If sharing does in fact equal caring, it’s hard to think of an NHL player who ever cared more than Doug Weight. In an NHL career that spanned 21 seasons, Weight was known as one of the most unselfish players, retiring with the fifth-most career assists (755 in 1,238 games) among American-born players in league history.
Weight has built on his reputation as an unselfish playmaker by becoming a respected coach. He is currently an assistant coach and special assistant to the general manager with the New York Islanders, while also serving as a valued member of USA Hockey’s coaching brain trust.
Weight recently shared some of his methods for developing better playmakers.
USA Hockey: What are the most important factors in developing quality playmakers who pass the puck well?
Doug Weight: To me, it starts with communication. Anytime when you have kids, you have to work on the basics of passing, where you’re pointed at your target and cushioning the pass when you receive it. Whether it’s in different areas, whether it’s in your feet, your backhand or anything else.
Something I stress, that I learned later in my career, is that the better players, even in practice, they fire the puck everywhere. You’ll make some errant passes at times, but everyone on the team gets better with firing the puck all the time and passing with pace.
USA Hockey: We often hear that good passers have “good hands.” Are there any ways of teaching “good hands?”
Weight: If you’re working with kids, pass the puck hard to them. They have to learn to have a stronger bottom hand with these sticks. The repetition of doing three or four hard turns, and coming out of that last turn having a coach or another player just ripping the puck to you. It’s just repetition and doing it over and over again.
USA Hockey: How would you suggest helping kids learn to read the game better and know when to make different kinds of passes? Can vision be taught?
Weight: I think there are a lot of things you can work on with speed, your strength or your shot. Passing, your vision and your ability to see players around you is probably the thing you’re least going to change. There will always be some guys who don’t see the game as well as others.
Having said that, I think it’s important to teach kids to communicate. So the kids that are looking down at their blade and are maybe a bit more visually challenged, they can at least hear the guys they are playing with. This will help them recognize that they have to get their head up because there will be something they can hear. Communication doesn’t sound like it would be a big part of passing, but I think it’s a huge part of having success.
USA Hockey: Are there any specific small-area games that you think are particularly effective in developing better playmakers?
Weight: 3-on-2s in tight games, where you can’t have the puck for more than a second, or games with two pucks. There’s the basic game where you dump the puck in on one end with two nets and let the guys play 3-on-3, but they’ve got to get it off their sticks quickly. Sometimes it’s allowing them to shoot at either net, so you’ve got to make quick decisions, talk to your teammates and play that give-and-go hockey. The goal is to get guys to make quicker decisions. For some, it comes naturally and for others, they’ll get better.