player tips

02

May

Finding Your Next Level

Posted by Greg Carter

Watching the NHL Playoffs, it becomes obvious very quickly that the players are competing at an entirely different level out there compared to the regular season. The speed and quickness of the game is greater. The intensity is higher. It makes you wonder, how do these players take an already accelerated game to a whole new level?

There is a quote about leadership and coaching that says if you can raise the level of effort and performance in those around you, you are officially a leader. When it comes to coaching hockey players, especially elite hockey players such as those playing in the NHL, finding a way to connect with each player and understanding how to get the most out of them is a key ingredient in the recipe for success.

But when it comes to finding that next level it begins and ends with the individual player. The great Vince Lombardi once said that if you’ll not settle for anything less than your best, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in your lives. When you watch playoff hockey, these players are not settling for anything less than their best. They lay it on the line for every race to the puck. Every shot on goal and every pass is a laser. The battles in front of the net and in the corners are their own individual cage matches.

When you break down the game and analyze how amazing the individual talent and skill sets are out there, it can be compared to an engine in a machine. If the engine is built properly – in the case of hockey players, developed and trained properly – and also cared for properly, there will be a time when you can run that engine at the highest RPM’s and push it to maximum performance.

Youth hockey players who spend the time training and working on skills are doing just that, they are preparing themselves – their engine – for the periods of time (the playoffs) when they are going to need to rely on optimizing their performance at the highest level.

As the run for the Stanley Cup continues, it should serve as inspiration to take your own game to the next level, to shift your engine into the next gear. There is another great quote about commitment that says you’re either IN or you’re OUT. There is no such thing as life in-between.

We invite you to join us at one of our hockey schools this summer and with our training, find your very own next level!

 

 

 

 

 

14

February

It’s The Little Things That Matter

Posted by Greg Carter

Hockey SchoolAs I watched the winning team celebrate a championship at a recent weekend tournament, a parent turned and asked “How in the world did that team win?” My response? By doing the little things.

In every game there are so many things that can go right for a team, as well as go very wrong. When it comes to winning games, especially at this time of year, coaches will tell players to stay out of the box, work hard, play with passion and to give it their all. And within all of these pieces of advice are details that often determine the outcome of a game. And it’s these little details, that when added together, that often play a large role in the final score.

So what are the little things that matter so much? I used to have a coach that said hockey is a game of ten-foot races. Races to the puck. Races to the net. Races to an open area. Quickness is an important aspect of the game and this type of effort is nothing more than will over skill. Teams in the biggest games that win the races are often times the team that also come out ahead on the scoreboard. It’s amazing how many times you see one team start winning the races, and then the other starts to stand around, and once that happens to the other team, good things start happening for your team!

Getting the puck out of the zone or into the zone. Blue line play is so important, yet often overlooked in the flow of the game. During this championship game that I was watching, the winning team won nearly every battle of the blue lines. When they were killing penalties and in a defensive zone scrum along the sideboards, they found a way to get the puck out of the zone, thus killing more time on the penalty. On the other end of the ice, when they needed to get the puck into the zone to get a change, they didn’t simply get it into the zone ten feet across the blue line, they shot it in deep, and made the other team retrieve it, and start back up the ice. Making a team go 185 feet for a goal can make a big difference, no different than field position in football!

Face-offs. As youth hockey players get older face-offs become super important. While the center hopes to win the face-off, the coverage of players by wings is equally important. I watched a face-off in this championship game where the team won an offensive zone face-off and drew the puck back to the top of the circle, but it was picked off by an opposing wing that skated right out through two players that didn’t tie up. The result? A goal on the other end of the ice!

Another great coach once told me that you have to believe you are going to be good before you ever will be good. And while this may seem like a trivial thing, believing leads to confidence, and confidence leads to momentum. Again during this championship game one team not only looked like they wanted it more, but it looked like they believed more!

Good luck in your own playoffs this year and remember, it’s the little things that matter!

19

April

April Is The Season of Champions

Posted by Greg Carter

April is one of the great hockey months. In the NHL we have the push to the playoffs, which means a few things: the intensity ratchets up several notches, the speed of the game shifts up a gear or two and of course the facial hair is grown out. During April we also have college hockey’s Frozen Four. This is another great tournament as unpaid players are putting it all on the line not for a huge paycheck, but rather for the simple right to win a championship.

You can’t help but watch the incredible hockey this time of year and wonder, ‘what does it really take to get to that level of play’ . . . not just playing at the highest level, but to advance through the regular season and the playoffs and ultimately hit the ice and play on the biggest stage, under the brightest lights for the right to hoist the biggest trophy.

For most of players, and you’ll hear this in post-game interviews, the ‘what it really takes’ is determination. Not just team determination, but individual determination.  And that determination didn’t just start at the end of the regular season or the weeks leading into the playoffs as the team fought to make the post season. For the most successful players, that determination started a long time ago in a basement, garage, backyard rink or local park.

Determination goes hand and hand with hard work. The great Vince Lombardi once said “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”

Every hockey player wants to win, wants to make the playoffs, wants to play for the championship and wants to hoist the trophy. The reality is that the players who do end up in these games are the ones who have realized at a young age what it really takes to get there. First and foremost it requires a love of the game. After that, it takes commitment, determination and hard work.

The best players that I’ve played with have all possessed these traits. They were the guys at the rink first and off the ice last. They loved shooting pucks. They loved practicing and trying to get better every day. And I mean every day. They loved being at the rink, and when they weren’t they were making mom and dad upset by staying at the local rink two hours too long. They were quintessential rink rats, who also had skill, determination and weren’t afraid of hard work.

So when you see players on TV hoisting a trophy, some doing so in tears, it’s important to understand that the journey for these players didn’t start at the beginning of the season. It started at the beginning of their recognition that with determination and hard work, there can be no limits to your success.

When does your journey begin?

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The Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks game last Sunday was awesome on many levels. Playing hockey in the great outdoors is not only fun and entertaining because of the unique setting and outdoor atmosphere, but also because of the action on the ice and the lessons that can be learned. It just seems as though when these multi-million dollar athletes get the opportunity to play in one of these events there are more smiles, more energy and more ‘game’.

After watching all of the action, here are some of the key takeaways that can make youth hockey players better at their own game.

Creativity Reigns. Great players are creative, they know how to create space, buy time and make moves that keep the opposition guessing. For those fortunate to have the opportunity to skate outdoors in the colder climates, ‘rink-ratting’ down at the local park is something that every goal scorer looks back on with fond memories. Great moves are born in the great outdoors, where creativity reigns.

Energy & Excitement. This time of the season is a grind for players as they head into the stretch drive and playoffs. Good coaches find a way to keep the energy and excitement at a high level in players, and Sunday it was evident that playing outdoors had both teams bringing it to a level that both fans and coaches could be proud of. Youth players around the country were surly chomping at the bit to get an outside game of their own going in the driveway or local park; and for good reason.

Fun & Phenomenal. Playing hockey should be fun, and when players are passionate about what they are doing and having fun doing it, success will follow. Anytime a player starts to get down, I always remind them that it’s just a game and that they should be enjoying every practice and every game, every single day! It was clear Sunday the players were having a fun and phenomenal time.

Greatest Game on Earth. One of the NHL’s taglines is that hockey is the Greatest Game on Earth. Watching the Stadium Series games being played outdoors in the elements is only confirmation of this, and that hockey really is the best sport. Watching some of the best players in the world compete outdoors and talk about it like they were back in Peewees or Bantams was extremely refreshing.

Good luck in your push to the playoffs and remember to bring the excitement and energy that you saw in the Stadium Series this past weekend! And if you do, success will follow!

08

March

Rails

Watching Jaromir Jagr pass Gordie Howe for third on the all-time points list is nothing short of a historic moment in the NHL. 743 goals and 1,107 assists. That is simply amazing. When you watch Jagr’s highlight reel goals it becomes evident very quickly that he has great hands, incredible vision on the ice and can shoot and pass the puck with awesome accuracy.

So what can youth hockey players learn from a player like Jagr? There is plenty in his bag of tricks to borrow from, and here are a few of the best.

A Great Teammate. Jagr has played with 8 different teams during his NHL career. Along the way he has played with literally hundreds of players and when you ask them about Jagr, they all say the same thing; incredible talent and great teammate who makes everyone around him better. It’s one thing to have the skill and the will, it’s another thing to want to share it with everyone around you. Great players truly do make everyone around them better.

A Nose for the Net. An old coach used to preach all the time that it doesn’t matter how it goes in, only that it goes in. While Jagr has had plenty of highlight reel goals, he has also scored a lot by simply being in the right place at the right time to bang home a rebound or to redirect a shot. Get to the net and good things will happen!

Outstanding Anticipation.  Parents at hockey school ask me all the time about how to teach players to anticipate the game. The reality is that you can’t teach anticipation, but the best players know where to be on the ice to make things happen. The really good players don’t go to where the puck is, they go to where the puck will end up.

I know we said top 3, but this one is a bonus.

Stickhandling. Again, Jagr has had plenty of highlight reel goals during his career and it just never gets old watching the dangles and dekes. If there is one thing players can do this summer to really take their game to the next level it is stickhandling. Whether it’s a puck on the ice or a ball in the driveway, the hand-eye coordination that it takes to master the skill of stickhandling is a lifetime worth of work. As I tell my own son, you can never shoot enough pucks or stickhandle long enough if you really want to be the best.

Perhaps what is most amazing in all of this is that even with over 1,850 points, Jagr is still more than 1,000 points from catching Wayne Gretzky who is number one on the list with 2,857 career points. More on that in a future article!

Thanks for reading and we hope to see you at one of our camps this summer!

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