Tucker Hockey: Your Premier Calgary Hockey School for 19 Years!





Date: 30/7/2014 4:06 PM UTC

To be described as fearless one may think of a superhero. But embracing change, facing adversity head on, not being afraid to falter and step outside one’s comfort zone is also heroic. 

How you handle adversity can be a great learning experience. To conquer your adversity is to overcome it before it starts. Don’t let fear paralyze you!

Adversity can enter your life in many forms. Adversity can afflict on occasion your personal, family, or work throughout your lifetime.  You may encounter sorrow, troubles, misfortune, hardship, distress or misery from time to time. It will happen to everyone. No one escapes it. But it is how you react to the situation not the situation that is the key. Adversity doesn’t last!  Remember this too shall pass! 

When you face adversity around you remember stay strong to yourself and love the ones dear to you. Remember there are lessons to be learned about life and living. It’s in the difficult times of life when you learn the most about yourself and about living. It is not during the easy, pleasant, the good times of your life!

Learning comes in many forms and you must be able to recognize adverse times as opportunities to learn and grow.  When you do face adversity, step back, taking a macro-cosmic view, looking at the very large picture. Your misfortunes will not last – stay positive and determined to see and experience a better tomorrow.  Assess the situation with objectivity and decide what your next action will be to overcome this situation. Try to think clearly and not let your emotions cloud your better judgment and thought process. Stay calm and carry on!

As you gauge the matter or situation, remember this experience too will teach you a valuable lesson. It will strengthen your mind and being for the future. You will grow and get better! You will overcome this adversity – strong timbers grow in strong breezes!  Bad things and times can often happen to good people but they will not last.  A strong will power and positive spirit will prevail for you to experience and live a better tomorrow! 

Posted by Rex Tucker | Post a Comment

Date: 23/7/2014 5:08 PM UTC

Many parents start coaching hockey when their first child begins to play. After attending an early season weekend coaching certification course they begin their journey. For many rookie coaches they will follow their son or daughter through the minor hockey system from Timbits, to Novice, to Atom etc.

I started teaching the 6 to 7 year old age group back in 1997 during my early powerskating days in the Czech Republic. Based on my experiences, I wish to share a few pointers on what I have learned and incorporated into my teaching over the past 18 years on the ice.

For starters, one of my favorite age groups is the 6 to 7 year old Timbits / Novice level. It’s so rewarding to witness first hand the improvement in player’s skills, their love of hockey grow on a session to session basis and witness the smiles on their faces! However, on many occasions it can be a very challenging task teaching this age and skill level! Why? Like Forrest Grump’s quote – “You never know what you are going to get!” Some days the kids are awesome – they are eating out of the palm of your instructional hand - paying attention i.e. watching and listening. But there are other days when they are indeed a handful – lacking attention, focus and commitment to skill development. They are kids! I have learned over the years as an instructor - always go on the ice being focused and well prepared; otherwise it will be a valuable lesson in the art of teaching. You will have your hands full indeed and the coaching experience and / or results will not be so rewarding.

First and foremost, what I have learned is that on ice instruction for this age group requires a great deal of patience and the ability to be repetitive. If I had a dollar for every time I have said “Keep your head up”, “Bend your knees” or “Keep your stick on the ice” I would be a very wealthy man. However, it’s important to remember that they are only 6 or 7 years old in their physical, mental and emotional development. Often on ice instructors, coaches and parents need to lower their expectations of what the kids can handle for hockey advancement on a daily basis.

There are often many factors beyond your control in this vocation. Over the years, the Tucker Hockey staff has discovered that many players show up at the rink and can be challenged by any of following:

  • Equipment that does not fit properly especially skates, sticks too long, improper skate sharpenings etc. which endures performance.
  • Lack of a good meal. Players of all ages need proper nutrition and good calories to spend energy.
  • Lack of a good night’s sleep. Player’s need proper rest to enjoy and perform well on the ice.
  • Home and / or school issues can distract players and their enjoyment of the sport.
  • Hyper personality from too much video games being played in their spare time.
  • Sometimes it’s the parent’s wish not the child’s desire to be on the ice. It’s important for parents to listen to their child and understand what activities their child wants to do and enjoy. Do they desire more or less hockey?
  • Also many 6 to 7 year-olds are physically ready, but some kids are not ready because they lack the emotional maturity, to participate in a group hockey program.

This past season I conducted a power skating team session with a Novice minor team. The kids lacked focus, and where quite hyper on the ice. One of the novice team coaches said jokingly “Maybe they are off their meds!” Never thought of it in this way… but there may be a little truth to this statement for some players especially after school during the late afternoon 4 pm team practice ice sessions.

We enjoy and preserve what we love
We love what we understand
We understand because we have been taught
The Tucker Hockey Way!

The Tucker Hockey Way has been to provide a positive and fun learning environment for the kids. The role of the instructors is to teach skating, hockey skills, life skills, and to have fun in the process so as to instill and grow the love of the game. There’s an art and science to connecting with the kids and helping them improve on their skating and hockey skills. It’s a balancing act to teach skating skills, not get too serious and make it an enjoyable experience.

Often we will start teaching a skill and see how long we can work on the skill before we have to change things up! 2 repetitions or 3 repetitions, 1 length of the ice or 2 lengths of the ice of skating, 5 minutes or 10 minutes of skill development. It’s like squeezing juice from an orange. We will see how much we can get out of the group today!  Work on 5 to 10 minutes of skill development and than switch to a fun skating game such as hockey soccer, British bull dog, gorilla drill, battle ship, relay races, tennis ball scrimmage etc. We are always trying to adapt and to be flexible because the group dynamics change from one on ice session to another.

 Here are a few coaching tips that we have employed in our programs to be successful.

  • Name tags on the helmets – it helps to mention player’s names when instructing them
  • Brief intro: of instructors and chat prior to the start of each session
  • Effective communication requires short chats with simple direct language
  • Instructor down on both knees at eye level when talking to the kids, shoulder to shoulder
  • Players have their stick up -  butt end on the ice /  players on one knee
  • Gentle Approach, captivate their interest, instill good values – discipline, respect, work hard and do their best. Instilling good values at an early age is very important.
  • Ask them the odd question to keep them engaged.
  • Keep them active – very little standing around. Explain the drill, demo the drill and get them practicing the drill, correct as they go.
  • Water break every 10 minutes
  • Provide a variety of drills but give them time to play throughout the session.
  • Good hockey stance, strong edge control and balance - the core fundamentals - at this age.
  • Progression for technical skills – it starts with skating fundamentals, progresses to puck control, to passing and then to shooting.
  • Try to improve their skills to do well at the next level – Atom etc.
  • Smile, avoid being too serious or too intense – don’t scare the kids.
  • Avoid negative feedback, lots of praise and positive reinforcement helps learning.
  • Raise your voice to get their attention but a constant diet of yelling gets stale
  • Minimum instructor to player ratio of 1 to 5.
  • High energy – players feed off your energy and mood
  • No sliding on the ice – safety first
  • Notice kids who do a drill correctly and let them demo to the group. Kids want to be noticed and recognized – it helps them pay attention. Their parents like it too!
  • The weaker skating skills include stopping, outside edge control and backward skating. Parents especially love to see their child improve in these areas for sure.
  • Gradual pace - baby steps with more progressions, teaching falling and getting up properly.
  • We often randomly give out most improved helmet stickers to players after each session. They like the recognition and they pay attention and work harder as a result.
  • High 5 the players after each session before going off the ice
  • Praise the kids for a good job well done! Wish them well! Show them you care!

Since 1999, Tucker Hockey has a formula that works, with proven results.  Kids need to feel comfortable on the ice, to be themselves, to be relaxed so that they can listen, watch, and learn. Players will often fall down during the skating drills again and again. We often say you can fall down…we want to see more players falling…it shows that you are trying hard to learn and to improve. But if you fall down you must get up faster than you fall down! Kids need to be instilled with a thirst to learn, to want to come to the rink and to be upset if they can’t. It’s important to have a gentle approach...not to be too intense and end up turning the kids off. It’s so important for player’s to pay attention – to watch and listen in order to maximize their opportunity for advancement. However, not all kids learn the same way, some learn by listening, some by watching, and all by doing. We often use the expression “It’s like throwing a pizza against the wall… more sticks for some kids than others!” It is what it is… have to keep our expectations realistic.

Often parents will ask me what their son or daughter need to work on? My reply “Everything!” at this age level. A player may be a top skater at the Novice level compared to his peers but will he or she be a top skater at the Atom, Peewee, Bantam, Midget or Junior A levels compared to his peers? It’s important to keep working on the skills if a player wishes to progress and excel in the years to follow. A player needs to grow the desire to work hard, to learn to get better.  We want to ensure that we have a positive influence on their skating skill development and love for the game. A better skater becomes a better hockey player. When you become a more accomplished hockey player, you become more successful, and therefore have more fun playing the game.

Bottom line for Tucker Hockey, it’s not about getting players to the NHL, rather it’s about instilling a love for the game, to enhance skating and hockey skills, and to make a “difference” in the life of a child.

Posted by Rex Tucker | Post a Comment

Date: 3/7/2014 4:36 PM UTC

For decades many hockey experts and fans have discussed and debated the size of the hockey rink dimensions. Is the standard NHL rink 200 feet by 85 feet too small? Should the NHL expand all the rinks to international size 200 feet by 100 feet to make the games more exciting? Expansion would allow an additional 3,000 feet of playing space but it would be a very costly league venture.

For years, I have been one of the believers and advocates that big ice is better for the game. I always felt the big ice allows the more skilled players to showcase their many talents. But I have to honestly admit after watching the 2014 Olympic hockey tournament that I was definitely wrong! The majority of the games in the tournament were played like soccer on ice. The Olympic hockey was a different style of hockey with a very defensive coaching philosophy; of trying not to lose rather than attempting to win. Sure there were at times moments of tension and drama - close games - but it truly lacked the excitement of NHL playoff hockey. Much like a billiard game – not what you make but it seemed what you leave appeared to be the norm throughout the tournament. Often the games displayed very tight defensive hockey – choking defensive hockey – a chess style game on ice!

Many of the European teams such as Finland, Czechs, Slovakia, and especially Switzerland and Denmark played a no flow - trapping style of play - with very little pressure and mostly containment in mind. No fore-checking pressure, often a 1 - 4 system, 1 - 3 - 1 system or worst at times 5 players inside the centre ice red line. Even the powerful Russian team were playing a trapping style at times! Even though many players on the lower rated European teams did not play in the NHL, they all possessed supreme skating skills. Players played smart positional hockey on the larger ice surface with very little body checking. The Finish team especially had many supreme skaters and played exceptionally well without the puck.

Canada dominated Sweden in the probably the best team defensive performance ever played to win the Gold medal with a 3 to 0 score. Bravo to Coach Babcock and his coaching staff on their game plan and execution! It was defence first with tremendous overall team speed, puck possession domination and short 35 to 40 second shifts throughout the tournament. All the players understood and executed the team system and were very unselfish to play a total 200 foot team game – taking backside pressure to another level for the game of hockey. Canada surrendered only 3 goals in 6 games, the fewest allowed by a gold medalist since 1928. Canada also scored only 17 goals, the fewest by a gold medal-winning team in Olympic history. For star NHL players it was a big adjustment to play only 12 to 15 minutes a game when they normally play 22 to 25 with their club teams.

Basically 2 on 1’s, 3 on 2’s were non existent of a dinosaur variety on most occasions throughout the tournament! Team Canada found themselves in the opponent’s zone attacking 2 on 5 or 3 on 5 and in order to generate offense the coaches had to activate their defensemen into the rush such as Weber or Doughty to generate enough offense to create scoring opportunities and win. Teams were conscious to keep players outside the dots. On the international ice the neutral zone is bigger while the offensive zone is smaller than on the NHL size surface. Team Canada had to work hard to get scrams in the net zone area and pucks to the net on a consistent basis. It was difficult to create offense plays and get to the prime scoring area in front of the net. Often the majority of shots were generated from the blue line from the team’s defensemen.

On the men’s side, the most entertaining game was the USA vs. Russia game which featured tremendous skill, flow and excitement that ended in a dramatic USA shootout win. Overall the Olympic hockey had its tight hockey moments of tension, drama with some moments of excitement. By far the best game of the Winter Olympics was the thrilling and unbelievable come from behind 3 to 2 win by Canada over the U.S.A. in the women’s gold medal contest. That was awesome hockey to watch! What a game!

Even with Canada winning double Gold which was awesome to see I personally felt Olympic hockey was a bit of a let down for overall entertainment and excitement.
So I humbly must say I now will take NHL playoff hockey on the smaller ice any day over the less than exciting Olympic tournament style of play on the bigger ice! Is it the size of the ice surface or the style of play implemented by national coaches to try and win or be competitive at this level? You be the judge. But Coach Rex, I am sorry to say is no longer a fan of the big ice game but I still hope the 2014 World Hockey Championship in Belarus this May will generate some exciting hockey to watch! Let’s keep the faith! Go Canada Go!!

Posted by Rex Tucker | Post a Comment


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