A New Year’s Wish
Posted by Dean Holden at January 10th, 2016
by Jack Blatherwick, 31 December 2015
Having watched Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov adjust to NHL hockey, and learn he must dump the puck instead of risking a turnover, it seems a little like stealing a Christmas toy from a child.
But the NHL is big business, and winning trumps fun sometimes. Now as an upcoming star centerman on a Capitals team that is charging toward a division championship, Kuznetsov is adjusting well. In a wonderful article, written in a way that captures his Russian-American accent, he discusses his love affair with the skillful “Russian hockey style” he grew up with and the adjustment to NHL realities here.
Debates aside, regarding the most efficient way to win in professional hockey (and I have no interest or expertise in this topic), I urge you to read this short, fun article. It expresses so clearly, the passion of every young hockey player, experimenting with stick skills, competition and skating.
My New Year’s wish is simple: that there be thousands of youth coaches dedicated to FUN. That winning the pragmatic way – skating to the red line, dumping the puck deep and banking on the opponent to make mistakes – may be the high percentage route to meaningless wins, but it certainly doesn’t develop skills and passion.
When college and professional coaches speak at seminars for amateur coaches, when they draw their “systems” on the screen, they are not advocating dump-chase hockey at the amateur level. They must win to keep their jobs, and every one of them would have the same New Year’s wish for the next generation of young players that they, themselves, enjoyed as kids.
Have fun with the puck this New Year. Try anything. Teach your coaches about creativity. Surprise them just as Gretzky did – or Kane – or Ovechkin – or Kuznetsov. We are victimized by propaganda that says hockey is mostly about winning, avoiding mistakes, about trophies, division titles, or rankings in Let’s Play Hockey. No, it’s the same game in an arena filled with fans as it is on an outside pond. It’s all about fun.