Add up the total number of NHL games, international medals and hall of fame ceremonies and players like Keith Tkachuk and Chris Pronger could seem unapproachable for the average youth hockey coach.
Not, however, at the 2016 National Hockey Coaches Symposium. Pronger joined Tkachuk on a panel to open the meeting on Thursday night and the stalwart defenseman returned Friday to continue his education.
Pronger is earning his Level 5 certification here this weekend just like hundreds of other coaches. Tkachuk, a Level 4 coach, also praised the continuing coaching education programs offered by USA Hockey.
"It's like when they played, they want to learn as much as they can about the game," said Mark Tabrum, USA Hockey's director of coaching. "Now they're not playing and coaching youth players, but the same attitude and principles apply. What they did to become the players they were they're doing to become better coaches."
Pronger watched the speakers on Friday taking notes just like every mite coach in the room and attended the required breakout sessions as well. The opportunity to talk hockey and learn applies to both the seasoned NHL veteran and the mite hockey coach from Anytown, USA.
"You're sitting next to an NHL great and talking with them about hockey and learning from each other," Tabrum said.
Young Gordon Bombay once crumbled under his coach’s misguided in-the-moment pressure. Detroit Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill used that cinematic moment from “The Mighty Ducks” to illustrate how not to coach players in pressure situations.
“Don’t make the stakes higher than they already are,” said Blashill. “Instead, focus on the details of the process that lead to success.”
Blashill also referenced statistics refuting the idea that certain players can elevate their performance in clutch situations. Instead, he suggested, it’s more a matter of those players’ performance not deteriorating as much as others during key moments. His recommendation to coaches was to avoid propagating the supernatural Roy Hobbs expectation in high-leverage situations and “just get your athletes to perform close to normal.”
If knowledge is power then Ashley Bevan believes that the seeds of knowledge planted at the 2016 National Hockey Coaches Symposium in St. Louis will lead to a powerful performance at the upcoming World University Games in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Even with decades of experience, the coaches with the U.S. University Select Teams are here this week to add to their already impressive coaching credentials in preparation for the biannual tournament that takes place Jan. 29-Feb. 4, 2017.
Mixed in among the 375 coaches in attendance are U.S. University Men's Team coaches Sean Hogan of Ohio University and 11-year NHL veteran Rick Zombo, who now leads the defending ACHA champions from Lindenwood, Mo. On the women's side, two-time Olympian Shelley Looney and her assistant Brett Berger of Adrian College are also taking in the four-day event.
Being here not only gives them the opportunity to continue their coaching education, it also affords them the opportunity to get together to put plans in place for working with their respective teams.
"Having coaches who have achieved the highest level of education in the USA Hockey coaching program will greatly benefit our players and help breed success on and off the ice," said Ashley Bevan, senior director of the Adult Hockey program that oversees the World University Games.
The World University Games are held every other year, and USA Hockey has historically fielded men's and women's teams consisting of the top players competing in non-varsity hockey at programs around the country.
Zombo, a 12-year NHL defenseman, recently completed his sixth season at Lindenwood, and has led the Lions to three ACHA national titles. The opportunity to continue to work with these unheralded hockey players is bolstered by experience representing the United States in an international competition, even if it is half way around the world.
"The only thing I know about Kazakhstan is what I've seen in the Borat movie," Zombo joked during a rare break between sessions on Friday.
"But any time you get to work with a U.S. Team it's always a great honor. It doesn't matter where we play. Once you get on the ice, it's all the same. I don't worry about the logistics, I'm focused on getting our team ready to represent the United States."
One of the nation’s leading strength and conditioning experts, Mike Boyle works with a wide range of elite athletic programs from the U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team to the Boston Red Sox and beyond. He dedicated his career to elite player development, and through that effort, he reached some blunt conclusions. Among them is the need for more all-around athleticism.
“Our influx of elite U.S. players in the 1980s and 1990s was an influx of athletes, not hockey players,” said Boyle. “It was no coincidence they became elite; they weren’t early single-sport specialists. They were athletes.”
Today he encourages coaches and parents to shun “speed farming” their children, and instead, expose them to a wide variety of sports and physical activities that will improve their overall athleticism. Ultimately, he said, that will better position children to reach their full athletic potential.
Boyle also referenced volumes of data comparing the skill-development value of games, practices and training sessions.
“If we look at playing games as a way kids are going to get better, we are absolutely insane, because the mathematics don’t bear that out,” said Boyle. “More games is definitely not the answer. It’s irrefutable math.”
Instead, Boyle recommends the high-repetition environment of practices, along with the often-overlooked strength and conditioning work that can be done off-ice.
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.