Here’s a Fun Competition Drill that can be Run Half-Ice
I picked this one up from by good friend Jan Bednar, out in Slovakia. This one is great for full-speed agility skating, and works power turns and pivots, forward and backward.
Bednar Escape Race:
1. On whistle, first player from each corner leaves and skates the route shown
2. Full power turns around each cone, pivot backwards around the bottom quarter of the circle
3. Race to the puck, player who gets there first shoots, other player backchecks
I love watching the World Junior Championships each year. It’s a chance to see a bunch of talented, young, “up-and-comers” playing some high-quality hockey, in a fun and exciting atmosphere.
The nature of the games, and of the tournament in general, lends itself to a great study of the game. The players are smaller than in the NHL, there’s a bigger gap between the top and bottom teams, and the games are more of a finesse style of play. Which means, lots of scoring, especially in the early rounds, and lots of well-executed systems play.
Even at the highest levels of play, you still see mistakes made. And games are won and lost based in the DETAILS. In this video, we see what happens when a defenseman fails to have his head on a swivel. On-ice awareness is essential at ANY level of play, but especially at the highest levels of play. If a player doesn’t know what’s going on around him, a good team will take advantage of that and the puck will be in the back of his net before he knows what hit him!
This Hockey Conditioning Drill Give a Perfect 3:1 Rest-to-Work Ratio
The Michigan Mile is one of my favorite Hockey Conditioning Drills. I picked it up from my old assistant coach, Josh Burkart, who grew up in Michigan. I love it because it’s short, explosive bursts of speed, and can be done in a variety of ways. It also offers an optimal 3:1 rest-to-work ratio, which is perfect for hockey players. Here’s the diagram and explanation:
Four groups, on blues, facing each other. As soon as group 1 finishes, group 2 goes. Then 3, then 4, then back to 1.
1. red line and back – 5 push-ups
2. far blue line and back – 5 push-ups
3. red, back, far blue, back – 5 push-ups
4. far blue, red, far blue, back – 5 push-ups
5. red, back, far blue, back – 5 push-ups
6. far blue line and back – 5 push-ups
7. red line and back – 5 push-ups
Variations: Sit-ups instead of push-ups; down on knees at each stop; add pucks; etc.
What is Better for Mite Development, Cross-Ice or Full-Ice Gameplay?
There’s a hot debate going on in many parts of North America right now, and that is whether Mites are better off playing cross-ice or full-ice during games. This debate has grown largely out of USA Hockey’s ADM recommendation of cross-ice games until Squirt.
I grew up in the “full-ice world,” but I’ve been living in the “cross-ice world” for the past 3 years with my own kids. Folks in my local organization have asked my opinion on this a number of times, and I’ve also received a few emails asking my opinion. Here’s an example from one of our coaches in Chicago:
I’m writing to get your take on the cross-ice, USA Hockey model vs the full-ice model for mites. There was a big push in my aera for mites to play full ice and this year a northern chicago league was formed for those organizations. If you have already commented on this on your website, please advise. I just have a 3-year-old son, and I’m trying to educate my self as much as possible.
ARGUMENTS FOR CROSS-ICE PLAY
I haven’t said much, publicly, about cross-ice play. But I’ve been involved long enough now with my own kids that I’m ready to weigh in. So first, let’s take a look at USA Hockey’s arguments FOR cross-ice hockey at the 8U age groups:
More efficient use of ice time and space
Allows more kids to be on the ice at the same time
Keeps costs down and aids in skill development
Increases participation and skill development through more puck handling, more shots, more saves, more goals and more fun.
USA Hockey also put out this video to illustrate their point of view:
ARGUMENTS AGAINST CROSS-ICE PLAY
All of USA Hockey’s arguments sound legit, right? And once you see the video of the adults playing on that HUGE ice, that sort of cements the deal, ya? Well… in my mind it’s not that simple. Although the arguments for cross-ice play look good on paper, things begin to change after you’re into it for a few years.
Right away there are a few things that become apparent:
Kids don’t learn the rules: offsides, stoppages of play, faceoff locations, icing, etc.
No penalties: yes, coaches are supposed to “monitor and correct” illegal plays like checking and tripping, but it’s more clear in a child’s mind when the play is whistled dead, and the ref puts him or her in the penalty box. I’ve seen it first hand.
AND FINALLY… MY OPINION
Now, you might say, “Well ya… but the rules can be picked up later, and some organizations DO have refs. Neither of those points have much to do with development.”
I’d say that’s partially true, but here’s where folks who are truly DEVELOPMENTALLY ORIENTED should pay attention:
There are BIG variances in skill levels among players the 8U level. And by big, I mean HUGE.
One Size Fits All Hockey Development? Actual screen grab from USA Hockey’s ADM Guide, published in 2011
I think there’s some benefit to beginners playing cross-ice hockey. After all, they’re still learning to stay on their feet, handle the puck in motion, and give and receive passes. But the problem is, USA Hockey believes ADM to be a one-size-fits-all program, at least that is the way it’s being positioned publicly.
Anyone who buys into the idea that one single program could be just as beneficial for the most beginner kid as it is for the most advanced kid has no business coaching––In my opinion.
If players are being properly developed, by the time they’re 7 and 8 years old the cross-ice sheet SHOULD be getting too small for them. At that point, I say open it up to full-ice games, or half-ice at the very least.
The cross-ice games is just one point of the ADM doctrine that is reflecting a bigger picture.
The problem is that USA Hockey (and most coaches in general) drastically underestimates what young players are capable of. They want to tell you it’s all about the kids having FUN. I agree with that, but WHAT IS FUN? Kids love improving, achieving, and overcoming. This happens through REAL competition, where rules are set and enforced, scores are kept, coaches invest in their OWN education, and skills are developed through structured sequences––not just through pond hockey repackaged as small area games.
Take a look at the video below. This is my son’s house team in a recent tournament, where they were permitted to play half-ice. You can see the approach we’ve taken has brought these kids to a level far beyond the other house teams.
“OK WEISS, MAKE YOUR POINT AND WRAP IT UP”
Admittedly, this topic has me on a bit of a soapbox. The reason for this is that I see it as a small piece of a much bigger developmental issue. That is the issue of “McDonald’s Style Coaching,” where coaches “don’t need to know anything… because the system will take care of the teaching.” (yes, as crazy as it sounds, this is actually being taught at USA Hockey coaching clinics).
As for the cross-ice games themselves, I like them for kids who can’t skate. But we need to adjust the game as skills progress, not just by blanket age groups. I prefer half-ice or full-ice for the kids who have developed beyond the competency of a beginner. I’d love to see a system where beginner Mites could play cross-ice, but where competitive teams (which are also being phased out at Mite) could play half or full ice.
As always… that’s my 2 cents worth. Take it or leave it!
Here’s a Great 1 on 1 Drill that Works Skating, Pivots, and Gap Control
In this drill, we develop passing, skating, gap control, and a number of other skills. This drill can also be developed into a regroup drill (see Option 2). Here’s the diagram and explanation:
1 on 1 Swedish Overspeed Drill:
1. On the whistle, the F makes a pass to the D.
2. The F skates across the ice and receives a return pass.
3. The D follows up the ice.
4. The F skates around the centre ice circle and goes 1 on 1 with the D.
1. After the F skates around the centre ice circle, the F makes a pass to the D, and turns to the boards.
2. The D makes a board pass and closes the gap in the neutral zone.
3. The F turns back for a 1 on 1.
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