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Jim Johnson promotes the fundamentals

06/26/2005, 12:45pm MDT
By Jamie Fabos

Few people have seen the game from as many angles as Jim Johnson. A 13-year National Hockey League veteran, Johnson represented his country on five U.S. National Teams and competed in the 1991 Canada Cup Tournament (now the World Cup of Hockey). He played collegiate hockey at the University of Minnesota Duluth and competed in the United States Hockey League with St. Paul. As a coach, he has stood behind the bench for the Phoenix Coyotes, the U.S. National Junior Team and, most recently, his sons 14-year-old youth hockey team, winners of USA Hockey's 2005 National Championship at the Tier II 14 & Under level.

A graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth, Johnson has also watched the game from the broadcast booth, serving both as a consultant to the general manager and the broadcast analyst for the Phoenix Coyotes. He served as an assistant coach for the Coyotes during the 2000-01 season and has coached three straight U.S. National Junior Teams (2000-02). As a player, he competed for five U.S. National Teams and also serves on the Executive Committee of the Hockey Equipment Certification Council.

Despite his impressive hockey experience, Johnson has no problem simplifying the game for his youth hockey students. His recent success at the '05 Nationals proves that theres nothing wrong with sticking to the fundamentals.

Its all about developing broad-base fundamental skills in a basic sense, he said. Make sure players have those skills -- that they can skate, pass, protect the puck, shoot the puck and stickhandle. Those are the basic skills that make good hockey players.

And while going from the bench of the Phoenix Coyotes to a bench of 14-year-olds may seem like a big change, its one Johnson has enjoyed thoroughly.

I have really enjoyed going back, he said. I've always coached at elite levels, and its been fun to go back to the state level, the youth level, to develop a group of kids who are really passionate about the game.

The 2005 Tier II 14 & Under National Champions, under Johnson's leadership, were a group of teenagers not from Minneapolis or Boston, but from Scottsdale, Ariz., an accomplishment Johnson attributes to the arrival of the Coyotes.

We have a group of 1990 birthdates (14- and 15-year-olds), who were 6-years-old when the NHL moved to Phoenix. Now we have a good, solid group of hockey players at that age. The NHL brings that out; it brings the passion of the game, and now we have good coaches in the area who understand the game.

Adding to the pleasure of the '05 Nationals win, was the fact that one of the kids hoisting the trophy was Johnsons own son, Derek, a young defenseman, now 15-years-old.

Its been an amazing group of kids. In three years with this group, weve never had one squabble, never had one kid saying, Hey, I dont like this guy. The greatest satisfaction for me last year was to watch my group achieve what they achieved while giving everyone an opportunity to play and to develop.

Johnson took a non-traditional team through a non-traditional route to the championship. While other teams were spending money on extensive travel and tournaments, Johnsons team did not join a travel league, but put all its resources into maximizing practice time.

I worry that the travel leagues, especially in the South, could send the wrong message to kids; that hockey is more important than their education. Some kids will miss 10-20 days of school for hockey tournaments. Up until January 15, my kids missed one day of school. Im adamant that these kids understand that school is more important than hockey. We put so much emphasis on the cost that we tend to forget that [hockey] is a great outlet for kids to develop and enjoy a great game.

So, while Johnson claims hes found his niche in coaching, the opportunities to use his varied experience keep knocking. For now, however, he plans to stay put and work on his new coaching e-learning company, Flexxcoach.

Im really happy with developing and coaching kids. Who knows where it will take me? This [Flexxcoach] business has taken a ton of time, and Im very passionate about what were doing. I dont look at going anywhere, other than to continue to build this product where we can provide the best tools for coaches.

Johnson, along with co-founders Mike Sullivan, Keith Blase and Keith Allain, were inspired to create Flexxcoach as an alternative to youth coaches who had a win at all costs philosophy. They hope to soon extend their business to include football, lacrosse and soccer as well as hockey.

We started to notice the frustration that was evident in every youth sport. It didnt matter which sideline -- baseball, hockey, football or soccer - we saw that the coaches were no longer teaching the fundamentals. It was win at all costs.

We know that 70 percent of kids by the age of 13 have left sports. Why? I think a big reason is that theyre not having fun. Flexxcoach came when some great minds got together and decided that this is the best way to educate coaches to give our kids a better experience. We wanted to change the philosophy. When kids are going to enjoy the game and have fun, weve really accomplished something as coaches.

Flexxcoach has partnered with both the NHL Coaches Association and the USA Hockey Coaching Education program to provide the highest possible level of training for these coaches. Currently, USA Hockey Level 3 coaches can obtain their recertification online through Flexcoach. In addition, there are 13 USA Hockey Coaching Education classes available online.

Another section of USA Hockey touched by Flexcoach is the Sled Hockey program. The program was developed largely because of the efforts of Blase, the U.S. National Team head coach.

I think its wonderful what Keith is doing, not only with Flexxcoach, but what hes giving back to sled hockey, Johnson said. Hes very passionate about sled hockey and about the game, and really wants to provide the best opportunity to give education to coaches.

Part of Johnsons intense interest in coaching comes from some powerful role models who touched his own hockey career.

There have been so many coaches that have had an impact on me: the late Dave Peterson, Bob Johnson, Tim Taylor. Dave was a real passionate guy. He loved to teach. Bob Johnson was a great coach; Lou Vairo got me involved in coaching the Select program in 1984-85 when I was still in college. Bob Gainey was a great mind of the game who helped me when I was traded from Pittsburgh to Minnesota. Barry Smith has been a great influence on me as a coach and as a player, too. Mike Burke, one of my squirt coaches. He played pro, but he knew how to teach.

College hockey also had a major impact on Johnson.

My college coach was Mike Sertich. He really put us kids at UMD in the NHL. He taught us what it was like to work and to condition ourselves to be top-level players. He was a student of the game. He took us to levels we didnt believe we could play, but he got us believing in them because of the preparation. Because of him, a lot of those guys are still involved in the game.

Because of Johnsons involvement in the game, 500 coaches in Grand Rapids, Mich., heard a unique perspective on the game, nearly two dozen 14-year-olds in Scottsdale, Ariz., won a National Championship and made memories that will last a lifetime. And if Johnson meets his objectives, young athletes across the country will learn from highly educated coaches who are focused on teaching the fundamentals and making the game fun.

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Update on 2015-16 USA Hockey Officiating Registration

07/08/2015, 5:15pm MDT
By David LaBuda, USA Hockey National Referee-in-Chief

District Referees-in-Chief implement changes to registration procedures

As we enter the 2015-16 registration season for officials, I want to give an update of what changes to expect this season.

The Officials Section has been busy since the 2015 Winter Meeting, working on implementing the registration changes that were discussed and voted on by the district referees-in-chief, along with refining the testing and online seminar programs.

For 2015-16, there will be an informational video available before an official registers with USA Hockey outlining the requirements and commitment that an individual will need to fulfill in order to complete their registration.


Next, and a very important change, starting with this season, in order to register for a seminar, an official will have to first register as an official (online) with USA Hockey in order to gain access to the online program to register for a seminar.

This change was due to a number of individuals who would never register as an official with USA Hockey and then ‘no show’ to the seminar that they registered for, which frequently led to other registered officials being denied attendance at that seminar because the seating capacity had already been reached.

This change will provide more incentive for every individual who registers as an official -- and registers for a seminar -- to attend that seminar and complete the registration requirements.

The open-book testing process has also been modified for the coming season. What hasn’t changed is that a Level 1 official will still have to answer the first 50 questions, while Level 2, 3 & 4 officials will have to answer 100 questions. However, the passing score for a Level 2 official has been modified to 80 from 85. All other passing scores remain the same as last year. Those minimum passing scores are 35 for a Level 1 official and 90 for Levels 3 and 4.

While an official is taking the open-book exam, there will be immediate feedback provided after each answer is submitted. If the question was answered incorrectly, the rule reference for that missed question will be given with the appropriate rule book language.

After completing all of the required questions, a summary will be sent of all incorrect responses with their rule references. If a passing score is obtained, then the open-book exam requirement will be complete.

If the result is a failing score, after the seven-day waiting period has passed, the official will only have to retake those questions that were incorrectly answered on their first open-book exam. The retake questions will be based on the same rule reference as the originally missed questions, but will cover a different aspect of the rule.

Once all of the retake questions are answered, the number of correctly answered retake questions will be added to the original test score to hopefully obtain a passing grade. As a reminder, there is no third attempt to pass the open-book exam.

During the winter meeting, the Officials Section spent considerable time discussing seminar program feedback, and in particular, the online modules. All feedback was taken seriously and an action plan was discussed and adopted.

Two work groups were established to address the new classroom curriculums and to improve the online video modules. Both were comprised of grassroots members who could bring a grassroots perspective to their work. Both groups have completed their work and their recommendations have been adopted. The new shortened classroom curriculums have been distributed for application to this coming seminar season and the online modules are being re-engineered with improved formatting, better sequencing, animation replacing some video clips and reduction of music and voice-overs to allow the viewer to better focus on the presented material.

We’ve also evaluated the number of required modules for each level, and based on the user analytics that the first years’ experience produced, we have reduced the number of required modules in some cases.

Lastly, as a reminder, once an official begins their first online module, they will need to complete all of their online module training within a specified time period. The online module completion time periods are 60 days for Level 1 registered officials and 45 days for Levels 2, 3 and 4. If all of the required and elective modules are not completed within the specified time frame, the official will have to restart all of the module training from the beginning. This requirement was waived during last year’s registration season due to the delayed rollout of the online module program, but it’s back in place this year.

This completion requirement was put in place by the District RICs to encourage all officials to complete their registration as early as possible and to provide continuity in the overall seminar education process.

As a reminder, to complete an official’s registration an applicant must:

  • Register online with USA Hockey
  • Register and attend a classroom seminar (reduced attendance times depending on registration level)
  • Complete the required and elective online training modules within the required time frame
  • Pass the open-book exam at their registration level
  • Pass the closed-book exam (no closed-book exam at Level 1) for their registration level
  • Complete their online USA Hockey SafeSport training at the end of every two-year cycle


Work will continue on improving our educational programs, and as always, we will continue actively listening to your constructive feedback. Without your involvement and support as a community, we cannot continue moving forward.  Acknowledging that improvements were needed was only one step in the process.  Implementing those changes in a way that meets the needs of our officiating community is the next step and we’re excited to be taking that step.

Have a great 2015-16 season and as always, skate hard and have fun when you’re on the ice.

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