At first glance one would think that Ron Rolston is a man with a lot of time on his hands. After all, how else do you account for a coach who spends hours or even days breaking down videotape of every goal scored during the playoffs?
To know Rolston is to know that nothing could be farther from the truth. He is simply a man with a passion for the game.
The former head coach at the National Team Development Program is entering his second season as the head coach with the Rochester Americans, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres.
Still, with the start of training camp less than a month away, Rolston returned to his USA Hockey roots to address more than 500 coaches taking part in the 2012 National Hockey Coaches Symposium in Washington, D.C.
As part of his presentation on developing offensive transitions, Rolston looked at every goal scored by the Boston Bruins during the 2011-12 season and followed it up by breaking down the video of every goal scored during the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.
"My wife sometimes wondered what the heck I was doing," Rolston said in between talking X’s and O’s with some of the more than 520 coaches in attendance.
"It was a labor of love, and it was good for our organization to see what other teams do well. Boston is a team that we wanted to look at and find out how they were having so much success."
That's the life of a hockey coach, and Rolston is considered one of the best and brightest coaches in the game. There’s no doubt that he loves what he does, and is passionate about the game that has been a big part of his life since he was a kid growing up in Fenton, Mich.
“It’s exciting to be here with all these coaches who take time away from their jobs and their families to come here," said Rolston, who wrapped up his third coaching clinic of the summer.
“It's fun to talk to groups like this because these coaches are really eager to get better and learn and it's apparent by some of the questions they were asking.
“It wasn't information that was earth shattering, but hopefully they can relate it back to their teams and the level that they coach at and maybe pick up a piece here or there that will help their team have more fun by scoring more goals.”
Rolston was the opening act in an impressive lineup of speakers featured in Friday’s program. Also presenting was Colorado Avalanche assistant coach Tim Army, a last-minute addition who agreed to speak even though it was his 27th wedding anniversary and his youngest son was preparing to head off for his freshman year of college. Following Army on the docket was N.Y. Rangers assistant coach Mike Sullivan and Brian Burke, general manager and president of the Toronto Maple Leafs and general manager of the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team.
“The lynchpin of the hockey system is the volunteer coach,” said Burke, who was making his third appearance at the symposium. “We are all in your debt and we appreciate everything that you do. That’s why I’m always willing to be here if it’s humanly possible.”
In addition to general sessions, coaches spent part of the day learning about innovative approaches to coaching during intensive breakout sessions dedicated to the specific age level of the players they’re coaching.
During his seven seasons in Ann Arbor, Rolston raised the bar for both his players and his fellow coaches. He is the only coach in U.S. history to win three gold medals in the IIHF Under-18 World Championship (2005, 2009 and 2011). More than just gold medals, Rolston was instrumental in developing many of the top Americans in the game today, something he is most proud of.
After spending most of his coaching career in the collegiate ranks and at the NTDP, Rolston made the successful transition to the pro game. In his first year in Rochester he led the Americans to the playoffs on the final day of the season. This was no small feat considering how many of his players were called up to the Sabres, who were racked by injury last season.
“Being at the [NTDP] I learned to deal with players who are as talented as Phil Kessel, Jack Johnson, Collin Wilson and James vanRiemsdyk,” said Rolston, who received the 2011 Bob Johnson Award from USA Hockey for excellence in international competition.
“As a coach you want to help your players by creating the right environment to develop and grow as a player and a person. I think that’s probably the biggest thing that I learned [during my time at the NTDP] and it’s something that I’m still learning in the pro ranks.”
In wrapping up the day’s session, Burke urged those in the audience to keep youth hockey fun by carving out time in their practice schedules to let kids have fun through unstructured ice time.
“If you get a flat tire on the way to the rink, your kids are going to have a gas [on the ice] playing shinny hockey,” he said.
“Kids today may skate better and shoot better than ever, but they don’t have that same hockey sense because they don’t play enough shinny. You have to build in unstructured ice time into your practices.”
This week’s features: Team officials...Suspensions...Goalkeepers changing positions...and more.
QUESTION: If a game misconduct penalty is called during a single-elimination tournament and the penalized team advances to the next round, when should the one game suspension be imposed (the suspension should or should not be imposed during the next game of the tournament)?
ANSWER: If a player is assessed a game misconduct during a tournament, and the “next scheduled game” for that team is the “next round” game that they qualify for during the tournament, then that player must serve his/her suspension during the next game of the tournament. The “spirit and intent” of the game misconduct suspension rule is a team may not schedule a “placebo game” mid-schedule to allow a player to serve a suspension to avoid having to suspend him during the next “actual” game on the schedule.
QUESTION: Can managers be on the bench during games?
ANSWER: Rule 201.b in the USA Hockey Playing Rules states:
“A team may have up to four Team Officials on the players’ bench. Only players in uniform and properly rostered Team Officials may occupy the players’ bench.”
Therefore, a Team Manager may occupy the team bench as long as they are a registered member of USA Hockey, and they do count toward the total allowed team officials.
QUESTION: The play was in our defensive zone, when a player from the other team fell & stayed down. We started to break out of our end-zone but the ref blew the whistle because he saw the kid down. They stopped play, the kid jumped up, still wanted to play , but had to go to the bench. I felt that since we were breaking out of the zone (but not out of the zone yet) not impeded, the draw should have moved one zone. Where is the puck dropped for the draw?
ANSWER: Rule 612(c) in the USA Hockey Playing Rules states,
“When a stoppage of play occurs as the result of any action by the attacking team in the attacking zone, the ensuing face-off will take place at the nearest neutral zone face-off spot, unless the stoppage was a result of a shot going directly out of play off of the goal post or crossbar.”
If the puck was located in your defending zone when play was stopped for an injured attacking player, then the face-off should be located in the Neutral Zone. Otherwise, if the puck was in the Neutral Zone when play was stopped then it becomes a “last play” face-off situation (closest face-off spot).
QUESTION: I have a conflict of interest question: My son plays on the Santa Rosa Flyers Mites team. He would like to join the Vacaville Jets In House program to get extra ice time. Is there a conflict of interest if he starts to skate for the In House team?
ANSWER: Unfortunately, we cannot answer this question since it does not specifically regard the USA Hockey Playing Rules. We encourage you to contact your District or State Registrar (through your local hockey association) with this question. Registrars are responsible for tracking all team rosters and player eligibility in their respective areas.
QUESTION: During a game can a 10U goalie change pads between periods and play forward? For example: a goalie changed jersey numbers and gear to play in the third period after being in the net for the first two. When the game has begun do you need to stay in the same position for the entire game or can you go back and forth between goalie and playing out?
ANSWER: Strictly speaking, the USA Hockey Playing Rules (which were written in the spirit of top-level competition) do not allow a goalkeeper to switch to a skater position during a game. However, in the spirit of ADM Hockey and goalkeeper development programs at the grassroots level it’s possible for local hockey associations to allow this practice assuming your local USA Hockey Affiliate approves. We recommend you bring this question to your local hockey association and Affiliate for more information.
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