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Hockey Skills presented by Canadian Tire

Stressing sportsmanship, teamwork essential

Wednesday, 04.06.2011 / 10:10 AM / Hockey Skills presented by Canadian Tire

Brian Hunter - NHL.com Staff Writer

"It's an uphill battle, because one of the things in the NHL is you want guys to be tough, you want them to be fearless, you want them to be tenacious, but here, they've got to have fun, they've got to want to stay." -- Former NHLer and youth hockey coach Jamie Macoun

Perhaps more than in any other game, sportsmanship and hockey go hand in hand.

Never is this more evident than at the end of a series during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, when players from opposing sides who have battled one another fiercely for up to seven games in the pursuit of glory go through a line, shaking hands and wishing each other well.

While those few moments might not resonate in the mind of an impressionable young hockey fan in quite the same way as the goals, hits and scraps that preceded it, there's an important lesson to be learned: The sport, particularly at the youth level, is meant to be fun, and the best way of accomplishing that for all involved is to foster a sense of sportsmanship and respect among all the players.

Ex-Flames: Let kids rotate positions

Wednesday, 03.23.2011 / 9:00 AM / Hockey Skills presented by Canadian Tire

Brian Hunter - NHL.com Staff Writer

"Once you get into bantam or midget, maybe you need to get more selective and say, 'hey, I want to strictly do defense or I strictly want to do forward.' But in many of the teams, they used to rotate even the goalies in and out -- they used to do that in lacrosse, as well. So I think it's fun. It's all about having fun and if the kids all know that in three days or three weeks I get to go in net or I get to play defense or I get to play forward, they're going to be that much more excited to be there."
-- Jamie Macoun

What does Dustin Byfuglien have in common with your average youth hockey player?

Byfuglien, who won the Stanley Cup last season as a physically imposing forward on the Chicago Blackhawks and now patrols the blue line as a talented two-way defenseman for the Atlanta Thrashers, has become one of those rare NHL players who shows the versatility to be successful either up front or on the back end.

But while it's usually important for a player whose talent might one day result in a professional playing career to have an idea by his teens of what position he'll be most successful at, many believe that when a youngster is just learning to play hockey that he is better off channeling his inner Byfuglien and not committing to just one position.

That was the consensus of a pair of former NHL veterans, defenseman Jamie Macoun and center Perry Berezan, who played parts of five seasons together for the Calgary Flames and teamed up again last month as part of a Canadian Tire youth hockey clinic in Calgary.

Video games have role as teaching tool for kids

Wednesday, 03.09.2011 / 9:00 AM / Hockey Skills presented by Canadian Tire

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

"My son scored three goals this weekend with a move I've never seen him do. I asked, 'Where did you get the move?' He responded NHL11, when he practiced it on screen in the shootout." -- Craig Wilson, youth hockey coach

Not too long ago, the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League received a bit of attention for a post-game celebration that mimicked something from a 1994 hockey video game.

The stiff movements in that game from more than 15 years ago are laughable and kitschy today, especially when compared to today's video games, which look and play as real as the game on the ice.

So realistic, in fact, that some players and coaches have started using video games as teaching tools.

Younger players have gone from trying to imitate the moves they see Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin or Pavel Datsyuk make in highlight videos to trying to create them on games like NHL2K11. 

Campers learn hockey is mental as well as physical

Wednesday, 02.23.2011 / 10:42 AM / Hockey Skills presented by Canadian Tire

Brian Hunter - NHL.com Staff Writer

"The goal is to get kids involved and engaged in fun team challenges that require efficient teamwork. The ultimate compliment you can receive is that you're a team player." -- Larry Pearson

Obviously, the big part about what attracts a youngster to ice hockey is, well, the ice.

Kids watch their favorite players on television gliding in what seems an effortless manner across the smooth surface of a rink and look to emulate it themselves. It's not unusual to hear about NHL players who strapped on their first pair of skates soon after they first learned to walk.

However, not everyone is fortunate enough to have access to their own frozen pond -- and even for those lucky enough to have an indoor rink nearby, ice time can get expensive. But as it turns out, there's plenty an aspiring young player can do off the ice both to develop skills and promote the type of attitude and leadership abilities necessary to be successful in the game.

Right gear, drills help young goalies succeed

Wednesday, 02.09.2011 / 9:00 AM / Hockey Skills presented by Canadian Tire

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

"Your team may be playing against a really good team and you can keep the game close and all of a sudden your team gets a goal and wins and it didn't maybe deserve it, but you win and that's a huge positive feeling for a goaltender." -- Al Jensen

Every person who ever has strapped on a pair of ice skates has dreamed about scoring the winning goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

For those who end up playing goalie, however, that dream never will become a reality. So for goaltenders, it's about finding their own fun, love and passion in being the person stopping the winning goal from going in.

But making that discovery isn't always easy, and it can be even harder when that goalie is just starting out in the game.

"When I played, I just wanted to win -- win the game, that's the goal," Al Jensen told NHL.com.

Developing hockey sense a key for young players

Wednesday, 01.26.2011 / 9:00 AM / Hockey Skills presented by Canadian Tire

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Talk to any coach or scout, and the one thing they mention when describing a player they really like is hockey sense.

But what is hockey sense? To paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it."

Players like Sidney Crosby, Nicklas Backstrom and Pavel Datsyuk are among the current players who rank high on the hockey IQ chart. They're almost always in the right place in all three zones, whether they have the puck or not. It's what makes them some of the elite players in the game today.

So was it a learned skill? Or is it a knack that you either have or don't?

Fun, fast practices keep attention of young players

Wednesday, 01.12.2011 / 9:00 AM / Hockey Skills presented by Canadian Tire

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Kids don't have the longest of attention spans, something to which any parent will unhappily testify. That short attention span even affects sports, which requires a fair amount of focus.

As a result, the challenge youth coaches face is designing practices that not only teach the proper skills but keep the interest of the kids for the entire session. Whether the coach is a kid's parent or a Stanley Cup champion, the challenge remains the same.

Former New Jersey Devils center Jim Dowd coaches his two sons, ages 10 and 7, in the central New Jersey area. Not even his NHL pedigree -- 16 seasons and the honor of being the first New Jersey native to have his name inscribed on the Stanley Cup -- is a lock for keeping the attention of young hockey players.
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