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Jumping Drill [Video]

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Hockey Drills,Instructional Video
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This week’s video drill is a lot of fun.  In this clip, we focus on explosive jumping and balance.  While jumping itself doesn’t always have a direct use in games, the skills and techniques it works on play a vital role in skating ability.  Jumping forces players to do the following:

1) Get low and explode up
2) Land in a controlled manner (ever been off-balance in a hockey game before?)
3) Balance
4) Keep control of their entire body
5) Utilize edges

I hope you enjoy this video as much as I enjoyed filming it!  Stay tuned next week for a drill focusing on burying the puck top shelf!


How to Approach Off-Season Training

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Comments & Thoughts
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Often when the season wraps up, I’ll get asked the question: “Coach, what do I need to work on in the off-season?”  I usually respond to this by reversing the question and asking them what they think they need to work on.  When they look at me with a blank stare, I usually try to guide them through a series of questions to help evaluate their play and identify “holes” in their game – and of course share my feedback with them after they’ve started to identify things for themselves.  The off-season provides a great opportunity for committed players to develop and improve their fundamental skills.  I believe players need to approach off-season training in the following sequence:

1) Players must identify the areas of their game they want to improve. This needs to be done with honest self-evaluation. Most older players know the areas they struggle with – younger players will need to be given more guidance. A list of two or three skills to improve is typically more than enough. Identifying too many areas is a recipe for disaster and disappointment.

2) Once players have their weaknesses, they should work with their coaching staff to come up with a training regiment. This doesn’t necessarily mean the coach should be giving out complete summer training programs for each player (although, this would be great), but most coaches will be more than happy to share ideas on ways to train.

3) Players need to follow through consistently on the plan.  If a player improves just a little bit every day, the results/success will compound. Repetition is the mother of skill – get out there and consistently take action!  It is OK to take days off – in fact, depending on the training, it may be better for the body to take time off.

4) Players should seek educated instruction/direction during their training for both safety and habit reasons. If someone takes 10,000 shots with terrible technique, they’re not doing a lot other than re-enforcing bad habits.  However, if he or she take 10,000 shots with some guidance, instruction, and correction – they stand a much better chance of developing their skills.

5) Identify on-ice training opportunities to evaluate how the training is working. Many areas of the game can be worked on off-ice: stickhandling, shooting, foot speed, balance, hand-eye coordination, acceleration, power, reaction time, etc.  However, it is a good thing to get players on the ice from time-to-time to see how their training is working.  This can be something as simple as open hockey or a public skate.

6) Work hard and smart.  One thing a lot of players get wrong is mistaking hard work for smart work.  Players must understand – working hard on the wrong things won’t help once the season rolls around!  Players who come in bragging about how much they improved their bench press or bicep curl have indeed wasted a lot of time and energy.

The depth players should take these guidelines depends on age and competition level. An eight year-old obviously should not be doing an intense weight program – but instead occasionally stickhandling or shooting pucks in the driveway will go a long way.  Midget players with aspirations of continuing their career, on the other hand, should be looking to be hitting a weight room and getting on the ice more frequently to hone their skills. Not sure what to work on? You can never go wrong with working on skating technique!


Fellow Hockey Friends

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Comments & Thoughts

Coach Nielsen

I had the pleasure of catching up with fellow hockey coach and blogger, Coach Nielsen this past week at the USA Hockey U18 Tier I National Tournament down in Woodridge, IL.  If you haven’t seen his site yet, it’s definitely worth checking out.  Here’s the link to his blog:



I’ve also been talking lately with Jeremy from HowToHockey.com, and wanted to take a minute to share a challenge he’s putting together this summer called the Slapshot Challenge.  It’s a contest designed to improve your slapshot over the summer.  This will coincide nicely with the 10,000 Pucks Contest which starts in June.  Anyway, here’s a quick video from Jeremy:

To learn more about the Slapshot Challenge, please visit: http://howtohockey.com/slapshot-challenge


Hal Tearse Concerns

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Comments & Thoughts

I was sent an interesting video of Minnesota Hockey’s Coach in Chief, Hal Tearse.  In the video, Hal expresses his growing concerns regarding game counts vs. skill development.  Here’s the video – I think it’s definitely worth a watch:


Learn from the Pros – Week 1

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Learn from the Pros
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I’ve decided to start a new weekly section called “Learn from the Pros” which will feature plays from professional hockey.  The idea is to take small pieces of the game and break them down so they can be used as learning tools for coaches and players.  This week, we’ll look at two goals – the first from Andrew Ladd against the St. Louis Blues, and the second from Justin Williams against the Anaheim Ducks.

Each teaching keypoint will also include the time on the YouTube video to pause the clip so you’ve got a freeze-frame of the the play developing.  So, for example, if the intended freeze-frame is at the 8 second mark, it will be denoted before the breakdown in the following format:  [0:08].  To scroll to that portion of the video, simply drag the scrubber on the timeline to the desired time sequence.  Note: the times are not always exact, as sometimes you’ll get slightly different frames when you “scrub” to the time you want.  Use the time-markers as approximate spots where you can start-and-stop the video to get a quality freeze-frame.

Andrew Ladd – 4/7/10

[0:06] This play starts out with Kris Versteeg getting up the ice ahead of his teammates.  Instead of attempting to drive the St. Louis defenseman to get a scoring opportunity, he wisely buys time and space by stopping and using his body to protect the puck from the defending player.

[0:07] The next Blackhawk into the zone is John Madden who drives in strong-side, giving Versteeg an option to throw the puck down the wall.  After Versteeg passes to the trailer, Andrew Ladd, Madden drives to the net and is in great position to tip the puck or play a rebound.

[0:08] Now, Versteeg makes an incredible pass (not one I’d recommend many players try in anything other than pick-up hockey) to Andrew Ladd – BUT, the backchecking defenseman (Mike Weaver) for St. Louis makes two critical mistakes:  1) he fails to identify Ladd as a scoring threat 2) he turns his back on the puck in favor of looking at Byfuglien to cover.

[0:10] This creates a ton of space for Ladd to shoot.  Weaver is now forced to play the 2 on 1 rush from the weak-side post.

[0:36] Ladd releases a quick snap-shot off one foot.  The key here is the quick release, there is no big wind-up, and only a single stickhandle to release the puck. In this freeze-frame, you can clearly see he has his head up the entire way and is looking for open parts of the net to shoot at.

Justin Williams – 4/6/10

[0:06] Williams enters the zone on a 2 on 2 rush with a backchecker. Technically, LA is out-manned in this rush.  The opportunity begins by Ducks Defenseman Steve Eminger having given Williams a bit too much space as he crossed the blue line.  Eminger needed to have a tighter gap when the rush entered the zone.  Instead, he’s still about two stick-lengths away from Williams as he gains the blue line.  This allows the forwards to criss-cross and open up space.

[0:08] The Ducks backchecker, Saku Koivu, gets caught reaching for the puck.  At this point, Williams now has body position established on Eminger, and the Anze Kopitar is driving toward the net, bringing his defenseman with him.

[0:10] Eminger is forced to make a dive in desperation.  Kopitar drove the net going to the far post, bringing his defender with him, which opens up ice in front of the goaltender.

[0:34] Ducks goalie Curtis McElhinney plays the shot, but is still outside the crease, leaving Williams with room on the short-side to reach around him and stuff the puck in.

I hope you enjoy this new section. If you have plays you’d like to see broken down, find me a clip on YouTube and leave them in the comments.


Why Goal Scorers Bury the Puck

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Comments & Thoughts
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Dan Rosen – staff writer for NHL.com – posted an awesome article on 4/7/10 about the NHL scoring race between Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and Steven Stamkos titled Chasing Rocket: Why Ovie, Sid and Stamkos Score.  While the article goes into specifics about each player’s style of play, what interested me was where they were scoring their goals from on the ice.  In my previous post about the Box Plus One Defensive Zone Coverage, I touched on the importance of defending your “home base” first.  As a reminder, here’s the area I’m referring to:

Now take a look at that area compared to where each player is scoring the majority of their goals from:  (Note – since these files are property of NHL.com, I can’t post them directly to the blog, so I have to link them)

Alex Ovechkin:  http://cdn.nhl.com/images/upload/2010/04/ovi-chart-LG.jpg

Sidney Crosby: http://cdn.nhl.com/images/upload/2010/04/crosby-chart-LG-mod.jpg

Steven Stamkos: http://cdn.nhl.com/images/upload/2010/04/stam-chart-LG.jpg

So what can we learn from these great goal scorers? To me, it’s one simple thing: don’t pass up opportunities to shoot the puck in the prime scoring areas of the ice.  Now, that’s not to say there aren’t times when it’s right to make a pass here – but too often I see players try to chase that elusive “perfect scoring opportunity” – 99% of the time, it won’t happen. Goal scorers score by shooting the puck and shooting it with a purpose! ….oh, and it doesn’t hurt to get in the habit of driving to the net and stopping in front for a rebound!


5 Puck Agility Shooting [Video]

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Hockey Drills,Instructional Video
Tags: , ,

This week’s video is a quick agility shooting drill to work on quick moves and shot release, slap shots, and shooting against your body’s momentum.  Stay tuned next week for a power skating drill focusing on explosiveness (oh, and it’s a lot of fun too!).


Tryout Overview [Part 1]

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Comments & Thoughts
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Spring time marks the end of a long-cold (but exciting) hockey season – and for many, brings with it a set of tryouts.  Older players begin trying out for junior teams, younger players try out for select spring teams, and many Tier I teams hold their tryouts for next season.  Over the past several weeks, I’ve received many emails asking my thoughts on tryouts – how to handle them, what to look for, how to structure the ice times, etc.  Since this topic can get quite lengthy, I decided to break this down into two separate posts (the follow-up coming next week Monday/Tuesday).  In this post, I’ll cover my opinion of how to structure the ice times and choose the right types of drills.  Please keep in mind, this post is geared toward youth players.  I know we have readers who are coaching high-level teams (Junior/College/Professional), but my hunch is they’ve already got a pretty good grasp of how to run their tryouts!

Step 1 – Planning Your Session(s)

The first step to running a successful tryout is the ability to effectively plan the usage of the available ice time.  Knowing whether you’ve got one day, or five days to choose your team will make a huge difference in how you approach your plans.  For argument sake, let’s assume you have three-90 minute sessions at your disposal for tryouts.  Try to find out well ahead of time what your schedule is so you can plan accordingly.  One of the worst things a coach can do is enter the tryout portion of the season unprepared.  This often sets the tone for the rest of the season – plus, you only get one chance to make a first impression!

Step 2 – Include Skill Drills

Before going any further into your plans, you’ve got to understand what age and level you’re coaching and have a solid grasp of just how talented the group you’re working with is.  If you’re looking to select a low-level Mite (Novice in Canada) team, you plan much differently than if you’re working with a Midget AAA team.  A solid rule of thumb is: the younger the groups, the more basic fundamental skill drills you should run during tryouts. Remember, tryout sessions are not the time to be spending a lot of time explaining new drills.  With any group/level, you need to have a solid grasp of what the players are capable of.  For example, if you’re working with a Mite/Novice team, it may be worthwhile to run a simple backwards skating drill.  Often times at the younger ages, players aren’t yet proficient in that particular skill – so it’s best to see that up front.  If you’re working with an older, more advanced team, you should look at performing a high-tempo edgework drill to see which players are able to skate efficiently at top-speeds.

Many times, skill portions of tryouts are overlooked.  Lots of coaches would rather just have the players scrimmage and sit back and watch.  Including skill drills provides two distinct benefits: 1) being able to recognize technical proficiencies and deficiencies in players 2) getting some insight as to how they interact with coaches and approach drills.  If I’m picking a team, I want to know where players are strong and weak, so I can gage the group and have specifics to focus on once the season starts.  I also want to know if a player is going to give me attitude every time I run a skating drill.

Step 3 – Include Competitive Drills

1 on 1 and Small Area Games are great drills to include in tryouts, as you get some insight as to who really wants to work to earn his/her position.  Forcing players to compete against each other in situations other than direct scrimmages allows coaches to isolate players and match-ups much easier.  These drills often times allow coaches to step back more than when running skill drills, and have time to pair particular players against each other.  Keep these drill repetitions short so players can give a high level of energy the entire time.  One great drill for this portion is the Corner Battle drill – it forces players to mix it up in the corners, and can show you a player’s ability to to keep his/her emotions in check.

Step 4 – Include Scrimmage Time

Finally, I do recommend including scrimmage time in each tryout session.  At the end of the day, players have to play the structured game once the season rolls around.  Once you’ve got some insight on their talents and competitive nature, it’s time to see how they fare in game situations.  As with the competitive drills, coaches should mix and match groups to see specific players compete against each other.  For example, if you’ve narrowed your list down to two defensemen you’re watching, and you notice both those players are going out against forward lines that will not make your team, it doesn’t make any sense to keep the status quo.  Get those players out against other players who you’ve already selected and see if they rise to the challenge.

I believe the scrimmage portions of tryouts should be “stepped” – meaning the scrimmage portions increase in length as the tryout process goes on.  If you have three sessions, perhaps the first session has 60 minutes of skills/competitive drills and 30 minutes of scrimmage – then the second session has 45 minutes of skills/competitive drills and 45 minutes of scrimmage – finally, the third session could have 30 minutes of competitive drills and 60 minutes of scrimmage.

Below I’ve included the tryout practice plans I used for the 2009-10 season.  This is not by any means a definitive guide as to what you should run, but I wanted to include it as a reference.  We had three-90 minute tryout sessions and followed the “stepped” format outlined above.

Download 2009-10 Tryout Example

Stay tuned next week for Tryout Overview [Part 2] – which will focus on what to look for in each of the portions of your tryout sessions.


Expanding Our Game – Everyone’s Responsibility

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Comments & Thoughts
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It’s probably safe to say everyone reading this article has a passion for hockey – if not, why would you be spending time reading hockey articles when the regular season is over?  The game of hockey is arguably the best sport on the face of the earth and teaches many life lessons which prove to be invaluable to children as they get older.  In order for our sport to continue to grow and take strides in a positive direction, each of us must take some responsibility and “step up” to help expand our game.  We’re all busy, but if we, as active, current participants in the hockey community do not, who will?  If you’re a parent with a child in the game, wouldn’t you want to see your children’s children have the opportunity to play this great sport?  If you’re a coach who doesn’t have any children involved in the game, wouldn’t you want to make sure you’re going to have players to coach in the future?

So how can we make our game bigger and better? The first step is easy – become a game ambassador.  When the opportunity arises, let people know how much hockey means to you, and share how much it has touched your life.  Invite family and friends to hockey games.  If you have a son or daughter playing, and their friends get to see them play, you’ve got an instant connection and a much greater chance of getting another child interested in the game.

Another great tool is to encourage your local youth hockey association and rink to host a “Try Hockey Free” clinic.  USA Hockey and Hockey Canada have made it increasingly easy to get the necessary equipment for these sessions with their OneGoal program.  Organizations can order sets of gear for an extremely affordable price.  Associations and rinks need to realize the investment they make in gear is an investment in their future.  If your association or rink is unable to purchase the gear, contact families within the club and ask for donations.  Many hockey families have old gear just sitting around and would be happy to put it to a good use.  Once you have your gear, work together with the rink to make it a memorable experience.  Many rinks will gladly donate an hour of ice time for the event – and why not, it’s helping secure their future customer base as well.

Celebrating and partaking in the festivities when national governing bodies organize events is a simple way to celebrate and promote the game.  USA Hockey has Hockey Weekend Across America, where there are different themes for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  This year, the Friday theme was “Wear Your Favorite Hockey Jersey”, Saturday was “Bring a Friend to the Rink”, and Sunday was “Celebrate Local Hockey Heroes”.  These are three great themes to help grow awareness.

Finally, if you’re able to help out with your local club, reach out and lend a hand. So many organizations need volunteers to keep the kids on the ice. Even if it’s just being there for your club’s beginner/development hockey program, no contribution is too small.  When you’re dealing with the younger and beginner levels, it’s difficult to have too many knowledgeable people on the ice.  Anyone who’s worked with the beginning groups know just how demanding it can be – individual attention is the key.  Talk to your organization about adopting a policy to make sure the program isn’t understaffed.  Have a board member present at every practice/game to field questions parents may have.  It’s easy to forget many times both the player and parents are new to the game and don’t “know the ropes” yet.  Have every coach in your club come out for one week of practices – it’s a small commitment that can make a huge difference.  Not only does it give more qualified coaching on the ice, but also begins to introduce coaches from other levels to the players and parents.

We would love to hear other ideas on how you or your local association (or rink) help hockey grow.  Please leave some comments below to help contribute to the growth of our great game.


HockeyShare Technology Survey

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: HockeyShare Surveys

We’re always looking for ways to grow, and want to know a bit more about our reader-base.  Please take a moment to complete our technology survey.  There is only ONE required question (and it’s multiple choice), so it shouldn’t take you more than about 30 seconds to complete.


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