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Danton Cole's Guide to Summer Hockey

By Michael Caples, 06/16/16, 2:45PM MDT


As much as USA Hockey encourages players to get away from the rink during the summer months, we all know that most kids will still find a way onto the ice during the offseason.

However, that doesn’t mean that young hockey players need drill-regimented training sessions during their summer excursions to the rink.

In fact, they may benefit more from simply having free reign on the ice (or in the driveway or street hockey court).

“We can learn a lot – I think as young athletes we do – by playing and having some creativity and maybe get a little bit of the word ‘no’ out of it,” said USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program head coach Danton Cole, as he talked about letting kids play unstructured “pond hockey” during the offseason. “During the summers, if it’s unstructured and there aren’t parents or referees, nobody’s keeping score. There are a lot of gains and you can try some stuff and you can test your limits and you’re not worried about doing something wrong.”

Let Them Play

Cole, a former NCAA and NHL player himself, said that when they are given the chance and the circumstance, kids will make up their own games, and not even realize how they are improving their athletic abilities.

“I look back to when we were kids, whether it was hockey or I played a lot of baseball growing up, I think the best games are the things kids make up,” Cole said. “A lot of times when you have short numbers or odd numbers and you have to figure out a way – in baseball, we would have three or four guys, and if you’re going to play a game in that situation, you have to pick your field. That’s a great way to learn to hit to right field, or to pull the ball at times. It’s the same way with hockey; you can come up with tons of different games and all of a sudden, you’re doing small games and situations and odd situations and you can find yourself.

“I’d just let the kids play. They’re going to keep score, they’re going to have winners and losers in there, and then they’re going to come up with somebody else. I would just say hey, let them go, and you don’t want to give them guidelines. That’s almost the opposite. Do these 10 drills; no, don’t do these 10 drills. Instead, just let them go out and play the game and find out about themselves.”

Staying Motivated

In their own created scenarios – a lot of which will be similar to American Development Model-recommended small-area games – players will be able to use their peers as measuring sticks, which serves as great motivation during the offseason.

“Find out what your limits are and how far you can stretch them,” Cole said. “You will find out stuff that you need to work on. Johnny over there is really good at that, I’d like to be good at it. Well, go home and work on it, and then the next day you’re on the field or on a court or on the ice, maybe you can do it.”

More Reps, More Development

A small game of shinny or street hockey also presents the opportunity for more repetitions for specific skills, as well.

“We want guys to fail,” Cole said. “You learn from that failure. It’s just a snapshot – it’s not where you’re at. When you learn that, the first time, we’ll say using angling as an example, the first time I went in, I took too shallow of an angle and the guy beat me. The next time, I took too high of an angle and he got underneath me. If you’re going through a drill, you might go through a set practice and have one or two instances of that, so there’s not really enough feedback. If you’re just goofing around and you’re playing and you’re in your basement and there’s 15 feet between goals, you might get that situation 20 times. You will figure it out. You will take the correct angle eventually.

“It’s something we see in society now. One, we don’t want to see kids fail, or we don’t let them fail, and then, two, we think they have to be told everything that they’re going to learn, and there’s not enough in terms of responsibility and maturity. I think that hinders development, and then when guys get to an age where they are held accountable, where they will have responsibility, they’re not sure how to act. Quite frankly, one of the biggest things we have to get over the hurdle with for our guys is getting them to that point, getting them to understand – we have a big sign up there for it that reminds them. It says, ‘you’re responsible for your own development.’ We take that seriously, but that’s a skill. If you are going to make it, you’re going to have to be able to do those things.”

Play Other Sports

Of course, Cole stressed the importance of still taking a break from the sport during the offseason.

“I’m a big advocate of other sports,” the NTDP head coach said. “I think we’ve gotten into this, I think people have taken the 10,000-hour rule out of context, because it’s not that I just have to do this basic thing, like if I’m out playing baseball, I’ll use that as an example again, hand-eye coordination and fielding the ball are outstanding for hockey, and it’s a completely different pathway that I’m using. There is a lot of crossover. If I’m playing basketball, the offensive patterns and how to use my body and how to shield the ball, it’s the same as protecting the puck. Those hours count up. Climbing a tree isn’t the worst thing in the world. There’s a lot to learn from that for strength and dexterity. I think all of those things add up to make us more complete athletes. If you want to be a good pro or be a professional hockey player, be a good athlete first.”

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Have you verified the score sheet?

By USA Hockey 02/13/2019, 8:15am MST

Remember when score sheets simply consisted of three or four carbon copies at the scorer’s table?

While we’re still likely to see that classic technique at some facilities, most have abandoned the handwritten score sheets in favor of electronic scoring systems and advanced score sheets – or minimally combined the process of both.

But whether it’s handwritten or electronic, the score sheet is not deemed “good to go” until an official signs off on it at the conclusion of the game. Rule 502(e) is clear in saying, “At the conclusion of the game, the referee shall check the official score sheet, including team rosters and players in uniform, for accuracy prior to signing.”

The game score sheet is considered an official record that documents the participants and the actions that take place during a game. Teams need them to document participation for eligibility in state or national tournaments, or to provide verification of a suspension served. They may also be keeping stats on players for their continued development and promotion to higher levels of play.  Plus, the score sheet provides a means to track progressive penalties or to identify trends within a local area or league. 

Regardless as to what system is used (hard copy or electronic scoring), the game score sheet is considered an official document and officials must adhere to their responsibility to treat it as such. Whereas the vast majority of officials have been good at reviewing and signing off on hard copy score sheets, there appears to be some confusion as to the need to verify the electronic version.

The electronic score sheet is an official document. Teams print these from the web-based system to verify their eligibility as mentioned above. Because it is an official record of the game, the officials have the responsibility to make sure all data is entered correctly, including the officials’ names, and must sign-off on the information prior to having the game sheet closed and finalized. This is no different than crossing off blank areas, making sure penalties are recorded properly and signing the actual hard copy score sheet. 

As a refresher, here are some tips on what to look for, and the officials’ responsibility to verify game sheets at the conclusion of every game.

1) Make sure that players who are not present to participate in the game are crossed off (hard copy) or removed from the game sheet (electronic). Only those players/coaches who are eligible and present to participate should be listed on the score sheet.

2) Confirm all penalties are recorded properly and to the proper player. Many times a game misconduct penalty will be recorded as a ten-minute misconduct or vice versa. If a player is assessed a minor plus misconduct, each of those must be recorded as a separate penalty. If you find there is a clerical error where a penalty was assessed properly, but not recorded correctly, fix the mistake prior to signing or closing off the game sheet.

However, an official is not allowed to simply change their call that was made during the game. For example, if an official assesses a major penalty for slashing during the game and the player serves the five minute major, but after the game, the officials talk and determine that the player deserved a major plus game misconduct penalty, or match penalty instead, the score sheet cannot be changed at this time. The officials may submit an incident report requesting the incident be reviewed under Rule 410 Supplementary Discipline.

3) Make sure all of the on-ice officials who worked the game are listed properly on the game sheet.

4) Once you have determined that all of the recorded information is accurate, the officials must sign (legibly) the hard copy of the score sheet or sign off and approve the electronic version so it can be finalized.

The one exception is when the scorekeeper manually keeps track of all of the game actions, but will then later enter the data into an electronic system. In this instance, it is important for the referee to make sure the document the scorekeeper used to record actions is accurate and they understand the penalties assessed so they can be entered properly.  It may be a good idea to go back at a later time and check the electronic version for accuracy, as well.

The bottom line is that the game sheet for each game you work is a reflection of your performance on the ice. If you do not pay attention to details and there are inaccuracies on the game sheet, the perception will be your performance on the ice was also lacking effort and attention to detail. Not to mention, it may also effect any potential imposed suspensions and/or eligibility of players/coaches. 

Please take score sheet (hard copy or electronic versions) management seriously as it is a major part of the official’s responsibility.  Doing so will make life easier for volunteers who are charged with tracking such things and will make the game better.  And if the game is better, your job as an official probably becomes more enjoyable, too.