Holy Name Youth Hockey provides an environment where all players have the opportunity to develop a long-term passion and appreciation for ice hockey through individual skill development, teamwork, competitive play and camaraderie.
While games are great fun, practice and core-hockey skill development are the keys to a hockey player's improvement and advancement in the game. Priority will be placed on improving our players' skills through multiple touches, effort and proper technique. We hope to accomplish this by emphasizing good coaching at every level, running efficient and fast-moving practices, and focusing on individual-skill development. Again, we want what is best for your children during the season, and this usually happens when they are appropriately challenged but also given frequent opportunities for on-ice success.
“The highest priority is to plan a practice so exciting and constructive that players can’t wait for the next practice." --Jack Blatherwick
Many AAA and similar hockey programs throughout the country market their ability to identify elite hockey players, group these players together and train them using year-round, professionally designed programs. These early talent identification programs seem logical at first. Why not separate the good skaters from the bad to make practice more effective and games faster? There are, however, major flaws with the early talent identification model.
We have an incredibly poor ability to recognize athletes who will be elite in the future. Prior to puberty, it’s nearly impossible to judge a player’s future potential given the major physical changes that occur later in life. Even when players reach the high school level, the elite ranks continuously change with new players developing late and others losing their relative advantage. Instead of identifying the players with the most potential, we tend to select the oldest or most physically mature players in any given age bracket. This bias affects community associations and AAA programs alike.
Early talent identification programs almost always argue for players to train year-round and as much as possible using sport-specific training. These programs promote the idea that early specialization is necessary to stay elite. Contrary to developing athletes, however, these programs and the early specialization philosophy hurt athletic development. In fact, a study on German Olympians found participation in early talent identification programs to be negatively correlated with future success1.
If you’re a parent, be careful what you sign your little skater up for. The very program claiming to make him the next Sidney Crosby might do just the opposite. Recently Brent Sutter, former NHL player and head coach of the Red Deer Rebels WHL team, stated in the Edmonton Journal, “It is so noticeable on a hockey team that the kids who have played other sports and experienced different things are always the smarter players on your team, and they are able to handle adversity better” (March 3, 2013 – “Wanted for NHL, all hockey: True athletes”). Sutter goes on to explain how his team is scouting for players with multi-sport backgrounds – in other words, true athletes. Early talent identification programs create just the opposite type of athlete.
And more often than not, parents are being misled into thinking that their players are elite relative to their peers. Based upon the number of players participating in elite or AAA programs in Minnesota alone, what percentage of all Minnesota youth hockey players do you think are considered elite? The answer to this question should cast some doubt into the promises of early talent identification programs as well as their motives.
Josh Levine is a former Jefferson Jaguar, Princeton University graduate, founder of The Fortis Academy, and author of “Save Our Game: What’s wrong with hockey training today and how to fix it.” He can be reached at
In fact, he didn’t point a single finger at anything that happened in Malmo, Sweden, but pointed, instead, directly back home to what is not happening in every local rink in the country.
“It’s where we’re at with the development state in our country,” he told reporters.
In a TSN interview, Sutter went deeper: “Development starts at bantam age, at pee wee age, development starts at 10 years of age.
“It’s not about X’s and O’s and those types of things – it’s about development and skills and skating. You see how some of these teams in Europe, how they’ve done a remarkable job with that, and it’s something, I think, in our country we have to evaluate.
“There’s too much focus on winning and losing at such a young age and not enough about the skill part of it and the skating part of it, because that’s truly where it starts,” he said. “I’d personally like to see more skill, more creativity, because we had to play against it here and we got beat by it some nights.”
There is a North American attitude toward hockey practice that is simply bad. You can see it in the youngsters who don’t want to get out of bed for the 6:00 a.m. ice time and you can even see it at virtually any NHL practice.
Once the coach’s whistle blows long, most (but not all) North Americans head for the dressing room, while the Europeans tend to stay out – fooling about on the ice the way North American kids only do now on outdoor rinks.
No one, however, hates practice as much as the North American parent. Since they have to bring the child to the rink, they want a return on that investment of time. Games they can easily measure; progress, less so. Game conditions certainly teach survival, but only experiment and repetition create skill.
Parents are often, sadly, the main push behind tournaments – costly drives or even flights away – as, increasingly, they twist their child’s minor hockey experience into their own life. Those who push back are often pushed away.
Sutter’s statements, some will find surprising, fall very much in line with Hockey Canada’s 2013 “long-term player development plan,” which is only now being distributed throughout the provinces and organizations.
That document, five years in the making, calls for a far greater emphasis on practice and using other sports – no year-round hockey – to develop a “physical literacy” for life.
“Evidence would suggest,” the document argues, “that the number of games played by youngsters in Canada slows the development of players.”
The message is clear: Cut way down on games, de-emphasize wins and losses, get off the tournament carousel, make far better use of ice space, work on skills and speed – and make it fun.
Hockey Canada even offers a quote from Hall-of-Famer Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”
And Frans Nielsen (seen at right in his NY Islander's uniform) said there’s another reason why his hometown and country (Herning, Denmark) is producing NHL talent. There is almost no emphasis on team play or winning, but there is on developing individual skills. “Playing defense and blocking shots and things like that are a mentality you can learn when you get older,” Nielsen said. “Skating and shooting and stickhandling are the things you learn when you’re young.”--Hockey News Magazine
For someone to have a future in this game as a goal scorer, the most important area for improvement is raising the bar of personal expectations. It is the kiss of death to spend an entire season in a designated role as a forward who contributes nothing more than hustle. That is why, when cuts are made, it is usually better for a goal scorer to play on the weaker team and score a ton of goals.
Confidence comes from success, and improvement follows. This is not to say it is bad to play “up” for a forward whose future is to be a grinding checker. But, for someone who wants to be a goal scorer, it is imperative to score by the bucketful – goals or assists – every season.
The same could be said for making brilliant plays, being creative on offense and handling the puck in traffic. Practicing these skills is one step, but the most important experience is to try things in games and succeed more often than not. That doesn’t happen much for the final players to make the ‘A-Team.’ They get less ice time, have the puck on their stick for fewer seconds in games, and are given a shorter leash by the coach to learn by trial and error. On the other hand, the top players on the ‘B-Team’ can experiment, be creative and fail sometimes. They’re still given a free reign to create.
The hardest skill to coach is confidence – poise in highly competitive situations. Reality is the most potent teacher, and success is required to elevate a player’s personal expectations.
Washington Capitals Hockey Team
All parents are asked to adhere to the 24-hour rule. Meaning, if you have a question, comment, concern or complaint for your coach, assistant coach, executive board member or president...you should wait twenty-four hours before approaching any individual. Discussions (and this includes phone, text and email) immediately following games or practices can sometimes be counterproductive. Any conversations should first be addressed to the coach/assistant coach before elevating issues to board members or association president. Our goal as an association is to improve your sons' or daughters' hockey skills in a safe and fun environment.