To quote the legendary Scotty Bowman, if you’re not learning you’re going backward.
For the near 400 coaches gathering under the Gateway Arch in St. Louis this week for the National Hockey Coaches Symposium, it’s full speed ahead in the name of higher education.
The highlight of the USA Hockey coaching calendar, the National Hockey Coaches Symposium is typically held every other year for those coaches looking to attain their Level 5 status, the highest level of certification.
“The Level 5 is our celebration of coaching. It’s our biggest event, and that’s why we hold it every two years,” said Mike MacMillan, USA Hockey’s National Coach-in-Chief.
“The participants who are here, they want to be here. They’re thriving for more knowledge and trying to make themselves better coaches.”
Over the course of four days, they will listen to and learn from an impressive lineup of distinguished speakers, including NHL head coaches Peter Laviolette of the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings bench boss Jeff Blashill, along with AHL head coaches Dallas Eakins (San Diego Gulls) and Kurt Kleinendorst (Binghamton Senators). Long-time NHL coaches Tim Army and Barry Smith are also on the docket to speak.
Tracing its origins back to 1985, the National Hockey Coaches Symposium is the pinnacle of the USA Hockey Coaching Education Program, which annually hosts more than 725 coaching clinics. Over the years it has grown from a glorified coaching clinic into a celebration of the profession and those who have reached the highest levels of the game.
There are currently eight Americans serving as head coaches in the NHL, and another seven leading AHL teams.
One of the key characteristics that both the attendees and presenters share is an inner drive to improve their own craft as they look to help their players develop the skills they need to reach the next level of the game.
“This [symposium] is really for the passionate coach who really wants to learn and grow their knowledge about the game,” said Mark Tabrum, the director of the Coaching Education Program.
“When they come here they’re either learning something new about the game or it’s reinforcing their current coaching philosophy.”
And that passion also permeates from the presenters, many of whom will stick around after their presentation to listen to other speakers.
“Jeff Blashill may be coaching the Red Wings but you’ll see him sitting in the back of the room listening to other presenters,” Tabrum said. “That’s what makes these guys such great coaches. They’re always looking to learn more and improve their craft.”
Coaches will get more than just the X’s and O’s of the game. They will also hear from some of the most distinguished speakers in the fields of long-term athlete development, from Dr. Steven Norris, and the nuances of strength and conditioning with long-time fitness guru Mike Boyle.
This week will also be a celebration of St. Louis hockey, which has been in the national spotlight lately thanks to its track record when it comes to developing high end players. There were five local players selected in the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, including the 5th overall pick Matthew Tkachuk, whose father Keith will join several St. Louis Blues alumni for a panel discussion during Thursday’s opening ceremonies.
“I think it’s great that it’s coming to St. Louis,” MacMillan said. “Not only success in this year’s draft but the city’s long history of hockey in the city has been phenomenal so for people around the country and probably around the world it’s become a big deal in the hockey circles so it’s great that we’re going there to celebrate coaching.”
In addition to the presentations, which range in topic from “Individual Development for Team Success” to “Fundamentals & Conceptual Teaching,” there will once again be age-specific breakout sessions where coaches can learn more about the age level they’re coaching.
It’s all part of an intense four-day session designed to raise the bar on both the coaching profession and youth hockey in general.
“Our goal is to make coaching better across the country,” MacMillan said. “By these coaches being here this week, it not only makes them better coaches, it ultimately makes our players better.”
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.