The current success of American coaches isn't just found in the fact that the last two Stanley Cup titles were won by homegrown coaches, or that more top-level positions are held by those who have come up through the USA Hockey system.
It can also be found in the passion Americans have to keep learning and improve their craft. Nowhere is that more evident than the participation in the National Coaches Symposium, the pinnacle of USA Hockey's Coaching Education Program.
Nearly 500 coaches from around the United States have come to Rochester, N.Y., for this weeks event, which features some of the best and brightest minds in hockey talking about everything from team dynamics to running a more efficient and effective practice.
"We start all of our classes by asking coaches, 'How many of you are here because your association said you had to be here?,' " said Dave Temkin, New York District Coach-in-Chief, after the event's kickoff. "If I asked that question tonight, nary a hand would be raised. That in itself is a testament to the passion of the American coach."
The National Coaching Symposium began in 1984 as the brainchild of Ken Johannson, the creator of USA Hockey's Coaching Education Program and is normally held every other year, but after last year's event yielded a waiting list of more than 200, the plan was to bring the program back again this year.
The USA Hockey Coaching Education Program hosts 800 coaching clinics each year at Levels 1, 2 and 3 -- 16 Level 4 clinics occur annually and the Level 5 (Masters) clinic is generally held every two years. However, due to the overwhelming response in 2005 in Grand Rapids, Mich., this year's symposium was added.
To become a Level 5 certified coach, an individual must complete the certification program for Levels 1-4, attend the National Hockey Coaches Symposium and write a thesis on a topic approved by USA Hockey.
The National Hockey Coaches Symposium, presented by Easton Sports and Labatt Blue, kicked off Wednesday night with a keynote address from Scotty Bowman, the NHL's all-time winningest coach.
Bowman, who lives in nearby Amherst, had the full attention of the room, reflecting on a career that started as a Midget coach in Montreal and culminated in his ninth Stanley Cup title in 2002 with the Detroit Red Wings. He was impressed by the turnout here in Rochester.
"These guys are trying to get to the Level 5, which is a good accomplishment," said Bowman. "Theyre going to learn a lot this week. I just opened [the event], but they have some real good coaches here who will help them become better coaches."
When Bowman started coaching more than 50 years ago, it was difficult to learn the Xs and Os of the game. A program like this is something he wishes was available back when he was coaching.
"The information highway is so huge now that if a guy wants to get into coaching, he has access to a lot of good information, which when I started you had to search it out," Bowman said. "At the same time, whether its out there or not, you have to have the desire to go get it."
USA Hockey President Ron DeGregorio opened the Thursday session with a brief presentation on the new standards of rules enforcement that USA Hockey will implement this year. He was followed on the podium by USA Hockey Executive Director Dave Ogrean and Mark Tabrum, director of USA Hockey's Coaching Education Program.
"I'm impressed to see an audience of this size that is interested in self improvement," said Ogrean.
Tabrum said that in addition to running the event in consecutive years, a number of new wrinkles have been added to the 2006 program, including on-ice sessions that will focus on skating and running effective practices.
There is also a distinct international flavor to this years program. Among the featured speakers during the four-day event are Ludek Bukac, former Olympic head coach for Czech Republic and current Olympic head coaches Ralph Krueger (Switzerland) and Erkka Westerlund (Finland).
Long days, great games and high intensity – it’s tournament time. Gary Cutler is the USA Hockey supervisor of officials in Western New York. He’s officiated countless tournaments at both the local and national levels. Cutler sat down with USA Hockey to discuss teamwork, tournament-time preparation and what officials can do to be selected as postseason officials next season.
USA Hockey: What does your current position entail? What are some key responsibilities?
Gary Cutler: My current volunteer position as supervisor of officials entails many different responsibilities throughout the season. It all starts immediately after national tournament week, with organizing local seminars in the fall, participating in summer camps, and solving any registration issues an official might have. We are also identifying those officials that potentially can work in postseason tournaments, the Junior Officiating Development Program or a USA Hockey summer camp. We also communicate with leagues about rule changes or rule interpretations and solve any issues that arise during the year with officials.
USA Hockey: What do you like most?
Gary Cutler: The most enjoyable part of my position is seeing officials improve their officiating skills from their very first seminar they attended up to the level they are presently officiating at, whether it is getting a postseason assignment, working in the Junior Officiating Development Program, college assignments, international assignments, or even working in professional leagues.
USA Hockey: Tournament time. What is your initial reaction when you hear those two words?
Gary Cutler: Long days. Most postseason tournaments consist of 12- to 14-hour days of being at the rink observing officials and making sure the officiating side of the tournament runs as smooth as possible.
USA Hockey: What are some unexpected duties or responsibilities that come with tournaments that officials might overlook or forget?
Gary Cutler: Throughout the entire tournament, the officiating program is a team more than ever. Every official should be helping their teammates so everyone can do the best job they are capable of. A lot of officials have more than one rulebook in their referee bag. An official should have complete knowledge and understanding of the rulebook that they are using, whether it is a regular-season game or a postseason assignment.
USA Hockey: Do officials tend to feel more pressure during tournaments, especially semifinal or championship games? How should they cope with that and stay focused on the task at hand?
Gary Cutler: Most definitely a semifinal or championship game brings a lot more pressure on the officials that have been selected to work these games. The officials that do these types of games generally have these attributes that give them the opportunity to succeed?
USA Hockey: Can you feel the intensity ramp up during tournaments, from the players, coaches, parents, etc.?
Gary Cutler: When tournament time comes around, everyone’s intensity level is increased. As each day of the tournament passes, the intensity level grows until the conclusion of the championship game.
USA Hockey: What can young officials do to position themselves for consideration as officials for next year’s tournaments?
Gary Cutler: It all starts in the summer. Start a physical fitness program over the summer, so when the season comes around, you are in the best physical shape you can be in. Go to summer development camps. When you attend a seminar, come with a positive learning attitude. Officials have the opportunity to be identified as potential candidates for tournaments at these seminars. During the regular season, work hard at every game, for the entire game. Constantly look into the rulebook/casebook so you have a complete understanding of the rules. Improve your officiating skills every game. This can be done by reading your manuals and reviewing the videos on USA Hockey’s website. If you are evaluated, listen, take notes and implement what the evaluator discussed with you when you are officiating games. The moment you enter the arena, put yourself in the proper position to make the proper call.
Tag(s): Past Events