A Little (Hockey) This ‘n That

As has become the custom lately, I like to — about once per week — collect a bunch of unrelated subjects and put them together under what I refer to as “Short Shifts”.  So, here goes…

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Okay, to borrow from what some pundits are already labeling “The Bruins’ Meltdown”, I surely have some feelings of my own.  (Hey, have you ever known me NOT to have an opinion?)

To begin, a lot of fans will surely be calling for the coach’s scalp (although there isn’t much hair there to grab).  My Twitter friend, Mark Marino, an accomplished writer (see his blog, The Hub of Hockey), is one of them.  And, while he surely knows his stuff, I just couldn’t agree with Mark when he suggested tonight that, “Julien choked once again and didn’t get his team ready..”

Hmmmm…  In hockey circles there’s an old saying that suggests something like, “The coach can’t turn chicken !%#%! into chicken salad.”  Hey, all a guy (or gal) can do is dance with the ones he brung (or play the guys he has).  Come to think of it, we coaches can even get pretty philosophical about that last point, some of us even posting the following sign near our desks:

Don’t complain about your players;
They’re the only ones you have!

Actually, I’m guessing that Mark isn’t the only one in Bruins Nation to be suggesting the coach didn’t get his team ready.  But, I beg to differ…  I mean, the B’s came out of the gate absolutely flying, and they almost blew the doors off their orange clad opponents over the first 20-minutes.  So, were Julien’s players “ready”?  I think so, probably above and beyond.

And that brings me to a little theory I have (or maybe it’s a couple of theories that tend to work together)…

First, emotions only carry one so far, and for so long.  So, at some point — like maybe at the start of the second period(?), pure emotions don’t work anymore, and talent starts to take-over.

As an aside here, I have been attending (and sometimes lecturing at) high level coaching symposiums all over North America.  And, in my 40-ish years, I’ve seen quite a swing in the approach coaches take, especially when it comes to getting their players ready for competition.  Of course, it should make sense what the current thinking is, in that it’s better to help players avoid highs and lows, instead aiming to keep them on the proverbial even keel.

That said, can you imagine what happens once a player — or group of players — comes down from a high?  As a matter of fact, might we be able to liken that to what seemed to happen to the B’s tonight (and in several other playoff games)?  I mean, they busted quickly out of the chute, and then just as quickly plummeted.  (The way I described it to my grandson was, “The Bruins suddenly looked like they were skating in mud!”)

And that latter observation — the one I offered to my grandson — brings me to the second theory…

Can we presume that both teams are in pretty good playing shape at this stage in their season?  (This, with all due respect for injuries we probably don’t even know about.)  Secondly, can we also presume that both teams are pushing the envelop — or pushing themselves just as hard as they possibly can?  In fact, teams at this stage in their season will push each other — speed-wise, just to see if they can cause the other team to wilt.

Okay, so if you’ll agree with what I’m saying here — that both teams have conditioned themselves as well as possible, and that both teams are pushing themselves and their opponents right from the first drop of the puck, what could possibly cause one team to do pretty well early-on, and then suddenly look as if they’ve run out of gas?  Hmmmmm…

Simply, I could probably just say that, “Talent will ultimately win-out.”  Ya, I could say that.  However, I’m going to risk going a little deeper into that, especially due to hockey’s uniqueness…

You see, the more natural the skating movement is to a given player, the less energy he expends.  Make sense?  On the other hand, while all NHL-ers are obviously capable skaters, not all of them are really smooth or really efficient in their movements.  Said yet another way, my guess is that a lot of the Philly players still had plenty of gas in their tanks as the third period came along, while a number of Boston players were running on near-empty.

Oh, by the way…  If my theory is true, I think readers would find it interesting that a player’s fine motor skills are the first things to go as he tires.  And, as this relates to hockey, I’ll suggest that a player’s eyesight, shooting accuracy and puckhandling are among the very first things to abandon him.

So, considering what we Boston fans witnessed tonight (or over several nights), does it make sense that a lot of lesser skilled Bruins players were struggling in comparison to their (more skilled) opponents?  And, might what I’ve suggested to this point explain a lot of the late-game missed shots, muffed pucks, and missed passes?  Hmmmmm…

All that said, none of the above has anything to do with heart.  In fact, while the NHL’s regular season tends to bore me, I really came to like a lot of the B’s players  as the playoffs went along.  Ya, it seemed to me that there was enough heart — or guts — to go around in that dressingroom.  I also think the coach and a very talented young goaltender deserve some credit for giving their team a chance to win.  A coach doesn’t select players, ya know, nor does he formulate the team’s budget.  Naw, to my way of thinking, the culprits in Boston are most likely sitting high above (or at home counting their money).

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I just love it when I tall young guy approaches me at a local rink and introduces himself as one of my former players or one of my former students.  Man, I really do love that.  And so do I love the occasional email I get whereby a young fella writes that he also played for me or attended one of my long ago hockey schools.

Anyway, I couldn’t have gotten a bigger kick out retrieving a message from my office phone, this one from a young guy who had attended my camps as a goaltender a really long time ago.  And, not only did I remember him well, but I could also envision the bright faces of his mom and dad as they frequently sat at rinkside.

When we were finally able to connect, young Jim McNiff explained that he was actually into coaching nowadays, and that he’d also invested in an interesting hockey related venture — Fresh Sports Gear.  But, to give you a quick idea about Jim’s business, here’s an excerpt from his website:

Fresh Sports Gear is a locally owned company developed by Jim McNiff.  We provide a cleaning service which utilizes a process known as “Ozone Technology” in our C40 Machines for your Sports Gear.

As a life long devotee to Ice Hockey, specifically as a Goaltender, I have had my share of dirty Hockey Gear and tried many methods to “dry it all out” hoping to reduce the odor developed by harmful bacteria transferred from my body to the equipment as I played the game.  However, as anyone who plays a sport knows, this method may dry the gear, but does not clean it, nor reduce the odor.  I developed this company to offer an effective method to clean your gear, while implementing an environmentally safe way to reduce exposure to harmful bacteria and germs infesting your gear each time you put it on.  In addition to protecting your health, the goal of Fresh Sports Gear to also protect your investment in the gear and prolong the life the gear beyond its natural potential.

Jim McNiff is located in Marlboro, MA, and he offers to pick-up and deliver to most Massachusetts sites.  (As an aside from his old coach, I’m thinking Jim’s service would be a great one for local pro shops to offer.)

Finally, Jim’s email address and telephone number are available on his website’s front page.  So, you might touch base with him if you’re in need of his services.  He’s a personable young guy, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy dealing with him…  Fresh Sports Gear

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If you’ve been receiving my FREE Video Series “You Don’t Need Ice!”, and especially if you received the very last installment, you may have been introduced to an awesome gadget that is guaranteed to improve skating mechanics.  I’ve been using that device with my NEHI players for a number of years, and Anthony Chic has used it a lot at home during his off-season months.  Anyway, I couldn’t say too much about it as the video series was put together, mainly because final arrangements weren’t yet set to bring them to you.  However, everything is now ready, and I hope to post all the information in the CoachChic.com Store within a few days of this writing.  (Hmmmmm…  Did I mention earlier about the benefits of having an energy efficient skating motion?  Man, I promise this inexpensive, easy to use piece of gear will do the trick!)

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Finally, on a whim, I took a stab at a program my friends at the Mental Edge are offering.  It’s aimed at helping anyone — athlete to business type — to change or overcome one key area of his or her life.  They’ve dubbed it the 21 Day Challenge.  I’m about 5-days in the program, and I’m already experiencing some huge benefits, and a few of my Twitter and Facebook friends are reporting the same results.  So, take a look, and maybe give it a try.  Believe it or not, the program is absolutely free!

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