Archive for March 2010

Project: Team Rules

March 30, 2010

If you happened to catch the brief exchange Mike Mahony and I had recently in the Comments area, you may have at least gotten the feeling that he’d done his own blog post, this on a pretty serious problem that occurred with the Bantam level team he helps manager.  And, without going into very much detail right now, let me just say that it was pretty dawgoned ugly.  Worse yet, I think Mike and I both agree that such a problem could have been nipped in the bud a long time ago (as far as I’m concerned, the makings of that problem should have been handled way back in September).

Now, I’m certainly not happy that Mike and his team had to experience what they did.  However, the timing of this plays right into a project I’ve wanted to undertake for awhile.  So, with that, let me begin…

Project:  Team Rules

I’m going to start with two different approaches to a common team problem, that of a player frequently missing practices.

  1. Just supposing a coach sets a really tough rule in reference to a player missing a practice.  I mean, before a season even starts, he or she announces to every one in a team meeting that a player must sit-out a game if he or she misses a practice during the preceding week.  Again, I know that’s a bit extreme, but it still helps in this example, because I’m going to guess that everyone in that meeting is going to nod in the affirmative, even if they don’t totally agree with or like the rule.
  2. In yet another scenario, no rule was ever established when it came to practice attendance.  However, partway through a team’s season, one player continuously misses.  Suddenly, fed-up with it, the coach announces that the player is going to get benched for all those misses.  I don’t know about you, but I can just hear the player and his or her parents screaming right now!  Ugh.

Okay, so what’s the difference in the two approaches?

In the first one, I’ll suggest that no one in the team meeting took the practice rule personally.  Oh, my guess is that some of the more dedicated ones might actually like it, ’cause they usually get pretty ticked that less caring teammates miss so many practices.  Even at the other extreme, however, I think parents will accept the rule.  They probably don’t have much choice — partly because so many others agree with it, and especially because it’s not perceived as being totally aimed at them.  Again, the rule isn’t personal; the rule is for everyone.

Of course, the second approach is going to cause such an uproar mainly because it is perceived as personal.  Hey, the coach has focused on one player, and levied what — under these conditions — seems a pretty extreme punishment.

So — I’ll say once again, it’s all about whether a team rule seems personal or not.  And, the only way I can see this being accomplished is to articulate every single team rule BEFORE THE SEASON GETS UNDERWAY.

Again, setting down rules prior to a season gives every player the chance to start with a clean slate, and it’s hard for any team member to take a rule personally.  On the other hand, I’m going to suggest that missing just one necessary rule prior to a season’s start makes it almost impossible to fix later on.

All that said, what I’m hoping to do with today’s post is to solicit reader suggestions for a fairly thorough collection of team rules.

Why now, though , rather than just prior to next season?  Well, what I’ve found is that the craziness of a hockey season is still fresh in all of our minds — right now.  And, what I’ve found in the past is that I’ve personally forgotten some of those things as the spring and summer months have gone along.

So, can you think hard about this?  There had to be something going wrong with your team over the past winter — something you feel could have been better handled, or prevented?  And, if it’s just one idea I get from each reader, imagine how thorough my/our list will ultimately be.

Yes, I did say “our list”, because I’m going to ultimately publish that list over at CoachChic.com, and I’m going to grant access to anyone who contributed.  Better yet, I’m going to attempt do something special for anyone who sends me a really, really good suggestion.

Does this sound like a plan?  I hope so.

Don’t let any time go by, however.  The last thing either of us wants is for something extremely important to be forgotten.  So, please email me:  Click to Email Dennis.  It would be helpful if “Team Problem” is in the email’s Subject Line.

(Oh, and please save your complaints about a coach for another time, unless there is a way this fits into our plan to deal with “Team Rules”.)

Dealing with a Hockey Loss

March 28, 2010

If you think about it, nearly every team from this past winter will end their season with a loss.  Ya, if you think about it…

After a kzillion NHL games, one team is going to ultimately get their name on the Stanley Cup, while the second best team in North American will go home empty handed.

The same is happening as college teams battle their way towards the oh-so-desirable Frozen Four.  And, only one of the teams to make it all the way to Detroit will be considered “the winner”.

This was true in Massachusetts high school hockey circles, with only one team in each tier surviving to call themselves State Champs.

And this has also been happening at so-called neighborhood rinks, where only one team is emerging as the best — among local Mites, Squirts, Pee Wees,  Bantams and so forth.

As a matter of fact, my babies – or my Mighty Mites – just lost their final game of the season, this in what was considered the Championship Game in their league’s top division.

So, again, my main premise going into the following is that almost everyone who embarks on a long winter of hockey is going to eventually be considered a loser (not in a bad sense, but at least when it comes to their quest for “all the marbles”).

That said, here goes…

Dennis Chighisola

Dealing with a Hockey Loss

What spurred this subject – at this time?  Well, if you’re thinking it’s because today ended the last of three schedules I’ve coached within the past year, you’d be only partly right.  Actually, the seeds for this piece began yesterday when I stumbled across the following quote:

“When you lose, do not lose the lesson.” ~ Dalai Lama

I can thank Rainer Seiffert of Aachen, Germany for sharing that over on the social media site known as Twitter.  (You can find Mr Seiffert as @SunnyRainer.)  A management consultant, he offers a fairly constant flow of quotes and saying among his “tweets”, these coming from the likes of Gandhi, Confucius, Tolstoy, Einstein and many other deep thinkers.

As far as my research took me, it seems neither Herr Seiffert or the Dalai Lama ever made it to the National Hockey League.  However, I’m going to suggest that the above saying should be taken VERY seriously by every hockey player, coach and parent.  Actually, it’s been a long standing philosophy of mine, long before I ever saw that quote.

Then, before going on further, let me say that I always hope to be coaching the ultimate winner…  My NEHI High School Prep team did win their league for the second year in a row, you know how well my littlest guys did, but you next need to know that my NEHI Junior High School squad finished out of their league’s playoffs by a decent margin.

What you also need to know, however, is that I find it very hard to learn anything from a win.  As a matter of fact, I will usually dismiss a video of a game my kids have won, and I can spend hours running and re-running a game we lost.

This aside…  Back in the very early 1980’s, I took the footage of a game my high school team had lost, and I broke it down into tiny segments.  Talk about running and re-running…  I must have had a lot of extra time on my hands back then, because I spent close to a week studying that old VHS footage, mainly looking for what precipitated turn-overs, or any truly critical plays that seemed to have a substantial bearing on the game’s outcome.

I still have those notes tucked away in a file draw, and I can tell you that the list of mistakes amounted to just under 400 entries.  Was I being picky about my kids’ play?  Maybe.  But, I was also looking for ways I could sincerely help them.

And help them – and lots of other players, I did.  In fact, I can’t tell you how many new drills I invented just because of what I discovered on that tape.  And, while I’ll soon fill you in on “Coach Chic’s Rules for Winners”, I can tell you right now that a number of my first key playing principles stemmed from that week-long study.

Again, only when a team’s (or individual’s) weaknesses are exposed can we identify them, and then begin to make meaningful corrections.

Oh, a few times during our fall schedule, I jotted some worthwhile notes aimed at helping my HS Prep guys.  But, it was hard to get a total read on those players if/when they were dominating their opponents.

This past year’s Jr High program should have been ideal for what I’ve been talking about here.  And, it was, for a certain segment of the team.  In fact, that group is shortly going to make their mark in local high school hockey circles, and a lot of that will stem from their willingness to just keep plugging away (alternately enduring the setbacks as they came, and then learning from them).  If you can picture it, that spelled constant progress FOR THOSE KIDS.

Okay, so my Mighty Mites lost today.  And, for most of those kids and their parents – and like so many other teams around the hockey world, they’ll only have that last game in their minds (at least for a time).  Now, as I said earlier, I didn’t want to lose that game – far from it.  But, since we did, I was able to find a number of (new) ways I can help my little rascals over our last month together.

Just so you know, I chose not to go on the bench for that final game.  (I’ll explain some of my reasons for that at another time.)  I stood behind the opponents’ net for the entire game, instead – to gain a certain perspective and to shoot some decent video footage.

Now, I am not going to – at least tonight — tell the world what I’m going to do with the notes I took.  However, I can tell you that we dominated quite a bit when it came to puck possession, yet we weren’t able to score more than a single goal.  Hmmmmmm…  Also, one area of our game – and an area I didn’t think was that necessary to our level – probably does need some emphasis.  Again, hmmmmmm…

I guess in modern day jargon, those “hmmmmmm”s translate to “Aha!” moments.  So, I had at least a couple of those today, while I’m wondering if our opponents had any.

Not that we coaches, our kids and our entire entourage wouldn’t have traded those few lessons for the win.  What I am saying, however, is that someone is (usually) going to lose when two teams meet.  And although we’d all like to be on the winning end of any match-up, it’s the flip side that The Good Dalai Lama is really talking about.  Ya, again…

“When you lose, do not lose the lesson.”

Personally, I see each of the levels listed in my introduction as really different worlds.  In other words, it’s like there is no tomorrow for the guys who arrive at the finals of a Stanley Cup series, an Olympic or World Cup tournament, a college, junior or even maybe a high school championship game.  Many individuals will never return to that stage, so it’s a win now or perhaps never get the chance again.

For the younger players – at the younger levels, I’ll suggest development is at least as valuable as a win.  (Again, we wouldn’t pass on the “W”.  But, it’s possible a learning experience can help a lot more over the young player’s future.)

And that’s kinda my message for tonight…  I think a lot of us take a loss (or setback), and just leave it at that.  Dalai Lama, on the other hand, suggests at least getting some good from the bad.

*

I mentioned my “Rules for Winners” above, and I know that might need some explaining, at least for some…

You see, back around the time I was really getting into those videos – and especially the one described earlier, I began noticing that some mistakes happened more often, and some had a significant impact on game results.  Worse yet, I found that by NOT knowing some of these key playing principles, a player could really be hurt his or her chances of making a high level team.

Today, I think my list of so-called “rules” is at about 20-ish.  Oh, I’m not frivolous in adding to my list.  In fact, the original compilation was probably at about 10 or 12 a good decade ago, and I’ve only crept to the current number over that span.

Anyway, I am now working with that list, and I’m going to release it very shortly.  What I’ve really been wrestling with is the format, although I’m thinking more and more that the best method of delivery would be through an MP3 audio file.  Ya, I think it would be awesome for a player, coach or parent to be able to listen to them at their leisure, and it would be doubly awesome if a player could try to memorize them.  But, might you have any thoughts or suggestions on that?  You know I love hearing from my hockey friends.

Picking a Hockey Team

March 26, 2010

I’ve been absent here for a brief time, mainly because I’ve been dealing with recruiting my next year’s High School Prep team, planning a new program for junior high school kids (called Personal Hockey Training), prepping for a Mite-focused summer hockey program, and conducting tryouts for next season’s Bandits Mite AAA Majors.  Oh, and I almost forgot…  My little Mighty Mites are readying for their league’s Championship Game this coming Sunday!

Still, my old hockey brain hasn’t stopped running a mile a minute.  And, in most instances, I’ve been thinking about the other side of the equation when it comes to filling the various rosters.  I mean, there’s one huge mindset that’s required to put together and recruit the best talent available.  But, it’s something else to put myself in a hockey parent’s shoes.

As it so happens, I had to do this several times over recent weeks (and lots of times over about 30-years).

I mentioned previously that my young cousin asked me about picking the right program for her 13-year old son.  (I’d take him in a heartbeat, but they live an awfully long distance from where my teams train.)  And, just by hanging around rink lobbies over recent days, I’ve found myself needing to guide a number of parents with the best information I can possibly provide.

Oh, and about that “30-years” thing…  I’ve been the dad of a pro player, and I’m currently the granddad of a college player.  And I can tell you that I’ve been there, done that when it comes to experiencing a parent’s sick feeling in the stomach as tryouts take place.  Ya, been there, done that.

Anyway, I’ve finally arrived at three points I usually raise when it come to a family making their program (or team) commitment.   So, here goes…

– Number One, I advise families to seek the best coach they can possibly find.  In all honesty, if the best coach — or the best teaching coach — is running a Mite C team, I’d send my own young guy to him (or her).  I know that certain team designations “sound” good, but they matter little in the bigger picture.  The way I look at it, a youngster has a date for a high school hockey tryout in X-years, and no one will care at that time what his or her resume looks like.  No, what the high school coach will be asking is, “Can he or she REALLY play RIGHT NOW?”

– Something else I’ve learned in my 40-years of working with players from all levels — beginners to pros — is that a caste system sooner or later develops within any given team.  In other words, a young player can be perceived in a given way, and it’s hard for him or her to break from being seen as the team’s 8th forward, their back-up goaltender, their 5th defenseman, whatever.  To me, however, that’s not the worst of it…  What I’ve seen happen is that a player ultimately takes-on his or her perceived role, even if the relative abilities of the players change over the years.

– If there is one huge mistake I think a lot of youth families make, it’s to believe that so-called “skating-up” is good for a player.  Oh, if a player can skate with confidence at a high level, and if he or she can make most of the plays necessary, skating-up may be okay.  However, if he or she is most often playing in what I call “panic mode” — and only attempting to survive in that atmosphere, I’ll suggest a different approach.  To me, confidence comes from a player believing he’s one of the best on his team.  And, I’ve seen that kind of confidence carry-over to future seasons and future tryouts.

All that said, I tried to recently leave several parents with something else to consider…  I honestly don’t believe a player/family should join a team with one foot in the door, and the other out — just in case they want to change their collective minds later on.  Naw, they ought to jump in with both feet, or jump out.  They’re not doing anyone any favors — including themselves — by straddling the fence all season long.

Finally, while making a 1-year commitment to one team (or organization) seems like a biggie — and it kinda is, it’s not that big a deal in the whole scheme of things.  What I’m getting at is that a family should make a 100% commitment for that single season.  That done to the best of their abilities, it’s easy enough to make new plans the following year.

I Once Wrote This Book…

March 21, 2010

Oh, I’m not referring to the above book.  But, before explaining THAT title, I might share with you the fact that I’d considered calling this “I Feel Kinda Stupid”…

🙂

Okay, as many of you know, I jokingly refer to my heavy schedule of rink obligations over a long weekend as the “Hockey Wars”.  And, while things are slowing a bit with my winter schedule, I’m also easing into something new.  And, that brings me to the “feeling stupid” thing…

You see, today marked the start of tryouts for a AAA Mite team I’ll coach next season.

Prepping in advance for this one was a little tough, mainly because it’s hard to know several things beforehand — like what the numbers might be, how many goalers we’d have (if any), etc.  So, while I’m one of those guys who likes everything planned to the second, I knew that wasn’t going to be possible today.

As it so happened, we had zero goaltenders for that hour — which proved to be both a good and not-so-good thing.  On the negative side, we obviously couldn’t do typical rushes or attack players.  On the positive side — at least for today, I could devote my complete attentions towards a nice little crop of skaters who did show for this special session.

Now, I’m sure that a lot of parents in the stands wouldn’t realize that a tryout is not a practice.  Oh, sometimes the drills I’d use in a practice might also be okay to use in a tryout.  However, the main idea of today’s session was to put each youngster in a position to demonstrate what he can do.  But, let me say that again…  The main idea of a tryout is to isolate each player in a way that gives him (or her) a chance to show what he (or she) can do.

So, what did I choose to do?

I began by holding isolated games of keepaway between pairs of players.  Picture that, if you will…  A skilled skater and puckhandler is going to get the chance to wind all over the work area, while the other player gets the chance to demonstrate some defensive skills until he can ultimately steal the puck.  Also picture that the difference between two players becomes pretty evident within a minute long contest.

As an aside, I feel the need to point-out my impressions of Mite level hockey…  Oh, for sure, my young kids will eventually learn to perform many team oriented strategies and tactics.  However, the mark of a strong young player is seen in his or her ability to skate really well and then to control the puck exceptionally well. As a player matures, there will be plenty more to learn and then master.  However, if a player can’t handle the puck well AT THAT LEVEL, it isn’t likely to happen later on.

(Naw, that’s not the book I’m going to be talking about, either!)  I might say that I was pleased with what I saw in those 1 against 1 games.  My understanding is that many more players will be at our next tryout sessions.  However, I kinda liked a number of youngsters as they battled for the puck.

Of course, I couldn’t keep that single drill going forever, so I ultimately switched to pairs of players doing much the same thing — attempting to keep the puck to themselves and away from the other pair.  Again, skating and puckhandling were going to be important, but now it was going to be necessary for the little puckcarriers to get their eyes up and hit their teammates with a decent pass.

Oh, well, the kids’ passing is going to need a lot of work.  But, I might say the same for a lot of Squirts, Pee Wees and bantams I’ve seen playing in the local rinks.

Over the remainder of the hour’s ice-time, I did run a few more drills.  But, these were similar in nature — mostly attempting to match pairs or small groups so I could really study a youngster’s relative abilities.  A few of these drills involved races for loose pucks followed by a shot on-goal.

Oh, but in the end, I went right back to the original drill for another good look-see.

Okay, so about the title for this entry…  As I’m running that small collection of drills, I’m wondering if anyone in the bleachers is thinking I must have a very limited number of drills at my disposal.  Some of them might know me, but there’s as good a chance that a lot of them don’t.  Still, even if they do know me, I doubt they know my exploits over a CoachChic.com, or how I’m known to invent a new drill or so per week.  Nor would they know that some NHL and European teams have used my drills.  And, while I only resorted to about six drills this afternoon, I can almost bet they don’t know that I long ago authored a book that was purchased by a number of AHL and NHL team, this entitled “500 Drills”!

A (Sad?) Follow-up to Yesterday’s Post

March 19, 2010

(You really ought to read yesterday’s post to have a total understanding about what is to follow.)

Darn, but I never envisioned the aftermath of last night’s Bruins versus Penguins game to turn-out as it has…

To begin, I’m guessing I was right-on with most of what I wrote last night.  I mean, all the pre-game hoopla did boost ticket sales for that game, and I’m betting the TV audience was quite a bit higher than for a typical Bruins broadcast.  I guess I also nailed it, in that the B’s had to do something as a way of avenging Cooke’s hit on Savard.  Ya, at least partway into the first period, the NHL was getting what it wanted — with more exosure, the Bruins brass were getting what they wanted — with more fannies in the seats, and this old coach was made to look somewhat intelligent.  However, from about the point where Thorton and Cooke finished their little dance, it seems that everything came unraveled.  Ugh.

Those outside the Boston area should know that the airways around here today are flooded with negative talk about the B’s.  I mean, it’s awful.

Could this be another case of bad publicity actually not being all that bad — because the Bruins at least continue to gain media attention?  Hmmmm…  My guess is that it’s a little bit yes, but…

Much of the talk today centers around the Bruins’ deadline for renewing season tickets for next year.  And, with a couple more days to go, the number I’m hearing is around 30% of current ticket holders having re-upped.  Not good, friends, not good at all.

Okay, so here’s a very old coach’s take on what’s happened more recently…

– To begin, all of the hype in the world doesn’t mean squat unless it is ultimately backed-up by a great product.  This is true if we’re buying a new car, if we’re ordering something over the Internet, if we’re promising a friend that we have a great party planned, whatever.  And, in the Bruins’ case, they got they wanted, but then failed drastically in meeting their fans’ expectations.  Sure, the B’s retaliated as best they could, and they played a few aggressive shifts early-on.  But, with probably more eyes looking on than usual, the Bruins team was pretty much embarrassed by a for more skilled squad.

At times, I really felt for the B’s players…  I mean, they went long stretches where Pittsburgh wouldn’t even let them have the puck.  Things got so bad that there were even sarcastic cat-calls when/if the Bruins managed a long-distance shot-on-goal.

– I think Boston fans who called the sports talk shows today to talk about the Bruins’ lack of effort — or lack of heart — were really far off base.  As an example of this, I asked my grandson this morning what folks would think if his college hockey team played the Pens.  Of course, the assumption would be that Crosby and company would dominate.  But my point about that scenario is that a lot of viewers might see the lopsided action resulting from a lack of effort by the college kids.  (My grandson added to this vision with, “You can’t hit what you can’t catch!”)  Well, I’m not saying that the current Boston NHL entry is the equivalent of a college team.  However, I am suggesting that the B’s versus Penguins match-up wasn’t close when it came to God-given talent.

– Then, a lot of Monday morning quarterbacks are calling for the Boston coach’s scalp.  But, I’d have to first ask them if they agree with the above premise — that the Bruins were hugely mismatched in talent.  For, if they’re with me on that, I’d have to next ask them just how much a coach can do to make-up for that mismatch.  (Let me tell you that I have been on the bench for such games, and I and my staff have known we’ve pulled-off a major miracle by just losing to a powerhouse opponent by something like a single goal.  Of course, the fans in attendance might not take into account the unequal line-ups, and they surely wouldn’t know about the strategies and tactics we were using just to keep the game tight.  Oh, well…)

– For sure, the higher-ups in Boston are also on the hot seat.  And, this is the one area where I’m really not sure whom to blame.

Ya, the GM supposedly makes all the player moves — or so the newspaper headlines say.  However, seldom can an exec who make a truly impactful move without first passing it by ownership.  And that’s why I’ve grouped both the front office and ownership together here.  We’ll never know for sure how much leeway the Boston GM has.  But, if we’re going to base our decisions on track records, it’s the Bruins ownership that’s known to be cheap, cheap, cheap.

Oh, I was following game reactions on Twitter and Facebook last night, too.  And I can tell you that there wasn’t a single “fan” who was even slightly compassionate towards any level of the B’s — players to coaches to front office to ownership.

Perhaps the most telling post to come across my screen last night was a constant and sarcastic reminder that Phil Kessel had just recorded his 27-goal of the season for the Leafs (after missing a ton of early-season games).

Now, my guess is that the Boston brass will eventually get to psyche their fans a little, this with the possibilities for a great young player to be taken in this summer’s draft (this their “reward” for allowing Kessel to walk).  If we’re going on track records again, however, that media hype is just as apt to end in the same sort of disappointment as last night’s game.  Ugh.

Good or Bad Publicity?

March 18, 2010

The title for today’s post really stems from something a long ago baseball executive once said (and I paraphrase)…

“There is no such thing as good or bad publicity,
only varying degrees of publicity.”

— Buzzie Bavasi

Okay, in essence, what Bavasi was getting at is that bad publicity sometimes isn’t all that bad.  And, what I’m suggesting is that even bad publicity can be turned into a pretty valuable tool.

Now, time will tell on this one, but…  I’m sure Tiger Woods would prefer that his infidelity and marital woes hadn’t ever become public knowledge.  At the same time, he probably hasn’t gained as much publicity as he has over the past week or so.  And, I’m guessing that his next golfing TV appearance will attract not only golf fans but, probably a lot of additional viewers who had never cared about the sport before.  Ya, I’m betting a lot of folks will tune-in just to see if any sort of circus performances take place (like picketing or other demonstrations).  Again, I suppose we’ll have to wait and see but, I sense a lot of free exposure — for the sport, for Tiger and for others — is going to come from all this, and a lot of people are going to make some money.

Of course, this is primarily a hockey blog.  Soooooo…

Tonight, at 7:05 DST, the puck is going to be dropped for the start of a much heralded game between the Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins.  I’m sure I don’t have to mention much about the meaning of this game, except to tell non-hockey folks that everyone in the hockey world is waiting to see if the Bruins retaliate for a Penguin badly injurying their star player.

Understand that I was as concerned as any hockey fan when I saw Savard take that wicked hit a few weeks ago.  But, as far as I was concerned, that was it.  It was an awful hit — and maybe a penalty (maybe not).  The aftermath, well…  That has been something else.

Living in the Boston area, my take was that the Bruins’ comments after that game weren’t all that big a deal.  Sure, the B’s coach was upset at seeing his star get hurt, and a number of teammates expressed similar feelings.  But — again, to me, it was the local press that really stirred the emotional pot.  I saw mention of the Boston players needing to seek revenge, with some writers suggesting such revenge would show the home team’s true character (or lack thereof).

For sure, the national press ultimately got involved — and stirred the pot all the more.

More recently, those in the NHL Office contributed plenty to the media frenzy.  I mean, are their execs at tonight’s game going to provide a calming effect, or are they signaling that all hell is likely to break loose?

Personally, when it comes to getting all rapt in this stuff, I really have too many other important things to do.  However, not my grandson, who I consider a typical fan.  He’s home on break from college this week, and he’s been as preoccupied with all the build-up as anyone.  As a matter of fact, he called me near mid-day today to tell me he’d just heard a radio interview with an older member of the B’s, this guy saying that members of the NHL Office would not be allowed in the Boston lockerroom to talk to the team prior to the game.  (From what Anthony also told me, other Bruins players were also saying their pieces over the airwaves this past few days.)  Hmmmm…

A recent announcement — that both Crosby and Malkin may be late scratches from tonight’s game — does all the more to stir the pot.

Now, folks outside the Boston area ought to know that everyone around this area — other than the absolute die hards — have tuned-out the B’s.  I mean, fewer and fewer care, mainly because they see little chance of their “favorite team” getting into the playoffs or going very far if they do get in.  Said yet another way, there has been the potential — me thinks — for only the players’ moms showing for upcoming games.

Enter the Savard/Cooke affair.  And, with that, I ask you…  Is it possible the current circus atmosphere is going to help the B’s attendance — and the NHL’s exposure?  Ha.

Finally, to be honest, I originally doubted anything would happen tonight.  In light of all the recent pot-stirring, however, I’m now guessing something almost has to.

Pick-up Hockey Etiquette?

March 16, 2010

Ya, that’s the question that’s been raised in my mind over recent weeks…  I mean, is there — or should there be — a special kind of etiquette for pick-up hockey?

Actually, one of my great Facebook friends (I’ll call her NR) inspired this entry.  But, NR is in no way responsible for my feelings on this subject.  No, probably a good 35-years ago I went after a teammate who was yip-yipping on our bench, something to the effect that I hadn’t hustled on the last shift.  (Are you kidding me?  I came to the rink late on that night to have a little fun and to get a little exercise!)

Anyway, you should know that NR is a young lady, and she’s also a beginner level adult goaltender.  And she wrote me the other day to share her latest pick-up hockey experience.

She admits that her beginner status gives her no real right to be in a given weeknight group.  But, as she says, “…yet they do invite me occasionally.”  Ya, NR, they invite you — like they do most any goalie with a pulse, mainly because a game isn’t really a game unless there are at least two goalers present.

NR admitted that, “The other night, I sucked, even for me.  That part I can handle.”

Enter an opponent on this night who seemed to be a thorn in NR’s side throughout the game.  I’ll henceforth refer to him as #x, while our leading lady called him “The idiot…”  🙂  But, let’s let NR tell the rest…

“If you’re clearly the best guy at pickup by miles and you’ve scored like 20 times on one goalie, continuing to wind up on said goalie in the final 5 minutes is a pretty jerky thing to do in my book. And don’t blame your “crazy curve” for that 80 mph shot at my head either. Not to mention the cherry picking and passing maybe once out of every 5 chances. And yeah, I really sucked, but there’s gotta be some etiquette.

I seriously considered simply vacating the net when he came in on me, but I have a little too much pride to do that. Near the end, I finally pulled off an awesome poke check and totally tripped him up in the same move, which made me feel a whole lot better, especially since he was now pissed.

On the ice, I am rarely upset, so the whole thing took me by surprise. Even when I whack people, it is never from anger or frustration, it’s merely the best way to clear them out of my crease. Goals against don’t make me mad, either. Why this guy, I still don’t really get. I know some of the skaters weren’t too happy with him either (I heard some grumbling), but nobody said anything, near as I can tell. And as the only girl on the ice, I certainly wasn’t going to.”

Now, as I suggested in the start, I’ve seen some of that kind of stuff first hand (and I’ve also seen it happen in senior leagues).  But, so has my good friend, Jerry Z, commented on occasional rudeness during the several different roller hockey pick-up groups he skates with during a typical week.  (For those not familiar with Jerry, take a browse over on CoachChic.com to discover the ways I’m trying to help him with his in-line game.)

A lot like NR, Jerry isn’t far from being a real beginner.  However, he has busted his buns trying to get better (again, see for yourself over at CoachChic.com).  And, while I know he’s working partly to gain more enjoyment — or satisfaction — from his games, I can tell from our corespondance that he really cares about helping his team be successful.

Also a lot like NR, Jerry occasionally grumps about #x’s clone ruining some of the fun — for him, and for some of the other guys in their group.

So, can an old coach from Massachusetts cure the pick-up hockey etiquette woes that go on from coast to coast and from the US into Canada?  Naw, there’s not a prayer of that.  However, maybe I can at least put some things into perspective here.

This (hopefully) funny story…  Back when I was about 30-years old, I was asked to join our engineering office’s softball team.  (Ya, someday I’ll tell you all how much I hated the years prior to becoming a full-time hockey coach!)

For now, you need to know that baseball was my best sport, I was a pretty slick, switch-hitting shortstop, and I led almost every team I played for in hitting.  Oh, and I was also scouted by at least one Major League Baseball team.

Anyway, after a few days of working-out with the softball team, our captain comes to me and starts to make suggestions about something in my game.  I was kind of amused at first, knowing this guy really had the bug now, even though he hadn’t played an organized sport of any kind until he started that softball team.

And I continued to smile until the guy became a little bit much…  So, the smile ultimately turned to a smirk, as I offered, “I don’t know about you, Bob, but I realized a long time ago that I wasn’t going to make it.  And, ever since then, I’ve decided that I’m only going to play again for one reason…  And that’s just for fun.”

And that’s kinda the point I want to make in reference to pick-up hockey etiquette, in that anyone playing at that level HAS to realize they’re not going to suddenly get a dawgoned call from the local NHL entry!

From my long ago experiences — and from what I notice around the rinks today, the guys (and gals) who play pick-up come from all sorts of backgrounds.  I see some of my former college players playing with buddies some nights, I know there are former high school skaters playing in those groups, but so are there some folks who only gained a passion for our game in recent years.  Moreover, most adults run the gamut when it comes to their conditioning — from the lean and pretty mean to the more than slightly rotund.

It also seems to me that the very spirit of pick-up hockey calls for all of those abilities to mix, play a little puck, have some laughs, and maybe have a few beers together afterward.

In all honestly, I’ve hardly ever played anything I wasn’t fairly comfortable with.  So, rightly so, I have tremendous admiration for guys like Jerry and gals like NR.  I always go out of my way to help folks in their boats, and I’m always encouraging them to enjoy a game I’ve loved since I was a kid.  Why guys like #x can’t–  or won’t — do the same?  Well…  Shame on him (and guys like him), I guess.