For too many parents travel
hockey seems not to be a game to teach life values, but a
way to pay for college. What is your opinion on the trend
towards parents putting too much emphasis on hockey at an
early age and spending so much time and money on playing
year round? It seems to me that often it is more about the
parent’s hopes of creating a superstar. At what age should
any parent start to really consider whether their child may
have the talent to play at a serious level, and can a parent
really make their child into a great player? My thought is
that just because a kid is really great as a Squirt or Pee
Wee that is not a predictor of future success. What is your
take on this?
Many parents put too much emphasis on travel hockey at an
early age and spend a lot of time and money to have their
kids play hockey year round. I believe players between 5 and
12 years of age need a break from hockey just to rejuvenate.
They should be playing soccer, Little League baseball,
taking up golf, swimming or other activities during the
summer months. Attending a summer hockey camp for one week
is fine, but playing hockey nearly 12 months of the year is
Many players between 5 and 12 years of age are very good
players and some might even score 5 goals a game, but this
is not a true predictor of future success. Some will become
great Junior players but the majority will not. Parents must
realize there is very little forechecking, backchecking or
aggressive bodychecking in these younger age groups. Players
are competing against players in their own age group, not
older or more experienced players. The best skaters and
puckhandlers usually dominate until the end of Pee Wee.
The real competition begins in Bantam and Midget hockey,
when players are bigger, faster, stronger, meaner and
smarter. If child can still dominate in the 13 to 15 year
old age groups, parents might start considering their child
may have the talent to play serious hockey at the Junior
If a player has the size, speed, skill, courage,
determination and smarts to play Junior hockey and can hold
his own and even excel against bigger 18, 19, 20 and 21 year
old players, he has taken a giant step toward playing Junior
“A”, or even Major Junior “A” hockey. If the child plays
very well in Junior “A” many will be offered a college
Regarding whether a parent can really make their child into
a great player, my answer might surprise you. Yes, I do
believe parents can make their child a great player. They
can help guide their children between 5 and 12 years of age.
They spend more time with their children than coaches and
can explain/teach the basic rules, skills, systems and
strategies of hockey. However, the child must be self
motivated and want to become the very best hockey player he
Players must understand hockey before they can excel. They
can learn from their parents at a young age how and why to
forecheck and backcheck, where to be positioned for a
clearing/breakout play, how to score and prevent goals and
the strategy of the power play and penalty killing. They
will be ahead of the competition and potentially on their
way to becoming a very good to outstanding hockey player
with this knowledge.
As players turn 13 they start to turn a deaf ear to their
parents teaching. They need a new hockey voice to take them
to the next level. An experienced coach and playing in a
competitive “AA” or “AAA” travel league will be required for
the future development of their hockey skills. The cream
will rise to the top and several will become good junior
player. The great ones will have college recruiters knocking
on their door.
How do you keep your players motivated when the team they
play against is at a lower skill level?
This is a good question and something that I have seen
happen many, many times in my hockey career. In fact it just
happened twice in the league in which I am President. The
last place team with a record of 0 wins and 15 straight
losses beat the second placed team, twice in two weeks.
Sometimes playing a lower seeded team is more difficult than
playing the top team. For some reason, players can’t seem to
get motivated to play a specific team or game. I believe
this happens because players of the higher seeded team come
to the game mentally overconfident.
Secondly, they play down to the level of the lower team
instead of playing up to their full skill potential. This is
because players physically and mentally take the night off
and do not give 100% on every shift. They believe a 50%
effort is all that is required to beat the lower seeded
team. They take too many offensive and defensive chances,
stay out for long shifts, try to do too much stickhandling,
or make too many passes trying to score a cute goal instead
of burying the puck into the net.
Some players try to pad their scoring statistics against the
weaker team and play undisciplined hockey. They hang out by
the red line looking for a breakaway pass and won’t
backcheck. This type of play backfires on many teams causing
them to fall behind early in the game and play catch up
hockey – something they may not be used to doing.
Here is the big challenge for coaches. They must convince
their players there is no such thing as an easy hockey game.
They must prepare a sound game plan for their team no matter
where the opposition is in the standings.
The key is to get players back to the basics – the systems,
strategy and shifts that got them into the higher seeded
position in the first place. This is not easy for the
coaches because changing the established thinking of their
players requires special coaching skills.
Many players do not believe they are playing a good hockey
team. Coaches need to tell players they will fall behind if
they do not stick to the game plan. Sometimes this can be
accomplished by challenging them to give a 100% effort and
follow the game plan or ride the pine for a few shifts.
Coaches should instruct their teams to go back to short
shifts – get the puck in deep, forecheck, recover the puck,
cycle it if required, pass or carry it into a high
percentage scoring location, take the shot on goal and then
get off the ice. This should all be done within a 50 second
Make no mistake, playing a lower seeded team is a challenge,
and coaches must find the right buttons to push to get each
player to play up to his or her potential. However,
remember, the goal of youth hockey is having fun, not
winning a game 15 to 1. It is important not to embarrass any
team by blowing them out of the water.
If a coach finds their team in a blow out position, they
should challenge their players to try other positions. Let
defensive players try forward and forwards try defense. This
will make players realize the different skills required to
play other positions and in the end it will make them better
hockey players. It will also cut down on the goals scored
and keep the game reasonable and fun for both teams.
Travel Hockey Parent asks:
How to deal with problem parents
We received this question from a travel hockey parent asking
our advice on "How to Deal with Problem Parents?"
As a background to this question, Youth Hockey parents and
players must realize coaching a travel team is much
than coaching a House League or recreational team where
having fun is the number one goal.
Coaching a travel team is serious business as the team must
steadily improve and win a specific number of games to make
The coaches and players goal is to finish the regular season
as high as possible in the standings in order to secure home
ice advantage during the playoffs.
Having fun and skill improvement is still an objective of
travel hockey but making the playoffs is the highest goal.
Prior to the start of the season the Head Travel Coach and
his assistants should schedule a team Question and Answer
meeting with both parents and players.
By doing this, coaches will reduce the possibility of having
problem parents by at least 95%.
This information sharing meeting will break the ice and give
the coaches a chance to answer everyone's questions and to
explain their coaching philosophy,
i.e. winning hockey games or having fun, team goals and
objectives for the season, rules and consequences, earned or
equal ice time, on and off ice practices,
length of shifts, power play and penalty killing make up,
dress code, tournaments they intent to enter this season,
cost for the season, etc.
Both parents and players should have the opportunity to ask
the coaches questions.
If the parents and players agree with the coach’s philosophy
and answers they join the team.
But, if they disagree, they still have the opportunity to
gracefully turn down the offer to join the team.
There should be no major surprises for parents or players
during the season.
However, having said that, some problems, concerns and
situations will arise during the long season, they always
The team should have a means in place to address these
periodic problems and a private chat after the game or
practice with the head coach and the parent
or player should be scheduled to resolve any situation.
An elected or appointed parent liaison person might be the
perfect person to set up a meeting or to bring situations to
the coach for him/her to address.
Situations must be addressed and solved by the coaches and
management of the team as quickly as possible.
If a resolution cannot be found and the player or parent
continues to disrupt the team, one course of action for the
coach is to bench the player or even suspend him.
This discipline usually gets the positive results the coach
is looking for. However, if it does not, and only as a last
resort, if the situation is so serious and cannot be
resolved, the Head coach may have to release the player for
the good of the team.
Parents of the other travel players can try to reason with
the problem parent before the situation gets serious.
Sometimes getting another parent's point of view to a hockey
problem works wonders.
Should kids play hockey year round?
I believe kids between 5 and 12 years of age need to get away from hockey during the summer months. They need to rejuvenate and should be playing soccer, Little League baseball, taking up golf, swimming or just having fun. Attending a one week hockey school during the summer is fine but playing hockey year round is a too much.
At what age should parents get serious about their child's hockey ability?
If players can still dominate and excel at age 13 and older, against bigger, stronger, faster and meaner players, you may have a child who can play serious Junior hockey in Canada or the USA. If they excel in Junior "A" hockey, many will be offered a College scholarship.
If a player excels in the 5 to 12 year old age groups is this a true indication s/he will become a star player?
Some players in the 5 to 12 year old age groups will score 5 goals a game but this does not necessarily mean they will become a great Junior or professional player. There is very little hitting/checking in these age groups and the best skaters and puck carriers will dominate. However, when body checking, forechecking and backchecking systems are introduced it becomes much more difficult to excel. Some early stars will still dominate but the majority will not.
How to deal with problem Minor/Youth Hockey parents?
If coaches at the start of the season host a Question and Answer meeting with both the parents and players they will eliminate 95% of many seasonal problems. The parents and players can ask all kinds of questions and will understand where the coaches are coming from and can decide if they want their child to play on this specific team or not.
What is the difference between House League and Rep. Hockey?
House league or recreational hockey is basically for fun and enjoyment. It is not intended to be a means to Junior "A" or Professional hockey. Representative or Competitive/Travel hockey is for serious hockey players who want to make hockey a career and become a professional hockey player or receive a university scholarship offer.
How do you deal with a puck hog?
The coach should explain to the puck hog that hockey is a team game and if a teammate is ahead of him and in the clear he should receive the puck via a pass. If the puck hog does not buy into this solution, the coach can
a. repeat the answer above.
b. bench the player for a shift or two
c. as a last resort, tell the players skating ahead of him to intentionally go offside if s/he does not pass the puck
Tryout camp - drills or scrimmage?
Hi Coach, I will be coaching Squirt Travel Hockey this season. Coach, in your opinion, which is the best way to hold a tryout, by using drills or by having a scrimmage? Do you have any specific drills you like use during tryouts?
To answer your question, since you are dealing with Squirts, I would use a combination of specific drills at the start of the practice to see who has the basic skills such as skating, carrying the puck, stickhandling, passing, shooting and scoring. Also do some 1 on 1's and 2 on 1's to see which defencemen can play these situations correctly and which forwards can get by them with the puck.
During the last half of the tryout practice, you must scrimmage to see who can perform under game like playing conditions. Watch for players creativity, teamwork, passing, scoring, checking ability etc.
I believe there should be at least 2 or possibly 3, 1 hour or 1.5 hour sessions before cuts are made as this gives everyone a fair chance to show their hockey skills. If you cut players after 1 session, players and parents will be angry with you and tell you that you didn't give them enough time to show their skills. If players know they will get a good look, they will be happy even if they end up getting cut.
Do we play too many games and not have enough practices?
I believe a schedule of 50 to 80 or more games a season with only about 20 practices is not a good ratio for skill development and team play. A ratio of 1 practice for 1 game is ideal but unrealistic. I believe there should be at least 1 on ice or off ice practice of 1 to 2 hours per week to teach basic skills, systems and strategy. Book a gymnasium for 1.5 or 2 hours per week and watch your players skills develop.
We have so many kids playing Minor Hockey in Canada that the cream will always rise to the top, but its the kids under the cream that need more practice, more information, more teaching in order to get better.
How can a defenceman use his/her body or positioning to ward off offensive players from standing in front of your net?
You can no longer bump, push, or knock down players standing out of the front of your net if they do not have control of the puck. If you do and get caught you will receive a penalty.
Defencemen must now position themselves between their goaltender and the opposing player, then either move in front of them to intercept a pass, lift their stick when the puck arrives, or time your bodycheck on them when the puck arrives. Timing is critical.
When I do a hockey stop leading with my right skate everything is good, but when I do a hockey stop leading with my left skate, my right skate stutters along the ice and just drags along, it doesn't sit flush with the ice and dig in, essentially it ends up being a 1 foot hockey stop. Do you have any suggestions?
It sounds to me like your outside edge of your right skate needs some attention. I suggest you take it to your skate sharpener to see what he or she has to say about the problem. It could be as simple as getting your skates re-sharpened or re-rockered (profiled) to have a uniform and consistent amount
of blade on the ice at all times.