only to hold on to a lead in the last fading minutes of a game, but also when you’re in a tight game.  Turn-overs in these areas lead to good scoring opportunities for the opponent and open up holes in your defensive coverage.

The first area in red shows the area from the top of the circle to the blue line in the defensive zone.  If a player gets the puck in this zone, the puck MUST get out of the zone.  There are usually three options for this: 1) Pass 2) Off the Glass 3) Ice the Puck.

Turn-over threat:  Turn-overs in this area often lead to offensive players skating to leave the zone (to attack). With this, they are most times releasing from their defensive zone responsibility.  If your center’s defensive responsibility is a man down low, and they’ve left the zone already, a quick shot on net from the opposing defense will lead to an odd-man situation in front of the net.

Benefit to executing: The best-case scenario is you control the puck out of the zone and are able to get the puck in deep or create a scoring opportunity.  Worst-case, you’ve bought yourself and teammates a few seconds to regroup and defend the return rush.  Since it is highly likely the opposing team will take a few seconds to exit the zone, players should have sufficient time to re-identify their coverage.

The second area in yellow shows the offensive-side of the neutral zone.  In this area, players must make sure the puck gets deep.  They can either skate the puck in if they have time/space, or they can dump it in.

Turn-over threat: If the puck fails to get deep in this zone, it becomes much more difficult for defensemen to get adequately set for the rush.  If the D are following the play up ice, they will have to transition before they can play the rush effectively.  If the defensemen were caught deep in the d-zone and are still trying to get out, their gap will be large, which will give the attacking forwards a lot of time and space.  If the D are changing lines, they will have to hustle from a side-position to get back to the middle of the ice.  None of these situations are ideal – especially when playing with a lead.

Benefit to executing:  There are several benefits to getting the puck in deep: 1) Tired lines can change  2) Eats up time on the clock 3) Allows attacking players to set up a proper forecheck 4) Scoring opportunities.

This is NOT to say players shouldn’t ever try to be creative and try new moves or different plays in these areas.  These are simply rules to help be effective when playing in a tight game – especially with a lead in the last few minutes.  It is in these times where small mistakes and turn-overs are greatly magnified.  Remember – don’t get too mad when your players don’t execute properly.  The “best of the best” still make mistakes in these areas…in fact, our game would be extremely boring if they didn’t!


Corner Escape Drill Video [M2]

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Hockey Drills
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Here is the latest video from M2 Hockey and HockeyShare.  The Corner Escape Drill works on escape moves, puck protection, acceleration from the corner, shooting in stride, and crashing the net.

Click to View Drill Information

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Corner Escape - 2 Man

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Corner Escape - D to D

Click to View Drill Page


5 Ways to Improve Practice

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Comments & Thoughts
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Hockey coaches are always looking for ways to improve practices.  Here are 5 quick tips to help make practices more effective:

1) Plan Your Practice in Advance – Know what you want to accomplish, write it out, and distribute the plan to your assistant coaches (and even players if appropriate).  Make sure your assistants know the key points you’re trying to teach with each drill.

2) Keep Players Moving – Take a good look at your practice plan and ensure you’ve got enough players moving to keep them focused.  A good rule-of-thumb is to have at least 3 kids in motion at a time (assuming a regular 15-person team) per drill.  The less time you force them to stand around in line, the less likely they are to be messing around and not paying attention.

3) Use Small Area Games – Small Area Games are a great way to simulate game-scenarios in a confined space at a high-tempo.  It also forces players to compete.  This can do wonders for coaches struggling to get their players more aggressive.  Here’s a free e-book from HockeyShare titled 5-High Tempo Small Area Games.

4) Minimize Whiteboard Time – Use a fair number of drills each session the players already know.  This prevents precious ice time from being used explaining drills.  To keep drills fresh, add small modifications to “regular” drills to focus on areas your team needs work.

5) Move On – If players aren’t getting a drill, or executing it to your liking, stick to your practice plan and move on.  Spending extra time on a drill that isn’t working will only lead to frustration and further failure to accomplish the goals you’ve set for practice.  If the players aren’t “getting it,” re-evaluate the drill after practice and try it again another time (perhaps a slightly modified version if it was too complex).

Related Articles:

Choosing Drills for Practice

Planning a Practice

Hockey Rink Diagrams & Practice Plan Templates


Jim Rohn Tribute [Video]

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Comments & Thoughts

I’m a firm believer in mental training and its benefits in life and sports.  One of the people I’ve spent a good deal of time studying was/is Jim Rohn.  Jim could be classified as a “self-help” guy, but he was much more than that.  He’s mentored many notable speakers including Anthony Robbins.  Jim passed away not long ago, and Success Magazine put together a tribute to his life.  The video features Success Magazine’s publisher Darren Hardy sharing some of Jim’s best thoughts and lessons.  Whether or not you make a habit of listening/watching clips like this, it’s hard to deny there are many great ideas and thoughts included here.  The principles shared in the video are sure to make a difference in hockey as well as your life.  I hope you enjoy this “slightly-different than normal” post!


Box Plus One – D-Zone Coverage

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Hockey Systems
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There have been a lot of questions popping up on the Message Board regarding defensive zone coverage.  Coaches have several different options when deciding on a defensive zone coverage strategy/system.  The “Box Plus One” system has become increasingly popular because of its ability to force the play to the outside of the ice.  The primary purpose of any d-zone coverage is to minimize the number of opportunities from the “home base” area of the rink (see diagram below) and force the play into the “soft” areas of the ice.  Soft areas are parts of the ice where far fewer goals are scored.

Box Plus One - Hockey Defensive Zone Coverage

Red is "Home Base", Blue is "Soft Area"

In order to effectively run the Box Plus One, coaches must have a good grasp of the area each player is responsible to cover.  Starting with the puck in the corner, the diagram below shows basic areas of responsibility.

Box Plus One Responsibilities

The LW is responsible for the general areas shown in light-blue.  RW is responsible for areas shown in tan.  RD is responsible for areas shown in light-green.  LD is responsible for the areas shown in orange.  Both LD and RD are jointly responsible for the area directly in front and behind the net.  The C is jointly responsible (with LD and RD) to cover the entire area of both defensemen’s responsibility.

Along with the basic coverage areas shown in the diagram are arrows indicating which way the player’s feet should be facing during the play.  Too often coaches leave this important concept out of their defensive zone instruction.  The direction a player has his/her feet facing can be the difference between making a play and giving up a goal.  As a rule-of-thumb, players in the defensive zone should not have their feet facing the net.  The should be facing up ice, or no more than parallel to the goal line.  This simple concept allows players to see and read the ice much easier, giving them a better chance of finding their responsibilities.

The diagrams below outline each player’s individual line of sight in the above scenario.  Knowing where to look is crucial in properly executing the coverage.

Left Wing Line of Sight

Left Wing Line of Sight

Right Wing Line of Sight

Right Wing Line of Sight

Right Defense Line of Sight

Right Defense Line of Sight

Center Line of Sight

Center Line of Sight

Left D Line of Sight

Left D Line of Sight

Note: The darker-orange areas in the Left D’s line of sight diagram represent areas LD must constantly be checking.

In order to more fully understand the coverage, a coach must understand the rotations and shifts in responsibility when the puck changes location.  There are three main rotational scenarios.

Scenario #1 – Puck is passed to the point

Box Plus One - Point Pass

In this scenario, each player’s responsibility is highlighted.

RW should attack LD from the inside-out.  This prevents LD from getting a better angle shot and also leaves fewer points of escape by utilizing the blue line and boards.  RW should finish his/her check when pressuring the point.

LW is responsible for the RD, but should remain in the high-slot to help out with loose pucks or anyone who may be open.  If RW pressures LD properly, the pass from LD to RD should not be an option.

RD and C are responsible for staying on the defensive side of their respective player.  Defensive side simply means having your body between the player you’re defending and the net.

LD is responsible for tying up his/her man in front if a shot comes, as well as preventing the player from getting body position on any rebounds.  LD should stay on the defensive side of the opponent at all times.

Scenario #2 – Puck is passed behind the net

Box Plus One - Behind the Net Rotation

Individual player responsibilities are again highlighted along with basic rotation directions.

C should pressure the new puck carrier.  Ideally, C will be able to take the body and pin the puck carrier against the wall creating a turn over.  C should try to force the puck carrier out to one side of the net and not allow cut-backs.  Cut-backs often create coverage confusion and lead to scoring opportunities.

RD remains responsible for the previous puck carrier.  It is crucial RD wins the race back to the front of the net and remains on d-side of his/her player.

LD remains responsible for the opposing player in front of the net.  LD can not allow his/her feet to face the end-boards, as this will allow the opposing forward to get open in front of the net without LD knowing exactly where the opponent is skating.  LD should keep his/her feet facing up ice until the puck carrier reaches the far post, at which point, LD can open facing the sideboards allowing clear vision of both the puck carrier and responsibility in front of the net.

LW remains in the high slot for additional support and remains responsible for the opposing RD.

RW shifts to the high slot for additional support.  RW remains responsible for the opposing LD and should not turn his/her back to the coverage.

Alternate Rotation

Box Plus One - Behind the Net Alternate Rotation

An alternate to the scenario #2 rotation is to allow the LD to pressure the new puck carrier behind the net and have C fill LD’s previous responsibility in front of the net.  This rotation can be useful when the puck carrier has a step or two on the C.  In order for this rotation to work properly, C and LD need to communicate to ensure only one player is pressuring the puck.  LD should not leave until C has picked up the man in front of the net.  If LD leaves too early, the opposing forward will be left open in front of the net until C is able to pick him/her up.

Scenario #3 – Puck is moved to the far corner

Box Plus One - Corner Rotation

In scenarios where the puck shifts from one corner to the other, players must quickly and efficiently rotate to avoid any gaps in coverage.

LD becomes strong-side defenseman and should pressure the puck carrier assuming he/she is closer to the puck than C (as shown in this diagram).

C should rotate to the other side of the net for support – traveling through the front of the net to block passing lanes and cover anyone who may be in the high slot during the rotation.

RD returns to the front of the net.  RD must win the race back to the front.

RW shifts into the high-slot for weak-side support.

LW rotates just above the dot on the far circle, staying in between RD and the net.

Final Tips:

1) Always keep your stick on the ice and in the most dangerous passing lane.  This simple act can prevent countless scoring opportunities.  The most dangerous passing lane is most often the middle of the ice.

2) Proper communication is key.  In a game, there will be times of confusion.  Proper communication amongst the players will allow responsibility shifts without creating gaps in coverage.  Coverage gaps equal scoring opportunities!

3) Be aggressive on the puck carrier.  The more time you give an opponent time to set up and make plays, the more likely it becomes someone will miss a coverage.

4) Centers should be treated like defensemen and be allowed to pursue the puck carrier in the corner if he/she can get there before a defenseman.

5) The first person pressuring the puck should look to take the body and separate the man from the puck.  When separation has occurred, the support player (Center in the diagrams above) should quickly move in to gain possession of the puck.

6) Have your head on a swivel. In the defensive zone, players must consistently look around to identify gaps in coverage (open players).  Players cannot get caught watching the puck and losing track of their responsibility.


Off-Ice Drills to Develop Quick Feet

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Hockey Drills
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Developing “quick feet” is essential for hockey players.  Players with quicker feet can typically accelerate, turn, and re-accelerate faster than other players – giving them a distinct advantage.  One of the best and most simple tools we’ve come across is the Dot Drill Mat.  It’s basically just a thick rubber mat with dots drawn on it (photo below).  You can certainly draw the pattern on the ground with chalk, but I will say it’s very handy to have the actual mat.  We have them in our workout facility for our team, and use them on a weekly basis.

Here are some resources we’ve found from around the web.  Hopefully these resources give you some new and fresh ideas when working with your team to develop quick feet.




If you’re interested in purchasing a Dot Drill Mat, I would recommend getting them through Power Systems.  Here is the product link:  http://tinyurl.com/yfhoom2


Help HockeyShare Improve (Free E-Book)

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: HockeyShare.com Features
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We’re always looking for new ways to make HockeyShare.com bigger and better.  We’d like to hear from you what you’d like to see added/improved upon.  We created a brief (2 multiple choice questions) survey to help us collect your feedback.  We’d love to hear from you!  Click the link below to take the brief survey.  As our way of saying “thank you” for taking the time to help us grow, after you complete the survey, you’ll receive a free download of our “5 High-Tempo Small Area Games” e-book.

Click Here to Take the Survey


Wood or One-Piece Sticks?

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Comments & Thoughts
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One of the most frequent questions I get while working with young, beginning hockey players is whether or not they should buy the skater a wood stick or one of the expensive one-piece sticks.  With younger players, my answer is almost always “wood” – which is followed shortly by a question from the disappointed kid who really wanted the shiny new one-piece stick…”well then, why do you have a one piece.”  Good question – here are my thoughts:

Price:  The development program in our area runs about $180 for a 9-week session.  Some of you will think that number is high, some will think it’s low.  Regardless, I find it difficult to justify spending more than half the hockey budget for the skater on a stick!  Especially when the kids are young, they’ll want to take the stick out in the driveway (perhaps participating in the HockeyShare 10,000 Pucks Contest…for example) and shoot pucks or play street hockey.  Good luck convincing mom and dad to let you go run your new $100+ stick over the driveway!  To those saying – “I’ll just get the kid a wood stick for the driveway,” I would ask why not just get him two wood sticks and save the ~$100? It amazes me the number of players I see with expensive hockey sticks, and a helmet and cage from a second-hand sports store, ready to fall apart.  My opinion: invest the money you save by buying a cheaper stick into the equipment protecting your child’s most valuable and vulnerable part of their body – their head!  A good helmet typically will cost less than a good one-piece stick.  Crazy when you think about it, isn’t it?

So, the first part of my answer to the younger posing the question: “Because I pay for my own stick!”

Some Advantages of a One-Piece Stick:  Now, don’t get me wrong.  One-piece sticks do offer a nice advantage to those players lucky enough to get one…provided they’re old and strong enough to utilize them effectively.  One-piece sticks excel in durability under typical conditions.  For example, the number of slap shots a one-piece will withstand vs. a wood stick most of the time is much greater.  As players get older and stronger, their ability to transfer their weight into shots (snap, slap, wrist, backhand…it doesn’t matter) increases.  As the amount of energy transferred into the stick increases, so does the wear-and-tear on the stick.  It has been my experience that the elasticity of the composite shaft and blades is (typically) far superior to a wood stick.  When I was doing individual training, I was logging hundreds of shots per day.  I may have just been lucky, but in the two years I consistently did the one-on-one coaching, I never broke a stick and only went through two (I replaced them after they got to ‘whippy’ for me).  So here was my experience in durability….in college, 1-3 wood sticks per week…coaching (between 4-10 hrs. per day) for two years, 2 one-piece sticks.  No comparison.

So my second reply to the youngster is: “They tend to last a lot longer for me than wood sticks.”

Along with the durability comes the ability to “push” the stick quite a bit more than your typical wood stick.  The technology behind the composite sticks has allowed players to refine their shooting techniques to maximize their shot.  One of these evolutions has been the appearance of the closed-blade slap shot, where a player winds up pointing the toe of the blade toward the ice instead of open as it’s traditionally taught.  This technique takes advantage of the the ability of the blade to flex and provide extra whip on the follow through.  I don’t recommend trying this unless you’re an advanced player and/or you’ve got extra sticks lying around that you don’t mind breaking while “trying it out.”

This sort of direct shooting advantage only comes into play when a player is strong enough to maximize the flex of the shaft.  At 6′ 2″ and 180lbs, I can put a pretty good amount of force into a shot.  I use a 100 lb. flex (Easton) at full stock length.  I see way too many 5′ 6″, 130lb kids with 110lb flex sticks cut down 2-3″ – making the flex rating more like 120lb (approximately flex ratings based on Easton sticks – the different manufacturers have different ways of measuring this).  When you have sticks too stiff for a player to properly flex, you take A LOT of power away from the shot.  Just like a golf club, you want your shaft to flex and transfer that energy to the puck.

My third response to the youngster: “Because I’m big enough to take advantage of what the stick is capable of.”

(By this point in the conversation, the parents are usually celebrating the fact they don’t have to buy a $150 stick for their 7 year-old)

Final Thoughts:   I fully believe one-piece sticks are great tools, but the player must have the ability to utilize the stick’s potential.  For young and beginner hockey players, there are plenty of good sticks available on a budget.  As players get older and stronger, I’m OK with getting one-piece sticks, provided the player is able to properly flex the stick at the length they’re cutting it at. When you get a new stick, get one you like the general feel, weight, pattern, lie, and flex of – as opposed to getting the one marketed the best!



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