Avoid Traps in your Training

Training for sports has never been so popular and for good reason. By increasing the strength, power, speed, and efficiency with which our body moves we can effectively make ourselves better athletes.

That’s the good.

The bad is that people see this as an opportunity to make money and shamelessly push agendas that are not in the best interest of the athlete, but rather in the best interest of their bottom line. The fundamentals of strength and conditioning are not overly complicated. There is no magic program, magic exercises, short cuts or secret science. It is consistent, hard work every time; that’s it. If someone is trying to sell you a particular type of training that excludes other training modalities it is for their best interest, not yours. I remember taking a kettlebell certification course years ago. The whole weekend centered on trying to convince you that the only thing you needed in your whole gym was kettlebells and to basically throw everything else out. Can you imagine having a training facility where you train high-level and developmental athletes from a variety of sports and only give them one single type of training tool?


I get it; everyone has their own agenda and everyone is trying to make a living in the business. But as an athlete, these influences can get you in a training trap. They stifle learning and progress. In any sport, the best performers are the best athletes. To be a great athlete you need multiple techniques, disciplines and training stimuli. Tracking too many numbers can be another trap. Sets, reps, weight, distance, time are all very effective ways to track progress. Anything outside of this can be overkill. Make sure the data you use makes sense to you and is useable by you.

Remember the science doesn’t dictate how we perform; our effort and how we perform is what creates the science. Too much information can be a distraction. Focus on basic numbers for your feedback and you will be successful. Get in a good gym with a positive culture and atmosphere. Use a variety of simple, effective training techniques to help become the best athlete you can be. Keep it simple. Keep it consistent. Avoid traps and keep moving forward.

Until next time,
Strength, Courage, Hustle, Commitment

Individual Skill Development Should be a Team Priority

As we wrap up the summer development program and training camps are upon us our Jets Hockey Development team looks forward to getting back on the ice with teams and minor hockey association to improve the overall skill level of players. It will be a busy season for our professional coaches who are looking forward to working with the following teams,

  • AAA U15 Monarchs, Sharks, Warriors, Hawks
  • AAA U14 Monarchs, Sharks, Warriors, Hawks
  • AAA U17 Bruins, Thrashers, Wild
  • AA Canadians
  • St Paul’s High School
  • Sturgeon Heights High School
  • Kelvin High School
  • Stony Mountain
  • U14 AA Wild Ringette
  • U16 AA Wild Ringette
  • Churchill Skills Academy
  • St James-Assiniboia Minor Hockey

Off the ice, we also have strength and conditioning team training available at Focus Fitness and Boardroom sessions with our professional coaches team.

Our Team Training sessions are a combination of team-building exercises along with strength and conditioning programs to help your team not only perform at their highest level but also build a cohesive team unit at the same time. Teams can book a team training session by contacting AJ Zeglen, Manager of High Performance Training at Focus Fitness.

Boardroom sessions allow teams to learn from our coaches in a formal learning environment in our conference room through video and group discussion. The more players learn and understand the game, the better they will be able to make decisions on the ice. During these sessions, all players will be engaged through answering questions, and recognition of situations using National Hockey League video clips. For more information and topics, visit www.bellmtsiceplex.ca/jhd-programs/boardroom-sessions/

At Jets Hockey Development we can elevate your game.

New Jets Hockey Development Coach Excited for Growth and Development

For Jets Hockey Development’s newest coach Venla Hovi, the growth process has always been a big part of her hockey career.

Growing up in Tampere, Finland, outdoor ice was her main field of play and boys were her main competition. Hovi has seen nothing but growth since then, as she climbed her way to the top of women’s hockey by gathering several medals for Team Finland in numerous Olympic Games and World Championships, along with a USports national championship while playing for the University of Manitoba Bisons and a Canadian Women’s Hockey League title with Calgary Inferno. But it’s been the process that has been most rewarding for Hovi.

“My highlight from my career is just the overall progress and the journey of growing as a person and getting to know myself more as an athlete,” said Hovi while reflecting on her hockey career.

Despite retiring from playing competitive hockey, that growth is not about to stop for Hovi. Taking on a coaching role with the Jets Hockey Development (JHD) team at the Bell MTS Iceplex is just the next stage of growth for her, even if she didn’t foresee it being her next career path.

“I coached at some camps and helped out at volunteer events in Finland when I played there,” said Hovi. “When I moved to Winnipeg to attend the University of Manitoba, I got the chance to start coaching on the side. It was just easy to work around my hockey and school schedule so I started to get into it more. Even then I never really thought that this was going to be my possible career path. I just did it because I wanted to learn more and I enjoyed it.

“When I graduated and played in Calgary and started to look for jobs after retirement, I looked for jobs in different fields. Coaching was just one option, and I got the most opportunities there so I wanted to grab on to the chance.”

That chance resulted in Hovi joining JHD. Just a few weeks into her position, she’s looking forward to not only developing young hockey players but doing some development of her own.

“The learning process is important, and I want to get more comfortable on the ice,” Hovi noted.

It may sound odd for a hockey player with the experience that Hovi has to talk about “getting comfortable on the ice”, but she explained that playing hockey and coaching hockey are very different concepts.

“Coaching is really challenging and I love that. It’s something new, something fresh. It’s definitely a different perspective, and you really need to get to know your players. It’s not about yourself, it’s about other people. I think there is still a lot for me to figure out because I’m at the start of my career, but I love the challenge and seeing the kids have fun on the ice.”

Though the switch to coaching will bring changes and challenges in her life, there are aspects to being on the JHD team that have made Hovi feel right at home.

“My life, in a way, is still the same. I’m still always at the rink, I still have my stall in the dressing room even though it’s just for coaches. It’s like a little team we have there.”

Hovi will no doubt grow quickly in her role, and the JHD team certainly has plenty of experience for her to learn from. But the JHD team will also be learning from Hovi, and will be growing with her on board as she joins JHD as its first full-time female coach. Hovi knows that having both male and female coaches will make JHD programs even better, and not just because it may attract more girls to hockey.

“I really love it when there are more female coaches,” Hovi said. “Obviously we want to encourage girls to play, but I think the strength of our program is having the opportunity to have guys coaching girls, and myself coaching guys and the mix that we have. I think boys and girls can both learn a lot from each other.”

Hockey Canada U17 Summer Development Camp Debrief

This June, walking through the hallway of the Bell MTS Iceplex during Winnipeg Jets Development Camp, I was reminded about how important the Hockey Canada experience is for players. In between sessions with the Jets, a former player from my first year with Team Canada (Team Black), now drafted by the Jets, came and struck up a conversation saying how much he loved the U17 camp and how important that time was for his development as a player.

Each year I have been invited to work with Hockey Canada’s U17 Development Program, there have been different goals and challenges that come up. This year’s camp, which ran from July 19-26, was challenging physically and mentally as players and coaches worked through seven days of practice, meetings, games, and testing to help players learn about doing things the “Canadian Way”.

We had an incredibly talented group of players from across Canada who quickly bonded over team-building exercises, grueling practices, and demanding days. It is hard to imagine that only one week earlier, most of these players had never met each other. To me, that is one of the best parts of the game of hockey. No matter where players are from, or what language they speak, players can bond over their love for the game.

Our job as coaches was to get to know players as quick as possible to help them work on deficiencies and learn more about playing at the highest level. The toughest part was our staff (consisting of a Director of Operations, Head Coach, two Assistant Coaches, four Camp Coaches, two Skills Coaches, Video Coach, Mental Performance Coach, three Therapists, and three Equipment Managers) had never worked together before. Communication started weeks before the event to try to get to know the coaching staff and illustrate my role to learn more about the coach’s vision and direction they wanted to take the team. Everything I plan as a skills coach is based on the coach’s direction and how he wants his team to play. Skill topics I teach are all carefully discussed to make sure that everything ties back into our team culture and team identity. Working together as a staff to make sure the kids have a great week is a huge part of the camp. Each night after the players went to sleep, the coaches carefully laid out themes for upcoming days to make sure the execution of practice was done to the highest standards.

Players learned new skills, new concepts, and talked about the game at a higher level than they had seen before. As coaches, we try to expose the players to the next level ofthe game so they can take these concepts back home with them to continue to work on through next season. Many of the players will play at the CHL level next season against bigger, stronger, and faster competition. They will face adversity that they may not be used to, and it is important that they can look back on situations like this week and continue to build confidence moving forward.


I am very fortunate to work with these players each summer to help in their development. These 112 players from across Canada come into camp as very good players. The constant message I try to help them learn is that they are very good players, but you have to get better. I try to remind them that attitude is everything at this age and every time they are on the ice, they must get better. I am already looking forward to November to see where our final team lands against the best competition in the world.


Effective Practice Planning for Coaches

Practice is a time when players should be coming to the rink to work and get better. This time for coaches can be used to work on individual needs of players, address issues that have come up from games and spend time with players to help build relationships. In order for players to be willing to make changes, they have to trust the coach and understand why they are doing specific things.

Effective practice planning for a coach can help create an environment where players want to come and develop. Here are some simple principles for coaches to help plan practices:

Decide on a topic that you want to address for that day

  • For me as a skills coach, this is drastically different than for a team coach but the principle remains the same. Trying to do everything in one practice won’t help the players as they will end up just doing drills and not learning about the concepts behind them. For example, if in your last game your team struggled with offensive zone entries and you want to work on this, you can structure your practice around that concept. Your warm-up shooting drill can include shots from a wide entry (with speed). Your next drill can incorporate a net drive player. Your third drill can include a late player coming with a delay or a direct pass to a high player. The final drill can add the competition of a three-on-two so players can use the skills they worked on in the first three drills. As the season progresses, the drills can evolve to add different options that could happen in the game. By showing players options related to a topic in practice, you are helping them understand what could happen and giving them choices to make in the game. The goal is that players learn to make positive plays by recognizing the situation and making the right decision. If players make the right decision, give them a pat on the back or words of encouragement as soon as they get back to the bench. If they could have made a better decision, explain why there may have been a better choice. By identifying specifics in practice, you can help players progress through the season.

Be organized in your drill progressions

  • By having a structure for practice, it will make things flow a lot better. A simple progression that works for teams would be to have players warm up with either skating or skills while the goalie has some dedicated time at the beginning of practice to warm up. This time for the goalie can be with a goalie coach or a coach as a shooter. The time required can change based on what is needed and what practice looks like. This is a good opportunity to give players a puck more often or work on something that doesn’t require a shot on goal (i.e., puck protection). This time split between players and goalie is best used as a lead into the topic for the day. Once you get through the warm-up, a simple progression I use is what I call 1-2-3.  This simply means the warm-up drill has one player shooting (typically a simple shot from a wide lane); the next drill has two players (typically adding in a lateral pass or a mid-lane entry to a wide shot); and the next drill has three players (this is a simple progression to lead into a topic like offensive zone entries, whereas other topics would require a very different progression based on what is being worked on). The time before the shooting drills is structured in a way to maximize players touching the puck and minimize time standing in lines.

Think about your goalies in practice

  • The most effective practice for your goalies is to allow them to see the different types of shots that they may face in a game and allow them the necessary reps to practice those scenarios. The most common frustration I hear from goalies is they see the same shot over and over again in practice. If your warm-up shooting drill includes a shot from the outside wide lane and the second drill includes a shot from the outside, the goalie is seeing the exact same shot for two drills. To make practice better for the goalies, try to provide different shots, or encourage them to move in different patterns for each drill. Here are some ways to challenge goalies in practice:
    – Add lateral passes
    – Add low to high passes (passes from corner to the point)
    – Change distance of shots
    – Add plays from below the goal line
    – Add screens, tips, deflections, angle deflections
    – Encourage players to play any rebounds
    – Use multiple shots in a drill (I call these drills scrambles or flurries as they simulate a shift where goalies see three to four shots in a short period of time. Goalies come to practice to work as well. They will be tired after these drills so try to space them out so they are not back to back.)

Speak to players in practice in a constructive way

  • Players at every age want to learn about the game and they want to get better. Spend time talking to players individually before, during, and after practice to help get to know them. Each player is going to be motivated in a different way and your job as a coach is to figure out how to get the most out of each player. As each player gets better individually, the overall level of your team goes up. If you see players doing something wrong in a drill you can talk to them while they are waiting for their next rep and explain what they can change. If you see multiple players making the same mistake, that would be a good time to stop the drill. Try explaining the drill (or concept) in a different way or simply demonstrate the “better” way to do it. Letting players do drills wrong in practice will lead to them doing that in a game and thinking it is okay. Good communication between coaches and players in practice will lead to more effective communication on the bench in games.

Use a variety of drills in practice

  • If players come to practice and see the same four to six drills every single day, they will go into autopilot mode and just go through the motions. Players at any age want to be challenged and they will respond to something fresh or different. Every coach has favourite drills that they like to use for specific topics. However, if the same drills are used frequently, the options in the drills can change. This way, the structure looks the same but the drill is different from day-to-day. Using a variety of drills or changing options in drills will challenge players to think just like they do in games. This will encourage players to remain focused in practice just like they have to be in games. As a coach, you will see players who can adjust to options, and you will see players who have trouble with things like switching sides in drills. This may be an indicator to a coach that more time needs to be spent explaining concepts and “checking in” to ensure players understand.

The goal for coaches should be to help players develop from the start of the season to the end of the season. Players can develop both individually in their personal skill set, as well as develop as a team in the way they execute team systems. The best coaches can lead and encourage both of these to happen through effective practice planning and time management in practice. Through the Jets Hockey Development Program, we work with players and coaches to help develop the game of hockey, both provincially and through Hockey Canada on a national scale. Be sure to check bellmtsiceplex.ca to see what coaching seminars are added to our summer and winter schedules for 2019-20.