The NHL Coaches' Association launched its mentorship program on Friday to help with the development of hockey coaches at all levels of the game.
"Now more than ever, the hockey community needs to come together and support each other in these times of uncertainty," NHLCA president Lindsay Artkin said. "Our NHL coaches have been tremendous in taking a leadership role in doing just that. They remain committed to helping in the continued development of all hockey coaches around the world, especially in these challenging times."
The NHLCA Mentorship Program debuts with the coronavirus impacting hockey on all levels across the globe. Most professional seasons have been canceled or postponed and the NHL season was paused because of the pandemic on March 12.
The mentorship initiative was introduced on a smaller scale, from Feb. 10 to March 9, as a pilot program for coaches at the American Hockey League, the ECHL, NCAA and United States Hockey League levels.
The program consists of live webinars, led by current NHL coaches, focusing on career advancement, communication and leadership, as well as other advice.
In this period of enforced social distancing, the webinar format is an ideal way to get messages out. Two hundred coaches have already taken part in the pilot-program webinars.
Each webinar consists of a 30-minute presentation by an NHL coach followed by a question-and-answer session with participants. The sessions are recorded and made available on demand to those not able to attend the live event.
Originally, the mentorship program was to be introduced in October, but the NHLCA moved the date in response to the impact of COVID-19.
"We've been overwhelmed with the support of our NHL coaches in helping us roll out this program six months ahead of schedule," NHLCA executive director Michael Hirshfeld said. "We truly believe it can have a meaningful impact on the development of coaches around the world, and during this difficult time, banding together to support coaches is so critical. It's a role we feel a responsibility to play."
More than 20 presentations will debut during the next six weeks, according to the NHLCA, and there will be representation from each NHL team. Leadership, communication, networking, and career advancement strategies, as well as advice about implementing systems, player development, and scouting tactics are among the topics to be addressed.
Attendees from across Europe and North America will be invited to join the program by their associations or federations.
One of the presentations will feature Buffalo Sabres coach Ralph Krueger addressing more than 400 coaches from nine European ice hockey federations on the topic of career development, including his own path to the NHL and highlighting differences between coaching in Europe and North America.
"We have a responsibility to take a leadership role in the development of hockey coaches," said Krueger, a member of the association. "We're so fortunate to be coaching in the NHL, so sharing our knowledge and insights with the next generation of coaches is the least we can do."