skip navigation

Symposium Notebook: NHL Stars Return to Classroom

By, 08/13/16, 6:45AM MDT


Youth coaches sit alongside hall of fame players to continue education

Hall of Fame Players Back in the Classroom

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.

Blashill on Pressure Situations

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.”

World University Games Coaches Learning in St. Louis

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."

Boyle on Player Development

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.

Recent News

“This is a great opportunity for guys like me who coach in the NHL to talk with grassroots coaches. We can’t do what we do without the efforts of guys like you.” Mike Sullivan, head coach of the two-time Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins

Previous Presenters Include

Most Popular Articles

Changes to the Registration Process for the 2022-23 Season

By USA Hockey 07/15/2022, 1:00pm MDT

Q-and-A with USA Hockey’s Director of Officiating Education Program Matt Leaf

The Referee Section of USA Hockey recently met during Annual Congress and discussed a variety of issues that will have an impact in the success of the officiating program. Many of those issues relate back to the successful completion of the registration requirements and the retention of officials.

Streamlining the registration process and maximizing the efficiency of our educational platforms are always a priority and the following Q-and-A will highlight those changes that every official should be aware of heading into the new season.

USA Hockey: What is the biggest change made to the registration requirements for this season?

Matt Leaf: With more and more seminars transitioning to a virtual format, the Referees-in-Chief (RIC) have determined that there really is no need for the closed book exams. So, level 2, 3 and 4 officials this season will no longer be required to submit a closed book (or modified online closed book exam) upon completion of the seminar requirement. Instead, the open book exams have been expanded to 75 questions for level 2 and 100 questions each for level 3 and level 4.

The RICs acknowledged that the purpose of the exams has always been as a means to encourage rule knowledge, so more effort was made to put together open book exam questions that will encourage the officials to open the Rules/Casebook in an effort to not only learn the rule, but more importantly, understand the spirit and intent of the rule.

USAH: Are there any other changes to the exam process

ML: The only other change to the exams deal with those who do not pass the original exam. Level 2, 3 and 4 officials will now be able to complete their retake exam 24 hours after failing their original exam. Level 1 officials will still need to wait seven days as we want them to slow down and take some time reviewing the rules so they can gain a better understanding and improve their chances for success on the ice.

USAH: What changes, if any, have been made to the seminars? Are all officials still required to attend a seminar each season?

ML: Yes, except for Tenured Officials, all officials are required to attend a seminar for the level that they apply for each season. So, a Level 1 official must attend a Level 1 seminar, Level 2 attends a Level 2 and then Level 3 and 4 seminars will be combined as one seminar in many cases.

Level 1 officials are strongly encouraged to attend a seminar in their own area and most areas will mainly conduct in-person Level 1 seminars. Although there will be some hybrid Level 1 seminars with both a virtual and in-person component, the key here is that every Level 1 official is required to attend a Level 1 seminar ice session. This may require some additional coordination of scheduling for these new officials, but the reality is this on-ice practice is so critical to any future success they may have on the ice that the RICs feel it is critical that the ice session is part of their educational experience.

Level 2 seminars will also include an on-ice component that Level 2 officials need to be aware of when they plan their seminar attendance. The vast majority of Level 3 and Level 4 seminars will be virtual and officials are encouraged to attend a seminar at a date and time that is convenient for them.

USAH: Have there been any changes to the curriculum for the various levels?

ML: The curriculum for each level was standardized prior to last season and is something that will continue to be updated on an annual basis. The specific presentations, along with the video examples, have all been developed in a manner that provides valuable information specific to each level with new presentations and updated video examples being used to keep things fresh and relevant. In addition, the seminar curriculum has been coordinated with the online modules to minimize duplication and to diversify the required education for each level.

USAH: How about SafeSport and Screening – any changes to those requirements?

ML: The background screening process will remain the same as USA Hockey is required to conduct a national screen every two years on any official who is 18 years of age as of June 1 of the registration year (in this case 2022). Both the background screen and the SafeSport training are mandated by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) per the Amateur Sports Act initiated by Congress.

For SafeSport, any official who was born in 2005, or earlier, is required to complete SafeSport training on a yearly basis. This may include the full training or refresher training that is managed by the US Center for SafeSport. Although it will not have an impact on registration for this season, there was a change in SafeSport that has been made where the training will only be valid for a 12-month period of time and it not consistent with an overlapping season. This will be addressed during the summer of 2023.

USAH: Are there any other changes or areas of emphasis that you want officials to be aware of?

ML: A significant part of the discussions that took place with the RICs focused on the importance mentoring plays in the success and, ultimately, the retention of brand-new officials. USA Hockey loses 50% of our new officials every season and improving that retention rate by just 15% will result in 1,000 additional experienced officials joining our ranks each year. We need to do a better job of bringing new officials into the fold and then supporting them in ways that sets them up for a successful and rewarding experience. The RICs feel strongly the best way to positively impact this issue is through mentoring.

Experienced officials should expect to receive information later this summer that outlines expectations of a formal Mentor Program and asking them to volunteer their time and expertise to become involved as a mentor. Once we have established a pool of officials that are willing to contribute in this way to the next generation of officials, they will be assigned a group of new officials they can reach out to and guide them through the registration process, seminar attendance, assistance in completing the open book exam and reaching out to prospective assignors when the time has come they are ready to work games. Once they have stepped on the ice, that mentor can continue to be a valuable resource for the new official and provide the necessary support needed to be successful. We will also be encouraging local clubs, assignors and officials’ groups to implement Shadow Programs that will complement the Mentor Program and positively enhance the officials’ experience even more.

With everyone working together towards a common goal, USA Hockey can become a leader in addressing the officiating crisis while providing a positive experience to our next generation of officials.

3 Tips for Measuring Your Powders

By USA Hockey 04/11/2017, 11:00am MDT

Useful tips when getting ready to mix up a shake

Coordinator, Youth Officiating

By USA Hockey 08/10/2022, 4:15pm MDT

Coordinate officiating best practices, long-term officiating development initiatives and day-to-day support