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Messages begin to flow freely from Day 1

06/24/2005, 12:45pm EDT
By Jamie Fabos

Wednesday's night's Scotty Bowman address stressed that attitude is the most important word in hockey, and that the NHL could benefit by watching for stick infractions away from the puck.

By Thursday morning, the messages began in earnest ...

Mark Tabrum, director of USA Hockey's Coaching Education Program, encouraged coaches to let kids figure out the game for themselves once in awhile.

Eddie Olczyk, head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins (and coach of his sons hockey teams during the NHL work stoppage), instructed coaches to talk to their players as people, not just as athletes, and to listen to their feedback.

Barry Smith, associate coach with the Detroit Red Wings, talked about converting rigid systems to more adaptable concepts to maximize success.

Mike Eaves, head coach at the University of Wisconsin and IIHF gold medalist (2004 World Junior Championship), said that as a coach, you have every right to take a risk, and he told coaches to recognize and develop the unsung skills, or the basic skills that coaches take for granted in their players.

Mike Sullivan, head coach of the NHL's Boston Bruins, pointed out that developing players intellectual skills, such as decision-making and the ability to recognize opportunities, is just as important as developing physical skills.

Lou Vairo, longtime U.S. National Team coach and currently a director of special projects at USA Hockey, let coaches believe that he prefers to let other coaches stick to their convictions and to operate based on what they think is right, not out of fear of being fired and he provided a method of running high-intensity practices to effectively train players.

And so ended the first full day of the 2005 National Hockey Coaches Symposium. Two NHL head coaches, an NCAA Division I coach and a former U.S. Olympic Team leader combined to provide a first-rate program for over 500 coaches assembled at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, Mich.

As the session broke for a social hour and networking opportunity, 500 coaches were one step closer to achieving Level 5, or Masters coaching certification, and thousands of kids across the country stood to benefit.

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