There are many reasons why hockey is a great time for most and an obsession for many. In the sport you have team bonding, many laughs, challenges and accomplishments. But what sets hockey apart for a 9 or 10 year old? It's she sheer speed of skating combined with changes of direction (multiplied by 12 fast players on the ice all with a similar goal). There's a lot to like for your mini adrenaline junkie.
You may have heard the Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid was recently clocked at over 40 km/h in a game. He's one of the fastest on the planet. For 9 and 10 year olds their top speed will be less than McDavid, but did you know these kids are approaching and surpassing 20 km/h? They walk at about 4 km/h, run close to 11 km/h and swim a little slower than they run. Try to think of sports where kids approach 20 km/h at age 9 or 10....Speed skating and biking come to mind. Neither has the multi-tasking which hockey does. Our great game has a lot going on - at a speed our elementary school children don't get to experience very often.
Imagine going top speed on a rush, coming up to the other defender, slow slightly, fake one way, slip the puck between their legs and explode back to top speed before sniping a wrister past the goalie - to which the game then comes full circle. The kids are back to high 5s, group hugs and laughs.
Hockey really is a unique game. Let's keep it fun, positive (especially on bad days) and treasure the moments. We know they don't last forever and as we've solemnly learned from Humboldt this month, the moments can end far too soon. Catch your little speedster and give them a hug.
That's how many NHL teams would qualify for the playoffs. It would be the most of any professional sport, and that's a good thing. As a lifelong fan of a team who has seen a string of Stanley Cup wins followed by years of futility I would make 24 playoff teams a priority.
After Seattle inevitably joins the league in 2020 the NHL should adopt the NFL division format, with 8 divisions. The 32 teams would be split in this way:
Northwest Division - Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Seattle
Pacific Division - San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Vegas
Midwest Division - Winnipeg, Minnesota, Colorado, Arizona
Central Division - Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Columbus
South Division - Tampa Bay, Florida, Nashville, Dallas
Atlantic Division - Carolina. Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh
Metro Division - New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Boston
North Division - Buffalo, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa
32 teams and 24 make it in. The last placed team in each division is eliminated. "It sucks to suck" is the expression I believe.
The first place team receives a bye week after the regular season.
The second place team and the third place team will play a best of 3 series (in five days) at the home of the second place team. The winner of the 3rd vs 2nd series will play the division winner in a best of 7 series.
After the division championship series the remaining 8 teams will be ranked 1-8 based on the regular season standings. 8 vs 1, 7 vs 2, 6 vs 3, 5 vs 4 with the highest ranked teams having home ice advantage. The winners will advance to the semi-finals and those winners will play for the Stanley Cup.
My idea keeps teams in the playoff hunt longer, puts a premium on winning the division (home ice and a rest week) and allows the second place team to have all the home games in the first round vs the third place team.
Fans of the NHL, you're welcome.
If you've been involved in sports at all you've probably noticed how inconsistent players can be from one game to the next, especially for the youngest players. From their own bodily circadian rhythms and what they bring to the rink from an emotional standpoint to how they are doing physically (injuries, illness, etc. ) there are many factors. One we tend to overlook is the arena they are playing in.
This argument makes sense for all players (and coaches) but to emphasize the point the best I'm going to speak on behalf of goaltenders. (Yes, you're welcome goalies. A shot blocking, though offensive defenseman will be your voice. )
As a goalie steps into his crease he has to figure out his angles. If all arenas were the same this would be fairly simple. Find something in the rink to help orientate the middle of the crease, then a slight adjustment to the right and find this angle, and pop over to the other side to find the other angle and voila! All set to break Martin Brodeur's shutout record (125 NHL shutouts, by the way).
Unfortunately for goalies (and fortunately for shooters) the goalies have to play in many different rinks which have very different standards when it comes to lighting, dasherboard colour (blue or yellow usually), dirty old boards, glowing exit signs, reflection off the glass, high ceilings, low ceilings, the sun blaring on them in some arenas, and a multitude of rink dimensions, just to name a few. A goalie may be told to focus on the puck, which is fine but where is their net? It's getting trickier. No wonder goalies are crazy.
For forwards and defencemen this is also a factor as they have to adjust their skating techniques differently on a small ice surface compared to a large and their sight lines just sometimes don't mesh with their brains in some rinks. For instance, this past May I had a 5 year old leave the ice in a rink he wasn't used to because of the fact the seating was well above the ice surface and it was making him anxious.
Our brains are tricky to manipulate into being ready every game when the puck drops. Learning the nuances of the building and our brains being at ease with them is the first step. Making adjustments physically is the next step. It's quite a long process for players of all ages.
Let's be mindful of the fact that our children are trying their best and want to do their best. So many factors go into a good performance. The physical arena is only one of them, but it's certainly a big factor.
Happy New Year everyone!
- Apollo Hockey Development
From 1999-2003 I was lucky to study Sports Psychology at the University of New Brunswick. I loved going to class and learning about the human brain as it pertains to sports and performance. One of the most lasting skills I learned to reflect on was my knowledge of my ABCs. Of course this has little to do with the alphabet and everything to do with playing one's best game.
You see, one's ABCs are the 3 things that a player does well and he or she knows does well. A skater might be best at talking a lot on the ice, because he knows that when he's communicating he's into the game. Maybe he also takes quick and accurate wrist shots from the point and gets them through the legs in the slot. Maybe he also battles hard on the boards and stays low.
Why is this important? Have you ever gone into a game nervous? Or in a slump? Or unsure of how to perform? Well to play one's best game is to play to your ABCs. Think about the three things you bring to yourself and your team. Do it now. Do you drive the net hard with your stick on the ice? Maybe that's your A. Do you screen the goalie? Do you finish your hits? Your ABCs are what you do well.
Now that you've thought of them you need to remember them and apply them. Before games. When you get to the bench. When talking to others about your game. Ask yourself what your ABCs are and did you do them? If your game is going to hell in a handbasket, refocus by going back to your ABCs. Imagine yourself doing them well. You know you do them well. I can almost guarantee that if you get back to your ABCs you'll settle your mind and start playing better again. When you are playing well you can work on whatever "D" is or even "E". These are what you'll do to improve your game and become a more complete player. But start with your ABCs.
Like I said in the title. I doubt your think about your ABCs. Do it now and forever and you'll become a far better hockey player for each team you are on and you'll be more confident and have more fun.
Good luck on the ice,
As a grade 9 school teacher I'll often introduce a new topic by finding out what the students already know about the topic. For example, students will be asked to write down everything they know about the topic 'X' for two minutes. Then they pair up and discuss their thoughts with a partner, possibly adding to their list. After a couple of minutes pass we turn to the front of the class and the students can share their discoveries with the teacher and classmates.
I'd love to lead this activity with coaches when it comes to "What fundamentals should coaches look to instill in their goalies?" Sure a class clown will say, "Know how to stop the puck" but what I'd like all coach-students to say by the end of the unit is at least the following...
#1 GOALIES SHOULD BE THE BEST SKATERS ON THE TEAM - If goalies practice shuffles, t-pushes and slides every practice they will progress. If the goalie isn't independent enough to do it on her own she should skate regular skating drills with the defence and forwards. One thing goalies have in common with skaters is they both have edges and need basics like agility and coordination.
#2 BE SURE THE EQUIPMENT FITS PROPERLY - If the gear is too big and bulky it will get in the way and your goalie may become frustrated. If it's too small the players is risking injury. If the paddle of the stick is too big or too small her posture will be all wrong and her balance will be off. Be sure to have a goalie coach help fit equipment properly.
#3 KEEP THE STICK ON THE ICE - Now that she has a properly sized stick keep it on the ice. As the goalie moves side to side and post to post the stick should lead all movements. Coaches keep an eye on the goalie's stick making sure it's on the ice.
#4 KEEP THE GLOVE HAND OPEN - Goalies should hold their trapper / glove out and open to stop shooters from even attempting to shoot there. If the shooter doesn't see net she won't shoot. Too often young goalies don't practice all drills with their glove hand open. This will lead to slow reactions as well as time is wasted opening the glove only to get it in position where it should have been all along.
#5 RECOVER QUICKLY - Goalies need to be able to get back to their skates after a save. Would you want your defenceman on his knees after blocking a shot and killing a penalty? No, of course not. Goalies need their skates to move efficiently around the crease as well. Each practice she should work on conditioning herself to recover quickly and with skill so she's set for the next shot.
Some students exceed expectations and some coaches know far beyond the basics. If a coach watches for these 5 fundamentals of goaltending he will be doing all of his players a favor.
The points made in this blog are found in a wonderful resource for goalies called The Pro Stock Hockey Goalie E-Book. In it the reader will find many tips and guides to help coach goalies from beginner to elite.