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Best part of the event: Hmm, where do we start?

06/27/2005, 12:45pm EDT
By John Raffel

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- James Ruffner, who coaches Bantam travel hockey for the Bowling Green Youth Hockey Association in Ohio, was among the more than 500 coaches who attended the five day Symposium here at the Amway Grand Plaza.

And when he was asked after the event ended what he enjoyed most about it, Ruffner was stumped.

Where do I start? he smiled after spending five days listening to presentations by coaches from the NHL, college, minor league, junior and other levels. The wealth of information we received was unbelievable. The NHL head coaches and all of the coaches were great, starting with the keynote speech from (Hockey Hall of Fame coach) Scotty Bowman," which opened the Symposium on Wednesday night.

Hockey people always have stories to tell. It was fun to keep up with everything you heard from the coaches. Youd hear that they had also experienced some of the things you would see on the Bantam travel level. When one speaker was done, you thought he was the best one. Then someone else got up. It was phenomenal.

Ruffner said team preparedness and mental toughness were two key areas covered by coaches that hell take home with him for use at the youth hockey level.

Thats why I really liked the breakout sessions they offered, he said. They were outstanding and gave me ideas on drills and charts to use.

Dan Lorentz of Six Lakes, Mich., coaches various levels of teams in the Crystal Youth Hockey Club and said he came to the symposium looking for ideas on how to coach different avenues of the sport.

I was trying to learn more about the personal relationships of hockey, he said. I was hoping to get some insight from other people who obviously have more experience than I do. It just surprised me that a lot of things you have to deal with from Mites players are almost about the same as you do with the pros. People are people.

The more you talk hockey, the more you learn about the game, said Gordon Bowman, vice president of coaches for the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association in welcoming remarks Wednesday. Good people pass along good ideas.

Mark Tabrum, director of the Coaching Education Program for USA Hockey, couldnt help but flash a wide smile while recapping the Symposium.

The response has been tremendous, very positive, he said. When you put up a lineup like we did with six NHL head coaches and several college coaches, you cant give anything but a quality presentation. They had the coaches in the audience sitting on the edge of their seats. There has been just a great wealth of knowledge that the coaches are passing along. They enjoy the game. They have passion for the game. They can supply us with a lot of knowledge.

Tabrum said he was confident the coaches got what they were looking for.

I always ask the presenters what they want to talk about, he said. Weve learned a lot of things this week in skill development, as much as we have in the Xs and Os. All the speakers we had were tremendous.

Tabrum said hes confident the attendees were able to take plenty of information back to their home bases.

It means a lot to them to know what some of the top NHL and college coaches are saying, he said.

Bob Barrett of Grosse Pointe Park, Mich., who coaches Midgets and Squirts, echoes Tabrums thoughts.

Someone like Barry Smith has so much experience on the world stage, Barrett said, referring to the associate head coach of the Detroit Red Wings, who was one of the presenters. He brought us a much different perspective on what we should concentrate on.

Listening to a presentation of some members of the 1980 gold medal-winning U.S. Men's Olympic Team, was really neat, Barrett said. That was a big part of the nations mindset. Being able to hear some of the stories about Herb Brooks and the other experiences they had was excellent.

Dave Fischer, director of media and public relations for USAHockey, said he was deeply impressed with the response he received.

When we were done, I must have had 200 people come up and thank me, said Fischer, who added that there were 504 Symposium registrants from across the country. There was also a waiting list of more than 100 people.

Fisher said a 2006 Symposium is set for July 11-15 in Rochester, N.Y., and will coincide with USA Hockey's Boys' Select 16 Festival.

Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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