Changing the Minor Hockey Coaching Mind Set


Players must get the right start. The little people’s first adventure to the rink must be a positive experience and a place they want to visit every day. A sanctuary of sorts!

The toughest part of playing hockey is that you have to learn to skate before you can begin to master the other skills of the game. Other sports such as soccer do not require a person to master balancing on thin metal blades before learning to kick. It’s a more challenging sport to learn than first meets the eye. As well, parents that don’t know how to skate are less inclined to enroll their kids in hockey, as they cannot participate in their kids’ development directly.

More time, monies and resources are needed to improve minor hockey coach education and mentoring. Properly motivated coaches are needed at the lower levels of hockey. If we have more “value based” coaches at the lower levels, to instil a love of the game and teach “fundamental” skating and hockey skills. It will help kids enjoy their hockey experience better and should keep them playing longer.

At the lower levels of minor hockey sometimes coaches deliver the wrong message – winning over having fun (getting too serious at too early an age). Let’s keep the fun in the game!

Address the “Shortening of the Bench” problem within minor hockey. It’s doing a lot of damage to our game. Read Wally Kozak’s column on page 6 of our newsletter for an informative insight into this problem.

Changing the Minor Hockey Season Model

Recruitment and retention are the key words for the governing bodies – it’s about selling our great game to the public especially visible minorities to make it more appealing.

Making the minor hockey season more flexible to fit with the demands of the modern family. Breaking the season into 3 or 4 mini seasons i.e. Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer. This will create opportunities for some kids to play year round while also allowing other kids to work hockey into an already busy schedule. Encouraging less out of town road trips, tournaments and games will lower costs, so that a single parent family with multiple children can afford to participate in the game. Less games more practices.

Parents need the choice available to have their children participate in CONTACT or NON – CONTACT hockey. More time and monies need to be directed to SAFETY FIRST and checking clinics / resources to prepare the players for contact hockey.  Players participating at a level below AA, such as house / less competitive leagues do not need to be playing contact hockey. The sport has become more recreational than competitive / elite in nature.

Now, more and more Canadians share concerns about body checking, concussions and head injuries. The Canada Safety Council has been speaking out on this for more than 20 years. More progressive concussion studies and changes need to be implemented to make hockey safer and less of a violent sport. The main reason kids play any sport is for fun – and getting hurt is no fun! Fear of injuries is driving young players and their parents from the game.

Take fighting completely out of the game at all levels of hockey. Increased violence has turned kids especially those new to Canada, from the game of hockey. Also, racist and derogatory comments on the ice and in the arenas have contributed to an unwelcoming environment. In addition, in today’s world publicized incidents of racism in hockey have become more frequent and in turn have raised concerns among families in the minority communities.

Improve on the Hockey Governing Pyramid

One of the biggest challenges for Hockey Canada is dealing with the pyramid of provincial bodies and the hundreds of minor hockey associations beneath the organization. There are 4 layers to the Minor Hockey pyramid, for example in Calgary: Hockey Canada, then Hockey Alberta, then Hockey Calgary, and then the 20 + local Calgary community minor hockey associations. Each organization has its own agenda and directives, and they don’t always mesh with the level of the pyramid above or below them. In the past Hockey Canada’s directives on change and improvement have not always been embraced and implemented for the betterment of the game at the grassroots levels. Such an example was the issue of checking at the Peewee level which took decades for everyone to agree upon. Ridding the system of unnecessary bureaucracy / politics will be a major challenge indeed.  Teamwork is a necessity for the betterment of the game!

The Canadian Junior Hockey League (WHL, OHL and QMJHL) and ultimately the National Hockey League prosper from the efforts of the many minor hockey systems. Since the local minor hockey systems are feeder systems, a stronger partnership and financial commitment to give back to grass roots hockey is needed in the years ahead from both leagues.

A more conscious attempt should be made to actively seek out and appoint visible minorities to staff hockey related positions in community. More minority representatives in the minor hockey organizations will help ensure the effectiveness of the governing bodies’ philosophies, policies, programs and services.Establishing advisory boards, independent consulting committees or special task forces to address the major hockey issues, recommend solutions and future courses of action. It’s important to keep the hockey establishment accountable in the decades ahead.

Come Back Next Week to Read the Conclusion