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The Global Game on Display in St. Louis

By Harry Thompson - USA Hockey Magazine, 08/13/16, 7:45AM MDT

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Foreign Coaches Share In The Free Flow Of Information

Regardless of which side of the international dateline you reside, one commonly held ideal among hockey coaches is that there are very few secrets anymore.

Coaches, it's said, are the world's great plagiarizers. They borrow from each other and incorporate it into their own personal coaching styles.

That free sharing of information is at the heart of the USA Hockey National Hockey Coaches Symposium, where presenters openly share their ideas, concepts and drills openly and freely with anyone who is willing to listen.

Among the nearly 400 coaches intently listening to presenters talking about everything from leadership to individual skill development within the team environment are several European coaches who are looking to take that knowledge and incorporate it into their own coaching curriculum.

The contingent of foreign coaches were guests of Jack Witt, USA Hockey's coach-in-chief in Michigan.

Amos Coppe sat in the back of the massive ballroom intently listening and taking notes as Dallas Eakins, head coach of the AHL's San Diego Gulls, talked about the concepts of leadership. He hopes to take some of these concepts with him back to Lugano, Switzerland, and introduce it into what his club is doing to develop young hockey players.

"I am here to open my mind and expand my horizons," said Coppe, who previously attended a USA Hockey Level 4 clinic in Nashville.

"You can always learn something from anybody. There is always an opportunity to improve. That's the idea of coming here, to learn as much as possible and then try to put everything into practice."

For Sara and Claes Ridderlund, they are hoping to incorporate the best of the American system and add it to the great things being done back in their native Sweden.

"I think it's a great opportunity because it's something different from Swedish hockey," said Claes. "When you're in your own association you don't go outside the box. This is a way to seeing things outside the box."

Tobias Johansson would agree. Like the Ridderlunds, he has spent time in the U.S., and has attended other USA Hockey coaching clinics.

"I think we're doing a lot of good things in Sweden and I think they're doing a lot of good things in USA Hockey as well. We aren't doing exactly the same thing so I want to take out the best parts and take it home to my organization and try to improve what we are doing."

One thing that's impressed them about the American style of play is the team-first concept. They said that over the years the Swedish system has done a great job with individual skill development, but that focus has come at a price.

"My analysis is that 10 or 15 years ago we made some changes to our program where we've focused so much on individual player development. That's why we have so many good players," Johansson said. "But during that time we've kind of lost that team spirit."

It's one of the many things they're hoping to find here in St. Louis and take back home to Sweden.

"What I want to learn from USA Hockey is the belief that when you put the jersey on you're ready to die for each other. I want to take that [philosophy] and combine it with the Swedish model," Claes Ridderlund said. "That would be pretty awesome.

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