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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.

Israeli boys living out hockey dreams at Bell MTS Iceplex

In a dry, sun-soaked country like Israel, many children have never even seen snow, let alone heard of ice hockey. That’s not the case for a group of boys from the Middle Eastern country who have come to Bell MTS Iceplex to chase their hockey dreams.

Guy Rozin, along with his father Roei and family, are entering their fourth year in Winnipeg and, living here full-time, paved the way for others to join them. Ido Steinberg, Noam Haba, Itay Vaitz, Itamar Melzer, and Ethan Gurfinkel saw the opportunity that Guy had with Jets Hockey Development (JHD) and made the nearly 10,000 kilometer-journey to Winnipeg at the end of June.

With only two ice rinks in the whole country of Israel, ice hockey isn’t even close to a popular sport. In-line hockey played on roller skates, though still not massively popular, is more common. That’s where Guy first developed his passion for the game.

“I thought after five or six lessons he would stop,” said Roei about Guy when he started learning in-line hockey at an after-school program in their hometown of Netanya. “But he kept going day after day, so I decided I needed to see what was going on there. Practice after practice he started to get good, and he developed a passion for it.”

That passion eventually transferred to the ice but the countless hours of driving and lack of programming became too much of an obstacle to stay in Israel to nurture Guy’s hockey passion. After visiting many coaches across Europe, the Rozins made a connection with the father of someone they knew in Israel who lived in Winnipeg. With some assistance, they got them to Winnipeg, where they met JHD coach Dean Court and asked if Guy could try out for a team here.

“When we first met Roei, we had no idea what his son’s playing ability was,” noted Court. “It’s like having someone walk in and say, ‘I want to try out for the Manitoba Moose’. It doesn’t work that way. But we watched Guy, and we said, ‘Holy cow, he’s got total raw talent, but he needs to learn the game the Canadian way’. So what Guy did is he went on the ice and trained, then he went to AAA tryouts and he made the Winnipeg Monarchs. So we’ve helped nurture this along the way – it’s a partnership, which is the way we approach training with all of our young talents.”

The move wasn’t easy at first for the Rozins but it was important for them to allow their son to chase his dream.

“When we first moved, a lot of people in Israel said we were crazy,” said Roei. “But suddenly people started to call me and say that their children wanted to play hockey. This year, one family in Israel called me and wanted to send their boy here. So I said ‘okay.’”

One call turned into five calls, and Roei kept saying yes. As a result, his family welcomed Steinberg, Haba, Vaitz, Melzer, and Gurfinkel to live with them so they could pursue their own hockey dreams and train at the Iceplex.

Though the boys are far from home, there is no place they would rather be.

“If it was possible, I would live on the ice,” said Steinberg.

“I love everything about the game,” added Guy. “The speed, the feeling when you hit someone, shooting and scoring too.”

The boys also note how vastly different the training is at the Iceplex than it is in Israel.

“Training here is more professional,” remarked Steinberg. “You train every week, not every month.”

“Two months of training here is like four years in Israel,” joked Haba.

It’s not tough to see how much the boys are enjoying their time in Winnipeg and at the Iceplex. Giving that experience to other youth from Israel is something Roei has dreamt about since he arrived in Winnipeg and saw his own son live out his dream.

“When I arrived here in Canada, my vision was to bring a lot of kids from Israel to play hockey here. I have lots of connections, so I’m sure I could get 20 boys out here. And we have connections with Dean Court, Dave Cameron (Head On-Ice Instructor and Program Manager, JHD), and now AJ Zeglen (Manager, High-Performance Training, Focus Fitness), and all of them have helped the boys so much. Andy Kollar (Head Instructor, Goaltender Development, and JHD) has been a huge help for the two boys I have here that are goalies – he is their hero. But I’m looking to bring lots of people here.”

The opportunity to work with talents from other countries and provide a specialized training experience that cannot be found in their home country is rewarding for Court and his JHD team. They use each on and off-ice session to show Roie, Guy and this year’s newest Israeli players that they made the right choice in investing their hockey future in the high caliber training of JHD.

“Roie has brought these kids in. There are lots of kids from Israel that would like to come here. But he’s one guy and he can’t bring everyone here, but he’s getting calls every day. For us, we want to give Guy and Roie and his family the best service that we can. We want to be able to do the right thing and do it the Hockey Canada way. What that means is making sure they get all the proper fundamental training at an elite level.”

Choosing the Right Goalie Equipment

Choosing the right equipment for growing and developing hockey players can be a challenge for everyone, but even more so for a goaltender.

Finding what works for each goaltender can be different based on, size, style, and preference.

The importance of proper gear is obvious, as goalies wearing the wrong equipment can lead to bad habits and poor performance. So, when it’s time to shop for equipment, it is essential to choose a retailer that has experienced and educated sales representatives that know what they are talking about. The annual Royal Sports Goalapalooza event hosted at Bell MTS Iceplex is a great opportunity to try new equipment and see what you like or what feels comfortable with all the top goalie brands. Throughout the event, players of all ages can try on the newest products available and talk to representatives from each company as well as equipment designers, and experts from Royal Sports who are on the pulse of goalie product knowledge. But the best part is that the event also offers a chance for players to get on the ice in the Iceplex’s Ice Lab – a 45’ by 37’ sheet of ice designed for goalie development – as part of the experience, to test out and compare the newest equipment across the industry.

Representatives from all major brands, including Warrior, CCM, Bauer, Vaughn, and Brian’s, were on-site at this year’s event to make sure their equipment was being worn properly. They brought everything a goalie could want, including skates, pads, sticks, and helmets for players to try in the Ice Lab. In addition to the sales representatives, a member of the Warrior Research and Development team from Montreal was on hand to discuss the features and benefits of new products with goalies and gage their preferences. The important thing to remember is that goalies’ hand and body dimensions are all different and unique. This makes it crucial to choose equipment based on what’s best for you, rather than based on a favourite brand. Just because you like a brand or company doesn’t mean it is necessarily the best fit. Often when a player comes into the Ice Lab and is having difficulty with a specific skill, like catching, we will have them switch their glove and try something new. Players seem to be able to adjust quickly and can see the difference that a new piece of equipment will make to their game. The next time you need to upgrade or replace your or your child’s goalie equipment, make sure to see the professionals or join us in the Ice Lab at Bell MTS Iceplex.

If you’re looking to work on your goaltending skills this summer, attending the Big Ice Summer Camps – July 22-26 and July 29-August 2 – and/ or private Ice Lab sessions will ensure you’re ready for training camp and prepared for the season ahead.

Originally published in Game On Magazine, Year 7/Edition 7

Get to Know JHD Coach Devin Himpe

Over the past few months, Jets Hockey Development has been happy to welcome two new faces to the coaching team, Devin Himpe and Venla Hovi. As players gear up and prepare for the upcoming season, we sat down with Coach Devin to get to know him a little bit better and introduce one of our newest coaches and welcome him to the team.

What’s your earliest hockey memory?

  • My earliest hockey memory would be with my friends during Stick & Puck. I remember my friend, who was a very smooth skater, teaching me how to stop with both feet at a young age. I also remember always being at the outdoor rink, throwing the sticks in the middle to scrimmage with everyone.

Take me through your hockey playing career. Where did you all play?

  • I grew up in Dauphin, MB and played minor hockey with the Parkland Rangers. Growing up I always watched and wanted to play for the Dauphin Kings of the MJHL. When I was 18 years old, I made the Kings roster, but after a few months of playing, I decided to move to Winnipeg to further my education. After a short break from hockey, I realized how much I missed being part of a team, so I joined the Fort Garry Twins of the MMJHL where I played out my junior hockey career – narrowly missing a championship in 2008 after losing in quadruple overtime of game 7. I then tried out for the University of Manitoba Bisons, where I connected with the coaching staff and am now in my 5th year as an assistant coach.

You represented Canada at the Winter Universiade in Russia in March. What was that experience like?

  • Being able to represent Canada at a multi-sport event was an unbelievable experience. Being in another country for hockey is a cool experience to begin with but the atmosphere in Russia, with all the other sports, athletes, and fans being there only heightened the excitement. The best part about the experience was how fast our team came together on and off the ice. It was crazy to see how young athletes can work together when they had just met each other days before the event.

You’ve spent a lot of time coaching grassroots and university hockey. What is the biggest difference in coaching those two levels of hockey?

  • The biggest difference between the grassroots and university level is of course the skill level, but also how to teach skills at the different levels. The same basics apply, especially when teaching skills. You want the players to stay focused and involved in what you are trying to teach them, but finding different ways to teach the same skills to various age groups is what makes it fun. You can start adding more advanced skills at higher levels, but if players don’t work hard at the basics then you need to find a new way to get through to them.

What is your favourite drill to run as a coach?

  • As an assistant coach with the Bison Men’s hockey team I have a drill named after me called the ‘Himpe Transition’ so I may be biased toward that one. It started when I was in my first year as an assistant coach with the team. Mike Sirant (head coach) asked me to come up with and teach a drill with progressions to add on later. After I ran the drill a few too many times with progressions, one of the players asked me if we were doing the “Himpe Transition” and the name stuck!

What is your favourite pre-game meal or snack?

  • My favourite pre-game meal when I was playing was chicken, rice, and vegetables. Now, as a coach, I usually eat the same as the players, but we sometimes like to sneak an ice cream in after pre-game meals.

What is the most important skill for hockey players today?

  • If a player can’t skate well, they should be working at it as much as possible. Being a great skater doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be the fastest player on the ice but knowing where to be in certain situations and being able to get there fast is key.

What is the best way for a young hockey player to work on their speed?

  • Play other sports. I am a huge advocate of building athletes, not just hockey players. Getting on the ice and working on stride/agility under proper instruction in important but I believe that playing other sports that involve moving your feet quicker and building your fast-twitch muscles will help overall speed.

What is your favourite hockey movie?

  • It’s hard to beat Slap Shot, but when I was young the Mighty Ducks movies were always fun to watch. I have also had a few small parts in both Goon and The Don Cherry Story, so those two are my modern era favourites.

What is the most important thing you have learned as a coach thus far?

  • That you never stop learning, whether it is from other coaches or players. I think our sport is great in that it’s always evolving and getting faster. We as coaches need to figure out how we can evolve and get players thinking faster and executing faster.

What will young players take away from a session with you at Jets Hockey Development?

  • I try to spend each session focusing on a couple of key points. I will break a skill down to its basic form and build it up. By the end of the session, the goal is to be able to use that skill in a drill with speed.

When you see Devin at the Iceplex, make sure to say hello and welcome him to the team! Players can work with Coach Devin on the ice in the Jets Hockey Development Summer Development Programs or in private or team training sessions this fall.

Stay tuned for more stories from Bell MTS Iceplex and sign up for Iceplex news and information at www.nhl.com/jets/fans/jets-mail and check “Bell MTS Iceplex”.

Continually Learning with the NHL Coaches Association

Each year, the NHL Coaches Association offers a coaching clinic the day before the NHL Draft where coaches from around the world join in the same room to discuss hockey with some of the best minds in the game. Clinics are important for me as a Development Coach to continue to expand my knowledge and to work closely with other coaches. By having a solid grasp of team concepts, I can implement specific individual skating and skills related to their team systems. This year, the annual NHL coaching clinic was held in Vancouver on June 20, 2019.

The day began with fantastic presentations covering a wide range of topics to help coaches learn more in-depth information about detailed areas of the game. Presentations covered:

  • Importance of a pre-scout
  • Skill acquisition
  • Creating offense
  • Hot stove discussions with current and past NHL coaches (including coaching legend Scotty Bowman)
  • Developing defensemen

The afternoon is the time of the coaching clinic that I always look forward to the most. This segment includes small group breakout discussions to work in proximity with other high-level coaches. For me, the afternoon is a time when I can ask questions and get immediate answers regarding what coaches are teaching and what their expectations are from players. By doing this, I can better prepare sessions for players to help them continue to improve and play at the highest levels. When I am able to learn about coaches’ team systems, I can then look at what skating or skills would be relevant to fit into those systems. I was fortunate this year to sit with current NHL coaches, two WHL coaches (one of which will coach the Team Canada U18 team this summer), a USHL coach, and a coach/GM in the BCHL. The wide range of coaching levels allowed me to gain insight as to what is being taught at each level. What impressed me the most about this portion of the day was that the NHL coaches were asking as many questions as were being asked of them.

After the clinic, there is some social time where coaches can mingle and discuss hockey. For me, this is a time to meet with other high-level skills coaches to discuss current trends or important topics that have continually come up in games. This is a great opportunity for me to exchange ideas, show videos, and learn from others who are also working with high-level players.

As skills coaches, we often view the game differently than bench coaches as we watch a lot of individual things as well as team structure. Bench coaches have different things to worry about over the course of a game. By learning more about the game from high-level coaches, I can continue to expand what we are teaching to players through our programming with Jets Hockey Development. It is my job to be able to identify the necessary skills to play at the highest levels and be able to come up with age appropriate practice plans to teach these skills to players.

I am looking forward to bringing what I’ve learned at this years coaching clinic back to Jets Hockey Development and I can’t wait until the next NHL Coaches Association clinic in Montreal next year.