Duluth, Minn. – Stanley Cups, Olympic medals and world championships – oh my! The amount of success that was on stage on Saturday at the 2021 Level 5 Coaches Symposium was nothing short of impressive.
Two-time Stanley Cup-winning coach and the 2022 U.S. Men’s Olympic Team head coach, Mike Sullivan, along with three-time Olympic medalist and three-time world champion, Natalie Darwitz, each gave presentations.
Darwitz, who was recently named the assistant coach at the University of Minnesota, mentioned how her dad helped her get into coaching.
“I was still a player, and my dad sort of twisted my arm to coach two or three times a week,” she said. “I found that coaching helped me as a player and vice versa.”
Darwitz utilized former friends and teammates, including 2019 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Krissy (Wendell) Pohl, via video to provide the attendees with even more insight as to important aspects of coaching. One of the aspects she talked about was coaches having fun.
“The coaches that have fun and want to be out there and get engaged with the players on the ice, those are the ones that help develop passion even more.”
Sullivan began his presentation by thanking the attendees in the crowd for what they do.
“At the NHL level, we get the cream of the crop,” he said. “But they don’t get there without the work that you do to help get them there. So I thank you for that.”
He then went into talking about two books that have impacted him: The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle and The Playmaker’s Advantage by Daniel Peterson and Leonard Zaichowsky. He told the audience that if they buy these two books, that help with understanding skill acquisition, their lives would be changed.
Sullivan also spoke about the “why” when it comes to playing small area games.
“Hockey is a game of time and space. Utilizing small area games helps in all areas of trying to create time and space that will translate to the games,” Sullivan said. He would go on to captivate the audience for the final half hour of his speech talking about creating a good environment in practice. The attendees then went to their final breakout sessions of the day.
USA Hockey president, Mike Trimboli, who was elected to the position in June, began the day thanking the attendees for coming to the event.
“To all of the coaches here this weekend, your commitment to the development of the game and your own personal development is truly to be commended. I know players across the country are in good hands.”
Tim Army, head coach of the Iowa Wild, also presented in the morning about offensive zone play with NTDP head coach, Dan Muse, following with a presentation on creating a thinking environment.
Two legends of the game in Dean Blais and Mike Sertich joined each other on stage later in the day, as the attendees were treated to a conversation with the college hockey icons. The two reminisced on the days their teams battled each other on the ice and just how much the game has continued to grow.
The weekend-long event concludes on Sunday, as USA Hockey executive director, Pat Kelleher, is slated to speak with Jeff Blashill wrapping up the impressive list of presenters.