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13 Responses so far.

  1. Ice Sage says:

    Good to see the FUNdamentals emphasized, as always but, Dean, I’m disappointed that this article wasn’t vetted a little more closely. The author suggests that dominance awaits those coaches that reject Hockey Canada’s approach.

    The author neglected to mention, however, that Victoria Racquet Club is not a geographically-restricted Minor Hockey organization – they can (and do) cherry pick players form all over greater Victoria and, in the bantam years, further afield. It’s a great flaw of BC Hockey and the reason that Hockey Academies are thriving there.

    It’s easier to make chicken salad when you’re not starting with chicken crap! Reproduce those results in Sooke or Port Alberni and that would be impressive.

    And BTW, which development system won the world juniors this year…?!!!

    • JP says:

      Ice Sage:

      Actually VRC is geographically restricted to a draw zone that is an area that is shared with Victoria minor hockey and Saanich minor hockey. As a result VRC has to compete with those two organizations in attracting new players. From a draw zone population perspective there are many MHAs on Vancouver Island with an advantage over VRC: JDF, Nanaimo, & Cowichan for example.

      I would disagree and say MHA draw zones are the very reason academies are seeing such success. Elite level players want to practice, play and develop in an environment where they are surrounded by kids at a similar skill level which increases their opportunity to maximize their potential. Parents want some say in where their kids go to school, why not in where their kids pursue their athletic development?

      On a side note: I’m pretty confident Craig Shaw would have produced strong results had he been in PA or Sooke or wherever. His passion and commitment as a coach are unrivalled in my experience.

      Agree with you on the HC comments. Generalization in assessment of how national hockey programs achieve success is unhelpful. All programs have strengths and weaknesses. HC does some things extremely well and in other areas they should, and in fact do, look at what they can appropriate from other countries and adapt them to make it part of the HC approach.

      • Ice Sage says:

        Thanks and my comment was in no way a personal one towards Coach Shaw, but there are as many equally passionate coaches across the province who simply do not have the quality athletic raw material that VRC can work with.

        BTW I know of cases of kids ‘relocating’ from Powell River, Comox and Campbell River to play for VRC over the last 4 years. I have no issue with the concept – these are very good players and obviously motivated families – but VRC (and the Winter Clubs) should not be playing in a league with the other MHA’s (who lose their strongest players!!!) – it’s simply a stacked deck and hard to explain to kids on the losing end… how can one keep a straight face? At least the Academies acknowledge this and have their own league.

        *rant over 😉

        I’ve found the US and Finnish resources quite helpful in the ‘Learning / Training to Train’ stages (Novice-Atom) of development but I’ve then found Hockey Canada’s systems and tactics material more advanced for levels beyond that. I’m sure this is evolving.

        • Craig Shaw says:

          There is some truth in what Ice Sage says about VRC, but our group was a bit of an anomaly. As of novice, only one player moved in to our area. We had only 19 2005s to work with. So our results are really from that group. That said, VRC tends to attract players more serious about hockey to begin with. I also don’t mean to slag Hockey Canada as it is quite likely that they are better at the higher levels. That said, for ages 10 and under, the ADM has been excellent for us.

          As of this season, our players are second year Atom, we now have had four players come in from other areas. So I agree with Ice Sage that comparisons are no longer valid. But it should be noted that our strong program for our age group has been quite different than the older age groups and folks have moved in on their own volition and we have not actively recruited to my knowledge.

          • Tom Molloy says:

            If you use a teaching style based on ‘whole learning’ that imitates successful models of learning from places like Sweden and Finland then how can you go wrong.
            USA Hockey saw how the European countries develop skilled players by adapting the size of the rink, nets and puck (like Little League baseball) and implemented these ‘logical’ changes. It is only common sense, but as my dad used to say, ‘common sense is a most uncommon thing.

    • Craig Shaw says:

      Although I’m not entirely comfortable with the term ‘chicken crap’ I get your point Ice Sage. It should be noted again that we managed to have two middling Tier 1 teams at Atom level and should have had our third playing Tier 4 at least but they were one player short that required numbers. Our ‘house’ team could find only one team that was appropriate for them to play at their level. I can assure you that over 95 percent of those players are kids that were enrolled at VRC at age 5 or 6 and many of them are not what most would call ‘natural athletes.’ I think that the skill development of our weaker players is a testament to the effectiveness of the ADM style approach.

    • Craig Shaw says:

      Ice Sage has got me thinking. Nice work. Ok, the concept of ‘quality athletic material’ got me thinking.
      I recounted our 2005 numbers and would say that we have only a few exceptional all round athletes; about half would generally be considered above average and about a third average and about a third below average. Sadly for us one of our exceptional athletes quit hockey and bolted for tennis where he dominates his age group. So on average I guess that you could say that we got lucky and got an above average group as far as athletic material that is true, but not all are strong I assure you!

      So I tracked all of our ‘ADM’ players and here is what I’ve found:

      Number still playing hockey: 16.
      Number still at VRC: 12
      Number playing Tier 1 at VRC: 8
      Number playing Tier 2 at VRC: 1
      Number of playing Tier 2 elsewhere: 4
      Number playing Tier 3 elsewhere: 1
      Number playing Tier 4: 2
      Number playing house league: 0

      So of the the players who remain in hockey — all but 2 — 75% are playing in the top two tiers on the Island. Several of these players are among the strongest players on the Island and at least a couple in all of BC.

      What this suggests to me is that our small sample of players are well overrepresented in the divisions that require the highest level of skill and game smarts. While yes we may have a few outliers in our group, many of the average athletes are playing at quite a high level for their age as well. I believe that the 3:1 practice to game ratio as well as the intense station type shared ice practices that emphasize athleticism and working in small areas has paid huge dividends.

      And you build it and they will come: 4 new players have moved to our group without any recruiting. They came to us. I really think that is ADM approach based on what USA Hockey believes are Best Practices should be looked at across Canada, at least at the 8 and under age bracket.

      • Ice Sage says:

        Thanks, Craig –
        That’s some great data-collection and does seem to reinforce the methods and ADM / Scandinavian approach! Indeed, were I living in your city with a Novice-aged child (and the cash for the private club), I’d be thrilled to have them be coached there.
        It’s always interesting (and sometimes humbling) to see where the kids one’s coached get to.
        I also think this is a more valid way (individual level of achievement) of measuring ‘success’, rather than team results which, to my earlier point, can be partly a reflection of selection bias (keen, wealthy families opting into an elite program which doesn’t have to admit everyone).
        Best of luck this season!

        • Craig Shaw says:

          I wouldn’t bet that any of our kids make it big in hockey, although I wouldn’t be surprised if one or two of them did. They are off to a great start though and most are becoming very good all-round athletes who love sport. As we have encouraged our players to play other sports, several may end up playing more competitive soccer, baseball, lacrosse, football or basketball in the long run. We are fine with that.

          VRC isn’t quite the same as the other Winter Clubs in BC, which I believe fit your description. We have been ‘grandfathered’ as a winter club, but operate more similarly to your average minor hockey association, except that we get a bit more ice and have fewer early morning practices thank goodness. We aren’t that much more expensive than playing rep hockey in other associations when it’s all said and done. If our other local association was that much cheaper, we would be there in a heartbeat, but it really isn’t a huge difference. Although some of the families are affluent, certainly many are middle class like the other associations. We generally take any player that comes our way. If you saw our books you would see that we couldn’t afford to turn people away even if we wanted to! The only time we turn people away would be if there was a dispute of some sort or if we don’t have quite enough players to field a team at a particular level.

  2. Tom Molloy says:

    Craig, I know of what you speak.

    I have been to Finland many times and helped IIHF Hall of fame Finnish coach Juhani Wahlsten write the development program for Austria which is based on the Finnish model.

    The players get so much better following a logical scope and sequence of drills and games with a progression of skills, habits and playing concepts. The USA is making an effort to copy this model but I haven’t seen a curriculum yet. (maybe there is but I am not aware of one.)

    HC has great material but it is all over the place as far as scope and sequence and I don’t think they understand that games can be used for anything but an enticement to practice harder so they get to play a game at the end of practice.
    I listened to USA hockey’s Kevin McLaughlin in Prague and he seemed to understand how games can be used to ‘teach the game.’

    Keep having success and spreading the ‘gospel of good coaching.’
    Tom

    • Craig Shaw says:

      Thank you Tom. And I would like to also point out that we also rely heavily on your ABCs of Hockey. This is an excellent book that has also been most helpful and I recommend it to any hockey coach looking to improve their player’s skill while having a great time in the process.

  3. Wally Kozak says:

    Having coached Team Japan women in the Nagano Olympics and observing Team Finland’s practice I was totally impressed with their Skill development focus. It was a wake up call for me as I had been running traditional Canadian practices. We practiced after Finland and totally copied their practice plan. When their coaches scouted our practice I gave them a thumbs up in the stands. I totally agree with the concept that USA and European countries have superior developmental systems .
    Canadian coaches require more support at “teaching” individual skills and transferring this skill into tactical situations. Our minor hockey system is distracted by the business of Hockey and our dedicated volunteer coaches coaches tend to shorten the bench to win games. Kids are quitting the game We lack of a development philosophy with a healthy perspective and are failing to provide effective resources to serve “the good of the game” on and off the ice.

    As a former Canadian National Team coach and retired employee of Hockey Canada I am working privately to help improve the game Canada. USA hockey’s resources are appreciated and used by manyCanadian coaches.

    There is no end to learning.

    • Craig Shaw says:

      Thank you Wally and I agree whole heartedly. Incidentally i also use a similar style of coaching in soccer and baseball — if you can believe it — with similar results.