NHL Coaches Clinic

Hi guys, just wanted to post some info from the NHL coaches clinic from Vancouver yesterday.

Just a couple things. One theme brought up buy a few speakers was the difference between Russian and North American coaching. In Russian they have shorter drills at a high tempo and more reps performed. In North America they have longer drills at a slower tempo and performing less reps of such drills. The last 2 hockey ice sessions I attended certainly backs this up.

Another point was the fact that in NA we have more players, more ice surfaces yet we are producing less high caliber players. Maybe some more beep tests and bag skating will help with this?

Boston Bruins coach Mike Sullivan came in with an interesting study conducted at Harvard. The general outcome of that study was that the “content” wasn’t the most important thing when practicing but the “context” in how the practice takes place. So it doesn’t matter what you’re practicing but how. The reason was the brain gets accustomed to the same practice environment and learning diminishes. Where if you constantly change things up, the brain is stimulated more. I’m sorry but there were no references given for any of the speaking sessions.

At lunch I got to speak 1 on 1 with Mr. Slapshot Al Macinnis. Al trained with Charles Poliquin from the age of 30-40 and credits Charles with adding several years to his playing career.

I asked him outright how he got his slapshot and the answer might surprise you. He got his great shot from, get this… Shooting hundreds of pucks a day!!! I know its crazy but true. I thought for sure it was from doing really heavy woodchoppers on the cables, but I guess I was wrong.

Obviously I’m being sarcastic. His made a point that when he was a kid he shot everyday just because that’s what he wanted to do, shoot and get better. Kids these days don’t seem to want to put in the time on their own. He does ice sessions in St Louis where the kids show up and want to practice their shots while on the ice paying $250/hr for the ice time.

Had a 15 minute round table with 4 coaches in the NHL and I must say that Randy Carlyle is one funny guy and Marc Crawford needs a tan badly!!!

Good time all in all.

Great Post… I read somewhere a few year ago that Herb Brooks took from the Russian Coach(not the one that he beat, the guy that won the 4 Gold Metal before). They practiced faster and more intense that any American has prior. The players hated it but the games seemed slower. I’ve heard rumors of the several careers that Micheal Jordan ruined by his practice intensity. Guys couldn’t hang and he abused them until they broke.
I’m presenting tomorrow to a group of 50 parents and kids about the development of athletes/hockey players. You can bet that I will not be talking about all the speed/agility ladder work that the Euro’s and Russian’s do! I wonder if they laugh at us? Actually how much they laugh at us…

Great point by MacInnis, great sarcasm by Plook, you’ve got to practice fundamental skills, not just get on the ice and play games all weekend, which is what most NA youths do. Kids need to almost forced to do stick handling drills, shooting drills at home, but this is what they need the most. The little bit of ice time at practice is not enough to develop top level talent.
It’s the same in all youth sports- too many games, not nearly enough practice sessions and emphasis on the basics.
I saw an former Soviet block ex phys speak years ago on how they didn’t allow kids to play games or specialize until they were 13-14 years old, the earlier years were spent on the basic skills of running, dance, gymnastics to build a base from which to develop the athlete.

It strikes me as funny because that is exactly how Charlie told me the Russians trained. Look a lot like high intensity short exposure training. I think 90% of what I see is off base in hockey training. Running miles to play a game that is high speed stop and go with a lot of rest seems out of place. I agree about kid’s just wanting to scrimmage. Very few kid’s work on their fundamentals anymore. I have kid’s who drill them endlessly and others who wouldn’t lift a finger unless their parents were paying me to train them. One kid was an 87 with all the tools to play pro hockey. He didn’t make it because he was lazy. He just told me it tears him up seeing Jordan Stahl and those guys playing in the NHL. He agreed that he was not mature enough to push himself. I get him 3 hours per week. Thay leaves 165 hours for him to do the proper things. I see far too many kids that don’t get better because all they work on is playing. Practicing fundamentals isn’t sexy, but champions they do make.

Not directly relevant to hockey, but to the overall problem in the States of putting too much emphasis on competition from a very early age. There was an interesting article in the New York Times about Ajax, the great Dutch soccer club. The kids that train there do the same fundamental drills that American kids do as a half-assed warm up before games, but the Dutch kids do them for the entire practice, with close coach scrutiny. And they only practice a few times a week, as kids, gradually building intensity and frequency as they get older. They play a game on the weekend, sometimes. It’s all about touches and reps. No wonder they kick our ass.

I don’t know a whole lot about hockey, but I’d bet the same principle applies.

who works on all his skills constantly. His stick handling, his shot, his movement…all off ice. He was rated top 3 in nation and is considered a top 25 prospect for OHL draft. He has always been exceptional, but it is the little things that he does that make big differences. He fires on the rapid shot machine whenever he is at rink. That’s why he a sniper, super accurate shot with quick release. I see way too many kids who just skate and scrimmage all off season and guess what, they don’t progress. I always tell the kid’s, you can only be so skilled. At the highest levels, everybody has talent, it is usually the tougher, faster, stronger player who seperates himself from others. Ovechkin, Stahl, Thorton, Crosby too name a few.

Can you share some of what you’ll be speaking on?

In my town, we have an Athletic Republic trying to convince parents that high speed treadmills and skating treadmills are where it’s at!