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Hockey Skills presented by Canadian Tire

Importance of mentoring shouldn't be overlooked

Wednesday, 03.27.2013 / 9:00 AM / Hockey Skills presented by Canadian Tire

Deborah Francisco - NHL.com Staff Writer

The extraordinary leadership of one player -- captain Brett Hextall -- helped the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League capture the Fred Page Cup in a four-game sweep of the Power River Kings in 2008.

According to Jan Kascak, the Vees director of player mentorship, Hextall's leadership and the team's subsequent success was a direct result of the Vees' player mentorship program which began in 2004.

"I know for a fact that [Hextall's] leadership attributes and what head coach Mark Bohls did with mentoring that that team, that's why they won the championship," Kascak told NHL.com. "It was because they believed in each other, they trusted each other, they listened to each other and they went to the wall for each other. It was because of the leadership of Brett and the other captains that they became so cohesive."

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Back to Basics: Improve your game by improving diet

Wednesday, 02.27.2013 / 12:29 PM / Hockey Skills presented by Canadian Tire

Deborah Francisco - NHL.com Staff Writer

Back to the Basics is NHL.com's multi-part series focusing on youth hockey skill development. During the coming months, NHL.com will feature a slate of guest coaches and experts who will share their expertise on skill development.

The hockey world was buzzing about Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene's new physique as the 2012-13 NHL season started on Jan. 19. The 22-year-old implemented a gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free diet along with a new workout regiment during the offseason which helped him slim down and bulk up.

Duchene's new regiment seems to be making a difference in his performance as he currently leads the Avalanche in scoring with 17 points in as many games (6G-11A) compared to last season when he struggled to produce offensively and produced a mere 28 points in a 58-game span. It's no wonder the young forward is finding more success, because nutrition is key to fueling athletic performance.

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Parents have ability to set tone for youth players

Wednesday, 02.06.2013 / 9:00 AM / Hockey Skills presented by Canadian Tire

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Life as a hockey parent isn't easy.

In addition to the rising expense of equipment and ice time, there's a commitment to travel and setting alarms for early-morning wakeups every weekend during the travel hockey season.

It's an unforgiving process, but one that can be extremely rewarding for our sons and daughters if done properly.

"I always tell parents the one thing they should expect out of their kids is attitude and effort in the early stages of learning the game," said Jon Greenwood, the director of hockey development at the Maritime Hockey Academy in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

Author and youth hockey advice columnist Christie Casciano Burns admits there are two areas every hockey parent should take into consideration in the early stages of youth hockey development.

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Introducing young players to hockey systems

Wednesday, 01.16.2013 / 12:21 PM / Hockey Skills presented by Canadian Tire

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

From their first few moments on the ice, young hockey players tend to adopt a pretty simple strategy: find the puck, get the puck, shoot the puck. But when is the right time to introduce youth players to a more nuanced approach to the game?

Depending on their age and skill level, players can be taught the basic points of breakouts, zone play and special teams. And learning these systems can potentially increase both their appreciation and aptitude for the game.

"There are a lot of differences in opinion here. The coaches in travel hockey want to use systems. Whereas coaches and parents in house hockey just want the kids to have fun," says Dick Bertrand, a former head coach at Cornell and Ferris State who most recently served as the director of hockey for the East Grand Rapids Amateur Hockey Association. "You need a less formal way of using systems. Put them all in position and just walk them through different breakouts. Practice it until they get it and then move on from there. Really, that's what the game is all about."

While youth house league teams might not necessarily have the time or experience needed to employ diagramed hockey systems, traveling teams at the peewee [12 years old and younger], bantam [14 and younger] and midget [16 and younger] are generally considered ready for a more strategic take on the game. The key, especially with younger players, is to keep things simple.

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Minor hockey a way of teaching major life lessons

Wednesday, 01.09.2013 / 9:00 AM / Hockey Skills presented by Canadian Tire

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Former NHL player Steve Webb is often asked why he decided to volunteer his time as a youth hockey coach and travel throughout the country last season with the Long Island Royals' Under-16 National Team.

His response is simple and to the point.

"Because that's what people did for me in my hometown," Webb told NHL.com.

"When I reflect on when I was in minor hockey as a 14- and 15-year-old, I remember having NHL guys helping out the team," he said. "It was actually Doug Gibson who, over time, was the one who connected me with assistant general manager Gordie Clark to get my tryout with the Islanders. And it all goes back to sitting on the bench as a 14-year-old, not playing that much, but here I am. Gibson and Bill Plager assisted me along the way and provided advice."

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Back to Basics: Stickhandling fundamentals

Wednesday, 12.19.2012 / 2:45 PM / Hockey Skills presented by Canadian Tire

Deborah Francisco - NHL.com Staff Writer

Back to the Basics is NHL.com's multi-part series focusing on youth hockey skill development. During the coming months, NHL.com will feature a slate of guest coaches who will share their expertise on skill development.

The evolution of hockey in the last 30 years has elevated the importance of stickhandling.

"The way the game has changed now, if you don't have the hands, you can’t play," Jan Kascak told NHL.com.

Kascak knows a thing or two about coaching skill development as a former professional player and a British Columbia Hockey League coach and scout. He played four years at Saint Louis University and was drafted by the Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association in 1974. He played one season of professional hockey, and then the native of British Columbia returned home to coach at the Okanagan Hockey School. During a three-year stint as coach of the Penticton Knights of the BCHL, Kascak led the team to two Fred Page Championship Cups. He currently serves as a scout for the Penticton Vees of the BCHL and leads their mentorship program.

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Off-ice team building critical in creating a champion

Wednesday, 12.05.2012 / 9:00 AM / Hockey Skills presented by Canadian Tire

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Before individual accolades and team championships at any level of organized hockey, coaches and parents have a responsibility to help instill some sense of unity and pride within the group.

Only when that foundation is achieved can a team take their goals to even greater heights. Part of building that foundation is becoming acquainted, not only via team drills on the ice, but through various exercises off the playing surface.

"One thing we always try and do is build that trust factor by doing some type of teamwork off the ice," said Jon Greenwood, the director of hockey development at the Maritime Hockey Academy in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

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Make your next hockey road trip a memorable one

Wednesday, 11.21.2012 / 9:00 AM / Hockey Skills presented by Canadian Tire

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

A weekend spent out of town bonding with teammates at a big hockey tournament. Is there anything better than that for young hockey players? But for every fun youth tournament, there are hours of preparation that go into making sure youngsters enjoy a hockey experience they won't soon forget.

"From the pros all the way down to a squirt team, there is a lot that goes into it. A coach or a manager has to coordinate all of it so that it happens correctly. It's a big responsibility," said Dick Bertrand, a head coach for over a decade at Cornell University before becoming director of the East Grand Rapids Amateur Hockey Association. "You have to set up how you're going to get there. You want to know where you are staying."

With a few helpful hints, that next youth hockey trip can be one the kids will remember for a long time.

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Back to basics: Power Skating Part 2 - Technique

Wednesday, 11.14.2012 / 1:47 PM / Hockey Skills presented by Canadian Tire

Deborah Francisco - NHL.com Staff Writer

Back to the Basics is NHL.com's multi-part series focusing on youth hockey skill development. During the coming months, NHL.com will feature a slate of guest coaches who will share their expertise on skill development.

Power skating may be a staple phrase in the vernacular of hockey coaches and players today, but just 40 years ago it was nothing more than a list of drills -- until long-time figure skating coach Laura Stamm took matters into her own hands.

After observing hockey for years, Stamm began to develop her own system of skating technique for hockey players to increase their movement efficiency, and the Laura Stamm International Power Skating System was born.

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Break in those new skates with a few helpful tips

Wednesday, 10.31.2012 / 12:23 PM / Hockey Skills presented by Canadian Tire

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

Always ask questions when buying hockey skates. (Photo: Getty Images)

You've got a bag full of brand new equipment and you're ready to get out on the ice to show everyone what you're made of. Just one problem: your new skates are so stiff you can barely feel your ankles.

You think about returning them to the store, assuming you can find the jaws of life to get them off your feet. But there are a few simple steps to help you break in those skates.

Buy the right skates

It won't necessarily make your feet hurt less when it comes time to lace them up, but spending time making the proper selection can help you out in the long term.

While buying skates online offers great convenience, going to the store in person will allow you to try on a variety of skates. In the end, you're more likely to find the perfect fit for your foot.

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