George McPhee approached the stage and paused before addressing the packed ballroom in a downtown Washington, D.C., hotel.
"This is a pretty impressive group of more than 500 coaches who are here this week to learn and improve and make things better," said the general manager of the Washington Capitals who was one of the keynote speakers during the opening session at the 2012 National Hockey Coaches Symposium.
"Wouldn't it be nice if the 500 people on Capitol Hill came here to learn and improve and try to make things better."
What would a Beltway hockey brainstorming session be without a little political humor interjected into the program?
McPhee, who is entering his 15th season as the architect of the high-flying Capitals, is also a hockey dad who issued high praise to the grassroots coaches who make the game go.
"Don't ever underestimate the influence you have," said McPhee, who played college hockey at Bowling Green State University and won the Hobey Baker Award in 1982.
"I've been around the NHL for 30 years but my son (Graham) doesn't want to listen to me, but he will listen to Coach Mike and Coach Rob."
McPhee also offered his opinion about the progressive checking skills program that was implemented at the start of the 2011-12 season. After watching his son encounter checking as a first year Peewee he saw how checking hindered his skill development and the development of other youngsters.
"I want to commend USA Hockey for going in the right direction," McPhee said. "As someone who works at the pro level I know there is plenty of time to teach a player how to hit. There is never enough time to teach skill."
The presentations by McPhee and Eddie Olczyk, who wrapped up the evening with an off the cuff speech that ran the gamut of topics, the three-day symposium opened on a high note. Over the course of the weekend, the symposium will feature some of the most experienced coaches and administrators in the game, including Brian Burke, general manager of the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team and general manager and president of the Toronto Maple Leafs; NHL head coaches Dan Bylsma of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Joe Sacco of the Colorado Avalanche, N.Y. Rangers assistant coach Mike Sullivan, and former NTDP coaches Ron Rolston and John Hynes, who are both coaching in the American Hockey League.
For USA Hockey's 59,000 registered coaches, the National Hockey Coaches Symposium, which is typically held every year, is required to achieve Level 5 certification. Those attempting to attain Level 5 status must also write a thesis based on one of the main session presentations.
In addition to general sessions, coaches will also have the opportunity to explore innovative approaches to coaching through intensive breakout sessions dedicated to the specific age level of the players they're coaching.
Regional managers of USA Hockey's American Development Model, including Joe Doyle, Guy Gosselin, Roger Grillo, Jim Hunt, Bob Mancini, and Scott Paluch will serve as breakout sessions speakers.
The first year of Level 5 certification was 1984 as the brainchild of Ken Johannson, the creator of USA Hockey’s Coaching Education Program, and typically feature a number of professional, college and international coaches discussing various aspects of coaching.
Over the years the symposium has grown into a celebration of grassroots coaches in addition to those who have achieved the highest levels of the game.
For the record, Olczyk, who will be inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame on Oct. 15, is also a hockey dad and he thinks that checking should be taught at a younger age.
"That's the beauty of symposiums like this," said Olczyk, who has made the transition from NHL coach to NBC broadcaster, "so we can have discussions and debates. At the end of the day we all want our game to be better."
QUESTION: A player received her second misconduct during a game and was assessed a game misconduct. The player had to skate in front of the opponent's bench to get to the rink exit, and as she did multiple players on the opponent's bench began banging the boards and cheering (essentially taunting her). A bench minor was assessed for unsportsmanlike like conduct to the cheering team. Was this an appropriate unsportsmanlike call?
ANSWER: This behavior by the non-penalized team should be penalized under Rule 601 for “taunting”. If the behavior is only committed by one player, then that player should be penalized. However, if the entire team engages in taunting behavior, and the team coaches make no effort to stop it, then a bench minor penalty would be correct.
QUESTION: During a game there is a scuffle following a check-from-behind into the boards. I reach the scuffle and notice Player A has his hand on the throat of Player B and is pushing him backwards towards the boards. I couldn't tell if he was squeezing the throat or not. What is the correct call? Would this just be a minor for roughing (or something else), or considered a match penalty for attempt to injure?
ANSWER: Considering the USA Hockey Playing Rules mandate a Major plus Game Misconduct for Grabbing the Face-mask, a Match penalty should be assessed to any player who grabs an opponent’s throat. What other rationale could apply to this situation other than the offending player is “attempting to injure” the opponent?
QUESTION: A puck was motionless in the high-slot and an attacking player was skating in from just past the center-line. I (as a goalie) came out to the puck and knocked it away. Just after knocking the puck away, that player and I collided and he fell down. We were moving about the same speed (not super fast). It was pure chest to chest contact. The referee told me that he would assess a penalty if I did that again. What is the USA Hockey's assessment of that interaction?
ANSWER: It's very difficult to answer this question without actually seeing the play. However, due to the fact that strict rules exist that limit player contact with the goalkeeper, it stands to reason that goalkeepers cannot make any reckless contact with players. In the situation you describe, the opposing forward did not have possession of the puck therefore they may not be checked.
However, if the contact was unavoidable, non-injury threatening and incidental from a clean battle for a 50/50 puck then the contact could be deemed “Body Contact” and not against the rules.
QUESTION: Team A receives a minor plus misconduct, and Team B receives a minor during the same stoppage of play. Since the minors are coincidental, does the misconduct start as soon as the coincidental minors end? Or does it start after two minutes and a whistle?
ANSWER: In any case where a player is assessed a minor plus misconduct, they must serve the entire penalty time in the penalty bench and the misconduct would start immediately once the minor expires.
QUESTION: Attacking player in attacking zone bats the puck towards the net. The goalie decides to cover the puck and play is blown dead. Does this constitute as a “Hand Pass” situation? Do goaltenders count as player that can nullify “hand passes”? Where does the following face-off take place in the above situation?
ANSWER: This situation is not a Hand-Pass since a teammate never touched the puck. The USA Hockey Playing Rules allow a player to bat the puck with the hand, but it may not be played by a teammate immediately following. Since a teammate never touched the puck, there is no Hand-Pass violation.
The face-off would stay inside the attacking end-zone.
The USA Hockey Playing Rules are now available as a mobile device app! Check your Apple, Android, or Windows app store to download this playing rule app free of charge.
Check out the USA Hockey mobile-friendly online rulebook application! Enter usahockeyrulebook.com into your mobile device’s web browser to gain instant access to the USA Hockey Playing Rules (must have mobile or internet service).
The USA Hockey Playing Rules Casebook and other educational material can be found under the OFFICIALS tab at USAHockey.com.